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  1. I am looking for a spirit varnish recipe that does not contain shellac. I am a guitar maker. I usually French polish with a shellac based varnish that also contains other resins. For this instrument, however, I can’t use shellac due to the believes of my client (please don’t make this the focus of the conversation). I tried modifying a sandarac based recipe, but the varnish was easily scraped off. I also tried sandarac turpentine and elemi (in alcohol), with the same results.
  2. I am faced with repairing less expensive Chinese instruments (okay - maybe cheap is the right word). I am suspicious I am dealing with something other than hide glue and real varnish. Does anybody know for sure? I have gone through a couple of dozen threads in the Pegbox to see if there has been any mention of what kind of glue and finish are being used on Chinese instruments currently being produced. I haven't found any mention of this. I am reluctant to experiment on somebody else's violin, so I am asking here if anybody knows. I am suspicious that the finish may be some kind of commercial spray lacquer - at least on some (some are very brittle). I am seeing mostly Gewa and Menzel brands around here. Cheers, Bob
  3. This may have been addressed before but it bears repeating. Some of the essential plant oils used in making varnish have powerful pharmacological properties and can seriously effect body functions of humans and animals. Inhaling the aroma of some essential oils can cause dangerous drop or increase in blood pressure and/or heart rate, and asthma symptoms. These effects may be worsened if you are also inhaling solvent vapours and wood dusts. Use these chemicals with excessive ventilation to be safe. Work outside whenever possible. Carefully read the labels on essential oils and consult a pharmacist if you are pregnant or have existing health problems - especially cardiac or respiratory. Randy O’Malley Registered Respiratory Therapist (ret’d)
  4. Hello everyone, I'm in a bit of a situation and once again I could really use some advice from you. I've recently got these UVA Fluorescent lights the Philips Actinic BL TL-K 40W/10-R lamps I want to use for drying varnish and also some tanning. But I just found out these lamps have a nominal voltage of 50V, not the usual 220V (I should note that I currently live in Italy and the voltage here is 220v), and now I'm not sure about finding the right ballast. I'll admit, I'm not too knowledgeable with this electrical stuff, so there's a chance I might be missing something obvious. Is a 50V output ballast even available, does it have an integrated step-down transformer, or am I misunderstanding something here? I don’t want to mess things up because of my lack of knowledge. Has anyone used these or similar lamps for varnish drying? What kind of setup did you go with? I could really use some advice on the right kind of ballast to use, or any tips on how to use these lamps correctly. Thanks a lot for any help you can provide! I have also attached Product data, should it prove any useful.TLK-40-10R.pdfTLK-40-10R.pdfTLK-40-10R.pdf (P.S. I have already made a UV box in Greece with ballast and everything but the lamps had 220 nominal voltage, if I am not mistaken...)
  5. I was thinking here how complex the universe of varnishes for musical instruments is - especially the classic ones. Following here on the forum, even without understanding enough, I see how "organic" a topic on this topic can be. Those who understand the English language are in privileged terrain for the most diverse areas of knowledge. It is no different with varnishes. For other speakers, terms can get even more ambiguous. Another thing I find difficult to deal with is the fragmentation of knowledge. How often is information lost or incomplete, like a broken link or photo, on forums! There is also a lot of noise in the discussions. Books should be a good source, or perhaps the best, for those with the access and budget, I think. In that sense, I'm led to believe that a repository of information on varnishes would be wonderful. Just like free software developers have, for example. On which, the most experienced and competent act as the main moderators in a mutual help group. Of course I say this from my point of view and limited context that may be irrelevant to most of this forum. Anyone interested in elaborating and expanding this idea?
