Trade Secrets: Lengthening a violin neck

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An alternative to performing a neck graft, without the need for making a replacement

Whenever we need to resize an instrument neck to modern (i.e. longer) proportions, we are faced with a crucial decision before we even begin. This complicated task could involve a complete replacement of the original parts – normally undesirable on a valuable instrument – or a modification of the existing neck. The more original wood remains the better, both for economical and historical reasons, so I will always choose the second option whenever possible. My goal is to make my modification as invisible as I can. Also, using a pre-existing neck is much less labour-intensive than a complete neck replacement, so the advantages are twofold.

Neck sizes can vary, even on relatively recent instruments, so a thorough evaluation of the instrument is of paramount importance before we commit ourselves to the modification. First we check whether the topmost part of the neck is a minimum of 23.5mm wide. The thickness should be a minimum of 18.5mm at the thinnest part, and 19.5mm at the thickest. If these basic prerequisites are met, we know we can add to the original neck without dramatically altering it.

As to the choice of wood for this structurally vital part, end-grain joints tend to be problematic, and many restorers refrain from using them with reason. I try not to use that kind of wood either.

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