An Original Neck

Here’s an interesting one. It’s rare to see pre-modern violins with their original necks instead of grafted modern ones. Usually an old neck is modernized by unmounting it from the rib (they’re glued on the outside and nailed from the inside for security), adding some on the bottom, and resetting the neck in the modern, stronger, way, inset into the rib, top, and upper block. The most visible artifact of this is the way a rebate is cut into the top for the neck heel to pass through. Finally, the heel of the neck is recarved smaller to modern specifications. This cuts into the heel and exposes the holes made by the nails, and they show as rusty holes in the top of the heel. Even more common is removing the old neck completely and grafting a new one, leaving no trace at all of the original setting.

This 1737 Gennaro Gagliano is different. The person who modernized it chose to leave the heel just as it originally was, nailed on to the outside of the ribs, passing around the edge of the top.

orignal Gagliano heel

Originally it wasn’t quite a baroque setting, since the heel stuck out past the top about three millimeters instead of being level with it. This is not far enough to be modern, so the person who did the work faced the front of the neck with about two more millimeters of wood to raise the fingerboard further off the top. Notice how the undisturbed outline of the top is fully intact under the fingerboard.

Here’s another view, the other side of the neck seen slightly lower, so the way the heel dodges around the top is more visible, as is the remains of the initially-square edge (under the neck) before it was rounded:

Gagliano original neck

This is an unusual way to deal with the situation because so far the neck hasn’t been disturbed or lengthened at all. In fact, the nails inside, through the block, are still in place. So where is this neck made longer? At the other end.

I think, though I can’t quite figure out how it was done, that the head was cut off the neck, slid outwards a couple of mm, and glued back on with at least one little piece of added wood, if there aren’t even more pieces buried in the graft somewhere. This required an scooping, circular cut to remove the head, and I have no idea how this could have been accomplished:

Gagliano graft

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