• Announcements

    • ghunt

      Whole Site SSL   03/08/17

      Whole site SSL is now turned on and forced for all pages on Maestronet. If you have any problems, please contact the admin team.
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
lupe0824

Violin cleaners and polish

48 posts in this topic

I recently received a Shar music Catalog. I came across a violin

cleaner and polish. Are these any good to clean a very old violins?

 Also, they have a string cleaner. Is it recommendable?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are too many different formulations of polish available today and it's almost impossible to predict what's safe to use on your particular instrument. I'd take it to your local professional for any cleaning beyond dusting it off with a soft hankercheif.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Picassos "Ladies of Avignon" when restoration take place was

cleaned with (I hope this is corect term) human spittle (slaver?)

and cotton sticks. All dirt and grease, was removed using that, as

scientist claim, perfect cleaner, which will quite  easily

dissolve the layers of tenths or hundreds years old filth, without

disturbing sensitive structure or composition of the varnish layer

. It is suppose to contain much lees moisture than anything you can

use instead. I saw that in a tv show "Secret live of masterpiece"

or something like that. Actually, some time ago I cleaned

1932`s Blaž Demšar`s (Slovenian master luthier) violin

my daughter is playing, using only spittle and soft cloth, and

polishing was performed by dry cloth only. I did not dare to use

anything else. It worked extremely well.

Marijan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The best polish is that one the player NEVER USES... It can penetrate in cracks, open seams (making there much more difficult to reglue or repair) damage the varnish, etc. Just a soft rag must be used to clean the violin.

French polishing old instruments is considered a crime today by many experts too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, it would be nice if kids would always wash their hands before

taking the violin, and clean the violin with cloth after.

Cleaning sometimes is necessary, polishing not if care is taken

along.

Marijan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is a recipe that I have used for years--it is mild and has never damaged any finish in my experience. It comes from H. S. Wake's "A Luthiers Scrap Book." It is inexpensive to make and keeps a long time.

2 oz rubbing oil or mineral oil

2 oz raw linseed oil

4 oz alcohol (I use ethanol)

4 oz water

Shake before use. Place on cloth and rub onto the surface. This stuff works on instruments and bows.

As is always true, test the cleaner first on a small, unimportant area of the instrument, first. This stuff does not work very well on old rosin that has caked for years. Zylene works on that problem but always be careful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To actually clean delicate old varnish I use spit on cotton wool. Withe Spirit is also pretty safe for professional cleaning. Also a product called vulpex-soap used for paint-cleaning in museums is very good. Some people use Calgon. These things clean, they don't make things shiny, you have to achieve that afterwards if you want it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sometimes car wax or car cleaner can be used but only for the very hard synthetic varnishes normally applied by the violin factories. Here the top layer is in most cases a nitrocellulose compound. It gives a very glossy result.

Be aware: don't use this stuff on oil or spirit varnish because the emulsion contains silicon!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a great question.

From the point of view of a small shop it is like this.

You know, I have to side with Manfio on this one. The best polish is no polish...

Often, I find that a slight education on the joys of distress and an explanation about how many people pay for the process, can be used in place of a cleaning/polishing/touch up. Wipe you violin off with a clean dry cotton cloth after using it and keep it in its case.

Still, I get requests for cleaning, polishing, even revarnishing, continually.

I have to admit - on newer student grade, or just simply low grade instruments, where's the harm?

As long as you know not to harm a violin that has some intrinsic historical worth associated with the original finish - or as long as you know the difference between damaging something of value and cleaning something that doesn't have any value other than the current purchase price as a learning tool - then go ahead and go for it.

Other than plain water, which works well for many things - or water with a couple drops of dishwashing detergent - I have found that careful use of some of the newer water/citrus based cleaners work well for removing stubborn dirt also.

Stubborn, 50 year old caked on rosin often cannot be removed with anything less than Xylol, but really, be careful with the Xylol. (Mike, is Xylol the same as Zylene? do you know?) It HAS to be used outdoors and with gloves. Even then don't breath in the fumes and I believe that it is absorbed readily through the skin. Plus, if you have to use Xylol, then consider if you're really not doing harm to the history and look of the instrument.

It is my contention that Xylol is most likely used more commonly in old bow restoration than is generally admitted. I believe that in many applications it is actually a bit safer than mechanically removing gummy old stubborn rosin. Since I'm not a professional restorer, take this assumption with a huge grain of salt.

There can't be that much profit in a polishing/cleaning job to warrent feeling like you HAVE to do it, if you have some reservations about it.

Often, I will simply educate the customer about such things, and then if they insist on getting a polishing especially if they essentially want a french polish, I send them to a specific person/shop in Albuquerque.

I will send them there for a revarnishing in any case, because it is a job I will not do short of fire or flood damage.

Usually, after they find out that they could buy a new violin for less, they decide not to do it.

Anyone who owns a valuable old violin already knows not to do such a thing (as any of the above), and doesn't usually ask.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The bottom line on all of this is that players should never add oils (which soak into the wood, through the varnish, and that eliminates most commercial polishes and Mike's, also) or resins (which they normally wouldn't) nor use any harsh solvents. What shops can get away with in a controlled situation for specific restoration problems is a different issue.

