I want to dissect a VSO!

January 1, 2014 at 06:00 PM · I have a terribly cheap VSO that I bought on Craigslist because I needed its case. The whole set was $40! The case has gone on to fulfill its purpose as protector of my uncle's old fiddle that I let my friends borrow. I can keep the bow as a spare, but I have no use for the VSO.

The neck, fingerboard and scroll of the VSO are plastic. The body is some sort of real wood. I've already taken apart everything that's removable, and now I want to open the thing up and see inside!

I'm guessing that the seams were glued with something cheaper than hide glue. How would I know? If it's hide glue, it would melt with heat, right? But I don't want to set the durned thing on fire!

I have no plans to become a professional luthier, at least not in the foreseeable future, but I like tinkering. I read somewhere that people can open up a VSO, refine the top and back by sanding and scraping, and then put it back together for a better sound. This particular VSO is probably hopeless, but that makes it a great specimen for experimentation. (I'd also need a new neck and fingerboard, if I get that far.)

Any tips on opening the seams?

Replies (36)

January 1, 2014 at 11:39 PM · If it is indeed animal glue - which somehow I doubt - then a hot knife should do the trick.

But, if the VSO is held together with some sort of epoxy, which wouldn't surprise me, then you have an insuperable problem. Any attempt at dismantling will wreck the wood.

January 2, 2014 at 01:15 AM · I would guess that if the neck etc are plastic that the whole think is superglued together. Pry it apart with a broad headed screwdriver. Nothing to be lost it sounds like...

January 2, 2014 at 01:58 AM · Could be worth a thin brush with acetate around the seam and see if the glue gives. Or just soak the seam with water - it might just be white glue.

I'm being reminded if The Simpson's episode "whatever you do, don't use a bone!"

January 2, 2014 at 03:22 AM · Use a hammer. If that doesn't work, get a bigger hammer.

January 2, 2014 at 03:25 AM · Leave it in your car on a hot day ;)

January 2, 2014 at 05:12 AM · See here for proper opening technique:


January 2, 2014 at 12:24 PM · Well, that video certainly shows an effective technique, but I think Sawzall Man would have been more elegant.

January 2, 2014 at 12:36 PM · It may be worth checking to see if the VSO is one of those rarities in which the top is screwed on. In which case the only problem will be finding those tiny screws underneath that thick layer of acrylic varnish.

January 2, 2014 at 04:18 PM · Following on from Mendy's post, depending on your location you may prefer to put the VSO outside overnight when the temperature drops to -14. Where I live, that is a temperature I fully expect in the next few weeks.

January 2, 2014 at 08:01 PM · You guys are so crude.

Tape over the f holes after inserting the hose of a high pressure bicycle pump and bob`s yer uncle.

January 2, 2014 at 08:26 PM · Buri, you're ignoring the expansion properties of the glue, varnish and the tape. What she'll have herself will be a mutant vso-gym ball. Then she can sit on it.

I guess it could be done with a mechanical high pressure pump at the local garage - stick it in the end button hole. Wear eye protection. Put the whole thing in a hessian sack. Carry the bits home.

January 2, 2014 at 09:04 PM · Whoa now!

You have not considered the safety implications of this high pressure plus a VSO situation fully. It is extremely dangerous!

It has already been said that many parts are made of plastic.

Now, just imagine if once the body cavity has been pressurized, what happens if it *doesn't* burst, what then?

It will continue to stretch and stretch to ungainly proportions. A true monstrosity. Growing ever larger and larger....until.....until...

I can hardly bear to say it here on a family friendly forum...but it may continue to bloat and expand until it reaches it's horrific final state......

That of a viola!!!


The horror....

The horror....

January 2, 2014 at 09:43 PM · Hm. The hammer technique could provide lots of satisfaction. I would recommend a 3-lb sledge.

But I have to ask: let's say you get the top off and get a peek inside. If this is a cheesy VSO, what would it tell you about violin construction? I think I'd rather go to a luthier's blog to see a good example of fiddle innards. Lots less work, and not as messy.

Re: blowing things out of proportion and getting a viola: perish the thought!

January 2, 2014 at 11:11 PM · Pre-heat oven to 425. Place VSO on un-greased cookie sheet. Bake for 25 minutes until open.

January 2, 2014 at 11:50 PM · If you're oven heating to destroy synthetic glue, make sure you have the hood on and all windows open, and keep out of the kitchen until it's time to switch the oven off and don't breathe in while you're doing it. Thoroughly ventilate the whole place when you come to handle the instrument (ideally use a fume cupboard).

January 3, 2014 at 02:13 AM · High Pressure Test Procedure:

Safety first. Tape off an area surrounding the violin by at least 100 feet in all directions with red warning tape. Write a JSA (Job Safety Analysis) with all team members and have them sign before beginning. Do be sure to always wear appropriate PPE (safety glasses and OSHA approved hard-hat). Review the following procedure before beginning:


Step by step:

1 - Fit one F-Hole with an M-type coupler.

2 - Seal F-Holes openings with high-tack tape. If test is to be done under ultra-high pressure, use a compound such as socket-fast to ensure a good seal. Allow to cure overnight.

3 - Attach a 20' medium hose rated to 25ksi to the M-Type coupler. Hook hose up to a pressure pump capable of 25k psi minimum. Attach a whip-check to violin and hose.

4 - Slowly bring the violin up to 5,000 psi and check for leaks. If no leaks are detected, retreat to beyond the warning tape area and bring violin up to test pressure. Hold for 1 hr minimum.

5 - If violin top fails to loosen, bleed off the pressure and re-rig with 60ksi hoses and higher capacity pump. Install blast shields.

6 - Bring violin back up to previous pressure of 25ksi and check for leaks. If no leaks are deteced, retreat to behind the blast shields and quickly bring violin up to maximum pressure.

