4/25/2013

c.1900 German? 4/4 Cello




I posted about this full-size (4/4) cello last year in February, but since then I've sold it and purchased it back. Since then it also received a good hard case and a new dryness hairline crack over the winter. I've fixed the latter and am happy for the former. I figured it was time to get some new photos and a new writeup that would do it some justice.

I'm pretty sure this is a German-export cello from around the 1880s-1900s. It has an ebonized fingerboard (dyed maple) and the whole instrument is made from solid wood with a beautifully carved top and back and fantastic flamed maple used throughout the secondary wood stock.

I received this instrument totally stripped and with bits of the old varnish gummed in the crevices. Only one of the many lower bout cracks was "repaired," and sloppily with excess glue (you can still see this on the treble side lower bout below the treble f-hole). A piece of top (bass side lower bout) was also missing so I cut a new piece to fit. Other work included much seam regluing, cleating and repairing of cracks and the back seam, a new ebony tailpiece, replacement bridge, new German geared tuning machines, good Pirastro Flexocor strings, and (recently) adjuster wheels for the bridge and a new ebony endpin (the original one finally wore out).

I also entirely fine-sanded and refinished the instrument with a hand-rubbed gel varnish type which is ultra thin and allows for maximum resonance yet has a sweet dull luster to it which looks and feels authentic. The whole work package was a labor of love, for sure.


The sound of this instrument is sublime. It's got a very full voice to it and when one picks it up and recognizes how light-as-a-feather it is, it's obvious how nice the build quality is.


The nice brass machines make tuning really, really easy. Note the small bone nut.


The neck has never been broken.


The bridge now has a slight lean to it but it's still got some years left. I added adjuster wheels like on an archtop guitar to make it easier to adjust action height for each season. It's set super-slick at the moment and plays effortlessly.


Here's the replacement section of top (right on the edge so it's not a tone-detractor) and a few of the hairline cracks that I cleated and repaired myself.


This globby-looking crack repair was done before my time but is cleated-up and stable. Yes, the purfling is real and is a 3-line type.



The flamed maple ribs and back are all solid and absolutely beautiful.



You can see how I deliberately left some of the old varnish leavings and wear marks so that this would have an aged appearance right from the get-go. It works.



The back is ultra-lovely.


The scroll is nicely carved, too.



The A tuning machine has a plate of holly under it to block it up flush with the rest of the headstock. I did this quickly when first setting it up but left it as I think it's sort of cute. Holly is good luck against the supernatural, too, supposedly -- so fair enough!


New, heavy-duty ebony and brass endpin.


Here at the endpin area there's a tiny bulge-out of the side that I've reglued and drop-filled along its edge. It's perfectly stable in service but worth mentioning. Fortunately one never sees it as it's pointing to the floor.


This cello comes with a nice ($100) carbon fiber bow and a good hard case.

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