This fine old English cello was made in the workshop of J.E. Betts (1755-1823) and had unfortunately sustained a large amount of damage. Extensive restoration was carried out throughout the instrument, but here we focus on the varnish retouch to the cracks in the ribs.
Prior to the work that you will see below, the cracks in the ribs had been cleaned, glued & reinforced. The cracks had further been prepared by being filled with varnish filler & cut back, to enable the crack to be precisely level with the surrounding wood. This is an essential step in the varnish retouch process, as any uneven areas will catch the light and show up the crack quite readily.
The method for varnish retouch that I use comes from the famous London violin shop Withers. Withers dates back to 1765 and, particularly during the 19th and 20th centuries, became renowned as one of the finest shops in the violin trade (alongside W.E. Hill & Sons). I studied for 7 months in Europe to learn this traditional art of varnish retouch – a process which involves identifying the essence of an instrument’s varnish, understanding and then recreating the complexities inherent in that varnish. I use traditional artists’ pigments, grinding & mixing them by hand.
The back & ribs of this cello are made of beautiful birds-eye maple and I very much enjoyed the artistic process of the varnish retouch.
Please click on the first image to scroll through this restoration project.