These days french polish is considered vandalism, and many shops use Renaissance Wax, or something similar, and there's no reason players shouldn't use this, either, if they want. As gets repeately pointed out above, there's nothing wrong with a little water, which is a safe solvent that can work wonders.

http://www.restorationproduct.com/renwaxinfo.html

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What is Xylol? I don't think we have that here. But Xylene and Acetone is used a lot and even in combination. But they should be used with great care and never by a player of course.

Another useful thing that works well in some cases is alchol mixed with castor oil. The castor oil mixes perfectly in and slows down and takes the bite out of the alcohol, depending on the ratio.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I usually recommend to my customers that they don't use cleaners or polishes either, just wipe off the violin and strings with a soft cloth. But, I have had a few customers who insist and then I recommend Preservation Polish from Stewart McDonald. I have had good results with it and it contains no silicone. Here is the link.

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Ac...eservation_Polish.html

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that such costumers must be convinced to stop using it, the idea of the violin as a brightfull and shining object (patent leather) must be fought, I think.

I remember Jeffrey posted here a violin with a polish damage, I think we all have seen that one day. A "polishing damage" photo gallery would be a good idea to convince some customers, I think.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi,

I use " Fiddle brite" by William Lewis to clean my violins. I don't clean them

very often. Many times a soft rag wiping it clean will do just fine, no polish nor cleaner used.

However, what works for me may not work for you. If you use cleaner,the rule is simple. If your violin has any bare wood spot, don't use anything on it until the spot has been

covered by varnish touch-up (protected). If your instrument is a valuable old

instrument,which has an ulgy thirty spots, it is better off to take it to a shop about $30.

Why take any chance?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I need to work on my spelling. It should be "xylene" rather than "zylene" and is the same as zylol.

Let's face it--instruments get dirty with stubborn stuff that is not easy to remove with water and careful rubbing. For you purists, remember that you are wearing the varnish out by rubbing with an abrasive (the dirt).

Then you have to go to step two because water did not work well enough--you can use the mild stuff I mention in which the contents are clearly defined (Wake's recipe) or you can purchase some stuff and not know what is in it. As always, you have to use common (or is it uncommon) sense. I would keep it away from bare areas but often the bare wood really has the ground in it which provides some protection. I would fix open cracks before using polish containing oil--you really do not want oil to get into those locations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi

"Xylene" is a strong chemical. I use it to clean rosin on the strings.

I am not sure if it works well on varnish.

Once I was in a situation that I bought an old instrument of which the bridge

area had 2 by 2 inches, ugly thirty old rosin un-even spots needed to be cleaned out

smoothed out. I just took it the my local shop. Problem solved for $30.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I also find the proprietory violin cleaners strip some varnishes. I don't touch them anymore. Also, I have found that oil based cleaners stifle the volume of a violin.

However, whilst learning varnishing, I am finding that I cannot get a sheen to the top layer of clear. I try and get an even surface to the maple parts but they are never to my liking so I end up rubbing very lightly with very fine wet sandpaper. The trouble with this is it leaves the areas dull and when I come to try and get a sheen back to them using a concoction similar to Mikes, it fades within a day or two. I am wondering if this Renaissance Wax would work to keep the sheen on it? I don't want it shiny but just a dullish sheen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I always finish up a new violin with a few coats of french polish. At the final stages, I rub it down with 1200 grit using flax seed oil as the lubricant, and then it gets the french polish to cover the fine scratches and give it the soft, beautiful shine. It is so simple.

I notice that some members are saying that shellac has a problem with aging--that it gets hard and brittle with time. I am going to look into that. I have found no references to this. I just looked through Leslie Carlye's book, "The Artist's Assistant" and found no such problem mentioned. She covers oil painting in the years 1800-1900 within Britain--this is a very expensive book (I borrowed it). She is a conservator and would be interested in this shellac problem. There is a nice section on megilp in her book (pps 101-106) with mention that as early as year 1822, problems were noted with this varnish. Megilp is a concoction of mastic resin, a drying oil, and a drier--there are many megilp recipes in which these components are varied (pps 391-402). A common megilp variation is called gumtion and consists of mastic resin, linseed oil, and sugar of lead.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some types of shellac, not all, polymerize over time if they're alone, not in a mix. Combining other resins with it seem to mitigate this problem to a greater or lesser degree--at least that's the long term conclusion among violin restorers. I haven't found a straight answer to the question of which types do and which don't. I haven't seen hardening, but I have had experience with shellac becoming insoluble in anything after a long period of time. This is an unfortunately familiar problem in restoration, since some c1900 shops use bare shellac as a retouching varnish. It's remarkably durable and can't be removed with solvents, and you can sometimes see "interesting" effects where surrounding areas have worn, but not the shellac. This often is seen on edges, which remain shiny and shellac-covered, next to otherwise bare wood. If this is over original varnish, scraping is the only way to remove it.

