Philo's School of Hindsight

Around 2010, When I first encountered Philo, after one of his colleagues’ daughters instruments had been restored – that he had seen, he brought me the cello that he had learned and played on throughout his childhood up until school ended and his journey of university and career took over.

Many years of beatings and storage later was a cello that needed some serious TLC and restoration. What I did not know was Murphy lurking about somewhere close to our initial assessment and discussion about the difficulty and possibles waiting to be uncovered. In this conversation Murphy heard me say two regrettable things.

No Problem and Piece of Cake!

From there a long list of discoveries, mishaps and worm holes emerged:

  1. The edges were severely eaten by worms – to the extent that while removing the top the edges disintegrated in my hands. This required a complete
  2. The inside was covered in cleats – many of which were holding out of alignment and open cracks n place.
  3. The bass bar was approximately 7 to 10mm too far from the centre – which explains the weaker bass tones.
  4. The neck was out of alignment with a high projected fingerboard to bridge height.

One of the greatest lessons that I learned was that working between two different weather conditions is a VERY bad idea.

To do the total edge graft, I made the plaster cast in Johannesburg and prepared all of my pieces so that I could continue in Bloemfontein. This was at the beginning of summer with 90% humidity in Johannesburg and close to 0% humidity in Bloemfontein.

With a perfectly cast cello top still in the cast ready for planing the edges, in lip cracking Bloemfontein, the top began to shrink while in the cast! A most frightening experience to have to live through!!!