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Everything posted by Seth_Leigh

  1. Fifty Shades of Stephen Faulk's Cello?
  2. Also, Ken, is this your first one? If so, you could take some liberties like this, knowing it's not going to be your masterpiece anyway. Still, for all the hundreds of hours you will put into that cello, and all the money you're spending on wood for the front and back anyway, is it really worth it to cobble together a neck blank like this? What will you really save?
  3. Btw, the vacuum filter kit I bought 7 years ago has a larger flask than this one, and a different colored plastic manual vacuum pump, but it's more or less what's seen in this auction: vacuum filtration kit I know it's just more money, but it was money I'd already spent 7 years ago, so I've been using the heck out of it. As I said, while drying the lake sludge, or filtering the madder liquor prior to precipitating out the lake, this filtration system is worth its weight in gold. The vacuum causes things to filter incredibly fast compared to gravity feed through a coffee filter in a strainer.
  4. Franciscus, in fact I have a vacuum filter setup that I bought on eBay seven years ago at the recommendation of Fiddlecollector, and had never used until the last couple weeks with my new madder experiments. I mentioned using it in another thread. WIth this espresso-made batch I used the vacuum filter to filter out the tiny madder sediment that makes it through the espresso machine filter unit before I mixed the madder dye and the dissolved alum. I used it again to filter off the water after the last washing. The vacuum-assisted filter flask/funnel is worth its weight in gold for these experiments, but one do it with coffee filters set in a strainer, plus a lot of waiting. My vacuum system uses a cheap plastic hand pump to draw the vacuum.
  5. Kallie, every other madder lake experiment I've ever done until now used normal coffee filters and gravity to filter things, and the problem is that the filter clogs up with debris really quickly and the flow slows down to just a drip, and takes forever to complete. The beauty of the espresso maker method is that the hot water is forced under pressure through the filter cup. It doesn't get clogged and slow to a trickle, but is finished in just a couple minutes.
  6. I thought I'd resurrect this old thread to add a further result. I went out last week and bought a cheap espresso maker at Walmart, and made some madder lake using the method described by Neal Ertz, which uses nothing but hot water under pressure in the espresso maker to leach out the dyestuff from the roots, then mixes in alum, then precipitates the pigment out using dissolved potash. Neal mentions this, but I think he understates it: this stuff is an absolute dream to grind. The dried lake I made using the Espresso Method practically dissolved into a few drops of mastic varnish. I literally mulled a largish chunk of this pigment into the mastic varnish using nothing but a pallet knife on a sheet of glass, in just a couple minutes. It ended up better mixed than any madder lake I've ever made. In contrast, I spend a good 45 minutes grinding a sample (probably 10 grams) of the large batch of lake I made last week using the typical Rubio-esque method, but which I'd used all that vinegar on. After all that grinding, it's still got tons and tons of sand-like particles which are far too large to use in a varnish. I will say that the color I got from the Espresso Method is different from the color I've gotten using the more traditional methods. This Espresso-made lake is a brighter, ruby-er red.
  7. I think it's flatter than my straight-edge is straight. It was flat enough that I was able to get a perfect joint on my thick and long maple and spruce cello plates, after struggling to get that with my #5*. I don't know what a machinist would call flat, but it's certainly flat enough. *btw, this #5 was surface-ground flat to within the tolerances acceptable to a crotchety older machinist who agreed to true it up for me, and then spent at least twice as long trying to make it perfect than I thought he should have. The man was a true perfectionist, and did a fantastic job on that plane.
  8. Violinum, I own the Veritas #6 plane that you asked about in the OP. It is excellent. I bought it because I was struggling to get a perfect joint in my cello plates with my Record #5 plane, and thought the longer #6 would make the job easier. It did. I have just a few tools which I really treasure as high quality machines, and this Veritas plane is one of them. I haven't got a huge body of experience with various planes to compare with this Veritas, but it seems to be excellent. If you haven't got access to close-ups, and want to see it in greater detail, I can take photos of it for you at whatever angles or distances you want.
  9. You can make shaped charges using the domed bottom of a wine bottle (this is true). To make it more authentic, you need to raid a museum and collect some 17th or 18th century Cremonese wine bottles. It's what Stradivari would have done.
  10. Oh, I was sick of limiting my coffee source to the Kuerig maker. I've got some beans that don't work very well in the Kuerig, and had been thinking of getting a new cheap drip coffee maker anyhow, soooooooo.... I spent the $40 at Walmart on the cheap espresso maker. I'm going to give that method a shot. Probably tonight.
