The Strad – Caring for Your Instrument: A Guide to Cleaning and Polishing

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If trees that can live for centuries had a language, they would have thousands of stories to tell. The violins and other instruments of his family, whose raw material is wood, are living beings. Don’t forget that! Be sure to be more compassionate towards your instrument. This will not only help you play more pleasantly, but also ensure that your instrument stays healthy for many years to come.

Over time, dust, rosin, and sweat build up on your instrument. Rosin is an acidic and sticky substance. When it stays on your instrument for a long time, it causes the pores to close, which negatively affects the voice of the instrument. When you clean it, you will not only improve the appearance, but also protect the sound of your instrument.

Clean the surface of your instrument:

First of all, for you and the health of your instrument, make a point of using a quality rosin. When you play your instrument, your hands should be clean. If you make a habit of “daily maintenance” after playing your instrument, you won’t have to do a lot of cleaning.

For daily care of your instrument, you need a soft brush (like a blush brush) and two dry, lint-free cloths. First remove the dust from the strings and the instrument with a brush, and remove the rest of the dust with a dry cloth. With your second cloth, wipe and clean the neck and fingerboard under the strings to remove sweat. Wash your brush in soapy water once a month and wash your cloths in soapy water at least once every two weeks to keep them clean.

Deep cleaning:

For deep cleaning, we need the following:

  • At least three lint-free cloths (microfiber)
  • A teaspoon of rice
  • Cotton swabs for holes F
  • Cleansing cream or almond milk for the surface
  • Alcohol based string cleaner

You can get all these products from a luthier, a store or an online market.

Put the rice into the holes at F, then shake the instrument from left to right. With the help of the rice and the stirring motion, the dirt and dust accumulated over time will come together and form a small lump.

Next, turn the instrument upside down with the F-holes facing the ground and using tweezers carefully remove the mass from the F-holes. This process opens the pores of the wood and will allow your violin to breathe. easier.

Second, clean the strings. First try to cover your violin by placing a cloth or large towel under the fingerboard so that no rosin particles fall on it. Pour a few drops of cleaner onto a dry, lint-free cloth and begin wiping your strings. Use another part of your cloth while wiping each string. This will help your strings last longer.

Clean the fingerboard and the back of the neck. Over time, residue forms behind the neck and on the fingerboard. If you have sweaty palms, this residue can become intense over time. You can clean these parts with special cleaners after using a dry cloth. During this time, make sure your cloth is not wet.

In the surface cleaning process, I recommend using almond oil or cream cleansers. Pour a few drops of almond oil onto the microfiber cloth and begin cleaning in light circular motions. If you think the dirt is very stubborn, start with a dampened lint-free cloth or a cloth soaked in sage tea. Be careful not to touch the bridge when applying this process. You can continue the process using another part of your cloth and a few drops of cleansing cream.

As this is a time-consuming process, be careful not to rush and exert too much pressure. Then, wrapping your dry cloth around the cotton swabs, clean the inside of the F-holes. Work very precisely around these delicate parts. You can also clean the dowels and volute using cotton swabs.

Avoid applying this process more than 2-3 times per year, as you risk damaging your instrument.

General Council :

Get into the habit of daily maintenance of your instrument. Place your instrument in its case, wrapping it in silk fabric. This way you can protect your instrument from both the inner surface material and the rosin of the bow.

At home, make sure the humidity level in the room where your violin is located is between 45 and 55%. Otherwise, there may be deterioration of the polish or reopening of the glued parts. A simple way to provide this humidity is to keep a few potted plants in your room and water them regularly.

During practice breaks, you can put your violin in its case. If you lay it with the front facing up, the varnish on the back will corrode over time.

Never use hot water, damp cloth, cotton cloth, sandpaper or high quality alcohol-based cleaners to clean your violin.

If you follow these tips, your instrument will maintain its health, well-being and performance for many years.

Based in Istanbul, Nurgul Comak has been working as a luthier since 1999.

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