RESTORATIONS AND REPAIRS
The following are examples of repairs I have performed. When problems arise, every aspect of the instrument's components (bars, resonators, and/or its frame) must be thoroughly scrutinized so a solution can be formulated.
No. 1 - Worn Finish
Instrument type: Musser "Kelon" synthetic bar* marimba
Problem: Incredible amount of mallet damage. Miraculously, this instrument had maintained its tuning and there was no buzzing anywhere within the range of these bars - a wonderful advantage of synthetic bars.
Most-Likely Cause: Excessive force and abusive mallet strikes, and most-likely the use of much harder mallets. Some bars actually had lengthwise cracks and yet maintained their tuned pitch.
Solution: "Kelon" is Musser's tradename for their synthetic bars. Due to the resilient nature of these bars they received a simple sanding, a spray coat of black primer followed by two coats of black satin finish, and a full tuning check.
*Note: Synthetic bars are actually an engineered composite material that is extremely robust and can (obviously) take punishing abuse. Other bar percussion manufacturers have similar synthetic bars in their instrument line ups, which offer a highly durable alternative over that of their organic wooden counterparts.
No. 2 - Sun-bleached Finish
Instrument type: A 4-1/3 octave marimba with African Padauk bars
Problem: 1) Sun bleached bars causing the bar's natural hue to gray out. 2) Some bars were damage so their tone affected.
Most-Likely Cause: 1) This is what happens when African Padauk is repeatedly exposed to direct sunlight. 2) Damaged bar were subjected to excessive force.
Solution: This repair was tricky because it required a gradual sanding-off the bleached wood so fresh wood could be exposed. The danger is, if too much of the surface is removed it could cause the bar to go so flat that it's pitch cannot be brought back. In some cases this happened and new bars had to be fabricated. New bars were also fabricated to replace the damaged bars. Due to the drastic nature of this repair, the owner was cautioned that this instrument had to be played very conservatively and with a heightened level of respect as to not risk a re-flattening of the pitches. If aggressively played, several of the bars or possibly the entire bar set would need to be replaced.
No. 3 - Crack in Bar
Instrument type: Zimbabwean (large-scale) bass marimba
Problem: The two lowest (and largest) bars had developed length-wise cracks in the middle section.
Most-Likely Cause: Zimbabwean music is known for its lively and aggressive playing - which makes it sound so dynamic and fun. Marimba players tend to be a bit heavy-handed at times to keep the energy flowing. Furthermore, the bar's strike zone is at the thinnest part of the bar making it prone to [potential] damage.
Solution: Since a mid-bar crack is in a high pressure strike zone, it cannot be successfully joined together with a heavy-duty adhesive or epoxy. Even if appearing to be fixed, continued mallet strikes will inevitably cause the crack to reopen. Therefore, two new bars were fabricated using the sizing of the damaged bars. In this case, hard maple was the wood of choice due to its strength and resistance to breakage.
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No. 5 - Broken Cord
Instrument type: Pentatonic D-Major Scale Marimba for Children
Problem: Cord broke
Most-Likely Cause: Children tend to strike the bar at the cord suspension point rather than the middle of the bar. This puts downward pressure on the cord against the stand-off. Over time the cord is abraded and eventually breaks.
Solution: The bars were unstrung from the resonator box. Some additional spacing was added to each bar's hole location so they wouldn't bind on the stand-offs. A bar tuning check was performed, a new cord was added, and a quick spray wax wipe down did the trick.
No. 4 - Broken and other Damaged Bars
Instrument type: Xylo-Marimba
Problem: Many of the bars had cracks, were so dead they didn't sustain, were extremely flat in their pitch, and the worst was a bar that had totally broke into two pieces.
Most-Likely Cause: This a clear case of excessive pounding and force on the bars, and probably use of the wrong mallets.
Solution: No bar in this scenario could be salvaged or repaired. All new bars had to be fabricated. In this case, the customer was not concerned that the new bars did not match the hue of the existing bars - he just wanted a fully functional marimba.
No. 6 - Very Old Bar Set without a Frame
Instrument type: A 1914 Deagan Steel Bar Wholetone Scale
Problem: The original supporting frame had most-likely worn-out and deteriorated over the years.
Most-Likely Cause: Time and age?
Solution: Bar tuning was checked (and corrected as needed), bars were buffed and cleaned up, and a new frame was designed to support these beautifully sounding tones.