  6. New dendrochronology evidence possibly pointing to a connection between Strad and Amati. The rest is mostly a summary of what we have discussed - almost ad nauseum - re Strad's secret varnish or method of wood prep. This article implies it might just be animal glue... Anyway, I think an interesting summary, with of course, the typical slight inaccuracies expected from non-players/non-makers. This article does give a few details as to where and how samples were taken and examined. Plus lots of good references. What do you think??? https://cen.acs.org/analytical-chemistry/art-&-artifacts/Stradivari-meets-science/101/i15
  7. Good morning/afternoon/evening There is a pretty obvious color difference between the back of my violin and the sides/top. This is the first violin that I am making so at the time that I had ordered a set of tonewood from Alpine Tone Wood, to make my violin I didn't really pay much attention to the color difference between the back and the top. As you can clearly tell from the pictures the back is quite brown compared to the sides and the top. So I wanted to ask you, if is there any way to reduce the color difference so that when the violin is finished, this difference will be either eliminated or very mild? Staining the top and sides or putting less brown color when varnishing the back, are the first things that come to my mind but I would like a more informed opinion on this matter. By the way any comments on my violin that could help me for the next one will also be very much appreciated Here are the pictures where you can also see the color difference:
  8. So I got a few different colors of the JOHA oil varnish from IVC... I am quite pleased with it save for two points: 1 - it isn't dark enough. I've remedied this by adding color extract, so this is no big deal. 2 - it dries too fast... that may sound like an oxymoron, but I assure you it isn't. I did a little digging and found an old thread from 2008 that raised the same concern. I just tried one of the suggestions which was to thin the varnish with turpentine. That helped some; but it still dries too fast to be able to move it around to the point I am satisfied with it. I wound up with a belly and back that are 75% nice and 25% streaky/blotchy. Luckily I am doing this on some cheap white violins bought for varnish testing purposes, so it's not a total disaster. My question is: are any of you all using this/ experiencing the same issue? If so, have you cracked the code on how to alter it so that it remains workable long enough to varnish without being in a hurry, but retains some of the "quick" drying characteristics that make it nice from the oil varnish standpoint? I'd love to hear your recs on the issue if so. Ive been wood working for years, and finishing has always been a thorn in my side. I hate it... every aspect of it. That's why I'm looking for the closest thing that is "out of the box" ready for a decent finish on my first few fiddles. I have two done, and am getting close to a third... I'd like to make them look OK as far as varnish goes, but I'm not quite ready to dig in full time to perfecting a unique technique... I'm still learning the making process. Thanks for for all of your help!
  9. Hi all, I‘m wondering if you have any ideas about the origin of this viola. Most violinmakers have different opinions about it. I‘m interested if anyone knows something similar? The length of the back is 41,7cm. Very high arching. Clear, transparent, honey colored, amber varnish. Covered hole in the back of the peg box. Please tell me if you need more information. Some dealers really fall in love with it and some are definitely not impressed… Musicians and the audience love it! Thanks for your help!
  10. The issue about proteins in varnish systems is twofold. First, is it truly detected in old violins? Where is it found and in what concentration? Second, why was it used at all; that is, what do proteins do for a varnish system? By varnish system I mean the ground and wood preparation followed by layers of varnish and polishing compounds. I have a couple of opinions on proteins. The first of which is an old theory that I come back to often. That idea is that the proteins were not intentional but a secondary component of an organic colorant or stain. Many of you know that I have experimented a lot with annatto. These seeds are a major source of protein. Nevertheless, I no longer advocate annatto colorant. (I have an accepted publication in the VSA Journal on Annatto. I will give details later.) Anyhow, there are many colorants from seeds that contain protein. Itis possible that proteins can be carried along with a colorant. I will talk more about this some other day. The other protein source is one that is intentional and applied for specific reasons. An example is a protein mixed with a colorant to stabilize and control it. That is what paint artist call a distemper which is similar to a tempera but without eggs. Or, a caseinate is applied to seal the wood. … .
  11. Hi there, Im finally having my first attempt at varnishing a violin. This is a violin that I bought off Ebay, with the purpous of varnish experimenting, trying different varnish techniques etc. (The violin was literally painted over, so I felt no guilt in stripping the paint) My question for this topic is: When you varnish, must the varnish be perfectly even in both color and texture? Or do you even out the color when you are "rubbing it down"? Also, when do you actually "rub the varnish down"? After it has completely dried? And what would you use to "rub it down"? Thank you, and I look forward to reading your replies.
