Luthier Question: End-Piece Button

May 6, 2011 at 04:38 PM ·

On my 1883 violin, the end-piece button that holds the tailpiece harness has split.  The outside, the button end, has come off, leaving the base of the device inside the hole.

This fiddle is not my primary instrument at the moment; I have two other vintage fiddles that I use in rotation.  So, regarding daily practice and playing, I'm covered.

I hadn't planned to use the 1883 fiddle till late May or early June anyway; and since I'm getting ready to have it fitted with new pegs and a new tailpiece, it's good that the end-piece gave way when it did.  Now I can get the repair and upgrades done on the same job order.

I would think a professional could get the remaining material out of the hole and insert a replacement part -- without taking the top off the instrument; but …?  Whatever the procedure, I'm curious; but my better judgment told me not to go near something like this -- definitely a job for a professional.  Please share any experiences you've had in dealing with this problem.

Replies (37)

May 6, 2011 at 04:59 PM ·

Never had this problem - but considering all the other similar things that have happened around my living spaces over many decades, i would imagine that it makes sense to drill a hole in the center of the plug, insert a device that opens on the inside and pull, nudge, or tap it out. If that fails, they can still drill it to the max diameter of the plug and work around with the device that is used to size the conical button hole.

Interested to hear if there is another (professional) way.

Andy

May 6, 2011 at 05:58 PM ·

Andrew has given very good advice. What i would try before opening the hole completely is to drill a small hole in the center of the endpin with a Brad point drill just large enough to screw a hook in as far as possible, maybe the hooks you use in the kitchen to hang things on will suffice. The hook can then be used as a catch to pull the endpin out as it is not glued to the end block.  

I have never encountered this problem but the luthiers on v.com might have a better solution.

May 6, 2011 at 06:23 PM ·

maybe I am just lucky. I have had two endpin failures.

 

May 6, 2011 at 07:04 PM ·

 Jim, just be very grateful that your end button has failed gently as you've described! There are few more spectacular sights when an end button fails suddenly and unexpectedly in the middle of an orchestra (if it happens in a rehearsal you're lucky). I've witnessed it. It's all about the energy in a set of strings under 50+lbs of tension being released in a tiny fraction of a second.

May 6, 2011 at 08:25 PM ·

The "surgery" is easy, but should be done by an experimented person, don't attempt any repair by yourself. There is no need to open the top. You only need to drill in the center of the remainings of the endpin and then pull out. But if the endpin is stuck then it must be reamed off. A special tool is needed then. The new endpin must be shaved to match the taper of the hole.

 

 

May 8, 2011 at 08:21 PM ·

Thanks, guys, for your input.

After weighing your collective feedback, I did what Andy V. and Andre A. and Nicolas described -- I slow-drilled a small hole in the center of the remaining material.  This gave me the leverage I needed.  The remainder of the base split into fragments and fell out cleanly -- no left-over debris inside instrument.

The remaining operations -- fitting of new end-pin and pegs -- will be the luthier's work.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Trevor, you're right -- the old end-pin did fail gently.  It happened while I had the instrument packed inside its case.  What you've witnessed in the middle of an orchestra is scary.  Since such failures have happened, as you said, during playing, I wonder: Any known cases where this has injured the player -- or nearby players?

May 8, 2011 at 09:36 PM ·

You may remember that the tailpiece of Yura Bashmet's viola failed during a concert in 2009, as seen in this YouTube video.  It's not clear which part failed.  The tail gut was the most likely candidate, but it could have been the end button, or the tailpiece itself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoTDE9Xf2PA

May 8, 2011 at 11:47 PM ·

Jim fitting an endpin and pegs is not such a big job. All you possibly need is a standard size violin peg hole reamer which you can buy on Ebay for $27 and it can also be used for the end pin. The pegs and endpin you will find at your local violin dealer or cheaper on Ebay.

If you have a little woodwork knowledge you can do these small jobs yourself. 

May 9, 2011 at 12:05 AM ·

"...fitting an endpin and pegs is not such a big job"

Neither is learning to play the violin. ;-)

I've been at it for 40 years, and I'm still learning things about fitting pegs

 

May 9, 2011 at 12:42 AM ·

Endpin and pegs are not a big job. True. They aren't even expensive, all things considered (I'm talking labor--the pegs themselves are practically free).

 

However, they are important. When they aren't quite right, they really suck.

May 9, 2011 at 01:47 AM ·

Jim, the end-pin collapse I witnessed was in an orchestral rehearsal. The front of the violin concerned got a bit scratched and the bridge ended up in two pieces somewhere in the middle of the woodwind section. There were no personal injuries, but there were tears from the lady who was playing that violin.

May 9, 2011 at 06:36 AM ·

David how do you learn? By trying. Jim is not making a new peg box the holes have already been drilled. If you take 40 years or more as you are still learning, to fit a second set of pegs then it must be a very complicated maneuver.

If the holes has to be bushed to make it smaller as in an old violin then it becomes a major job for a luthier.

