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Darnton/Mastic oil varnish progress report

Craig Tucker

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Coat four just went on violin 34 today, and the viiolin is back outside in the direct sun, drying.

I love the way this varnish goes on.

I have gotten four coats on this fiddle in the last week or so, out of about an oz. of varnish. ... perhaps even less.

It brushes out very well, and you can really get a thin coat on, still, it is deceiving as it looks very thick very quickly.

I have noticed an odd property with this varnish (plus colorant), it tends to look for a moment after it first goes on, as if it wants to "bead up" a bit, but, I keep brushing it out and it gets to the point where it just seems to "melt" into a smooth thin coat which is how it dries.

I am attributing this tendency to the colorant (the asphalt/turpentine) more than to the raw varnish, as it didn't have the tendency to act that way when I was testing the plain varnish on to the bare wood strips, but started it when I added the colorant.

Then too, I lightly rubbed the coat out between coats two and three, (with water in a spray bottle, a few drops of detergent, and pumice) just enough to remove some tiny gnats, and dust that had blown into the wet varnish while it was outside.

Right now the surface is very glassy and transparent and smooth. This varnish has the tendency to smooth out the corduroy surface I had on this violin belly - I have a feeling that once I rub it back finally and allow it to sit out in the sun for a while, some of that will return.

Anyone who manages to make this varnish correctly - I'd be interested in hearing what your results are, and what you used for a colorant.

This is over a fairly solid rubbed out amber Bullseye brand shellac ground coat...

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Hi! That's great! Do you have a photo? I supose you are using also some other colorant than the asphalt.

As far as the corduroy texture is concerned, it seems to me that it may depends on the wood we are using, sometimes it almost disapears and sometimes it looks a bit exagerated, I think that occurs due to differences in the spruce.

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I recall Michael saying that one of the things he liked about the varnish was that it continued to 'collapse' for a long time. Eventually that corduroy look will probably emerge, as you say. I've got three instruments that I did with DMOV, and the first, with no color at all except the ground, looks the best. On the others I tried to use Winsor & Newton artist colors to darken the finish--big mistake, They are not clear and really don't look so good. But it's not the varish, it's the opaque artist colors. So I have some asphaltum, I've learned that lesson, and I'll try the asphalt next. But drying has not been a problem, thankfully.

Hongda, I've used mastic from Kremer, Chios Gift Shop--my favorite, because of the box--and International Violin (IV).

I've used cold pressed linseed from IV, refined from Kremer, and some walnut oil from an art supply house. The walnut oil dried more slowly, but it did dry--I'd say it took about twice as long.

Turps came from Lowes and Ace Hdw--basic gum spirits.

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As you probably know, I had drying problems with my first batch of "Darn" varnish. In fact, I had to remove a few months work eventually. I then tried cheap linseed and got better results as far as drying was concerned. But, the varnish lost that lovely "soft and easy application" ability and the resultant finish is not as "velvety".

The corduroy does return on final drying, yes. I guess one could apply more coats but that would defeat the object of thin varnish.

I did not use colourant (see attachment) so I do not know how that would affect the process.

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"Can you let us know exactly what mastic, linseed oil, and turpentine you are using?"

Chios Island Mastic tears (Anemos - somewhere around $27.00 US Dollars for 100 grams directly from Chios)

Windsor Newton Cold Pressed Linseed Oil: for Oil Colour ($12.95 US Dollars for 2.5 oz)

sunnyside brand pure gum spirits of turpentine ($4.99 US dollars for one quart)

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OK, sorry.


Sony Image Station has become nothing but a pain in the butt to use as a host for posting photos from, either that or Maestronet has changed something...

It used to be that all I had to do was copy the address in the properties box of the photo, and post the url in between , but they have changed things around so that photos will no longer post that way...

I'll see if I can't figure out how to post the photo here.

I quickly loose interest when I have to spend hours figuring and re figuring this computer based crap out. It seems that what works for a while never works for long, because of "improvements" in the software I guess. I'd rather be working in the shop...

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The Bullseye amber shellac with no added color was used as a ground...

I put on three or four thin coats and then knocked it back some with pumice then another couple of coats.

The shellac, from the can, is pretty dark - but is very uniform looking - color wise.

Prior to that, I tanned it in the sun for about three months.

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