Sunday, May 28, 2017

Antique Hopf (Repro) Violin Restoration

I recently finished the restoration of my Hopf violin. I just have to get it set up and strung. I thought I would share the before and after photos. This is not clock related, but many of the techniques and materials are the same as those that I use in clock repair: hide glue, shellac, veneer tools such as small saws, small clamps, sand papers, etc.

This is an antique violin marked "HOPF" on the back, but it's generally referred to as a fake Hopf violin (in the same way that you can buy a Stradivarius copy today). The real ones made by this 17th century family are marked only on the interior, and they are far more valuable. This one is somewhat poorly built (with no interior corner blocks), and there are several other small issues with it, such as a curve to the neck, and very poorly (crookedly) drilled peg holes. Another dead giveaway that this was originally a cheap German made violin is the fact that the fittings on it were made from cheap woods. I'll repeat this with the accompanying photos below, but the fingerboard was PINE (which is absolute garbage because it needs to be a hardwood at the bare minimum - ebony being the preferred choice), and the pegs (the one original one that was left) and the tailpiece were maple stained/painted black.

All that being said, it's still an OLD violin, probably from around 1900. This is the kind of violin you are likely to come across if your uncle/father/grandmother etc. happens to have an old violin lying around somewhere. Some are better than others, but generally all old violins will have a decent sound because the wood has aged, they've gathered patina, they were played frequently, and most of all: they were hand made. The variations in thickness, as well as the hand varnishing both add significantly to the quality/desirability/sound of a violin. Modern mass produced violins are cut by CNC and because they are too perfect/precise, they tend to have a certain generic sound to them that violin experts can pick up immediately. My ears aren't that well trained. Once this one is playable, it should have a fairly mellow sound.

Anyhow, I picked up this poor little thing all battered and abused from a local thrift shop for 25$ CAD + taxes. I'd say that's a pretty darn good price. It came with a pretty beat-up/ruined bow, which I might also try to repair.


One-piece flame maple back with a two-tone colour.


The top was badly gummed-up and dirty. The area where the bridge sat was also very badly scratched down to bare wood.


The tailpiece had also scratched up the top.



The SEVERELY worn down pine fingerboard. Obviously this instrument was played a LOT.


This was after I repaired/blended and touched-up the top. There were also wear marks along the edges of the top. It's not perfect, and there are a few blotchy areas, but I wanted to preserve as much of the character/patina as possible.


I did not do very much with the back. Mostly just a cleaning and wax polish.


The top had at least two very bad cracks in it (which eventually ended up being 4 cracks), so I had to separate it to repair it. You can see how there are no corner blocks in the pointed corners.


I discovered a very alarming problem with the violin's top, and I was very glad that I decided to remove the top. The entire bass bar was split and coming loose from the top. There was also a crack along the edge (where the bridge sits).


Interior view. No names, inscriptions, or repair dates. Just dust.


Some of the top repairs were easier to glue than others.


I did look at several violin repair tutorials and fixed it in the normal acceptable current method, which is to install small patch blocks (cross grain glued) made from cedar, and then pared down thin. I also had to slightly sand and re-shape the glue-side of the bass bar for a tighter fit.


Here were the cheap fittings. Painted pine fingerboard, and maple tailpiece stained to look like ebony.

A quick note: when it comes to violins, there doesn't seem to be any real impact what fittings you put on it. Generally it needs an ebony fingerboard, nut, and saddle, but the other fittings are to your choice. The pegs, tailpiece, and chin rest can be any wood you like (Rosewood, Boxwood, and other exotic woods are popular). Some can be carved, or have fancy inlays of shells, ivory or metals. Changing the fittings doesn't seem to affect the value of a violin. For this one, I went through a lot of trouble to track down plain ebony fittings (no inlay or anything, just very plain black ebony).



Before and after:


The old pegs were a complete mess. Someone had hand carved some very crude oak pegs for this and they did not work or look good. When I fit the new pegs, I had to enlarge the worn out holes slightly, so I tried to straighten the pegs as much as possible. Most are good, but the bottom one is still quite crooked. Also note the nut (before and after). Yikes!


The saddle that was there was probably a replacement, but it was very badly carved. It didn't need to be replaced, but I did clean it up and sand it significantly. I had a new end button in my new parts, but I chose to keep the old one (this is the only part of the old fittings I kept because it was actually ebony).


The top had two small chunks broken from the edge that I was able to patch. One is nearly invisible, but the other one shows a little bit.


A close up of just the pegbox:



Hand carved and antiqued bridge


That's it. I may post a photo of it again once it's strung.

Monday, May 22, 2017

8 Day Rosewood New Haven Miniature Ogee - Restoration


The title is a bit of a mouthful, but this is a rather long-to-describe clock. It's a miniature ogee clock made by the New Haven Clock Company, and while most of these tend to be 30 hour duration, this one is an 8 day example. The case is nicely veneered in rosewood, and it's actually an "O.O.G" design, which simply means that it has a concave and convex moulding used for the door and edge band on the case (as opposed to flat).

