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  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. 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!
  8. 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.
  9. 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!
  10. 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?
  11. 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...
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. I have a question on how to deal with a viola with too much varnish on the neck. The neck is too sticky for proper shifting. With my violins, the neck feels as though I am touching wood, but on the viola the varnish is shiny and feels like touching plastic. I'm not sure if the viola has spirit varnish or oil - I suspect it is spirit varnish. It is not an expensive instrument - Chinese made in 2001 at about 1000 EUR at the time. Can I simply wipe the excess varnish off using alcohol? Any advice?
  15. Hi all, I have an old violin (1800s), probably Hungarian, of unknown maker (no label). Sometimes, after a long playing session or when the weather is hot, I sweat, which comes into contact with the rib of the violin, right under the chinrest. The varnish in this area I can tell has suffered over time, as it is muddled and pitted. The problem is when I sweat the varnish turns a cloudy white. The first time this happened it mostly went away by itself after a hour or so. The second time it happened it persisted for days, till I took a hairdryer to it (heating the old varnish cleared the clouding). Since then I have been using a cotton cloth between my neck and the violin, to absorb the moisture while playing. Unfortunately this removes the grip I have between chin and chinrest, making it harder for me to play. Are there any suggestions on what I could do to protect this section of the varnish? Or if I need a luthier, what should I expect of him to do? thanks
  16. I am continuing my varnish experiments and attached is a picture of my latest attempt using rosin and cooking it for an extended amount of time (many thanks to all the people who shared their experience here on the forum). My previous experience was with amber varnish only and I am quite happy with the color I got now with rosin. I will continue to work on color/cooking time next spring - it is getting a bit cold for me out there. In this sample varnish was applied to UV exposed maple that was treated with sodium nitrite and exposed again to UV overnight. No ground was used in this sample. I am now at the point where I would like to get to a nice final finish (while continuing to test different grounds). I have looked through my books and some links on the forum and it seems that people use different techniques. I have some micromesh (1500 – 12000 I believe) that I plan to use to level the varnish between coats, but I am not sure how best to approach the final steps. Shellac? Wax? Mineral spirit? Anybody willing to share their thoughts/recipe and some tips? Thanks
  17. Hello! I am in the stages of repairing a violin for the first time, purchased cheaply at an auction simply for the joy of learning. The violin is about 100 years old and was caked with dirt, I have lifted off the worst with cotton sticks and saliva. I will attach a photo of the current state of varnish, pictures taken with flash to better show the contrasts. The varnish is mostly matte, and chipped off or scuffed in many places, and dirty in others. I have come to understand that spirit varnish is mainly used in repairs, but I have not been able to tell yet if the original is oil- or spirit based. My question is: is it best to apply new varnish without any further big preparations of the current state? Or is it better to lightly sand down the worst scuffs to a more even structure and cleanliness before applying new varnish? Some scuffs are basically down to the wood, how would a base coat react to the varnish around it? My first plan is to leave as much as possible intact and only lightly sand the surfaces before applying varnish, but I am unsure how well it would attach on top of "dirt". The goal of this violin is not to make it look brand new, I would very much like to have it show its history but to be protected. Please give me your thoughts on the steps how you would restore the varnish
  18. I have long suspected (as well has other makers) that the cooked rosin is fugitive. Below is a photo of two samples of cooked rosin varnish. The control sample is labeled "AIR" because it was left in the air outside my UV drying cabinet. The test sample is labeled "UV" because it was placed for 12 hours in the UV cabinet. It is obvious that the varnish is fugitive. The test sample received less UV intensity than my violin gets because the sample was on the door ledge out of direct illumination from the UV lamps. I believe that perhaps the only way to use cooked rosin is to reduce UV drying and resort to siccatives as @Roger Hargrave did. Of course, I wonder why mess with something so unstable and difficult to control. I'll have more to say on this topic. Stay Tuned.
