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Michael Richwine

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Everything posted by Michael Richwine

  1. The instructions I posted are fairly exact. I have done this virtually every day for years, and it works. Right now I am working on an old Neuner & Hornsteiner violin that has a lot of UV damage to the varnish and needs a lot of restoration. Still, it gets a drop or two of oil and, at this point three or so drops of varnish rubbed out until the applicator runs out of varnish, then reload. The varnish goes on in an almost dry coat. It may take a few passes to coat one side when the varnish is badly deteriorated, but two full coats is about as much as I will apply without an overnight dry before adding more. It's very important to use a slow evaporating oil such as Behlen's paraffin oil or any "rubbing oil". Linseed oil is an especially bad choice for a lubricant IMHO, because of the way it changes over the years if it's not cooked into varnish.
  2. Davide Sora posted a partial MSDS, but it appears to be mostly Tripoli/ rottenstone in an aqueous mixture of solvents, so it appears to be a very mild abrasive that cleans up easily. The nice thing about Tripoli is that it breaks down ever finer as you use it, and is the main ingredient in all kinds of rubbing and polishing compounds. I use Meguiars rubbing compounds myself, because they are inexpensive, convenient, and leave absolutely no contamination.
  3. Apropos of that: It takes time and effort for people to evaluate these photos, and people are exposing themselves to criticism whenever they post an opinion here. It seems like mere courtesy to read the posts at the top of the forum and at least make an effort to provide good photos in exchange for the free service that you get, so as to make it easier to provide a reliable opinion. "Details matter", and if details aren't clear, shapes are distorted, nobody can tell much without surmise. Not that I have so much to contribute, but the harder you make it, the less inclined people are to contribute.
  4. I came to the violin business full time in 2006 after decades in the furniture trades. Fortunately, I started working for a shop with a decent restoration/ repair department. I thought I knew a lot due to my experience with all sorts of finishes from wax, to brick dust and linseed oil, through faux finishing, to the latest catalyzed offerings. One of the first things I learned in the violin shop was that Frank's approach to French polishing didn't work very well at all on violins. I learned the methods I just posted a while back from the guys in the restoration shop, and they have stood me in good stead for years now.
  5. That was probably way too much, too fast. As I think I said above, for a final finishing coat, I thin the touchup varnish by half (50/50) with 190 proof ethanol. I use 1 0r 2 drops of paraffin oil (Behlen's) on the applicator shown, and spread it briefly into the cloth with my thumb, then add 3 or 4 drops of polish, spread it on the cloth with my thumb and apply it to the surface, keeping the applicator in constant, circular of figure-eight motion until I run out of polish in the applicator, then I add a drop of oil, or maybe not, and some more polish, spread into the cloth, and proceed. Less oil and polish for more detailed areas, so it will spread thin and not smear. NO more than two passes (coats) in a session, and dry overnight between sessions. And I let dry for a few days before it goes into a case. We're just doing a cosmetic coat, with the absolute minimum build possible. If you're trying to "body up" you can apply the varnish unthinned, but that's seldom my objective. The oil looks shiny at first, but evaporates over a couple of days, and leaves a very slightly matte depending on surface prep. 2400 leaves a nice look for me. 3600 under thin FP leaves a higher gloss for me. Technique and timing come into play here. With experience and practice you start to get some control. I heartily agree that you don't want to learn on anything good. I started out on $50 junkers that I couldn't devalue, back in the 1980s.
  6. When I set a new sound bridge and post, I generally fit the bridge to the distance between the f-hole eyes, observing the overhang relating to the bass bar. That's usually within norms. As far as the post and symmetry goes, that's determined by "what works", and final location is determined by sound, but the most important thing is to get a perfect fit of the top and bottom. When I fit a sound post, I start from the inside out, I get a good fit top and bottom, and gradually move the post "east", trimming just a whisker at a time until I have the general tonal balance and character that I want. Some customers want a smoother sound, or a stronger G, some want a growlier sound. Some want changes in the treble sound, which is, for me a final N/S adjustment. Once we're close, I leave the instrument to be played for a time and to settle in, at which time final tweaks can be made. This isn't necessarily a long involved process; it depends on how the instrument responds and how much time one wants to spend with it.
  7. The leather is not a bad option. I'll discuss that with him. Most of my full-time pro players play anywhere from 6 to 16 two-hour shows per week, plus rehearsals, recording sessions, side gigs and practice, so they put a lot of wear on an instrument. I maintain them regularly. Plus, a stage environment can be brutal on instruments. Not as bad as road shows, but there are a lot of people moving around, doing different things, and each person has their own agenda.