NOTE: monitor test remotely using web-cams. Working at high pressure can be lethal.

7 - Once violin top has flown across the test-bay, bring pressure of pump down to zero (0) and close off all valves.

8 - Retrieve violin parts and tidy work area.

(yes, I've worked in the O&G industry too long and wrote way to many pressure test procedures!)

January 3, 2014 at 07:26 AM · High Pressure Procedure

Step 9. Put retrieved parts into the hessian sack and walk away, whistling nonchalantly and gazing at nothing in particular, certainly not the destruction behind you where you failed to properly screen off the test area.

January 3, 2014 at 07:52 AM · There`s an awful lot of keys words in here. Hope the NSA is taking the new Year off......

January 3, 2014 at 02:22 PM ·

January 3, 2014 at 02:36 PM · If and when you manage to take the VSO apart (VSO was being introduced in my last year at school and my classmates volunteered the advice that I'd better not go because we didn't want to start a war - advice not difficult to take), and want to play around with it, you might like to read "my" most recent post in http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=15651 , to get some idea what to try.

January 4, 2014 at 01:13 AM · Y'all are goofballs! Yes, John, I'll read your post next. I'm not sure why I'm so curious about seeing the inside... partly because I wonder whether it's really wood or composite/plywood stuff, and because I suspect they may have glued the soundpost, and also just because I've never seen the guts of a violin up close! I am imagining that its resemblance to a real violin would be something like the guy in the "Operation" game versus a real human body! Like, the cleats would be little bitty sneakers and stuff like that! And if I touch the edge of the f-hole on the way in, the whole thing will light up and buzz.

Besides, what else would I do with it? It's very shiny... I suppose I could use it as a mirror.

January 4, 2014 at 01:28 AM · You mean, crack it open THAT way?

January 4, 2014 at 03:16 AM · Not knowing what holds the VSO together I am hesitant to recommend this solution to what to do with the VSO. Toxic glues might be a concern.

Casey Burns has his method for dealing with flute fails. This is a link to Casey Burns Holiday Upload 2010

This is a link to Casey Burns Flute Website I have no affiliation with Mr. Burns but based on his reputation in the Irish Flute world he figures on my wish list quite often.

January 4, 2014 at 10:42 AM · 'Well, that video certainly shows an effective technique, but I think Sawzall Man would have been more elegant.'


Actually, in extreme cases where the glue won't yield, instruments have been opened by using a very fine sawblade at the seam.

The Sawzall will work OK though, if you don't mind the rib height being reduced by a quarter inch or so. Also, unless you have completed Level Eight Grand Maestro Sawzall Training, you may inadvertently hit your soundpost with the blade and knock it down. Then you're screwed! LOL

January 4, 2014 at 06:19 PM · Why not just visit your local luthier, offer to buy him/her a cup of something, and ask to see inside a real violin? Don't settle for an imitation skeleton when there are plenty of bones available... :)

January 4, 2014 at 06:29 PM · But it would be a lot more fun to use a hammer.

January 4, 2014 at 07:46 PM · I do appreciate Sawzall Man, especially the bridge fitting technique.

But I just don't get the same warm feeling from it.

Good excuse to buy a nice Gyokucho razorsaw, as if one really needs one. An excuse that is.

Samurai Luthier would also have been great.

January 5, 2014 at 02:19 AM · Trevor, I didn't see any screws through the varnish. The good news is that the varnish seems to flake off easily like nail polish!

John, if I crack a shiny violin, do I get seven years of bad luck?

Seriously, guys, I want to do something with this thing before it contributes to our landfill crisis! I could use it as a piggy bank, I guess? Or put it outside as a hide-a-key? No burglar would ever suspect a common violin that's just sitting there blending in with the landscaping! Plus, I'm pretty sure it's already waterproof.

January 5, 2014 at 02:31 AM · You could paint butterflies on it and sell it on Etsy as art.

January 5, 2014 at 04:17 AM · Google 'violin lamp'. Apparently lots of people make lamps out of musical instruments.

I used a very pretty recorder to learn about tuning them. It was prettier than it was playable. I have saved it to make a lamp with. Of course its been hanging around since the 80's. But still it is a consideration.

We have a fine arts academy (High School) someone teaching found art might like it. There were two painted cellos on display as you walked into the school last semester.

Wall hangings also come to mind.

Edit: I forgot about this.DRAMA (a Link)

January 5, 2014 at 04:24 AM ·

January 6, 2014 at 01:29 PM · I like the mirror idea. You could use an Xacto razor saw to cut off the top, then take the top to a glass house and have them cut a mirror to fit. Viola! (for the musically inclined): a cheesy fiddle-themed decoration. Be sure to use the mottled smoked glass pattern mirror tile.

Now for fun, you could use a 12-gauge. "PULL... bang" Then take the pieces to a taxidermist.

January 6, 2014 at 02:13 PM · Hi Tara, I looked up a website and one answer I found was "Well it depends how it broke, did it see your face?"

January 6, 2014 at 09:48 PM · Wow, I just saw this video, and now I'm ashamed that I was going to chop up a perfectly good VSO!


I was tempted to post this on the thread about 3D printed violins, but I think it might stir up less trouble here.

Eugenia, those photos were breathtaking! In the words of Tina Fey's daughter, "I want to go to there!"

John, you're a meanie. ththththbb.

January 6, 2014 at 11:26 PM · Greetings,

bit off topic but, Tara, human hair has been used for violin bows. Check out an advert for cream silk if you can find it. The used some Asian quartet to demonstrate that human hair was good enough to do a concert with, especially after being conditioned with err cream silk, or was it silk cream....



January 7, 2014 at 03:42 PM · John, you're a meanie.

No, just an incorrigible joker.

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