Offcuts: Violin Case Repair Part Two By: Don Heisz

So, after last time, I consider the outside of the case done. I don’t have much desire to redo the finish or replace the hardware. I like the worn look of the case, at least a little bit. Anyway, if I ever decide to, it’s not much trouble to touch it up.

Anyway, I am pleased with the performance of the hide glue. It’s holding very well.

So, when I turned my attention to the inside of the case, I immediately started thinking of how I would secure the violin neck. Originally, the case would have had two blocks on either side and, from the pictures I’ve seen online, I don’t think they were very good. I’d like something that can keep the violin from moving when the case is moved.

I was initially thinking I would make a support out of cardboard, so I cut a strip and placed it to get some better measurements of the size I would need. I thought I could make the support, glue it in place, then cover it with fabric.

Luckily, I realized how stupid it would be to attempt something like that. While I do believe making the inside features of the case from cardboard is perfectly fine (no one will be sitting in there, after all), getting fabric to cover those things while in place would be like trying to dress a marble statue in a jumpsuit.

Before I started, I had gone in search of suitable material. I found some that was an almost exact match in terms of colour and texture.

First, I needed to remove the old fabric. The blocks that were still inside the case were easily removed, since they were glued to the fabric. And the fabric itself pulled off very easily, although it emitted quite a cloud of ancient dust. Luckily, I was wearing my NOISH certified personal body containment suit and didn’t suffer any contamination.

You probably know I’m joking.

I noticed, once I had all the fabric off, that there was a definite line where the paper stopped just under where the fabric started. I thought the case had been totally covered in paper when it was made, and that the fabric had been put over the paper. But I guess there was originally fabric only where the violin body rested. Seems strange and I think it would look half-finished. But, as I said before, these cases were made by the millions to supply a world of budding violinists. Maybe the fabric was expensive.

My fabric, on the other hand, is not expensive.

I used the bottom of the violin case to trace the outline and cut two pieces to sit inside, as seen below.

I then had the dilemma of how to adhere the fabric. My only real experience in lining with fabric was when I made a pen box for my son for Christmas last year. That didn’t go so well. I used some kind of cheap superglue for that and it soaked through the satin immediately (and stuck to my fingers and made a big mess that I had to try to fake away).

I did not want such a fiasco this time. (You don’t get to use the word “fiasco” often enough.)

I wanted an adhesive that would hold the fabric well but also make it possible to remove it without destroying the case. I also wanted something water-based, since I didn’t want any solvent off-gassing on the violin (not like that will be back in there any time soon). I also wanted something that would not soak through the fabric and make the nice velvety surface turn hard and crusty.

I settled on something that remained from another fiasco. I have a nearly-full container of wallpaper paste left over from my single attempt at hanging wallpaper in my daughter’s room before she was born. I’ll briefly fill you in: I pasted the wall and tried to put the dry wallpaper on it. Anyone who knows anything about wallpaper would know that doesn’t work. I clearly knew nothing about wallpaper. And I can no longer remember if it was because I just didn’t know or I thought, “Why would I try to put paste on the paper when it’s easier to put it on the wall?” Knowing me, I think it’s the latter.

Anyway, I did a test of wallpaper paste to hold the fabric on the case and waited an hour or so for it to dry. It held well but readily peeled off when I tugged it hard enough. So, my conclusion was that wallpaper paste is perfect for this application.

I immediately spread it all over the inside top.

Then squeegeed the fabric onto it.

I was obviously very pleased with myself.

I immediately covered the inside bottom in the same way and then cut strips from the edge of my piece of fabric to do the sides. The reason I specifically cut there was to get the factory edge, not so it would be guaranteed straight (which is nice but not essential, since it’s a narrow strip and can be shifted one way or another) but because the factory edge is not frayed. Of course, that edge is oriented toward the inside of the case.

I left everything alone to dry overnight. An examination of it the next day revealed that the glue held very well except I may have either missed a couple of spots on the sides or the fabric had pulled away, since there was nothing holding it in place other than the initial tack of the glue. Anyway, I decided to reglue the loose parts later.

I trimmed the edge with a razor blade. Of course, I had my Cut-Proof gloves on…

Then I returned to replacing the blocks that secure the violin neck. I decided to make a single block, with a groove cut for the neck, and I would use cushion foam. I just happen to have a large piece of cushion foam in my workshop. Don’t you?

I made a rough sketch and then marked a template. Anyone can make sense of it, right?

I cut a piece of cushion two inches thick and pinned my template to it and then cut it out. I used the bandsaw for that, of course. It’s the perfect choice. (Some of you may recognize that bandsaw as one John improved. It cuts cushion extremely well.)

I made some highly precise marks to indicate how much to cut out for a neck-holding groove.

Then I hacked it out with the razor blade and glued a piece of cardboard to the bottom. The adhesive of choice for that operation was a glue gun. I have a “professional” glue gun and I think it reaches a couple of thousand degrees. Anyway, getting that glue on your fingers is roughly the same as molten solder.

I then glue-gunned fabric onto the cardboard.

And, once it was fully wrapped, I glue-gunned the block into the case.

I was originally unimpressed by the half-round blocks that were in the case. They not only seemed a little small, they also seemed useless. And, once the neck support was in place, the other blocks became totally useless. But, I felt like they should be there and so I put new fabric on them and glued them in place.

Now the case is looking like it’s finished. Just one more thing to add.

The last thing to put in the case was a compartment for storing rosin, strings, a tuner, and maybe a couple of airplane bottles of gin. It’s a light-duty compartment, so it does not require any air-gun nails to make. I cut a piece of wood to fit snugly (I used my earlier-made template to set the angle on the saw).

I wrapped it in fabric and hot glued it in place. I cut a small piece, rounded at the back, and glued that in, also.

That is a stop for the compartment lid. I made a template for the lid in a very technical way.

Then I cut it out from 1/4 inch mdf (which they call hardboard but they lie) and drilled a finger-hole in it and painted one side and the edges black. After the paint dried, I used wallpaper paste to glue fabric on the other side. After it dried, I trimmed it all the way around, but left an inch or so hanging off the end to act as a hinge. I then used hide glue to glue the fabric hinge onto the block and cut another strip of fabric which I glued to the opposite side. While I had the hide glue hot, I used some to reglue the loose spots of fabric along the outside edge. It’s significantly more tacky than wallpaper paste.

Then it was done.

I would guess it’s an improvement over how it was when it was new, since the neck support is better and the storage compartment is about an inch or so bigger (can almost fit a flask). If you look at the photo above, you can see a little block glued into the lid opposite the storage compartment. That holds the compartment cover in place while the case is closed.

Next will be repairing the violin itself. That may be the greatest adventure of all.