This is a pretty new purchase (Nov 16 2016), and it's the most recent clock I've purchased. While it looked to be in great shape in the listing photos, there was a bit of damage to it (largely cosmetic), however, it arrived even more damaged. While in transit the movement tore loose, and I was very lucky that neither glass was broken. In addition to this, the door rattled apart, veneer was torn loose, as well as several of the dial blocks. The gong also got slightly mangled, and the dial was slightly warped.

Here are some blurry photos I took just as I was unwrapping the clock.




The movement and dial (as well as all the loose bits of wood and parts) were carefully removed from the case. The dial on this clock is especially lovely. I later gave it a very gentle cleaning to remove some of the dirt.




The door would not close.


Two damaged corners:


Damaged lower right corner.


This spot I could see in the listing photos. It almost looks like a later repair that was done in mahogany rather than rosewood. Some of the banding around the outside edge looks like it could be either wood. I ended up replacing this entire section of veneer.


Top right corner of the door. This is an old repair. I thought of re-repairing it, but ultimately I left it alone and glued it back in place.


The door catch was NOT original, and it was a very poor replacement.


Loose door frame (lower left corner) with a tiny chip.


This was by far the worst of the damage, because it's not something that can be fixed. All these scratches to the backboard were from the movement that had torn free and bounced around. The only way to remove the marks would be to sand or scrape the backboard, and this would ruin the original surface.



Some of the debris.


So now what? Well, it looks rather bad, but it's all fixable. The warped sections of the dial were fixed with gentle finger pressure. The gong was reset fairly easily, and that largely just leaves woodworking problems. A bunch of small pieces were still present (like the broken top left corner of the door), and the rest could be patched.

Here is that wide section of flaky mahogany veneer. I fixed this area with some salvaged rosewood veneer which was already curved. This came from a completely destroyed donor case. For repairs like this, where the clock case is still in good shape, and the original finish is still good, I will do all the repairs and patches without refinishing the case. I simply sand a bit past the new repairs, and then I blend everything in. One of the best parts about antiques finished with shellac is that the new will melt and blend into the old. The only time this doesn't work well is if the existing finish has crackled or alligatored.


Top corner of the door. This was sanded down to level it out a bit better.


Bottom corner of the door. There are sanding marks on a fairly wide spot because part of the edge also broke and had to be glued. That long scratch was also largely buffed and polished out.


Bottom right corner:


All of the screw holes on this clock needed repairs. I decided to plug and patch all the dial holes using pine slivers (not toothpicks) and putty. The top corner block also had a big chunk of wood broken off.


The lower movement mounting block was in pieces. It had broken in 3, but it also had a diagonal break in it, and 2 added nails through it, which I removed.



It had to be clamped in two sessions.


The last things to do were to apply some shellac to the repairs, and then buff the finish and wax polish. Once that was done, I tackled the movement.

The original springs were in terrible shape. Not only were they set (where they don't open up much once they are free/out of the movement), they were also warped and crooked (which isn't good either). I decided to install a new pair of springs. I don't know why, but one of my two new springs opened up about twice as much as the other. I don't replace springs very often, but maybe someone can let me know if this is normal. Both these springs are new, and they are from the same manufacturer, and they were bought at the same time. Tiles are 12" x 12".


All the clock parts after cleaning:


The movement was in fairly good condition, but I did have to dress-up a few pivots on the lathe, and I installed a pair of bushing to the escape wheel.

After re-assembly and during testing:


Here you can see the repaired bottom mounting block. I also had to plug and re-drill all the mounting holes in the backboard.


This is the best photo (out of about a half dozen) that shows the area of the banding that I replaced. I did get a tiny bit of a chip in there, but it matches the overall finish and condition of the clock. I don't remember if I used any stain on this repair. If I did, it was a very light brown, followed by shellac (maybe 5 thin coats?)


Here is the finished clock. It was photographed in late afternoon sun, so the veneer looks a lot lighter and brighter than normal.




I am not familiar with this tablet. I have seen thousands of tablets, and I know a lot of the patterns from memory, but this is not one that I remember seeing. It doesn't seem to have a title, and if it did, that area has flaked away. If anyone has any information about it, or has a photo of another one like it, please let me know.

Note: I was able to find and fit a spare antique door catch, which I had in my spare parts. It is especially well suited to this clock because this door catch is a slightly smaller size than usual.



Here is the clock just slightly ahead of a standard ogee clock (the E.N. Welch which you can see here: The standard ogee clock measures 26" x 15.5", and the miniature measures 18 1/8" x 11.5". The dial has a 5" chapter ring.