If you properly care for and maintain your violin, it never should need repair. Your teacher will show you how to change strings when they break or wear out, and she will probably show you how to replace the hair on your bow, too. If you keep your violin in its case and keep the case stored away from moisture and extreme temperature changes, your instrument should sound terrific as your grandchildren learn to play it.
Can I perform simple violin repairs myself?
You can and should complete all the routine maintenance your violin requires, but you probably should not attempt do-it-yourself repairs. Competent violin repair requires sophisticated knowledge of hardwoods' properties, violins' construction, and complex, delicate woodworking skills; it also requires specialized tools and glue you probably will not find at the home improvement retailer down the street. Even if you did have advanced skills and fine tools, you still would have to calculate the value of your time: Your violin repair shop probably can complete your fix quicker and better in less time than you even could think about doing it yourself. And most reputable repair shops will loan you a violin so you may continue practicing while they work their miracles on your damaged instrument. While intimate knowledge of your violin's construction has a strangely Romantic appeal, it does not have a whole lot of practical value.
What are the most common reasons for sending a violin to the repair shop?
Temperature and moisture wreak havoc on your violin. Extreme changes of temperature especially cause the wood to expand and contract; and because wood never quite loses its essential "treeness," it may not stretch out and snap back uniformly as it goes from very hot to very cold and back again. Although your violin probably will not give-up its shape, expansion and contraction will ravage its joints, breaking their bond and requiring painstaking reassembly. Similarly, if you keep your violin strings taut during periods of high humidity, they may warp your fingerboard. The board will not bend back to its proper form; you must replace it. Bridges often crack or break-off, and the gears holding your pegs and fine tuners in place may wear to the point they need replacement. Little scratches will not hurt your violin, but big dents and genuine holes definitely will.
How do I find a trustworthy violin repair service?
Do not rely on the internet, the yellow pages, or expedience. If the music store where you purchased or rented your violin offers repair service, you probably can trust their people. In general, though, trust only word-of-mouth recommendations. Your classmates and friends from the orchestra may offer suggestions or tell you about their experiences with local craftsmen. Your violin teacher probably can recommend an experienced, reliable violin repair person in your neighborhood; or she may help you complete the process of packing and shipping your violin back to its manufacturer.
At what point should I give up on repair and buy a new violin?
Anything that has come unglued will go back together again-nowhere near a total loss. Even if you suffer a frenzied fit of pique, smashing your violin belly-first against a solid object, a skilled craftsman probably can restore it to health and harmony. Only if, for whatever reason, your once-a-violin now looks like kindling should you consider replacing it before you shop around for someone to repair it.