  11. Roger, my question to you is this: is it a waste of time because you don't think it looks good, or because you don't think the classic Cremonese did it this way? I guess those two could be connected, if you define "looks good" as "looks like classical Cremonese". I do this because it's fun, and because whether the Cremonese did it this way or not, I don't know what they actually did, so I can't do that anyway. I have to do something, and I like the look of a good madder lake. So, I may as well work on it. I don't think that "looks good" is strictly limited to "is the same as classical Cremonese". As an amateur, I'm never going to be the next Stradivari anyway. I think that's liberating: I can do something because it appeals to me, not because it conforms to a standard which is impossible. I'm interested in your reasoning. I've read some of your articles in the past, and respect your opinion. Your ultimate goals, however, may or may not be congruent with mine. I think that's perfectly OK.
  12. In my other 7-year old madder lake thread, I mentioned the vacuum-assisted filter flask. This was recommended by Fiddlecollector, and I bought one off eBay back then and never used it until today. You pour off the water until you've got just the water precipitate layer at the bottom of your bucket or jar, then pour that layer into this filter funnel/flask combo. It takes filter paper (doesn't look like it would pass water easily, but it does). You can see the filter paper two posts up in the photo of three quantities of different portions of drying madder lake. It's the round circle on the left. The thick blob of lake is actually sitting on a filter paper as well, and then on top of a coffee filter on the cookie rack. In the case of the huge blob, I wasn't able to get all the precipitate into the funnel in the first pouring, so I did like half or 2/3 of it, stood there pumping on the cheap plastic vacuum pump from time to time to keep a good vaccuum going, and watched water come out the bottom of the funnel until there was more room in there for the remaining precipitate. It goes surprisingly fast. It took me maybe a half hour to finally get the last of the precipitate in there. You go from the watery precipitate layer to a thick blob of drying lake in no time at all, especially compared with using a coffee filter in a strainer, and the force of gravity alone.
  13. I've only made two violins, and I read Johnson and Courtnall prior to, and during, both of them. I also asked lots of questions on here. There were lots of things I did the J&C way, but lots of things I did based on things people said here, particularly Michael Darnton. I don't think my blade is a Hock, though I have a couple Hock plane irons, and like them very much. I think the one in my photo is Japanese. It's got the softer steel on the sides and a very hard central section (you can see the difference in the steel with the naked eye) down the center. Btw, after reading Michael Darnton's description of how he gets his knife so sharp he can literally cut an arm hair off, not at the base like anyone can do, but halfway up, I actually bought a hand-cranked antique sharpening wheel off eBay and set it up with a felt wheel for putting that final touch on the blade. It's not that sharp right now, but it will be. To the OP: if I were you, I'd make a new knife handle, and make it real. Don't think of making a knife handle as a distraction to the real project of making a violin. Just think of it as one of many sub-projects which, when they all are complete, will leave you with a hand-made violin. I think making a jury-rigged knife handle will set the tone for your mind in how you approach the whole project. That could just be psycho-babble on my part, so take what I say with a grain of salt. Your whole violin project really is a bunch of sub-projects. Making the mould is a sub-project. You start it, you complete it, and you've got a milestone actually done and past in your pursuit of making the violin. Making the rib garland is a sub-project. Carving the back, the front, the neck, each of these are little sub-projects. I think it helps to think of them this way. Instead of thinking you did all that work and you're still only 20% of the way through with the violin, think of it as being 100% through with each little sub-project. Right now you're on the "build a knife" part.
  14. Btw, having now read all about Neil Ertz's (and Roger's, and Eero Haahti’s) espresso method, I'm very seriously considering going out to Walmart and spending the $30-40 on a cheap espresso machine just to give that method a try. Heck, I've still got some roots. Btw, this stuff is pretty fun for me. I hope it's fun for you guys too. I know it's work for some of you, but at least I hope you enjoy your work. Btw, using the methods I've used recently and in the past, I have a devil of a time grinding the lake into the consistently fine powder that we want. In fact, it boggles my mind that Neil can get his lake ground down from chunks to a finished mix in varnish using only a pallet knife and a muller. With the chunks I've made, that would be a No Go.
