I had been quite distressed for a few days about my violin's pegs being stuck into its swollen neck. Two or three days ago I emailed Steve, the maker of my violin, to let him know about the state of the violin, and to ask him for some advice on how to clean its wood because it was dirty and grubby and sticky. When I received his reply I realised that I had been over-dramatic. He said he was really sorry that my violin had gone "downhill" and that he would think about it. The following day, he sent me a long message entitled "DIY hot climate varnish rescue plan" in which he told me in great details how I could make some emergency varnish by mixing some linseed oil with some turpentine oil and using my fingers to rub it into the violin. I was very impressed with how seriously he had taken my problem and how he had been thinking it over to find some solutions, except that I would never be able to find these types of oil in India!
The next day two strings of my viola snapped because I'd been playing it too high. I got really upset, since I only had one spare set of viola strings with me. I decided to change them all because I had never done in over 5 years. But this meant that I really had to play the viola lower than D to keep its strings going for as long as possible, which also meant that I really needed to get the violin's pegs moving to be able to play it in D again!
Everyone here advised me to hang my violin in the heat to get the wood to deflate, but I really didn't like the idea. My violin comes from Scotland, where the weather is COLD!!! I only trusted my friend Lolo's advice to place my violin in an air-conditioned room for a few hours, since she'd had the same problem last year with her clarinet and that was the way the wood of her instrument had deflated. But where would I have access to an AC room here? Could I ask the manager of a posh hotel to let him keep my violin for half-a-day? Could I hang my violin in the bank, which is air-conditioned? Or would I have to sit for hours in an ATM booth with my violin in my arms explaining all the ATM-users why I was sitting in there with an instrument?? I wasn't sure why the wood had swollen though - was it the heat, or was it the humidity, or was it both? I wrote an email to Steve again to ask him what he thought. One neighbour told me I should place my violin underneath a lit bulb for a while. We tried that, as it sounded slightly (only slightly!) safer to me that placing it under the Indian sun. After perhaps 1-2 hours nothing had changed and we were going to leave it overnight, but just before going to bed I went to switch off the bulb and put my violin back into his case because I really felt uncomfortable with it.
The next night I dreamt that I had been hanging my violin in the bank and after one or two hours the pegs had started moving again. When I woke up I remembered how much I had been enjoying the sensation of the pegs moving into their holes as I was tuning the violin again... I don't know if you can call it a premonition; I don't think I'm good at premonitions anyway, but my violin is fine again today. Not thanks to an AC room, but to our carpenter neighbour Kamu's DIY skills. Vijay had tried hammering the pegs' bums back into the wood so they would stick out more on the tuning side and move again, but it hadn't worked. Kamu came, and using the back end of a screwdriver, he unstuck the pegs one by one in just a few hits. It was so miraculously quick! And what a relief!
I took my violin and started moving the pegs. I removed the peg of the E string and applied soap on it, as advised to me by Steve. Soap lubricates the pegs without making them too oily. I tried to tune the E string back but it snapped. I put a new one; snap! Indian strings are good for low-tuned violins, but they often break... I always have loads of spare E and A strings and I'm glad they're cheap. Before changing yet another E string I decided to clean the fingerboard, which was quite grubby and sticky. I had found out from various websites that alcohol is good to clean the fingerboard and the strings, but one has to be very careful not to spill it on the wood of the violin. So I decided to use some of the water-free hand sanitiser which I always have in my handbag, as it is alcohol-based and it's quite thick so would be easy to use. I applied a drop on a cotton handkerchief and used my index finger to rub it onto the fingerboard. I also cleaned the fine-tuning board, which was even dustier and stickier, using the sanitiser on a cotton bud followed by the handkerchief. I soaped all the pegs, changed all the strings and dusted the violin's body well, including the F-holes, with dry parts of the handkerchief. I felt really good after this cleaning session.
I think next time I go to Scotland I will take my violin back to Steve for a big health-check and rejuvenating plan. He has told me he could come-up with a special varnish that would make the violin more resistant to Indian weather, and I'm very excited about it. I'd love to assist him during the work, too, to see how he does it, to perhaps learn to apply some of the varnish myself, and basically to see all the work being done with my own eyes. I'm so incredibly happy to know the maker of my violin; I'm so grateful for his friendship, for his kindness and for his help! It makes an instrument so very special to be able to let it be looked after by the very man who made it, with his hands, with his devotion, with his love!
A note on my three blogs
A note on my blogs
(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...
(2) vio; sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!
(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.