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Everything posted by polkat

  1. I'm no chemist, so I'm adding this just for any info it might offer. About a year ago, on a lark after reading some of Nagyvary's stuff, I took a cheap Strad copy, stripped the finish to bare wood, and removed the top. I made a saturated solution of borax by raising water to just under boiling and adding borax until no more would dissolve. I rubbed this hot into the wood on both sides (top, back, ribs) and waited for it to dry (which happened surprisingly fast with no warping of the wood. I bypassed any glue joints. I didn't expect any fantastic results, but only wanted to see if there were any detectable aural change in the overall tone of the instrument. Once dry, the surfaces were lightly coated with a white crust (probably oversaturation of the solution) which I removed with fine steel wool (was pretty hard to get off). I then reglued the top, and finished the instrument with my usual varnish schedual. I had no way to tell how deeply the solution had penatrated the wood (although after drying, the wood seemed slightly darker). Of course, this was a very loose and ragged test with a lot of holes in the method, and no indication of what might have happened if I had boiled better wood in such a solution before use. The resulting instrument had a dull timber then before, with what seemed like a lack of overtones. Any brilliance the fiddle might have had before was gone. Response also seemed slower. I don't know if this was the result of the borax, or perhaps just the refinishing, but I was unimpressed. I read somewhere that borax forms tiny crystals in the wood that the woodworm cannot eat, so it dies or leaves the source. Borax also apparently creates long strands in the wood cells that strengthen and harden the wood, but don't quote me on this.
  2. Thanks guys! This has been an eye opener. I can only find references to the word bianca (with that spelling) in the Italian language, where it directly translates to "white." But of course, who knows what it might have been a slang word for centuries ago? Or the result of a mix of words. For example; bianco (with that spelling) translates to "clear." Same is true of vernice, which, with that spelling translates only to "varnish"...today, but who knows what it might have meant in centuries past. It seems to me that Ferbose's information on the word vernice is probably the most accurate. Anyway, I'm no historian, and my quote that amber didn't come into widespread use until about the time Strad died was based simply on things I've read. And please notice that I said "widespread" use, not "invented." Anyway, I like the stuff. In fact, I've used it as the only ground/sealer on two violins that seem to sound great. Anyway, thanks again for all the input.
  3. Well, the term vernice translates directly to varnish, without specifying amber. Vernice bianca in Italian translates directly to varnish white, or white varnish, without specifics on varnish ingrediants. Since the art of making varnish from amber didn't gain widespread use until just about the time Strad died, I'm not convinced that the word vernice always means amber varnish. The word vernice goes further back, and I think the idea of egg white as a varnish, regardless of how used, goes further back as well. I think the words vernice bianca may have started as a general term for one kind of tempera. I've never thought of vernice bianca as a violin only medium (which is partially why I started the thread). But, in fact, violin work is the only place I've ever heard the term.
  4. Are there any other older texts that mention it? Just Sacconi?
  5. I've been using this ground successfully for a while now, so this is not a technical question. Rather, from the (admittedly limited) research I've done, it seems that only Sarconi's (sp?) book references VB as a ground used specifically by luthiers during the golden period. Has anyone seen other references to this ground as used by past luthiers (not painters)?
  6. Hummm...three strings and what looks like only two (possibly three) frets (the first one quite a ways down the string length). Capable of only nine (or twelve if that's a fret at the upper edge of the fingerboard?) tones including open strings. Somewhat crudly made if you follow the contures. The decal could have been applied at any time. Does look Asian but could also be of a rough India style. My guess is that it is some kind of chording/drone background instrument. Have you looked all around inside to see if there's some kind of label? That or some markings could be way up in there. The finish and color definately seem to be old, backwoods American.