  12. Yet another article about the Strad varnish chemistry - the Angewandte Chemie, 2021 paper...https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/09/study-confirms-superior-sound-of-a-stradivari-is-due-to-the-varnish/ Any additional thoughts? At least this summary and intro was written well, and fairly conveys some of the prior work...
  13. I found this on the web, awesome images, finally the proof that Stradivari was extraterrestrial.... Joking aside, the varnish looks very rich in pigments, something I would not have expected, according to the latest research. I do not know neither the author nor the violin, does anyone know if its conditions are good (original varnish?) and so if the images are reliable? This gentleman seems to have many personal theories, does anyone know him?
  14. I had posted earlier that I was going to try and make amber varnish using the amber colophony from Kremer. Their German homepage describes this as old material from a Russian amber-varnish manufacturer. Some here on the forum were skeptical about the nature of this resin and I wanted to follow-up and share my experience. To make a long story short: It didn’t work the way I had hoped. I tried to dissolve the colophony directly in boiled linseed oil. Nevertheless, I found that even temperatures around 250 deg C were not sufficient. Only a small amount appeared to dissolve in the oil (based on the color and smell of the resulting oil) but the vast majority formed a gooey black mass that was caught in the strainer. I am attaching some pictures to illustrate. Since at least for me this material didn’t work the way I had hoped I am starting with raw amber instead and will try to fuse/melt it myself.
  15. Hi all! About a year ago, I prepared walnut stain from husks by submerging them in a 50/50 mix of alcohol and water, and filtering off the solid contents after it had sat for a few days. Now, looking at my stain, a decent bit of the colorant has dropped out of solution and found itself in an insoluble layer on the bottom of the jar. Just for kicks, I decided to try using this sediment as a colorant and it's a much more lovely warm golden brown than I'm used to getting from walnut stain alone. I've made lake pigments from the same batch of walnut hulls in the past, and this sediment goes far beyond the lakes in its color quality and warmth. Any ideas as to what might be happening in the jar overtime to make this sediment? My hope is to recreate it without having to wait so long. -M
  16. Years ago, I recall someone like Beare or Sacconi writing that sometimes one can see a glint of red in Stradivari’s flames. I would like to find that. Anyone remember?
  17. Hello all, I've done some reading about oil varnishes and oil paint colors, but still have a few questions. 1. Making my own oil varnish is out of the question, so what brands or where could I purchase a reliable oil varnish? 2. I'm really intrigued by the oldwood varnishing system, especially their varnish and glazing process/materials. What are your thoughts or experiences with them? 3. After watching the varnish application process that oldwood uses (applying their thick looking varnish and oil colors by hand), are all oil varnishes applied like that? It surprised me because I thought you could only brush on varnish. Thanks to anyone who could help point me in the right direction. All I want is to enjoy the amazing process of varnishing, and to be proud of the results.
  18. Hi all! I did an experiment yesterday by putting a pH indicating dye on a strip of maple. I let that dry, and then applied 5% sodium nitrite solution to it, and placed it in the light box. To my surprise, only after a few minutes of light exposure the dye changed from orange to a cool red, indicating the presence of a base. I had always thought that nitrite reaction produces nitric acid, so, I’m very confused as to why this test indicates as alkaline. Anyone have a possible explanation? Also, I’m wondering if this is a good approach to create a pH neutral treatment? I’m not a chemist, but I imagine one could find the proper salts to add, to make sure the dye does not change color through the process.
  19. Hello Maestronet hive mind - I need some help. I have just received a violin I bought at auction (unseen due to the the 'Rona) and it is unexpectedly good. Although rather battered the sound is terrific but...at some point in its life it looks like someone has put a sticker on the varnish and it has left a horrible residue. I have tried to remove it with a cloth and my magic spit, but no dice. The violin is 130 years old so I need to be really careful. Any ideas?
