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Restoring an early 20th-century cello at the Musical Instrument Museum

By John Roark | Photography by Rob Ballard

Handmade in the U.S. in 1917 of spruce and maple, this 1/8 cello was designed for teaching younger musicians. “Any restoration begins with researching the background of the piece, including when and where it was produced and what materials were used,” says MIM conservator Rodrigo Correa-Salas. “The goal is to preserve, honor and respect the object’s history.”

The bridge, which influences the instrument’s tone and response, must be carved and shaped to conform to the curvature of the body. Ultimately it will be held in place by the tension of the cello’s strings.

A small planer shaves slices of wood when carving the bridge to create a custom fit.

A beaver-fur brush gently removes dust during the restoration process.

Mineral oil is mixed with pumice powder to clean the surface of the instrument, while shellac is used as a polisher and finisher.

A wood file is employed for shaping, carving and contouring.

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