When a customer asked about a left-handed violin, it kind of took me by surprise. I had never really given it a lot of thought, but it didn’t take much searching to realize that the selection available is quite limited. Since my aim is to help everyone who comes to me for advice, I set about researching the conversion of a right to a left violin. It is quite interesting to say the least.
Suffice to say, a conversion is not as simple as switching the strings around. Here is the list of issues to address:
- The bassbar and soundpost need to be switched around. I have experience trying to remove a bassbar, and it has never been good, as some damage to the belly plate usually occurs. With this in mind, I decided to make a mirror image bassbar and install, then simply plane the old one off. Seemed to work fine.
- To do the job properly, the tuning pegs need to be switched around. This involves plugging and redrilling one side, then reaming the holes to re-install the pegs. Completed.
- Re-graduating the belly and back plates. As luck would have it, the ‘Menzel’ violin I chose to convert had ample material to allow me to change the tuning. Oddly, both back and belly plate were roughly the same thickness at all points. As an aside, for an entry level violin the Menzel violin wood was of quite reasonable quality.
- Fortunately, the fingerboard on the original violin was not ’tilted’ to the treble side, so no adjustments necessary.
- A new bridge needed to be cut, though this is just a mirror image of a right hand violin bridge.
Working on an instrument in mirror image was really weird. More than once, I found myself subconsciously doing something, then having to stop and change sides.
On the topic of violin bows, there is really no ‘right’ or ‘left’ bow. The only difference might be that a properly rehaired bow will have slightly more hair on one side or the other, depending on the hand.