Offcuts: Violins, Strings, and Other Things By: Don Heisz

I’ve often wished I could play the violin. In the right hands, it is truly a magical instrument, capable of stirring the most sublime of emotions from the most stodgy individual.

In my hands, however, it probably would only incite rage in the most saintly.

Seems to me my fingers are too big for the spaces between the strings. But I actually thought something similar when I first attempted to play guitar. However, that turned out to be just my inability to get my fingers to do what I wanted them to do. But I got beyond that and can play guitar at least to the extent that no one has ever tried to murder me for doing it.

I doubt that can ever be the case for the violin.

So, I went to the trouble of fixing the case and violin and rehairing the bow and I’ll never know if it actually sounds better than a ukulele strung with sausage casing.

And, speaking of stringing the violin, I had to order a bunch of things to be able to do that. I did not invest very much in it, though. Everything was very cheap because, frankly, quality is of no concern. From my point of view, everything other than the wood itself is jewelry. I’m perfectly satisfied with costume jewelry – it glitters just as nicely as the real stuff when you don’t know what you’re looking at.

Having nothing better to do with the violin after putting strings on it, I decided to take a couple of pictures. For that, I used a large format camera – a Speed Graphic, actually, like the old newspaper photojournalists used to use – and some rather damaged film I have. You can call that an artistic choice, I don’t mind.

black and white photo

A view of the violin

As you can see, it’s very artistic.

black and white photo of violin

A second view of the violin

So, several months have passed since I did all the restoration work on the violin. Everything is holding up very well. I can pretend that I waited this long to continue the tale because I wanted to see if my glue would hold with tension on the strings. Oh, it holds very well. The violin shows no sign of falling apart. Of course, it likely will fall apart again eventually, but the beauty of a glue that fails is it doesn’t destroy the wood. And, you know, the wood is the important stuff.


I probably would have concluded my violin Offcuts adventure a long time ago but I got very busy with work. Then I got busy with Christmas. Then I got busy with kids birthdays. And more work. And time passed. Time flies by, actually. The more time passes, the more quickly it passes. I have a theory about that. It’s a matter of percentage. If you’ve only lived 5 years, one year is 20% of your life and that’s a truly significant amount of time. After 40 or so years, though, one year really drops in value. I figure, if you could live to be 100, one year would feel more like an extra-long baseball game. Probably one where no one got a hit.

Anyway, for those of you not familiar with the whole violin and case restoration experience, feel free to go back to Offcuts Luthier Adventures and read through. Perhaps you too will be inspired to fix something you cannot use.