and Feeding of the Fiddle and Bow
In this article I will not only give suggestions on how to care for your fiddle and bow, but also the reasons why these precautions are necessary. We probably all know the basics such as wiping the rosin off after playing, avoiding extreme temperature and humidity changes and dropping or banging the fiddle. But do we know why? I will try to answer some of these questions.
CLEANING: Always wipe off your violin and the strings with a soft, clean cloth after playing. It is also helpful to wipe off the bow stick after use. Varnish is made from the same material as rosin so they tend to adhere to each other. If not cleaned the rosin will build up, creating a thicker and thicker layer of “varnish” which in time will affect the sound and appearance of the instrument. If it is necessary to clean off old rosin I have found that a common natural cleaning product called “Citra-Solv” is very helpful. Always test first. This product can be found in most health food stores. Never use furniture polishes on your violin as they contain oils that build up on the varnish.
PROTECTION: Keep your instrument in a good well-padded case when you are not playing it. Not only does this protect it from physical blows but also maintains a more constant temperature and humidity. I have seen many instruments and bows that have been damaged because someone sat on them. Especially vulnerable is the soft spruce top. The edges can chip and break more easily than the harder maple back and sides. Varnish protects the wood. If bare wood is exposed, due to wear or damage, it is important to have these areas touched up by an experienced luthier. Cracks can develop in the top due to damage or temperature extremes. Like a small rip in a piece of clothing these need to be mended immediately to keep them from enlarging. Never leave your fiddle or bow in direct sun or in a closed car or trunk if it is hot. Doing so can permanently damage the varnish and warp or crack the wood due to the extreme temperature.
SFSF member Peter Van Arsdale is a local Berkeley violin
maker who also does repair, restoration and bow rehair.