  19. Hi, I have applied a varnish according to Michelman, and it remains rather sticky on the surface, even though I use siccative. It takes long time to become non-sticky, and after it has hardened, it remains sticky beneath, that is, using sandpaper high grit to polish does not "glide" on the surface as dry, but remains stuck in friction. I am afraid this may worsen the acoustics, and am irradiating the violin heavily with strong UV lamp. Any ideas what I should do? Thanks
  20. Hi everyone, I’m an amateur violinist and maker. I am currently trying to pick both playing and making up where I left it almost 12 years ago. Getting all the tools out again and starting on a new instrument is a lot of fun but still as difficult as it was back then. However, having YouTube and forums like this one is sure a great help for an amateur. Many thanks to all that post here. While I continue to work on the instrument, I would like to start the first varnish experiments. Varnishing was a major problem on my first two instruments, and I would like to be better prepared this time. I just finished building a new UV cabinet (pictures attached) equipped with eight 40W GE F40BL (UVA 350-365 nanometer) tubes. I included a programmable switch for the lights, an air filter and a thermostat-controlled fan (AC Infinity AIRPLATE T7). I hope this setup will work. I built the cabinet large enough for a cello (my wife plays cello). Here are a few things I plan to try out first. I would greatly appreciate additional recommendations & suggestions: - How many days are needed for a maximum tanning effect? - Do 1,3 or 5 coats of gelatin have an effect on tanning? - Testing 0,1,3,5 coats of gelatin with different ground coats (thick rosin oil, self-made varnish) - Trying fine pumice mixed with rosin oil or varnish as ground coat over gelatin I will try to make my own amber varnish. Last time I did this I fused the amber myself, but this time bought the amber colophony from Kremer. Does anyone have experience with this product? I am planning to start with a 1:1 ratio of amber colophony in boiled linseed or walnut oil. Any recommendations for one vs the other? Many thanks in advance!
  21. This cello has been with my go-to luthier that handles projects beyond my skills, which is more often than I care to admit. He has tried several ways to dissolve the black in the crack, but with no luck. What are some options aside from picking it out?
  22. I live in a country where we don't have any good luthier. Moreover, it's a hard deal to find a good violin, there's no music shop with normal violin (only cheap fake ones).. So I don't have any option except doing it myself. I will do it this way or another, but dunno the steps. Please don't judge me badly hahahah))) 1. As you see there are minor cracks. What material should I use to cover those cracks? Is it necessary to cover them? (pics of inside & outside below) https://imageshack.us/i/po9jreixj https://imageshack.us/i/plY0MBn1j https://imageshack.us/i/plH2Zi2Gj 2. Most of the cracks are on the ribs, but ribs are covered with additional ribs, so should I remove them, or it's okay to leave them this way? (pics of inside & outside below) https://imageshack.us/i/plSIOz4Bj https://imageshack.us/i/po33wiqAj 3. One more crack is on the neck. I think no need to do anything with it, still I took photo just in case.. (pics of inside & outside below) https://imageshack.us/i/pmXujnWtj I'm about to receive hide glue soon for it, so far, that's the only material I have for now. Now, one more important thing. When I fix them and put the spruce back I need to varnish it. I saw in few videos I found that the luthiers put coating, then they varnish the violins. Or I might be mistaken. Just need to know what materials to buy to varnish violin, how many layers of coating, how many layers of varnishing. Actually I'm not aiming to make the violin shiny, would like to make something like this (link in the comment). I hope you'll share your experience, please....
  23. The cello is a nice Caressa and Francais. The player is extremely meticulous about the varnish surface. When the varnish becomes dull at the shoulder and on the upper back he is a sort of freaking out. 2 weeks ago I tried to fix the problem with brushing on the affected area a thin layer of clear varnish and let it dry for 1 week to make sure that it hardens out sufficiently. the player is not too enthusiastic about a protecting plastic sheet on that area. i am not too enthusiastic about some commercial durable varnish (for boats), because I don't know how reversible it is. I am almost thinking of a breast rest (similar to a violin shoulder rest) to solve the problem. Anyone here on MN had the same problem?
  24. I wanted to start this topic with the hopes that it would become a useful resource for those who are looking to go in a particular direction with wood and ground coloration and are unsure of a place to start. Of particular interest to me is producing a wood color that leans on tan with grey hints. Not much yellow, and very little green. But, it would be nice to see everything that’s out there. If you have examples of any process you’d like to share, even if you didn’t like the result, it would be wonderful to have here in one place.
  25. Hello varnish specialists! A violinist wants to order one of my cases, and wishes that the case be lined in a polyester velour of his liking. He has a Strad and a Vuillaume, and personally I'm worried about the reaction that the material may have with the varnish in hot weather. Can anyone provide me with personal experiences? Horror stories? Or is polyester OK? Many thanks in advance!
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