New Violin Unglued? Potential Treasure!


If your newly purchased violin experiences glue separation, it can indeed be a bit disheartening. However, this situation indicates that your violin is constructed using animal glue rather than industrial adhesive, which may actually be a sign of a high-quality instrument.

During the violin-making process, glue is used to bond various parts of the violin, such as the scroll and the body, the top, back, and sides, all of which are meticulously joined together. 

In traditional craftsmanship, luthiers often choose fish or pig bladder glue as their adhesive. This type of glue, composed of components derived from animals, is known as animal glue. Animal glue is characterized by softening at elevated temperatures, which means that some violins can be disassembled for repairs by applying heat with a hot air gun. Both antique and high-end modern violins typically use animal glue.

In contrast, there is also industrial glue, a newer development in violin-making materials. Industrial glue tends to have a stronger bond than animal glue, and in some cases, it may never come unglued. Violins constructed with industrial glue are less likely to experience glue separation, but this also makes it considerably more challenging to disassemble them for repairs when needed.

So, if your violin experiences glue separation, congratulations, it likely indicates the use of animal glue. With the right repair methods, your violin can be re-glued, and the parts will fit even better, resulting in improved performance. On the other hand, violins assembled with industrial glue may be less prone to glue separation but can have limitations in their sound development and pose greater difficulties for future repairs. Hence, they are often used for beginner-level violins.

Why do violins made with animal glue experience glue separation?

As mentioned earlier, animal glue's characteristic is its softening when exposed to high temperatures, which can weaken the bond at the glued joints, making them susceptible to coming apart. 

In everyday use, factors such as the natural warmth and sweat from our bodies can affect the violin, leading to the possibility of glue separation over time. Incorrectly storing the violin can also contribute to this issue.

Therefore, after using the violin regularly, it's crucial to remember to use a cleaning cloth to wipe away sweat and rosin residue from the violin's surface to maintain its cleanliness.

Furthermore, it's essential to avoid placing the violin in extremely humid or excessively dry environments, such as inside a car. In the summer, cars can become extremely hot due to intense sunlight, affecting the violin with thermal expansion and contraction, potentially leading to glue separation or other problems. In very humid environments, the violin can be affected by moisture in the air, leading to issues as well.

If you need guidance on how to care for both the violin and the bow, you can refer to the following article: "Routine care and maintenance of violins and bows."

In general, as long as you keep the violin clean and store it in its case in a cool, dry place, it should be well-maintained.

How can I tell if my violin has glue separation?

When we experience unusual noises while playing the violin, after ruling out common factors like loose accessories, glue separation could be a potential cause. We often check for glue separation by lightly tapping the edge where the violin's top plate meets the side plate and listening for changes in sound, from solid to loose, or even resembling the sound of two pieces of wood striking each other. The back plate can also be tested in the same way.

Common areas prone to glue separation on the violin:

The most common area for glue separation is the fingerboard. Mild glue separation between the fingerboard and the neck can result in gaps, while more severe cases may lead to the entire fingerboard coming off. Another susceptible area is near the chinrest, where the top or back plate meets the side plate, as it is closer to the body and more exposed to humidity, making it a common location for glue separation.

What should you do if you encounter glue separation?

No need to worry; if your violin experiences glue separation, you only need to loosen the strings and take it to a professional luthier for repair.

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