Of course, on your own violins it's a whole different issue, and I will overcoat my violins with shellac if the owner is having problems--some people can peel normal softer varnish by just breathing on it, but not shellac!

You won't find much about shellac in art books, unfortunately, since there really isn't much use for it in painting. It's a very interesting product.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

>>>2 oz rubbing oil or mineral oil

2 oz raw linseed oil

4 oz alcohol (I use ethanol)

4 oz water<<<

Linseed oil, mineral oil, and alcohol are an extremely bad bet for

cleaning violins or any other wooden objects. That is an old

formula which has been found severely wanting by professionals

concerned with conserving wood finishes. (I made my living

restoring and conserving wooden objects for a long time.)

Linseed oil never hardens at room temperature, which is above it

glass transition point.  Even when it has oxidized to the

point of insolubility, it still absorbs dust and dirt, eventually

making a dark film that can't readily be removed without resorting

to extreme measures.  Linseed oil also turns dark with age.

 For example, I have worked on 300- year-old oak church

furniture that had always been maintained with linseed oil polish,

and it was completely black, solely due to the linseed oil.

Oils soak into the wood through microscopic cracks in the finish,

and make later repairs of all sorts much more difficult.  They

can also make the wood soft or punky.  Mineral oils don't dry,

and so become a magnet for dust and dirt.

Many violin varnishes, especially on 18th Century violins (as well

as later German factory ), are very sensitive to alcohols of any

kind, and can be severely damaged by exposure to just a little

alcohol. Doesn't make much difference whether it's methyl, ethyl,

propyl, etc.

My recommendation for cleaning delicate varnishes would be a damp,

soft cloth, followed by a dry soft cloth for ordinary dirt.

 Plain old mineral spirits will remove grease and oils, but

its solvency is very low and it won't damage any cured finishes

that I know of.  It also evaporates completely.  Anything

more drastic should be left to someone with specialized knowledge,

IMO.

As far a polishes go, I don't like 'em, but there are a number of

good, non-wax polishes on the market, and microcrystalline waxes

also seem to work well, in my experience..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I asked local luthier, who constantly use shellac from start to end

for varnishing his violins and he said, that he is adding some

lavandel oil in a mix to prevent total hardening and

cracking after shellac gets brittle.

Obviously cleaning, polishing, .... will depend on tipe of

varnish, and what kind of instrument do we talk abaut (antique

value, school instrument, ...) and is it about restoring or

maintenance of instrument in regular use. This article may be

interesting to someone, but I do not have an aces to complete

one.

http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0039-3630...%3E2.0.CO%3B2-S

Marijan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A note on gloves.

Latex gloves should not be considered barriers against harmful

chemicals. Specially benzine derivatives - of which xylene is one.

Latex may look and feel impermiable but it's far from it. Against

xylene it will also dissolve pretty quickly. As a matter of fact,

you are probably better of not wearing glove if latex is your only

option. When they disolve, the xylene will act as a good carrier to

bring it through your skin barrier. So, now you not only have

xylene, but you have latex, too. Nitrile gloves (usually blue) are

not much better. While they won't dissolve, many chemicals still

permeate them - xylene included. This might be worse since it gives

a false sense of security. PVA or Teflon gloves are what works best

for protection against xylene, benzene and toluene. Don't assume

that this means they work against other chemicals. There's no

silver bullet glove any more than there is a "best

solvent". It depends on what you are working with.

Unfortunately, these are made of a stiff plastic that doesn't

stretch or conform to the hand. They're like wearing gloves made of

christmas wrapping paper.

Chemical safety is one place where violin makers and all

craftsman are unknowingly careless. We forget that we are

professionals and need to heed the warnings that are written for

occupational hazards. It might feel like old world craftsmanship or

never lose the feeling of being a hobby, but if you're doing this

stuff regularly, you need to think of yourself accordingly.

--Joe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

quote:


Originally posted by:
Michael Darnton

Some types of shellac, not all, polymerize over time if they're alone, not in a mix. Combining other resins with it seem to mitigate this problem to a greater or lesser degree--at least that's the long term conclusion among violin restorers. I haven't found a straight answer to the question of which types do and which don't.


When using "light" shellac, I believe the amount of wax present (the lack of it) has a significant effect on the problem you mentioned. When buying the raw material, a number of the grades will mention "de-waxed". Filtering the shellac (for clarity; and therefore removing even more of the wax) makes things worse, in my experience... even when used in combination with other resins.

This is all based on my own experience, not lab testing, but it's as straight an answer as I can manage. I don't use shellac alone when retouching, but I have worked with/for those who did. I have used it as an alternative to plastic on the upper rib... but I actually prefer the plastic shield (I know that's not a popular position on this board, but many, many great fiddles are protected in this way; It's effective and reversable... and many players don't notice it's there unless it's pointed out to them).

Concerning xylene: Haven't had it in the shop for over a decade. Really don't miss it. There are alternatives. Michael; Didn't some restorers in a certain large Chicago shop used to use it on their sharpening stones(a long time ago), or is that just a rumor?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.