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Setting Up Violins

The set-up on a violin is critical to how the instrument sounds and how it plays. And a poor set-up can actually damage a violin, such as sound post fitting too tightly can cause a crack in the top or back (and when that happens you're looking at a serious repair).

Here's something that surprises a lot of folks: If you do a good set-up on a violin and then put that instrument away for a number of years, you'll likely need to redo at least some of the set-up. Why? Because wood is not a totally stable material, and over time the fittings (such as the bridge, soundpost and pegs) will change dimension and no longer fit properly. Therefore, if you have an old violin in the family, we don't recommend setting it up unless someone plans to actively play it. Store your instrument somewhere safe and away from temperature and humidity extremes and it will be just as well off. We recommend that you store the instrument with the soundpost down and bridge off. Important note: Do not play a violin if the soundpost is down! Read more about Violin Care on our FAQ page.

Here's an outline of the steps we frequently take to put a violin in "fresh" playing condition. (Not every violin will need all of these steps. For example, pegs don't always have to be replaced; the existing pegs can be refit until there's not enough wood left to work with. Soundposts are sometimes simply adjusted, not replaced. Some violins will need more. It's common to have to reglue open seams, replace the tailgut, and possibly even fill and redrill the holes in the pegbox when they become oversized due to repeated refitting.) (Click on thumbnail photos for enlargements.)


THE TOOLS

tools

Knives, chisels, dial caliper, low angle block plane, files, peg shaper & matching reamer, rulers, dividers, etc.


THE PEGS

reaming the pegholes Reaming the pegholes

Well-fit pegs are critical to ease of tuning. First, the holes in the pegbox are cut to the correct taper with a special reamer. Only enough wood is removed to produce a smooth round surface.

shaping the peg Shaping the peg

The pegs are cut to the same taper as the holes in the pegbox.

fitting the peg Fitting the peg

They are reduced in size until the correct length projects from the peghox.

final peg details Final peg details

Once the pegs fit correctly the ends are trimmed and polished, holes are drilled for the strings and the pegs are lubricated with peg compound.


THE FINGERBOARD

fingerboard arch Checking the arch

The fingerboard must be smooth, have the correct arch and have a slight curve (relief) from end to end.

checking straightness Checking relief
dressing Dressing the fingerboard

The fingerboard is scraped, polished and oiled.


THE NUT

fitting nut Marking the ebony blank

The nut controls the height and spacing of the strings.

filing nut Shaping the new nut
string spacing Determining string spacing
filing slots Filing grooves for strings

THE SOUNDPOST

location Measuring for the location of the soundpost and bridge.

A well fit soundpost is critical.

length Cutting soundpost to length
fitting Inserting the post

THE BRIDGE

thinning Measuring the thickness

The bridge starts out as a partially cut blank of select maple.

fitting feet Fitting the feet
arch Marking the arch with a template
planing the bridge Planing the face of the bridge
detail work Shaping the ankles
Determing string positions
bridge comparison Bridge comparison

A bridge blank shown next to the finished bridge.


PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

all together Positioning the finished bridge and stringing the violin.
final


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SPRUCE TREE MUSIC & REPAIR INC.
851 East Johnson
Madison WI 53703
608-255-2254
Email: sprucetree@sprucetreemusic.com
www.sprucetreemusic.com













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