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....." a varnishing method that I have waited a lifetime to see demonstrated and proven


AMORI

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One of our fellow M-netters has kindly sent me some articles regarding different ways of varnishing a violin. Together with the info I already have it is clear that there are so many "correct" ways that any varnish novice will be completely lost. One article by Mr. Wake describes a ....."varnishing method that I have waited a lifetime to see demonstrated and proven"..... The ldemo was by Mr. Fulton.

It involves sealing the wood with a ground coat made from gamboge gum disolved in alcohol. Followed by a layer of finger applied, artists "brown madder" paint. Followed by a layer of clear varnish* then the process is repeated one more time. Ending with a few coats of clear for protection.

I must say I like the simpleness of this method and have already started test strips which look quite positive. Before I get too far, I would like to hear from anyone who has tried this system.

* He recommends using a commercial varnish to start with.

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I was sent a practice maple back that was varnished with the glazing method you describe. He glazed it with brown madder oil paint from a tube. It looks great, so long as you like the darker violin look. I happen to really like the look of this practice back, so much so that I went out immediately to buy a tube of Grumbacher brown madder oil paint to experiment with.

I've been against the glazing method in the past, but I'm not sure I can articulate a good reason why. That's why I'll experiment with it. I'll also try adding some of this brown madder paint to some Darnton mastic varnish and see if it can lay down enough color without strictly following a glazing method.

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Hi,

It came to my surprise (or anyone else) that even a factory made violin has very

amazing varnish. To be precise, my Karl Bauer's violin model 2, which I bought in 1970

in Pitner violin shop ,Chicago has an ordinary red varnish in day time, looks yellowish at night

light. The yellow ground color shows more dominating in certain light condition.

A clear varnish coat is on top of a few other ground coatings.

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The reasons I don't like the idea of glazing are:

1. How will it wear? Will it look like "normal" wear where the colour gets progressively fainter?

2. I've never seen a glazing job which wasn't slightly opaque. I'm not saying it can't be done, I've just never seen it. With those I've seen, one is somehow very aware that the violin has been "varnished". My ideal is that one should hardly be aware of the varnish itself, rather, it should draw one's attention to the wood underneath.

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Amori,

Though I am used to varnish my instruments with spirit varvish, for my latest violin I tried the method as described by H.S. Wake, just to see how it works out. The only difference was that I didn't use Grumbacher but Winsor & Newton stuff in the color 'burnt siena'. After application of one layer I had a problem with the color which turned out to become too orange for some reason. The same stuff spread over a white piece of paper had a very nice browny color. I did not like this too orange color it at all and decided to remove the whole oil paint layer after drying (with a sraper). Then I sandpapered the whole surface with very fine grit and discovered that by reflection of light under the correct angle, that there are spots that are not even in their surface. It took much effort to get this smooth. Then I diluted the artists' oil paint with a few drops of linseed oil and mixed thoroughly. This gave a much better consistency and was a great help to apply a very thin coat on the instrument. I did it with the fingers by circular motions and went on till the color was evenly spread. This step was taking more time than expected. I experienced that the thinner the layer the better it was, because after drying I put on a second coat which yielded the final color I wanted. Two thins coats give a better result than one thick.

I finished with two coats of an oil paint (yellow-gold).

In conclusion: the previous treatment before the application of the glaze and the layer thichness determine the final result!

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Hi Kotie. Mr. Wake mentions that Mr. Fulton is of the opinion that this COULD have been exactly what the "masters" did? My early tests show good transparency but it's too early to say for sure. I was wondering if you or any of the other guys have tried it.

On the plus side it's easily reversible.

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Wake was perhaps a bit over enthusiastic with his praise of this system. I think that most people today skip the Gamboge and glaze over an initial coat of oil varnish as a ground.

Glazing can be used well or not depending on exactly what you use - the problem is one of skill, experience, and variability of products.

This is just one more tool to know about when varnishing.

The big problem is finding truly transparent oil colors, and ones that look appropriate on a violin. I find that I need about three coats of thin (colored) oil varnish brought back to fairly smooth with abrasives or micromesh, then glaze with artists oil color, which, if applied correctly, will give a good background color plus accentuate the striping on the belly and whatever imperfections are on the back, giving a good start towards that "silghtly aged" look, then more varnish. Sometimes one glaze coat is fine - sometimes two is better. Often the first coat is so thin that the base color becomes too obvious (and inappropriate) depending on the oil color chosen. Orange is a common problem, as is purple for the first glaze coat.

