Antique German fiddle repair/restoration.. “Scratchivarius”

Here’s a grand old fiddle that has seen better days..

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The neck joint looks and feels solid. Lucky..


Pretty bookmatched maple back, 2 pieces. Seems to be intact.



It had a bone tailpiece in the case, I doubt it is original. I will probably put this away for a different project. It looks stressed, and doesn’t look good with this fiddle.. Still, it’s pretty cool!  😉 Flintstones…

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Treble side and lower bout seams wide open..


A bit of warpage on the back plate- should go back with a bit of coercion and glue..


Opening up another seam, on the lower bout of the bass side. I’m cleaning crumbly glue and determining the length of the split. Dang, didn’t see this one at first.


Found a compound split on the upper bass corner- side is loose, so is the back.



No problem for some glue and patience. Nice and solid now. I glued both problems at the same time.



All set to glue up the bass side seam.. Gotta work extremely fast, so everything must be prepared in advance. I assembled everything first, then opened up the clamps and prepared to glue. I only have a few seconds to get the glue in place, align the pieces, and install/set the clamps. Once the glue starts to cool, (immediately) it loses its strength and bond.




Whew.. That was a biggie- but not as big as the treble side. I’ll probably glue that one in two operations.. We’ll see..




While manhandling the fiddle for the previous repairs, I heard a flex- a creak. Upon very close inspection, another corner block was unglued.. Go figure..




Again, opened the split, cleaned it, glued and clamped. Nice.  😉


There was some previous tool damage to the finish on the first corner, so a quickie touch-up of shellac helped the appearance. I don’t want to go overboard with touch-ups, but some less meticulous workman had marred this pretty badly. Better to give it a shot, and it should blend right into the original finish..



Cleaning up the fingerboard- it’s pretty rough..


Needed leveling with a precision beam..


Brushed on some ebonizing fluid. Nice and black now. I’ll deal with finishing touches once the fiddle is closer to completed.



While everything settles down and dries/hardens, I dug in my stash and put together a set of tuning pegs-  rough fitted them, and ebonized them.. Once dry, a little steel wool and elbowgrease will get them nice and smooth..



About 90% cleaned and hand rubbed/buffed.. Starting to come alive!!

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I picked up a nice ebony tailpiece and a new tailgut- much better choice for this instrument..



Prepped the big one and glued/clamped it tightly. I think that’s it for the structural part- at least as far as I can tell for now.. Big progress today! 😉

Pre-warming the parts gives me a bit more working time with the hot glue..



I glued the corner first, aligned the side as good as it will go, then glued and clamped like a madman.. Looks like a nice repair.


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I was doing some additional touch-up on the side, and the original finish started to melt- turned to sandy grit. What a mess.. So I made some colored shellac to match, and managed to refin the side. Great match, but what a hassle..





Got a little nervous, but I figured it out..  😉DSCN1250DSCN1251


While I was at it, I cleaned and polished the scroll and pegbox too..DSCN1252DSCN1253


I straightened out the transition from neck to fingerboard, and re-ebonized the edges of the fingerboard. This one is a hardwood, but not ebony, Likely boxwood, but it’s anybody’s guess.. Getting those lines straight was exciting.. I ended up doing it by hand, with a brush! DSCN1257 DSCN1258


Something that keeps haunting me is the way the heel is carved.. It’s not symmetrical. It remains to be seen if the neck is straight to the body. I’ve seen this before, (it’s pretty common on these oldies) but it always is disappointing. Let’s hope it’s straight.. Shifting it is major surgery, and not really worth the effort- as long as everything plays nicely when it’s strung up.  I’d hate to have to disassemble the whole fiddle to correct the angle.. Been there, done that before…DSCN1259

Another indicator the alignment may be off is the angle and location of the endpin hole. It is off center, and not at right angles to the body. It looks like there was some repair work done, as the side has a repaired crack- I don’t know how this is going to shake out..DSCN1264 DSCN1265


Measuring for length of the sound postDSCN1254


Preparing to cut a new sound post. Kind of critical.. 😉DSCN1256


I installed the sound post, then turned my attention to fitting the tuning pegs. While reaming the holes in the pegbox, I noticed a hairline crack in the head. Damn. Time to heat up the glue again.. So goes the restoration process.

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So, it has been a battle.. Looks like I won. Need some rest, though.

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Had a tuner hole that was sloppy, so I bent some maple and laminated it into the hole. Worked like a charm!DSCN1275 DSCN1276

Trimmed off the excess..


Touched up the finish


Refitted the peg.



Strung it up, perfect result!  😉 Then I made a video..

Very pleased with the results. Hope you enjoyed the blog.  😉


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