  8. I deal with old instruments of variable quality a lot, and run into slightly misaligned fingerboards relatively frequently. Mainly I try to get the bridge feet where they belong and alter the length of the legs to tilt the bridge top to make up for the misalignment a bit. It's a bit tedious, but worth it for a decent violin. I'd try a standard student bridge setup first, then do some manipulation to see whether it's gonna be worthwhile to do the fine adjustments on bridge position. This is not DIY work, but OTOH, is not terribly costly, and you can make the judgement on value once you find a good luthier. FWIW, I had good teachers, and I still learn new stuff about setup all the time. Seems like violins have their similarities, but each one is its own little world in itself.
  9. Just the lower back where it rides on his shoulder. Like many staqe and session players, he doesn't use a shoulder rest. He does use a chin rest.
  10. This is on a decade-old Krutz 800 - 850 level violin that had a well-seasoned varnish on it. I picked it up used a few years ago, selected it from my inventory because it came closest to suiting his sound, then tweaked the sound and setup to suit him as best I could last summer. He wore through the varnish in just a few months, and was quickly down to bare wood. I am used to maintaining instruments for active professionals, and do regular color touchups and clear coat maintenance, but this player puts an extraordinary amount of physical wear on his instrument. The link to Triangle Strings is most helpful, I think I'll digest their recommendations thoroughly, do the usual touchup, force dry, let it settle and harden well, then apply a film over it and maintain that film regularly. Thanks for the advice.
  11. A customer of mine plays 16 two-hour high-energy stage shows every single week. His costume jacket is abrasive and has worn the varnish badly on the lower part of the back of his fiddle. He also is physically very active when he plays, so I'd like to protect some other areas of the violin. He really likes the instrument, and based on past patterns, will probably play this one until it becomes unrepairable. The last one lasted over 30 years until it succumbed to a back-stage accident, and it wasn't easy getting him set up with a new one. I remember reading several years ago about Perlman having a clear protective film on his Strad, but can't remember what was used. Can anybody recommend a protective, reversible (removable) film that I could use to preserve the varnish and wood on the worst wear points on his violin? It's one of those rare instruments that works well plugged in on stage, close-miced in a studio, or played into a fixed mic on an open stage, a veritable unicorn in the fiddle biz, and while I'm pretty proud of it and have good backup instruments, I don't look forward to dialing in a permanent replacement any time soon. High level performers in any style often get pretty attached to their instruments, and some don't like to change.
  12. Furniture techniques don't work very well for violins. This is what I learned from my colleagues years ago. I keep varnish and oil in small bottles with spouts and apply a drop or two of oil and a few drops of varnish to the cloth on my fingers at a time and work it in a little, then apply it where it needs to go. the cloth can also be folded and used as a brush to get into corners, as long as the application is minimal. The cloth is an old 100%cotton bed sheet or dress shirt fabric. about 60mm x 300mm, for starters. The cloth seems to work better as it gets broken in, but eventually gets too stiff and loaded to work well. I'll also use a brush here and there when needed to build up a base in hard to reach areas, but it seems I usually have to let it dry hard, then sand with Micromesh and F P over.
  13. I suspect we have a language problem. I'm not talking about UK paraffin (US kerosene or lamp oil), but rather US paraffin oil, which is an excellent rubbing oil that works like mineral oil, but has the advantage of evaporating in a couple of days and not soaking into joints, etc. I'm also extremely leery of using limonene in or with any spirit varnish. I'm aware of its many uses, but regarding varnishes it gets used a lot as an "environmentally friendly" stripper. I'll admit ignorance, but I'd have to learn a lot more before I used it while applying a varnish. Micromesh is available online from any of numerous suppliers online. The grits I referred to are micromesh grits, not SAE grits or P grits. They are somehow related, but not close enough to interchange, IME. If I'm going to finish off with a couple of thin coats of French polish the way I do it, 2400 micromesh is plenty of prep. If I want no doubts or a higher overall shine, I'll do one more wet pass with 3600. All of these applications require skill and experience. They're not very hard, in fact ease of application and convenience is why I use them, but it's like any manual skill. It requires repetition, like cutting to a line, or cooking a proper omelet.