One thing to remember is that the glaze color(s) can be used to offset any problems with the commercial oil varnish color if you choose and mix the colors right.

There are two common glazing results that I've seen that work - one is for a perfectly smooth varnish coat where the color doesn't have a chance to or isn't allowed to concentrate in corners and imperfections; and the other is on a fairly imperfect surface where the oil colors intentionally do have a chance to emphasize the flaws of the surface, adding character.

I'v seen both methods exploited fairly well.

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Plus, as Dutch noticed, d*mn near all of the oil color has to be rubbed off - plus, don't be fooled by the fact that the glaze coat is cloudy and dull at first. It must be allowed to fairly well dry (I wait overnight) and then when the next varnish coat hits the glaze coat it becomes transparent again. Well, as transparent as it is going to get. Opaciticy can be a big problem with this system, depending on the oil color(s) chosen and how thick it is laid on.

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Murray

I have to point out that "Mr Fulton" seems to be a very enthusiastic fellow, to the point of not being afraid of contradicting himself fairly often: his book on varnishes (which is in fact a compilation of papers spread over a period of almost two decades) contain three distictly different varnish recipes, all of which are designated by him as "the old Cremonese varnish".

At this point, perhaps I should point out that I refer to the "Fulton" varnish as such purely as a matter of convenience - I consider it somewhat laborious to use the term "beta-pinene terpene resin and linseed oil varnish" repeatedly (perhaps I should, as happened with DMV [Darnton Mastic Varnish] call this "bepitralo" varnish. For starters, it might draw less flack when mentioned: most people seem happy with the concept of "pine resin and drying oil" varnish, whereas some act like a bull seeing a red flag when "Fulton varnish" is mentioned.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
DutchViolins

Winsor & Newton has a site where for each color is given how the transparency is. For burnt sienna it is transparent. Some other colors are opaque or less transparent and should not be used for glazing. With this information one can select other colors being transparent.


Old Holland colors are very good.

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Just my observation and not speaking to the technique being used or discussed (glazing, color in varnish, etc.), I've noticed that clarity (or transparency if you prefer) is effected a great deal by particle size... as is dichroism. Frankly, I think the commercial colors (made for oil painting) are often ground a bit too fine for use in (or around) varnish... I can often spot an instrument employing significant use of artist colors from 10 feet away.

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I have mentioned here before that glazing isn't my favorite varnishing method either.

That said, it IS a method that adds lots of color quickly (which was a specific complaint from Amori, if I recall correctly), and the results can be very nice and fairly marketable.

Most of the lower to mid-priced, faux aged violins I see appear to have some sort of glazing varnish job or other. Plus some in the higher price ranges.

For those who want a truly authentic Cremonese looking varnish, perhaps it isn't the best choice, I agree. For the remaining 99% of violin buyers who wouldn't recognize authentic if it bit them, it is probably the quickest easiest way to make a violin look acceptable in today's market.

While I don't glaze my own violins I do glaze everything else including Chinese shop violins. I've been contemplating a light glaze for my own violins also. I'm not sure that there is much evidence for or against the idea that a similar method wasn't used by the Italians.

I'd appreciate any further ideas about this method either for or against, including ideas about how to tint clear oil varnish in order to avoid glazing.

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Forgive my prejudice...but the notion of transparancy in pigments is, I believe, a contradiction in terms that is quite common in our trade. Pigments depend on the opaque characteristics of a particle to bounce light back to the eye and appear "colorful". The result in some degree is always a mass tone quality in the varnish. Such effects may be sought after in certain antiqueing methods. However the glazing technique described, while producing excellent color, does so at the expense of clarity.

On we go,

Joe

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Hi Joe,

In general, for a "suspension" [pigments in glaze, varnish, etc.] there's a direct relationship between wavelength of reflected light's "color" and pigment particle size. When pigment particle size is kept below ~1/2 wavelength, there may be transparency. As pigment particle size increases [over 1/2 wavelength], color "tint" turns more opaque.

Jim Murphy

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Just a very quick thought--pigment quality has something to do with transparency, but it's far from the only thing that matters, and not a simple issue. Before the pigment I'd put the relationship of the varnish and the wood, and, especially, the distance between the color and the wood. This can be incredibly important--you can discover this with a piece of non-glare framing glass. The glass itself isn't transparent, but in contact with a picture it *appears* to be. Lift it up off the picture a half inch, however, and you can't see the picture.