  7. Well, I finally made a batch of this stuff using the best turps and linseed oil I could find on these posts, but it resulted in a varnish that after two weeks was just as wet (it seemed) as when it was applied. I think the problem was in adding too much oil to the mix. As I understood it from the recipe, you add about as much oil as the amount of mastic that has dissolved. To me, that can be a problem to determine. Do you go by the weight of the mastic that has dissolved? The volume? And then use the same weight or volume of oil? And how about determining the amount of mastic that has dissolved? Mark off the original amount in the jar and then determine from what's left? And is the weight or volume of a fixed amount of mastic the same as that amount of oil? I realize that some of these questions may seem obvious, but I'm just trying to understand. Thanks!
  8. In the early days (around the 1930's recordings) Stephane was rather poor, and used whatever he could get his hands on. On other forum I learned that Stephane was apparently quite stingy, and as the years passed, used poor instruments so that he wouldn't have to worry about them getting damaged. He got the Gagliano (Paris 1742) at the advice of his manager, when his wealth began to improve. I'm not sure of the other violins mentioned here, but he also used Michel Warlop's Pierre Hel violin (on loan), which he later gave to Jean-Luc Ponty. Eventually Diedier Lockwood ended up with it. During this period he also used the violin already mentioned by Benedetto. That violin has apparently ended up in some museum. What I'd like to know, but can find no info on, is what strings he preferred later in life??
  9. Yea, I realize they are not the same, but regardless of the cost of mastic, at this point I'm wondering what would result if dammar were used?
  10. A few years back Michael Darnton posted here about a mastic varnish he likes to make and use on violins. I am fairly new to making my own varnishes, or understanding resins for that matter (although another maker has offered me good advice lately). I am wondering, due partially to the rising cost and dwindling availability of mastic, what I could expect if I used Michael's recipe, but substituted dammar instead of mastic? These resins are both similar, but I hear apparently somewhat different in results. Can anyone advise me? Thanks!
  11. I'm a rather new bluegrass fiddle student with a minor understanding of music theory. My teacher (considered one of the better in my area) is now teaching me what he calls the Bluegrass Scale. The notes used are as follows: Root-2-b3-3-5-6-b7 It is like a pentatonic scale with a flat 3rd and flat 7th added. It sounds good when played right, but I went to look for what it really is (it's true name) on the web (for printed examples) I could find nothing. Is there a true name for this scale, or is it just common to bluegrass? Thanks
  12. I have a handful of old violin tailpieces. How can I tell which are 4/4? What length should a 4/4 tailpiece be?
  13. There are several versions of straightening bridges, but most of them involve steam or hot water. I soak mine in very hot (but not boiling) water for about half an hour [Note: I've noticed that some hardened bridges will get softer when doing this] and then clamp them in a wood block clamp. These clamps have wide wooden jaws with tightening rods on either side. The jaws will completely cover both side of the bridge. They can be clamped at the angle of the bridges taper. Then I leave it to dry overnight, or until I'm sure the bridge is truely dry. Works every time.
  14. The last few posters are right! ASK him about it! A lot of students are uncertain about confronting a teacher because they feel that teachers stand on a higher platform. But after all, you are buying his services, and you have all the rights of a consumer in this situation as well. If you bought a new car that had problems, would you feel guilty about complaining? I wouldn't, and the same is true of teachers. The ideal teacher/student relationship is one of comfort with each other. A good teacher will identify any mistakes of a previous teacher and guide you to the correct approach, not ridicule you about it. Where's the benefit in that? Confront him/her about it, and if he/she gets angry, immediately look for someone else.
  15. I have an unused VHS copy of Craig Duncan's "You Can Teach Yourself Fiddling." I'm looking for a copy of Kenny Baker's "Fiddling My Way." Wanna swap? E-mail me. Thanks
  16. Thanks guys! Good info (and lots to think about).
  17. Amature builder here. Good with the wood, lousy with the finish. As I understand it there are three primary ways to color varnish; transparent artists oil paints, aniline dye, and tar(?). My questions are: First, in my small town the only art store we have sells Windsor & Newton oil paints only. I cannot tell from the lable on the tubes if the paint is transparent or not. They have a code for something called 'permanence' but nothing else. Anyone know how to tell? Second, where can one find aniline dyes locally? This same art store doesn't know what I'm talking about. Lastly, am I missing some other way to color oil varnish? Thanks!
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