  14. My basic touchup varnish is 50 gm blond dewaxed shellac flakes, 7.5 gm sandarac, and 7.5 gm gum mastic, mixed with 190 proof grain alcohol to make 8 fl. oz. (+/- 250 ml) varnish. I grind the ingredients in an old Krups coffee grinder to get them to dissolve faster. I generally replace after 6 months or so, due to potential esterification. I don't know what "cut" that is, but it works OK for touchup varnish, and I thin it by about half for French polish. When you French polish with paraffin oil and very thin varnish, it looks very shiny at first, but the oil evaporates after a few days and yields a soft looking finish.
  15. Pointless, at any rate; Florence was called "Firenze" by people who lived there. Still is, for that matter.
  16. I use a mix of blond shellac, mastic, and sandarac for general touchup and French polish. I don't varnish with spirit varnish, though.
  17. The practice in the production shop where I worked was to wet sand with 2400 or 3600 micro-mesh, then French polish, not with a tampon, but just with a cloth stretched across the fingers, a drop or two of paraffin oil, and thin shop-mixed spirit varnish. That's still my practice in a lot of situations. I don't like a high shine, and this method gives a soft look that I like with no sanding tracks.
  18. After a few decades one develops an appreciation for economy of effort. One thing you notice on really good violins is a sureness of touch. There's not much wasted motion or effort.
  19. There is definitely more than one way to skin a rabbit, and I generally use your approach, rotating the (in this case) 103 to get the minimal scoop that my customers seem to prefer. I get a lot of old trade fiddles, and some "good violins" as well, but often they have been neglected for decades. The last was a setup for a new everyday performance fiddle for a pro country fiddler who plays a 2-hour show seven days every week. A gift with some significance, a century-old E. R. Schmidt trade fiddle that had belonged to someone special. Not much wear, but it had clearly not been played in a loong time, and had a rainbow hump in the fingerboard that took a while to correct. I could have used the Stanley or the L-N to true the board up, but I'm used to the 103 for putting the scoop in. BTW, I use a leather bib to protect the top from my clumsiness. It takes time to get your tools tune and fettled just the way you like, and to be able to get consistent results from them. As it is, the customer is happy, and I never knew that an E.R. Schmidt could sound so good.
  20. The English Stanley low angle adjustable -mouth block plane stamped G12-060 is perfectly fine for planing the flat side of fingerboards, but too big for dressing the working side. Again, the adjustable mouth is helpful. The first one I bought new many years ago wasn't very satisfactory because I never could get the bed and blade to line up quite right, but the replacement I bought used on Ebay is just fine.
  21. I have a grinder, as well as a couple of belt sanders, but haven't turned the grinder on in years. I have worn out a couple of 2 x 8 coarse diamond stones over the years, though. Just a matter of preference. Got tired of machines. I use a Lee-Nielsen 102 for everyday work, because I have my hands on it almost every day, and it just works great. I use and old Stanley 103 that I reserve exclusively for dressing fingerboards. It's the kind that you can pick up on Ebay for $20. Took quite a bit of fettling, but once dialed in and if kept sharp, works well. It would work better with a better, heavier blade, though, although it pulls nice, clean shavings for me if I do my job. As has been mentioned, you have to be able to sharpen well, and to set planes up to get the most out of them. When I got into working on violins full time 16 years ago, I had already been a professional woodworker for decades, and found out that I still had a lot to learn. Still learning.
  22. The last comparable ones that actually sold on Ebay went for US$160 -$400. That seems kinda high, IMHO, but the ones I looked at were actually pretty comparable.
  23. Thanks for confirming my suspicions. Some makers' work varied a lot over the years, but Tarisio has good pix of Mennesson's work from the early 90s, and they all seem to have very distinctive chamfering around the pegbox and scroll, and much deeper fluting in the scroll as well as other characteristics I mentioned. So, my mind was pretty well made up, and it's good to remove any remaining doubt. Other, more experienced eyes, will no doubt say, "Of course, you fool!" and that's fine with me.
  24. I ran across an interesting violin purportedly by Emile Menesson in 1893 at a price that I would normally jump right on, but it looks like a not-bad copy to me. I'm not sure, though, so I thought I'd seek other opinions. I looked on Tarisio at other violins from that maker in that time period, and the scroll fluting on the authentic models appears deeper, the chamfering around the scroll and pegbox is more defined, and the corners longer and shaped a little differently. There are other details that strike me as different, but those are the most obvious. Are those sufficient to say for sure that it's not authentic? I'm by no means expert at authenticating violins, modern or old, and I tend to shy away when I'm uncertain, but I hate to pass up opportunities, and this was close enough to justify the time to seek other opinions. As it stands now, I'm gonna pass.
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