An additional problem is that as varnish ages, it's transparancy relative to the pigments change, and ten years later you have something entirely different. Additionally, some pigments work better coarse, some fine. Painter's pigments are usually designed to be somewhat opaque, and often have (unlisted) additives to increase opacity beyond that of the pigment itself. Looking at only one factor is a mistake, in my opinion.

I'm not on the same page as Joe--I don't think pigments have to bounce light back and ideally they don't--they can also act as clear filters--the wood is what bounces the light back through the colored "glass" of the pigment, if it's appropriately used in other respects, and that light passes through the filter twice--once coming, once going. This idea's familiar to anyone who's ever done old-fashioned color printing--checking for balance, a filter has twice the effect on the picture as it would just looking through it. That's another reason why transparency IS an important issue. . . but far from the only one.

In general, based on my experience, I'd put pigment transparency pretty low on the list of concerns, or at least equal with many other factors.

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>>. When pigment particle size is kept near ~1/2 wavelength, there may be transparency. As pigment particle size increases [over 1/2 wavelength], color "tint" turns more opaque. <<

>>I've noticed that clarity (or transparency if you prefer) is effected a great deal by particle size... as is dichroism. Frankly, I think the commercial colors (made for oil painting) are often ground a bit too fine for use in (or around) varnish... <<

Cennini talks about certain pigments improving as they are ground finer (lapis) while others dissapoint as they are ground too fine.

As I recall (dimly) the Index of refraction of the medium (varnish) and pigment need to match in some way for transparency to occur.

An excellent book on color theory is "Blue and yellow don't make green"

Oded Kishony

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"I've confirmed the following facts with two pigment chemists (each working for a different and well known USA paint brand) and two academic colorant scientists. They all tell me exactly the same thing: watercolor pigment particles create color by selectively absorbing some light and reflecting the rest. Essentially no light passes through the particles, even once. The idea that most of the light from a watercolor painting passes through the pigment particles twice, "like light through a stained glass window," is completely false. "

As taken from Handprint.com probably the best source for pigment information on the net. I believe Joe is correct and that it's a common misconception within violinmaking that the pigments themselves are actually transparent. It's the relationship between the index of refraction of the pigment and of the medium combined with the space between the pigments that makes the varnish look transparent.

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But watercolor is very different from varnish. I have no problem believing it with watercolor.

Part of the problem here, which only took me about 20 years to figure out, is that what has to do with oil painting has virtually nothing to do with varnish, and it's a mistake to work on that basis. And then there's watercolor, which is a different world, entirely.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
DarylG

It's the relationship between the index of refraction of the pigment and of the medium combined with the space between the pigments that makes the varnish look transparent.


That's pretty much what I was relating about what I'd observed... I think of it as a relationship of particle size and proximity. Pigments ground very finely and placed in close proximity (in a medium) produces "paint". :-)

I agree with Michael concerning the favorable effects of some pigments being ground finer. I've also noted that when making lakes, there is a difference in how the resulting can be treated depending on how they were extacted. A specific example are two lakes I made with madder; For one, the the color was extracted into a soltion of alum, then precipitated with alkali. The second was extracted in alkali and precipitated with alum. The alum extraction seems to work best in the varnish ground fine (it's less opaque), the alkali extraction works best if not ground quite as fine.

For Dean; maybe someday... I've never thought about giving a talk about it as I don't go much farther than observing and trying to match the effect.

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As I understand it, the technical difference between a pigment and a dye is that a pigment remains a suspension in a medium, and the particles themselves are opaque. A dye, on the other hand, forms a solution, and is therefore transparent. But -- moving to the real world -- whether something dissolves (and is thus a dye) or whether it doesn't (and is thus a pigment) depends on the carrier, temperature, etc. Some coloring agents dissolve in one medium and not in another; some partially dissolve in a particular medium, some dissolve only if other substances are present, etc. And then of course there is another complication in that some particle sizes become 'invisible' in some wavelengths of light through some media (why mineral ground seems to disappear when oil is applied).

Making a lake is a way of extracting a dye from a pigment, and the method has greater or lesser effectiveness. So what you end up with is some dye (dissolved) and some particles of different sizes, some of which seem to 'disappear' in the media.

That's why pigment manufacturers like Winsor Newton publish transparancy ratings. It's interesting to compare the same pigment in different vehicles. (And when it'd desired. Generally, watercolor should be more transparent; if it is opaque it is gouache. Cheap gouaches use an opaque filler like chalk to guarantee opacity, but that adulturates the color as well.

All in all, the question of transparancy is not at all simple.

--Claire

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