Cello by John Wheatley Dublin c.1820
A rare Irish 19th century Cello. This instrument was made in middle Abbey street Dublin sometime between 1820 and 1825 by John Wheatley. It was extremely well made, Unfortunately two centuries of use has taken its tole on the instrument and it has been opened and repaired at least 2 if not 3 times before. Some of the repairs were quite clearly carried out professionally, such as the fitting of its modern Bass bar.
Unfortunately Some of the other repair work, particularly the rib cracks, were rather crudely executed with big chunks of Spruce being glued to the inside to reinforce the cracks, and/or little squares of Maple badly fitted here there and every where. As can be seen here.
The front of the Instrument is in considerably good condition, given its age, with no major cracks at all really. Apart from the expected wear from sound post adjustment the Spruce top had this one major fault close to the top left corner on the inside of the front plate. I would hazard a guess that the last time the front of the instrument was removed, Due to carelessness this strip was ripped out remaining stuck to the C bout ribs. Subsequently It is most likely to have been lost by the time it came to gluing the front back on.
I measured the remaining thickness in this groove and it read as :The thickness of the varnish plus only 0.7 of a millimeter of remaining Spruce. With very little effort one could have pushed one’s finger easily through the front of the Cello in that particular spot.Luckily that never happened and I replaced the torn out missing piece. I replaced some other badly fitted crack cleats and carried out a little doubling of the edges.
This is a photo taken of the inside front of an old Scottish violin I restored back in 2008. The front of the Instrument had been excessively thinned down with bad sound post wear to the point where 2 or 3 cracks were visable from the outside. So the procedure was as follows: I first made a plaster of paris mold of the front of the Hardie ,then I repaired the fine cracks. I proceeded to even out the already thin front (Naturally having first removed the bass bar.) Then taking a new but well seasoned matching block of spruce I sculpted it and shaped it to fit snugly in its place, It’s an extremely long process that entails rubbing chalk on the area to be patched and using this chalks trace to remove infinitely slim slivers off the replacement spruce block until a perfect fit is obtained. This is then glued in place and then re-thinned down to the appropriate thickness, In order to finish up with a perfectly matching Patch as seen In the Photo above.
Its not the kind of restoration every fiddle would deserve, It takes about the best part of 30 hours work to complete. This James Hardie 1894 Maggini copy is now playing again.
Restoration of a C.H. J.B. Collin Mezzin 1903