May 9, 2011 at 09:00 AM ·

 "...Jim fitting an endpin and pegs is not such a big job. All you possibly need is a standard size violin peg hole reamer which you can buy on Ebay for $27 and it can also be used for the end pin. The pegs and endpin you will find at your local violin dealer or cheaper on Ebay.

If you have a little woodwork knowledge you can do these small jobs yourself...."

 

But fitting an endpin PROPERLY is better done by a pro. Probably you won't need a peg hole reamer unless you pretend to bush the hole and re-ream. You need a shaver, which is considerably more expensive. You will also need an endpin clamp to help you shave the endpin.

I guess that even maestro Burgess won't charge that much for an end`pin replacement.

May 9, 2011 at 11:17 AM ·

Nicolas you do not have to shave the endpin, it is much easier to ream the hole bigger if it was smaller than the circumference of the end pin.  

May 9, 2011 at 11:32 AM ·

"David how do you learn? By trying."

An alternate way to learn is by getting good instruction, and trying with good supervision. That's how most of the better players learned, and it's not much different in the violin repair world.

Sorry if I'm not a big fan of do-it-yourself repairs. This comes from having seen the outcomes over and over again. Typically,  repairs by someone who is untrained are instantly recognizable by someone who is.

May 9, 2011 at 12:20 PM ·

David I take your point and I agree, but I would not call changing a set of pegs as being repairs. 

May 9, 2011 at 12:34 PM ·

OK, I'll rephrase.

Typically,  pegs installed by someone who is untrained can be readily recognized by someone who is trained.

May 9, 2011 at 08:09 PM ·

Nicolas you do not have to shave the endpin, it is much easier to ream the hole bigger if it was smaller than the circumference of the end pin. 

Provided the new endpin has the same taper as the hole. I am not sure that will happen in such an old violin. ;-)

But as maestro Manfio says...: I can be wrong.

May 9, 2011 at 09:24 PM ·

If you ream the hole it should have the same taper as the endpin, provided you bought the correct endpin. I had no problem with my new endpin and I used the peg reamer. Matter of fact as long as the endpin fits tightly and does not wiggle, perfect taper does not matter because the force of the tailpiece is diagonal to the insert of the endpin.

May 10, 2011 at 05:20 PM ·

"Matter of fact as long as the endpin fits tightly and does not wiggle, perfect taper does not matter because the force of the tailpiece is diagonal to the insert of the endpin."

Of course it matters. All tapers, pegs and endpin should match perfectly. Just because you had no problem jamming it in doesn't mean there won't be issues down the line with it camming toward the tailpiece..

Fitting your own pegs is like rehairing your own bow. Go ahead. if you insist,  but don't expect to do a decent job of it untill you've done it many times, and gotten independant feedback on your work.

May 10, 2011 at 07:49 PM ·

Eric please don't think replacing pegs is rocket science. I installed pegs and replaced pegs. My pegs and endpin works perfectly well thank you. If other people are less handy, that is their problem. I am perfectly satisfied with my work and my endpin was not jammed in, it was a very nice fit. I make my own bridges, install my own soundposts, and put my own strings on. I am proud to do things myself and be self efficient. For people out there who feel the same, go for it. Those who do not try will accomplish very little.

I see on your website that you manufacture very beautiful pegs and accessories. I admire your craft but why is replacing pegs made out to be such an exalted art that it is made out to be beyond the ordinary man to comprehend. 

May 10, 2011 at 08:29 PM ·

Andre, Eric makes high-end custom pegs, endbuttons and tailpieces for a living. He is in regular contact with many of the worlds best makers and repairmen, and knows his stuff. I doubt whether you'll educate him about pegs. It might work better the other way around. ;-)

I've never purchased an end button which, out of the box, matched the reamer perfectly. You must have better sources than I. LOL   Maybe it can be done with Eric's endbuttons.....

 

May 10, 2011 at 08:54 PM ·

I do not want to educate Eric nor do I need him to educate me. I am satisfied with my simple work and simple solutions. If I make mistakes, I learn something and rectify it the next time. Pegs are a disposable item and rather cheap. I do not run to a luthier to replace pegs, a bridge or a soundpost. Why? Because I have tried and did not think it was beyond me. Think big and your deeds will grow. That was your philosophy David, why cannot it be mine.    

May 10, 2011 at 09:09 PM ·

Our philosophies may not be quite the same. My approach was to get top-notch training, and I'm quite open to learning from Eric.

May 10, 2011 at 09:31 PM ·

but Andre has a good point. As he frames it, if you are a handy, thoughtful person and interested in figuring it out, end pins are certainly not terribly difficult to fit. Indeed with appropriate tools they are trivial, barring any issues with the end block. Even then, most times a simple bushing will do. The same goes for tuning pegs except that because you use them everyday, it is more important to get it right.

Some of this comes down to the calculus of risk versus rewards. I've carved bridges (they certainly didn't sound great but they did no harm) and I have even glued necks and fingerboards back on. I've put soundposts in (not very well, I don't know how to do it for good sound). 

