Katrin Gabriel

Master Violin Maker & Restorer

For more than 39 years Katrin Gabriel has had the pleasure of restoring some of the most prestigious violins, violas and cellos. Originally trained in Germany, she moved to London 31 years ago and now works in Herefordshire, still retaining her strong connections to London.

Violin restoration - a beautiful and exciting craft

There is no greater joy than to put the last finishing touches on a recently restored, fine, old antique violin, viola or cello and then to put a bow across the instrument to hear its sound.

Normally the recently set up instrument needs time to settle in, but the potential can be heard straight away. I will always try to adjust the bridge and sound post to get the best out of the violin, viola or cello prior to completing the sound adjustments with the player. Nobody knows the instrument better than they do and together we can strive to achieve the best sound possible for their instrument.

This might take a bit of time, the restored violin has to be played in first and given time to “recover” from having had work done to it. I cherish the process of working together with the musicians and custodians , it is an honour to be entrusted with their precious instruments!

Useful questions and answers about maintaining, repairing or restoring a violin/viola or cello

How often should I take my instrument to be serviced by a luthier?

This depends on how much you play. As a rule of thumb, it is a good idea to get the violin restorer to check for open seams, open cracks and other potential problems once a year. Having the instrument cleaned at the same time and the fingerboard checked is also useful. Some protective varnish might need to be applied, if the player has worn through some of the varnish, to safeguard the wood underneath.

Chunks of the vanish on my violin are missing, what can be done about it?

Retouching and restoring missing varnish is one of my areas of expertise, I may be able to help.

When tuning my violin, the bridge tends to bend forward towards the fingerboard...

It is a good idea to put graphite into the grooves on the bridge, to allow the strings to slide easily. The depth of the grooves should be about one third of the string diameter for the string to sit comfortably. Every now and again it is advisable to pull the top of the bridge slightly back towards the tailpiece ( with the fingers of both hands pressing against the top part of the bridge and the palms of both hands resting on the front on either side of the bridge for support).

Despite my best efforts the bridge on my cello is out of shape looking a bit like a hunchback…

Quite often it is possible to straighten the bridge by steaming the wood, this can be tried in the first instance. If the bridge keeps distorting, the cello will need a new bridge.

Can I clean the varnish on my viola myself?

There are some light cleaning products available that are safe to use by the musician. Should there be a thick layer of rosin residue or other dirt, it is advisable to instruct a luthier to clean it off with their specialist cleaning mixtures. Varnish is often soluble, and needs to be treated carefully to avoid removing original varnish from the instrument together with the dirt.

There is a rattling noise coming from my violin when I play, what might cause this?

There are many reasons why this might happen, a violin restorer would first check for open seams ( the joint between ribs and table or back). Open cracks, particularly around the sound holes can be a culprit too. It can be a loose cleat or a section of unstuck lining inside the instrument, or a piece of purfling that has become unglued. Even fine tuners or loose bridges on tailpieces can cause buzzing, or an unglued pip on a peg. On cellos the spike might vibrate too much and create unwanted frequencies. The possibilities are endless and the search for buzzing noises can be quite time consuming, but most of the time the reason will eventually be uncovered.

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