Drawing upon over ten years of experience and training in both Europe and Australia, Martin restores instruments in his workshop in Melbourne. Please find some examples of his work below.
This German cello (c.1900) had a crack in the neck that had been glued back together by a previous instrument repairer. However, simply gluing the pieces of the neck back together does not give a stable repair – the correct way to properly repair the instrument is to perform a neck graft.
A neck graft involves cutting the neck from the body & the scroll and grafting the scroll onto a new piece of maple. This maple piece is then shaped into a neck & fitted into the body of the cello. It’s extremely important that the angle of the neck is correct as this affects the projection of the fingerboard, the playability of the instrument & the quality of sound it can produce.
This fine old English cello was made in the workshop of J.E. Betts (1755-1823) and had unfortunately sustained a large amount of damage. Extensive restoration was carried out throughout the instrument, but here we focus on the varnish retouch to the cracks in the ribs.
The method for varnish retouch that Martin uses traces back to the famous London violin shop Withers. Withers dates back to 1765 and, particularly during the 19th and 20th centuries, became renowned as one of the finest shops in the violin trade (alongside W.E. Hill & Sons).
Martin studied extensively in Europe to learn this traditional art of varnish retouch – a process which involves identifying the essence of an instrument’s varnish, understanding and then recreating the complexities inherent in that varnish. He uses traditional artists’ pigments, grinding & mixing them by hand.
Violin plate repair
This 19th century Dutch violin presented an interesting problem, as not only did it have a soundpost crack but it also had a square piece of wood let into the top plate (right under the location of the treble bridge foot).
The soundpost crack was thoroughly cleaned & then glued. We removed the piece of wood that had been let in as this wood did not match the front. By taking this non-original wood out, we were able to make a plaster cast of the front and push the original wood (only 0.7mm thick) level with the surrounding plate. We then continued with the soundpost patch repair & stabilised the top plate.
Finally, the damaged area on the front was able to be varnish retouched to successfully hide the repair.