What is the procedure of closing open seams?

March 19, 2023, 6:18 PM · I recently visited my luthier to buy new strings and when he inspected my instrument he found a few open seams. He told me that the procedure to fix this is to put glue on it and reapply varnish on the glued parts. He said that the varnish must be applied to protect the wood from opening again. Is this true? He also said that the varnish will cost some more. I know that varnish affects the instruments sound, so I wouldn't want it if it's not necessary. Does the normal procedure of fixing open violin seams include applying varnish afterwards? I would appreciate it if any luthier could answer me that or anyone that has had their violins seams closed.

Replies (12)

Edited: March 20, 2023, 4:46 AM · If the open seam is where the ribs join either the top or the back, re-gluing the seam doesn't usually require any varnish work.
Edited: March 19, 2023, 7:17 PM · I agree, if its a seam not a crack it just needs hot hide glue, no varnish, I charge $20 to glue a seam, its 15 min work, several seams might be a bit more
March 19, 2023, 7:42 PM · It's generally a simple job but the old unreliable is still there- clean it off, warm very gently and re-glue. Sometimes a chippy varnish might have flaked off when the seam opened, so retouching isn’t such a bad idea. It's not going to have any impact on the sound.
March 20, 2023, 4:52 AM · Yes, if a seam has been poorly or messily glued before, or glued with the wrong type of glue before, or contaminated with over-the-counter types of violin polishes (yuck), it can be quite a challenge and a lot of work to re-glue it reliably.
March 20, 2023, 6:38 AM · The counterargument is that one might think twice before spending $400 fixing a $200 violin. I've never had an open seam on a violin, but my daughter's various fractional cellos sure have. None of those repairs required any varnish touch-up. The procedure was as described above -- just bigger clamps.
March 20, 2023, 6:50 AM · I was cleaning out the old glue from an open seam on a cheap old violin prior to dribbling some hide glue in when the bottom block came loose inside. So a small job became a bigger one involving complete removal and regluing of the front. It was a useful learning experience although I hope never to have to do it again.
Edited: March 20, 2023, 9:07 AM ·

Personally, I wouldn't go near a project like that. I would have left the violin with my luthier.

And I did . . . twice. The first time, the bottom separated from the ribs just to the right of the button. Second time, the top separated from the ribs just to the left of the button. Both times, I took the violin back to my luthier for repair.

It was interesting. The glue must have been weak in those two seams, thereby negatively affecting the violin's voice. Because after the second repair, its voice sounded so much better than ever before. Had it not been done correctly, I doubt that I would have seen that improvement.

Even for something as trivial as replacing a tail-piece, or fitting a chin rest to the violin, I take it to my luthier. Both of these occurred, and my efforts to effect solutions failed miserably. With my tail piece, he used a Kevlar tail gut to which I wouldn't have had access. And when he fitted my chin rest, he did a bit of carving on the underside to avoid its touching the new tail piece. He also positioned it so as not to affect the perflings underneath.

Long story short, I really enjoy my violin. I think it has quite a beautiful voice, and I want to keep it like that.

March 20, 2023, 9:35 AM · Typically, it's best and cheapest in the long run to take a violin to a luthier. But skills between different luthiers are all over the map. There are some who are really fantastic, and others who are really horrible. Homework and research required to differentiate between the two.
March 20, 2023, 2:19 PM · Here you go Steve,
A nice solution to your problem
Edited: March 20, 2023, 4:05 PM · For the past 60 years I've done my own open seam repairs on my violins and cellos that have needed it. (Never had to do one of the violas.)

I have had a small supply of hide-glue crystals since 1954 and a good, very thin artists' palette knife. I have fashioned clamps from wooden thread spools, long bolts and wingnuts for violins and I bought a few larger clamps from hardware stores for cellos.

It is easy to wipe the glue off external surfaces after clamping and a little water seems to not hurt anything if needed to further clean the surface.

All told I have had the open-seam problem no more than a half-dozen times and all repairs worked quickly and have held to this day. On one occasion I also used the glue and clamps to re-glue a cello fingerboard that had come loose when the cello fell over.

March 21, 2023, 3:27 AM · @Martin - I see, every luthier must surely have one. But I can imagine staring up though the endpin hole and shaking the body till the block hole lines up could be a pain in the neck.

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