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Master Hand Violin Shop

  • 546 S Main W Street
  • Broadway, VA 22815
  • 630/ 292-2641

    Store Hours

  • By Appointment Only
  • Owner

    Elizabeth Ecklund

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    The Violin I want to Buy has a Repair -- Is This a Problem?

    By Diane Bruce

    In our experience, the biggest reason that people are reluctant to consider a used instrument is that they assume used equals damaged. This is a fair concern. If there is a way to damage an instrument, someone at some point has done it, and we have seen it. We've seen instruments get broken necks, broken backs, broken bows, stripped varnish, strangely glued bridges and more. Very often we see instruments with top cracks, seam openings, missing fingerboards and bad sound posts. If you are considering a used instrument, there is a good chance that it has had some repairs. Fortunately for you, relatively few repairs are truly a problem.

    *Top Cracks: For the most part, repaired top cracks are not a problem, with the exception being cracks that run over the soundpost. The wood above the soundpost needs to be sturdy to handle the pressure of the soundpost, and a crack prevents it from be strong and conducting sound well. Otherwise, shrinkage cracks, f-hole cracks, and other cracks are common on old instruments that have dried out and seen a little bit of weather. They do not affect the sound if they are properly secured.

    *Back Cracks: A repaired back crack is almost always a problem that will significantly devalue the instrument. The maple back is supposed to be hard and non-crackable for sound production, so a crack will ruin the sound quality. However, small back cracks around the edge are not a problem.

    *Neck/Peg Box Cracks: These cracks are not good and fortunately, they are quite rare. They are in the dense maple wood and can be harder than top cracks to secure. If they are properly secured, the instrument may be fine. If the pegbox is bushed or the neck is grafted, these are not problems, but rather a function of age and use.

    *Seam openings: These have no effect on the instrument's value or reliability. The hoof & hide glue that holds the instrument together is relatively weak specifically so that the instrument can be taken apart if need be. As a result, it can dry out and come off over time. A little more glue, and the seams will be fine.

    *Missing Varnish: Small amounts of missing varnish on an instrument are not a problem. Old instruments frequently are missing varnish in spots from large chins, cigarette burns, or regular wear and tear. This is expected. The majority of the violin is still properly varnished, and the wood under the varnish is still intact, providing the qualities needed for good sound. The exception to the varnish rule is in the case of stripping; if a violin has been stripped of its varnish and revarnished, it is effectively ruined. Stripping removes a small amount of wood from the instrument, changes the wood's properties, and alters sound.

    *Woodworm Damage: Woodworm damage must be assessed by a professional; it ranges from insignificant to totally destroying the instrument.

    *Broken Bow Stick: A broken stick completely devalues the bow and is rather common when young children are around. If the bow was extremely nice to begin with (think $2,500), then it may be worth repairing the bow with a spline for a major price drop. If the bow is less valuable, it is not worth repairing.

    *Damaged Frog/Tip: A repaired ivory tip is completely inconsequential and should not be a concern. A damaged/replaced frog will usually devalue the bow slightly because collectors like original frogs. However, the replacement frog will have little/ no effect on the bow if the fix leaves the weight and balance of the bow in good shape.

    *Replaced Fingerboards/Bridges/Pegs/Tailpieces/Strings/Nuts/Saddles/Bow Hair: None of these replacements are of any consequence to the instrument, as they can be expected to wear out and need replacing over time.

    If you are purchasing an instrument, any reputable dealer will be straightforward with you about the cracks/damages that significantly affect the instrument. The price of the instrument should reflect any significant repairs, and you should seriously consider if that instrument is right for you. If, however, your violin merely has a few small repairs that are inconsequential to the sound of the instrument, you should have no fear in purchasing that instrument.

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