  15. Hey guys. I just made some more madder lake. I wish I'd read this whole thread first. To be honest, I should have read my own thread from 7 years ago all the way through first. Someone asked about adding the potash while vinegar is still present in the roots. I used a lot more vinegar this time around. Way too much. I put in like 3 cups of vinegar, but I figured I'd just evaporate it all out and be perfectly fine. I simmered my potash/root/vinegar concoction for over a whole day (over 24 hours), evaporating off at least half of the original volume. I added more water several times to keep the level up, and stirred it very, very often. Still, when I got to the point where I wanted to add my 100 g potash water into the mix, it erupted violently, with the attached result. Btw, I was able to drive on. I added some more potash to compensate for the amount that had reacted with the remaining acetic acid. I just made a wild-assed guess and added some. I figured if I was wrong it would all come out in the wash. What's interesting is that the acetic acid/potash reaction generated a purplish hue. That was only a portion of the dye water, however. There was still tons and tons of unreacted dye, so I drove on with the potash, and then strained the liquor through t-shirts into a bucket, and added the alum water. The amount of dye stuff was absolutely ginormous. This was with 300g of roots. I really should have jumped back into this in smaller quantities, like no more than 100g. The dye was so plentiful that even with around 100-120gr of potash, and 100g of alum being reacted and precipitated out, the water I poured off before I got to the sediment layer was so dark I mixed up another 30g or so each of potash and alum, mixed it into this poured-off water, and fixed a lot of that too. And it's still really dark stuff. The final result is still drying, but I've taken some chips from around the edge of the filter paper that dried sooner and ground them into varnish on glass to see what it looked like. It has a slight purplish tinge to it, but it's actually not bad. I'll attach another photo showing the huge blob of precipitate drying on a coffee filter. Oh yeah. This time I used the filter flash/hand vaccuum pump that I'd bought off eBay 7 years ago after talking to Fiddlecollector. I also used normal coffee filters in a strainer for a couple smaller side quantities of stuff I wanted to test. The vacuum pump filter paper/flask thing freaking ROCKS. You can actually watch the level of stuff drop as water is forced through the filter paper by the vacuum pressure. Any of you who've dried this stuff through a conventional coffee filter in a strainer will know how slow it filters once it builds up a significant layer. The vacuum-assisted filter flask simple doesn't care. Check out the blob (with filter paper under it, set afterwards onto a coffee filter) in the 2nd pic. That blob was an inch thick in the filter flash. I should have just left it there to dry and shrink and crack into chunks, but I wanted to use the flask for another experiment, so I removed the blob to dry separately.
  16. Ken, did your wood arrive?
  17. makeABC, making a knife handle is pretty easy to do given a sensible technique. I'm attaching a photo showing the violinmaking knife I made a few years back. It's simply two halves of maple and a thin cherry wood spacer that's the same thickness as the blade. I used a bandsaw and then a hand plane to make the thin spacer, and made it as close to the exact thickness of the blade as I could. In fact I made the fit slightly too snug, and then used some sandpaper on the sides of the blade to loosen it just enough that I can safely pull the blade out with my fingers to sharpen it. The fit is snug enough that it doesn't move unless I pull it out on purpose. You're really going to want a handle that's a solid piece, not two halves held together with electrical tape. The tape solution isn't going to hold up, and it won't be all that secure either.
  18. I'm trying to remember where I got this, but I thought I read before that back in Stradivari's day the scrapers were probably much thicker, such as sections from a knife or sword blade or something. I doubt they had the kind of thin spring steel sheet that we use today. I know some of Stradivari's moulds and other tools still exist. Do they still have his scrapers? I've still got some 1/8" or thicker tool steel bar stock I bought 7 years ago to make some tools with. I might cut off and shape a section of it to be like these scrapers, heat treat it, and give it a shot. I could see the straight edged one being quite useful for loathsome (to me) tasks like scraping ribstock to the right thickness.
  19. Or, if the oil is good, then maybe you used heat while making it and got the snot mixed into the varnish that normally settles to the bottom of the jar and is removed if you do it cold as MD specifies. Or, barring that, if you didn't let it clarify and settle and become crystal clear, you'd have all that "stuff", whatever it is, that shoudn't be there. If you compare the photos I posted 7 years ago, showing a translucent yellow, cloudy liquid, with the photo I just posted of a golden, crystal clear liquid, you'll see what I mean.
  20. Bill Yacey, I've made some small batches of his varnish, and then that large jar of it that I showed up above, and in every case the film would dry to the touch, without taking fingerprints or anything, in literally like 3 or 4 hours or less of exposure to our nice Arizona sun, or overnight in my UV box. And I don't have fancy-pants UV bulbs either - my box is stocked with black lights from Walmart, the kind people use to make white stuff glow purple on Halloween. I've brushed the mastic varnish onto something at 1 AM, hung it in the box, then come down again at 7 or 8 AM and checked it and it was bone dry and could be handled without problem. I suspect that if you're having drying problems with mastic varnish made according to MD's recipe, it's an oil problem. Btw, the oil I used was the standard cold-pressed linseed oil from Kremer.
