Samuel Gilkes cello restoration

By Chris Lamb

Christmas 2011 project: Restoring an old English cello back to its original baroque setup.

Day 1

Showing current bridge height of 100mm (target is ~85mm).

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Showing current bridge height and fingerboard length.

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Showing current fingerboard length and boxwood tailpiece.

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Showing current (excessive) bridge height.

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Showing current neck angle.

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Strings, bridge, endpin and tailpiece off

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Fingerboard and nut removed

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Neck removed

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Neck removed

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Front removed

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Neck block

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Day 2

New strip of lining being glued onto ribs after steaming.

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Ribs being re-glued to back and endpin block. This was always a bit unsatisfactory when glueing from the outside, but can do a proper job now the front is off. Strips on the left hand side are re-gluing a crack.

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Neck block being re-glued to back and ribs. Had come away slightly.

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Attaching lining next to endpin block back to ribs. Wood is being wedged against the neck block - not sure how to clamp this otherwise.

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Letting the back and ribs dry overnight.

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After removing the bass bar. Was attached with PVA glue (!) but no lasting damage was done.

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Bass bar after removal. Height is 19mm.

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Almost finished thinning the front (by approx 2mm).

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Day 3

Finishing off thinning the front.

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Gluing some studs (not visible) set at 90 degrees to the grain to prevent a crack widening.

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Measuring the existing nut to source some replacement material.

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Finished thinning (19mm -> 14mm) and shortening (575mm -> 530mm) the bass bar.

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Re-gluing bass bar. The previous bar was slightly sprung so that was just replicated; I have no opinion in that debate.

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Re-gluing the bass bar (close-up)

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Day 4

Tidying the belly

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Paring down studs

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Straightening fingerboard a little

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Making some more clamps to glue the front back.

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Making some more clamps to glue the front back.

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Making some more clamps to glue the front back.

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Some clamps in progress. Underneath the plywood is engine gasket material.

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19 clamps finished; have 36 now.

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Day 5

Taking the bass bar down to it's final height at each end. Also added another stud at the centre join underneath the tailpiece (not visible)

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Getting ready to glue the front back on.

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Letting the front dry

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Letting the front dry

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Adding an oversized bit of maple to the back of the shoulder as it will be sticking further out from the block.

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Bone to make new nut arrived today.

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Glue is mixed in the double saucepan in the background, maple in left hand box, boxwood in right hand box.

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Planning on making a rounded button out of this piece of mahogany if time.

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Looking at bridge designs.

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Day 6

Checking the front is reattached properly.

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Adjusting the back <-> front location of the neck and the angle with this extra piece. There will be an additional wedge.

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Making sure this fits perfectly

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Working out how much to shorten the fingerboard. Cutting the non-obvious end to allow correction of the outside edges of the fingerboard - they currently curve inwards in making it even thinner.

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Demo of possible projection (70mm at bridge). The (modern) bridge I'm using here is a little high but you get the idea.

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Another angle.

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Day 7

Glued wedge to neck.

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Checking it aligns properly. (Final position is slightly different)

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Gluing neck back into mortise.

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Cutting fingerboard down.

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Heating ebony prior to gluing.

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Gluing fingerboard to neck. Surprisingly tricky.

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Taken the obvious edges off the nut.

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Maple for the bridge. Probably an offcut from making a viola back.

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Messing about in Inkscape designing a bridge.

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A few more bridge ideas.

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Day 8

Making the bridge from design.

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Finishing off the bridge with files, etc.

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Neck and fingerboard drying

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Day 9

Failed attempt at making a baroque endpin in a lathe.

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Failed attempt at making an endpin (top), the original spiked endpin.

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Fitting (WIP) baroque endpin to size.

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Finished "baroque endpin".

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Roughly fitting the bridge. Only one string as no soundpost yet.

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Roughly fitting the bridge. Only one string as no soundpost yet.

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Day 10

Bone nut. The smell when you grind this stuff is foul.

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Soundpost

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Fitting soundpost.

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Strings up to tension. Checking and adjusting string heights.

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Cello back in London.

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Cello back in London. Shoulder is not completely finished but will do until I get more time.

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Day 10

Tidying edges of nut

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New soundpost adjuster made, fiddling with location.

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Day 12

After tidying shoulder

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After tidying shoulder

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After tidying shoulder

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In action

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Chris Lamb is a freelance software developer and the current Debian Project Leader. You can read other posts by me, see software I have written or read more about me. You can also follow me @lolamby.


Saturday 31st December 2011


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