When the instrument is valuable (a personal risk value) it is often better to get help. But a fiddle you are not worried about from a risk standpoint? Or you are confident in your abilities?

The principal reason that the pegs and pins are easy for the amateur is that they do not contribute to the sound. Putting in soundposts, bridges, etc is part of the sound production and expertise is very valuable there.

May 10, 2011 at 09:34 PM ·

@David;

I have just measured the endpins I am using, which I bought on Ebay and it has the following measurements;

Diameter on top of shaft ;         9 mm

Diameter at end 22 mm down;  8 mm 

These measurements seem to be the same as my reamer.

May 10, 2011 at 09:40 PM ·

 Ok, Andre, then go ahead. Good luck.  Hope you don't damage your ribs (if you have two pieces lower ribs) nor your lower block,

May 10, 2011 at 09:43 PM ·

I'm not at all denigrating your abilpity to fit pegs. I'm just concerned about two parts of your posts. One is the possibility that someone without either your sense of adventure , or gifts, will bite off more than they can chew and incure a greater repair bill than is waranted for changing pegs. I have over the years had to inform many customers that the pegs didn't come ready to install without tooling. David knows much more about fitting pegs than either of us, and he's been in the biz long enough to tell many stories about  poorly fit pegs and the irritation they can bring. I always ask who my customers are employing to fit their pegs and if they don't have someone to do it that they trust, I try to find someone that I trust to do the job. My stuff is expensive enough to warrant sattisfaction with the final result.  Sorry if I offended you but however capable you are at doing your own work, tapers need to match and a male and a female tool need to be available to do it.

The other part is when you said the tapers of the end button and it's hole don't need to match as long as they don't wiggle. That's not info I'd want to toss out there either. If the button goes in all the way, and the tapers are not matched, only the outer part of the end button is fitting and will probably put undue stress on the outside of the hole. It may not show up for years, but is not the way to do the job.

May 10, 2011 at 09:46 PM ·

Nicolas I cannot damage my end block because my reamer has the same taper as my endpin as I have just demonstrated with the measurements above.  

May 10, 2011 at 09:55 PM ·

 David it seems that you have been trained a lot, when did you start thinking for yourself?

May 11, 2011 at 12:53 AM ·

"David;

I have just measured the endpins I am using, which I bought on Ebay and it has the following measurements;

Diameter on top of shaft ;         9 mm

Diameter at end 22 mm down;  8 mm "

That is not the same taper as a standard reamer. Your endpin probably does not fit well.

 

"David it seems that you have been trained a lot, when did you start thinking for yourself?"

I have always thought for myself, at least as far back as I can remember. However it did not prevent me from accepting and acting on better or more experienced advice. Doing so is a component of a thorough thinking approach, isn't it?

 

May 11, 2011 at 03:15 AM ·

Hey, guys -- thanks for the additional input and suggestions -- on both sides.

As mentioned on 5-8-2011, I attempted and succeeded at what I felt qualified to do -- drill and remove the old end-pin.  But I stand by my decision on how to get the rest of the job done: "The remaining operations -- fitting new end-pin and pegs -- will be the luthier's work."  I will confine myself to what I was trained for -- playing, not repairing.

May 11, 2011 at 04:31 AM ·

I am going to walk away from this debate as the only non-luthier who is willing to change his own pegs. On my gravestone they can write "Here lies a man with extra-ordinary courage he changed his own violin pegs and endpin. RIP"

Other boys dreamed of playing at Carnegie while I had similar lofty goals. One day I will change not one but four violin pegs in one go. The grand slam of peg-changing. I achieved it, and that night I cried in my beer. Not the salty tears of disillusionment but the sweet tears of pulling off the almost impossible.

Maybe David can publish the taper of his endpins so that I can also try and get the right ones for my reamer.

Adios 

May 11, 2011 at 08:05 AM ·

 Nicolas I cannot damage my end block because my reamer has the same taper as my endpin as I have just demonstrated with the measurements above.  

Perfect, go ahead then.

May 11, 2011 at 11:29 AM ·

"Maybe David can publish the taper of his endpins so that I can also try and get the right ones for my reamer."

This is the very kind of thing which I have difficulty understanding. An endbutton might be better thought of as an "endbutton blank". Two others have already mentioned that an endbutton needs to altered to conform to the reamer, or to fit the hole. And I already mentioned that I have never purchased an endbutton which was already the correct size and taper. If these comments weren't noticed, or went in one ear and out the other, you may consider this an example of "thinking for yourself", but I would consider it an example of someone who is very difficult to teach.

If someone wants to fool around with a junk fiddle, that's great. Have fun. My concern is more that based on some of the advice given here, without accompanying cautions and disclaimers, nicer fiddles will get messed up, or people will struggle with sub-optimal results.

October 30, 2013 at 10:26 PM · Andre, I'd love to see a photo of your violin. It would go a long way toward establishing your credibility. Can photos be posted here? They could be very helpful in many situations.

October 31, 2013 at 12:58 AM ·

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