Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

violin refinish/restore


Jim
 Share

Recommended Posts

I have mostly heard that refinishing/restoring the varnish on a collectable quality violin reduces its value about 50%. But I have recently returned from a few trips to Italy, Germany, and Spain. I viewed many old violins in each country with prices of $20,000 and up. Without exception the luthiers or shop owners felt that whether it was refinished or original varnish didn't matter much. They said what was important was the state of the finish now. I know this sounds like heresey but that is what was so suprising. Does anyone care to offer why the difference of opinion between 'common knowledge' and these experts in all three countries.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have several suggestions--the shops you visited weren't particularly legitimate ones (in this business the number of really first-rate shops is incredibly low, and the proportion of butchers unbelievably high, especially in at least one of the countries you mentioned); you were experiencing a communication problem; they were trying to sell you something which had been refinished. If you want to find out how they REALLY feel, YOU try to sell THEM something that's been stripped and refinished! This is an issue about which there is ABSOLUTELY no question, sorry.

: I have mostly heard that refinishing/restoring the varnish on a collectable quality violin reduces its value about 50%. But I have recently returned from a few trips to Italy, Germany, and Spain. I viewed many old violins in each country with prices of $20,000 and up. Without exception the luthiers or shop owners felt that whether it was refinished or original varnish didn't matter much. They said what was important was the state of the finish now. I know this sounds like heresey but that is what was so suprising. Does anyone care to offer why the difference of opinion between 'common knowledge' and these experts in all three countries.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello:

Thirty years ago a player left her violin, in a black case, in the sunshine (summer) after a concert whilst she attended a picnic. Needless to say, the varnish ran, adhered to the case, and came off as the violin was removed. The owner insisted that I revarnish the violin, which I did. It was a Leandro Bisiach (ugh!!)

My appraisal letter went with the violin...the owner sold it, the next owner sold it, etc...to this day, I get calls "why did you revarnish??" Of course, the value of the violin is much lower due to the revarnishing. I am totally embarrassed at each call, and will be the rest of my life. No matter what, re-varnishing is a NO NO!

Regards,

Al

Link to comment
Share on other sites

: Hello:

: Thirty years ago a player left her violin, in a black case, in the sunshine (summer) after a concert whilst she attended a picnic. Needless to say, the varnish ran, adhered to the case, and came off as the violin was removed. The owner insisted that I revarnish the violin, which I did. It was a Leandro Bisiach (ugh!!)

: My appraisal letter went with the violin...the owner sold it, the next owner sold it, etc...to this day, I get calls "why did you revarnish??" Of course, the value of the violin is much lower due to the revarnishing. I am totally embarrassed at each call, and will be the rest of my life. No matter what, re-varnishing is a NO NO!

: Regards,

: Al

Al,

This is an interesting dilemma. If the finish was as damaged as you described (the image I got was of bits of violin case fuzz and debris imbedded in the hardened ooze of once melted varnish), what would you have done instead of refinsihing? Was a graceful recovery of the finish possible?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Steve:

If memory serves me right, the customer had to buy a new case because so much varnish stuck to it. It was really a mess!

Looking back, I think I could have saved the varnish. Of course, a lot would have been added. The Bisiach violin was from the period where he sealed the wood with a yellow material that was insoluable in alcohol. At this date in my career, I know to add color layers up to the thickness of the old varnish. Once the missing areas are filled, then polishing and rubbing would meld the surfaces together. Just guessing, I suppose about 60 % of the original varnish was there. I also know now that most Bisiach violins of the same time period had soft fragile varnish, and they have not worn gracefully. Technically speaking, adding a lot of varnish as needed for its repair is not re-varnishing. Yes, semantics, I know, but the value would not have been cut so much.

Another job came in today...same thing, except left in a car trunk in 85 degree weather! Luckily, varnish stuck to the case in only one spot...a piece of cake to fix!! The fiddle did have fuzz all over the spot that was touching the velour when the varnish melted!

Regards,

Al

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the discussion. You did help clarify one thing for me-building up the varnish to the original level not being considered revarnishing. I think this explains why the violins looked so good in the finish.

: Hi Steve:

: If memory serves me right, the customer had to buy a new case because so much varnish stuck to it. It was really a mess!

: Looking back, I think I could have saved the varnish. Of course, a lot would have been added. The Bisiach violin was from the period where he sealed the wood with a yellow material that was insoluable in alcohol. At this date in my career, I know to add color layers up to the thickness of the old varnish. Once the missing areas are filled, then polishing and rubbing would meld the surfaces together. Just guessing, I suppose about 60 % of the original varnish was there. I also know now that most Bisiach violins of the same time period had soft fragile varnish, and they have not worn gracefully. Technically speaking, adding a lot of varnish as needed for its repair is not re-varnishing. Yes, semantics, I know, but the value would not have been cut so much.

: Another job came in today...same thing, except left in a car trunk in 85 degree weather! Luckily, varnish stuck to the case in only one spot...a piece of cake to fix!! The fiddle did have fuzz all over the spot that was touching the velour when the varnish melted!

: Regards,

: Al

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.


×
×
  • Create New...