  20. Hi everyone, I am currently working on my first violin repair and just finished cleaning a pretty filthy violin! I bought it thinking it could help me learn a few repair techniques. Cleaning it has revealed many spots that require some varnish touch-ups (once I repair the sides). I was wondering what pre-made varnishes you would recommend, or some varnish touch-up kits. Could different shades of "Joha oil varnish" do the job? I've read on many threads that spirit varnish is usually more preferred for touch-ups though. Also, I don't really need huge quantities of varnish. (https://www.internationalviolin.com/Shop/varnish-supplies/oil-varnish-extracts) Thanks in advance for your advice!
  21. Hello all! Starting to get into lake pigments! So, to jump right in: when you’re making a lake pigment, what part of the process does pH have an impact on color? I’ve heard of people using acidic, neutral, and alkaline extractions for the dyestuff, but I’m curious as to how/if the ph of the extraction plays into the final pigment color. My thoughts are that it is really the pH of the final suspension that makes the biggest impact, but I just don’t know. Could you take dry, finished pigment and expose it to a medium of different pH to change the color? Will it keep this color upon drying off? The long cook varnish I make has a very strong fire orange color just as it is, that darkens to shades of red in thicker layers, but I’ve been wanting to tone down the orange stage a bit and show a hint of bluish reds. I’m thinking about going with cochineal because if it’s natural tendency in that direction, but I’d love to be able to know how to adjust the color of the end product to the right side of the spectrum. Slightly more purples would probably get me exactly what I want. I’ve heard multiple people say making a cochineal lake is tricky. What is the tricky part about it? What is critical to pay attention to? I’ll also make up some test samples with Joe Robson’s alizarin varnishes mixed with mine. I can’t foresee any problems, as the oil/resin ratios are the same, but if anyone thinks this is a bad idea let me know. Any recommendations for other things to try would be great, as well. Thanks!
  22. Has anyone here ever had experience using an Ammonium Rosinate in oil varnish? I just made up a very small amount, and it seems to have some nice properties! I just want to consult the masses before I make a big mistake in using it for something. Here are some (bad) photos of a thin layer rubbed into fresh, bare rib wood, unsealed. It's a much more lively, rich color in person. Transparency and depth is also not well shown here. I prepared a 70/30 solution of grain alcohol and laboratory grade ammonia (30% Concentration), and to that, I added enough crushed rosin to make a thin spirit “varnish”. As the rosin dissolved, and the solution sat, the color changed from the very pale color of the rosin to a darker amber color. On its own, this color is still too light for anything substantial. The magic happened when I heated this solution to drive off the remaining ammonia, water, and alcohol. Just the heat required to drive off these volatiles and soften the rosinate caused it to transform in color to something nearly identical to my 100+ hour “low and slow” rosin cooks. Perhaps even a tad bit more gold. The resulting resin softened only very slightly with direct water contact, and was soluble in alcohol, spike lavender, and slightly in turpentine. I imagine its water softening can be mitigated, and the turpentine solubility increased with further cooking. Any advice? May I be on to something?
  23. Hello! Three months ago, I bought a violin from a contemporary violin maker in New York. Combine South Texas heat with daily five hour practice sessions and you get sweaty palms! Somehow, in that short time frame, that led to the varnish on the shoulder of my violin break down rather quickly. How can I prevent further damage and will I be able to repair it myself? I would rather not take the violin to the luthier at this time because the pandemic in Texas is quite bad right now...
  24. Looking at this violin, the finish on the top looks awful while the finish on the back looks good. Is there a wood reaction to a varnish? Does spruce react/weather differently than maple? Or was this due to exposure (the front was exposed to the elements while the back was not)? Just curious! https://www.bromptons.co/auction/22nd-june-2020/lots/143-an-italian-viola-first-half-of-the-nineteenth-century.html
  25. Hallo everybody So i've been working on making my own oil varnish and pigments for a while now, and it seems that for every variable that i try at least 2 more open up. While looking for answers to different questions i came across several threads here that had a lot of useful information, but i couldn't find a lot about the actual method of grinding self made pigments into oil varnish, or how to layer them. Is somebody here familiar with these techniques and feeling like talking about them? I could really use some tips / tricks / things to avoid / things to look for from experienced people
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