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Violin/woodplugged hole in violin.

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Question
Hello,  I once read in a recent (Aug.,Sept. 2014) article in the Strings magazine. It quested plugged holes in violins.  The responder had no answer.  The violin showed wood plugged holes located on the side (ribs), near the tailpiece button, and in back of the scroll.  I just bought a violin which has the same kind of plugged hole in the top center area of the back (right before the neckpiece starts.  What is this. Why was a hole ever their. It seems as if the hole(s) was drill, and plugged back by a wooded peg. The peg doesn't stick out.  It fit (may be filed) at the level of the violin's exterior. This specific violin doesn't have any label in the body.  I don't know any thing about.  I bought it used from a music instrument.  They have me a good price because the know nothing of the violin neither.

Answer
Amati Pin
Amati Pin  

Sap Pocket
Sap Pocket  
Hi Eddie

I'm not sure I understand the location and look of the plugs, a picture would be really useful in this case.  There are some reasons why pieces of wood are inserted in one of the parts.  The violin is a fragile instrument and holes and cracks can be a common form of damage. A crack can almost always be glued, but a hole will usually need to be filled in with new wood for it to look decent. Another reason for filling in wood, especially on the top, is for a sap pocket. As the top is made from spruce, it is susceptible to sap that forms in a pocket and never drains out when the wood dries. This pocket is often in the middle of the wood and doesn't become visible until a lot of labor has already been put in.  So instead of starting over, the maker will cut out the wood and insert a new wood plug.  Some makers also replace small knots in the maple for similar reasons.  Although with the maple, the knot is only a visual issue an not a sound issue like it can be on the spruce. Many of the great Italian makers used maple that had knots and they just left them as is. Small round holes filled in on the scroll or by the end button could be from filling in screw holes from a previous poor quality repair. But without actually seeing the plugs, there is no way no say why they are there.

If the ones on your violin are up by the button and are fairly small, round and just a few millimeters or less in diameter, they are probably registration pins. On many instruments these are almost invisible while others they are made with contrasting wood and are very obvious. These are holes that the maker drills through the top or back into the block during the craving process so that when they go to glue the parts together, they line up easier for gluing. I have attached pictures of both a sap pocket repair and a registration pin.  

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David Lashof

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I can answer questions on violin, viola, cello and bass making, repair and maintenance as well as supply general violin value ranges and information on instrument makers’ assuming the instrument's as labeled. I don't give values for modern makers as many of these modern makers are yet unknown to me. I can only give you feedback based on what information you give me, and no authority on the instrument can know every maker's work that ever lived. I have access to many books on makers and auction prices on over 25,000 makers, as well as having 36 years of experience with selling and appraising violins. Without having the instrument in hand, any estimate over the internet is just a guess as the label inside an instrument is more often wrong than right, so just having that information is not very useful. Pictures can sometimes be helpful but only so much, as the "feel" of the instrument along with small clues in workmanship and varnish cannot be seen in pictures. Any pictures should be high quality close-ups of the top and back. Additional photos of the front and treble side of the neck are also useful. It is always best to have an instrument seen in person at a violin shop that does appraisals. I can also provide advice on bows, rosin, strings and other string instrument accessories. As I am now retired, I have no bias towards selling anything; I only wish to share my knowledge and experience by providing information for those that may be getting confused by misinformation, misdirection or conflicting statements. (While I have seen many thousands of instruments and have performed numerous appraisals; if I have not evaluated an instrument in person, any information I set forth in an opinion is just that, an opinion based solely on what you have provided. Thusly, no financial decision should be based on that opinion, but rather, further investigation should be performed by having the instrument examined in person.)

Experience

I am a retired violin maker and repairman with 35 years experience having worked in Chicago and Maryland at 5 different violin shops and music stores including the first violin repairman at William Harris Lee in Chicago, the head repairman at Weavers Violins in Maryland, and in my own shop of 25 years. I have made 160 instruments and have restored countless professional level and student grade instruments. I am an accomplished violinist having performed with semi-professional as well as amateur groups although I haven't played for years and mostly stay away from questions about playing. I have taught violin making and restoration to about 20 students; three of which have gone on professionally and now have their own shops. I know violins from playing, selling, repairing, making and teaching.

Organizations
Violin Society of America (VSA). American String Teachers Association (ASTA)

Education/Credentials
I graduated from the prestigious 4 year Chicago School of Violin Making in 1981 under Master Violin Maker Tschu Ho Lee. I also studied with violin maker Willis M. Gault in Washington DC from 1973-75, who was the former owner of the oldest known example of an instrument from the modern violin family, an Andreas Amati Viola.

Awards and Honors
2008 Chester Petranek Award for service to the music community. ASTA award for service. Top All Expert in Violin for 2014 and 2015.

Past/Present Clients
I have worked with many professional musicians from DC area Symphonies as well as players from all over the US. Here are just a few, Leonard Slatkin - Former conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra. Doris Gazda - Nationally renowned string specialist and composer. Bernard Greenhouse, Tanya Anisimova - Internationally renowned Solo Cellists. Jody Gatwood, Mark Pfannschmidt, Lori Barnet, Doug Dubé, Judy Silverman - National Philharmonic Orchestra. Robert Blatt, David Hardy, Glen Garlick - National Symphony Orchestra. Eddie Stubbs, Brendan Mulvahill, Nate Leath - Professional Fiddle Players. David Basche, Pat Braunlich, John Knudson, Romano Solano, Ed Ferris, Fred Lieder - freelance musicians.

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