Protective plastic tape

September 27, 2016 at 05:10 PM · Hi all,

I recently brought my violin into a luthier for a valuation, however, when he saw the wear on the top of the right rib (just the general wear on the varnish that the left hand causes), he suggested that he put a thin plastic tape over the area to protect it. I've never heard of these tapes and obviously have no experience with them. Do they affect the instrument in any way or are they worth getting? Obviously I trust the luthier entirely, I wouldn't use him otherwise, but I'm just wondering has anybody any experience with these tapes?

Thank you

Replies (7)

September 27, 2016 at 05:58 PM · How valuable is this violin, and how often are you touching the bout? i.e., are you getting a tiny bit of varnish wear, or are you totally destroying the varnish?

September 27, 2016 at 06:22 PM · If your sweat is caustic, or you choose to hold the violin at the shoulder, or perhaps the varnish is soft and tender, we'll put these on the shoulder to minimize wear and further damage.

Some people don't like them, I have some players who request them, and I can think of a few makers who put them on their new instruments.

They do not alter the instrument or it's value, although I always look more closely at that area if the violin has one in place.

My only caution is that you not try to apply one yourself (not just you, anyone), nor try to remove one. They come off cleanly if you know what you are doing, but if you try to pull it off yourself you will lose varnish (which isn't orig. anyway!) and you might lose wood fibers.

September 27, 2016 at 07:32 PM · I've heard of this and seen it. My impression is that it is a procedure that was more popular in the past - and with more expensive instruments.

I wonder if this is a type of cure that is worse than the original ailment - or at least a cure with side effects. Varnish wear is a natural thing which, depending on the pattern and the eye of the beholder, can be charming and is often artificially pre-done in antiqued instruments.

My question is - what happens when you take off the plastic tape? Does it take off more varnish with it? If so, is the answer to leave it on forever? Is that really a better solution, aesthetically? I'm reminded of the approach that many people used to have, to encase a couch in plastic, to preserve it. It worked, but it never looked good or felt good, which leads me to another question: how would the plastic feel to the hand?

I used to have a beautiful copy of the Hellier Strad, with the ornamentation painted on and in that case I thought to go the plastic route. But I decided to let nature take its course. I didn't keep it long enough to notice much wear.

September 27, 2016 at 09:20 PM · Thank you for all the advice. My instrument is an early 20th-century violin which I am very fond of. My luthier is also very fond of the instrument and wanted to protect it from my hand. While I don't mind the look of the varnish being worn away, my previous two violins also had this, my luthier mentioned that over time, the sweat can get into the wood and cause mold to grow inside the instrument. Again, I've never heard of this happening, however, if this tape isn't intrusive and doesn't affect the instrument in any way, I guess it's better to be safe than sorry. And no I definitely would not be doing this myself.

September 27, 2016 at 10:16 PM · One reason to use the tape on the shoulder is moisture and dirt getting into the wood once you have worn through the varnish. It's more common than you might think. Once I clean off the upper rib, you would be surprised at how often it is just wood and ground, no varnish. If the rib gets damp and warps or cracks, it can get expensive to repair. I've never had a problem with mold, but the rib can turn a hideous blackish-green that could very well be a mold.

I clean the area and coat it with a few layers of varnish to protect any orig. varnish left or to seal the wood if it is already worn away, then apply the tape.

If your luthier wants to do it, it isn't invasive, and if they are fond of it, as you mention, they probably want to conserve it. I do hate it when violins that I enjoy looking at show up with preventable damage.

September 27, 2016 at 11:21 PM · Could the tape be PATCO 5560, Amazon sells it.

SHAR sells the "AcoustaGrip" tape-like--attaching foam shoulder rest that attaches to the back of a violin this way and is removed every time.

My experience with sweat wear on the right lower bout and hand wear on the right upper bout are: My father bought be a new violin 65 years ago. It was one of 5 the maker had just finished and they all appeared to be about identical, but I picked the one I thought played the best. It was a Strad copy and it was apparently "antiqued" (but I didn't know that concept at the time). I thought it was clever, though, because the varnishing looked a little thinner at wear positions I mention above. The one piece "tiger back" was magnificent, it shimmered when rotated in the light and appeared holographic (not a word or concept in those days) in that the back seemed to be at least an inch deep. It was only years later (looking through a big beautiful book of famous violins) that I realized it was a dead-ringer copy of the 1715 Emperor Strad - especially the back.

However, what I did notice about 20 years after I got it was the wear points I mention at the start of the past paragraph. That was 45 years ago. I suppose the maker intended that about 20 years in this instrument would look 250 years old - and it still does (maybe 301 by now). And I have gotten comments about its appearance from horn players 'way back there,' audience members, and even conductors standing right over the top of it. Good comments about the sound too!

Wear or not, it's not wearing as fast as I am!

September 28, 2016 at 02:24 AM · "Wear or not, it's not wearing as fast as I am!"

Too bad there's no magic tape that we can put on ourselves!

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