  21. I'm going to necropost to this thread and raise it from the dead, because I want to second, third, and fourth what Craig said. Michael has freely given more to people like us than anyone I could think of, and I will, without question, buy his book when it eventually comes out. Not only that, but if someone did find a way to get it for free, I'd still buy it, because Michael deserves each little incremental royalty that the book can generate. All authors do. Why should I expect to get this for free when the author has put so much time and effort into it? I'll say this: even if Michael ends up putting the final revision of each and every chapter up on his website, as a pdf file, and also offers the book in hard copy for sale, I'll still buy it. It will be more than worth it to me. Is he the final word on violinmaking? Of course not. Who is? There's a hundred ways to skin a cat, and when I was working on the instruments I made before when I was more active here, I'd read what Michael had to say, what others had to say, what the other books I own had to say (primarily the Courtnall and Johnson book), and then make a decision and figure out how I was going to do it. Michael's voice on any given subject is worth taking note of, and whether I ended up doing something his way, or some other way, his advice always deserved consideration. And more than likely I'd do it his way, when push came to shove. He's got a no-nonsense approach that really appeals to me. Oh yeah, and I really like his mastic varnish. Thanks Michael!
  22. Berl, it's easy for me to be pleased with my own work, because I was ever the only one who had to care. Those making a living out of this work have always got to consider what will please others. I recall that Michael Darnton said of his varnish that it was soft enough to accumulate that pleasing wear and tear through use that many people really like in an old, previously-enjoyed violin. I can say this, on the violin I just stripped, with 7 year old mastic varnish, there was no evidence of chippiness, the varnish layer was pleasingly thin, it brushed on easily, dried easily, polished easily, etc. I'm still really curious what others say about it though. If it's been "shot down", I'd be curious to know on what grounds. Not durable enough? Ok, I could see that, but that would only be an effective argument with some people. I know a violinist who has tried for years to keep her violin looking brand new, and is horrified by any little evidence of wear and tear. There are other violinists who pay good money to have a maker artificially distress the varnish on their new instrument to make it look like a 300 year old master work. I've been searching the forum for any thread supposedly "shooting down" MD's mastic varnish, and so far I haven't found it.
  23. Howdy Berl! I've got those maple test curves and such you once sent me on my shelf. All of this is getting dusted off again as I get back into this. Michael, if you or anyone else can point me to a thread where the cold-mixed mastic varnish is pretty well shot down, I'd like to read it. I can tell you that the varnish on my first violin is still going strong (though it looks like crap because it was my first one, and my colorants ended up too opaque) ten years after I built it. Other than being a bad and hasty glaze job that wasn't meant to be permanent, the varnish that I just stripped off my 2nd violin was very thin on the wood (it was meant to be), looked good as far as shrinking and letting wood texture show through, especially the corduroy on the spruce top, and seemed to be holding up well. There was some softness on the back of the upper bout on the side where my wife's skin oils got on the varnish on a daily basis as she held it with her left hand, and she never wiped that off. Is a little softening of the varnish where bare fingers groped the wood on a daily basis for years considered a very bad thing? From my point of view it looked like the violin was accumulating the pleasing sort of wear and tear evidence that some people will pay good money to have a maker introduce artificially to the finish.
  24. Thanks Jacob and Michael! As it happens, I still have a small amount of spike-lavender oil left. I'll experiment with that and see the improvement. Jacob, in the "let's make madder lake" thread I just resurrected I actually posted a bit about what I've been up to. I won't make everyone read the same thing again by repeating it here. Thanks for thinking of me, and I've thought of you and all the others I used to talk with here on this forum, and thankfully not everyone has completely moved on, and we can renew that acquaintance. I've missed being around here, learning how to make instruments, varnish, pigments, etc. When I decided to get back into the military, I had to lose a lot of weight, and then the training itself was pretty grueling. I pretty much committed myself to it and put my hobbies on hold for a while. I've just needed that impetus to remind me how much I enjoyed the people, the work, the ideas, etc. That impetus came several weeks ago when my wife accidentally dropped my 2nd violin, which she's used every school day for years now in her work teaching school orchestra, and the neck popped off. Since I had to focus on the violin again to clean up the joint and reglue it on, I decided to finally revarnish it, and do it right, as I'd planned to those years ago. I feel myself getting sucked back into it, and I consider that a good thing.
  25. Well, since I'm back, and ressurrecting 6 or 7 year old threads, I figure this is a good one to resurrect. If anyone wants to know what a 20 oz or so jar of mastic varnish looks like that sat on my shelf for the last 7 years, well, it looks like this. Since I haven't made a new violin since then, this varnish has never been used. I poured a very small amount of it into another jar to do my varnish experiments with a couple days ago, otherwise the full quantity that I made when I started this thread 7 years ago is still in the jar, minus that little bit. As you can see, this varnish is crystal clear, but as it's aged, it's gone from a clear pale yellow to a deep golden yellow. It's really beautiful stuff. Michael Darnton once said that this mastic varnish just improves with age. If that's so, I've probably got the best mastic varnish in the world right now.
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