Worth It: Restoring a C. 1690 Grancino Violin

By James Koehler | From the November-December 2020 issue of Strings magazine

One of my favorite restorations was on a ca. 1690 Giovanni Grancino violin. When I first saw the violin, it had many cracks in the top, which was detached, its glueing surfaces at the edges damaged and the arch distorted. The bass bar was also damaged, the lower bouts and linings were separated from the back and end block, and the neck block was split.

It needed a lot of work.


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So I got underway: crack repairs, a top pressing, bass-bar fitting, a neck reset. But the most challenging aspects of this restoration were varnish restoration and touch-up. And once that was all done, there was still the setup work (fingerboard planing, nut work, and a new soundpost, bridge, and pegs)!

All told, it took about a year. But it was worth the effort: players who put the Grancino through its paces after its restoration said it played with ease, performing and speaking beautifully in any setting. The violin was also played in a recital before its sale. The sound was clear and rich during soft passages, full and bright in the upper register, and amazingly consistent throughout its whole range. It was magnificent—a very special instrument indeed.

The memory of the Grancino’s restoration keeps me thinking about my goal with customers: anytime an instrument is returned, I want them to be more than pleased with the difference and results.