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rubbing down after just 1 clear coat, should I?


Seth_Leigh
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My violin's been hanging in the UV box since lunchtime today when I put the first coat of clear varnish. I'm wondering, tomorrow night before I put on the first color coat, would it be advisable to do a light rubbing down, to smooth whatever things are still sticking up from the wood, or got stuck onto the varnish while it was still sticky? I'd really like to get through my color coats without any leveling, if possible. I also don't want to erase what surface texture there is from the wood.

What do you guys do? And do you manage to keep what rubbing down you do light enough that you don't go through it anywhere to the wood surface below?

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I thought I'd add this photo to this thread, rather than start a new one. This is my 2nd violin hanging in my new and as-yet unfinished UV box. Note the blacklights aren't carefully mounted or anything, as they will be. I will put hinges on the door, tape up all the joints between the six side boards (the box is in the shape of a hexagon) so they are light-fast, drill some holes in the top and bottom for ventilation, and put some feet on the bottom of it and set it on the floor. The box is sitting on a chair right now, at a bit of an angle.

The violin current has only been treated with pumice slurry and had a single coat of clear varnish applied to it this afternoon. I ended up choosing the Fulton varnish mixture, so this clear varnish is Fulton varnish, not DMV. Even though the Fulton colored mix I have didn't get as dark as the DMV mix, I liked the nature of the color itself better, and I'm going to see if I can help it achieve more darkness.

It's this thin colored coat that I'm considering giving a light rubdown with pumice and linseed oil and a cotton cloth, before I apply any colored varnish. I'm hoping you guys can chime in and help me make the decision of whether to do this or not. I really don't want to rub through it and disturb the surface of the wood, which is very nice the way it is.

By the way, I got pretty much zero soak-in of my varnish into the wood end-grain. On the top, there is a very small place right next to the neck where the end-grain soaked in a bit, where I apparently didn't get the pumice slurry rubbed well enough. That area will be under the fingerboard so it doesn't matter. The rest of the top had essentially no varnish soak-in at all. I could have applied the colored varnish straight to the wood surface due to this pumice ground. Neil Ertz told me before that he actually does this.

I'm really, really, really liking the appearance of the flaming of the maple, and the spruce wood grain, which has a very pleasing corduroy. The bear claw on the top also looks cool. Assuming I can maintain the clarity of my colored layers, this violin is going to look really nice.

violin hanging in box 8583.jpg

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The problem about pumice/linseed oil rubbing is that it doesn't really flat out any unevenness in the varnish. I use a very worn, folded piece of sandpaper (400) or even better; some "Asprella" (english name somone?) if you can find that. Then I'd carefully even out just the high or uneven spots in the varnish. This gives you more control. You can user water as a lubricant or a drying oil. Then you could rub the whole surface gently with pumice and oil, as it improves adhesion of the next coat somewhat, but take care to remove the oil and pumice completely afterwards, because from now on you should try to avoid any more flatting of the varnish.

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How about some micromesh (with water - see comments on linseed oil below)?

If you are going to use linseed oil, make sure to wipe the violin very clean, and to apply the next coat IMMEDIATELY - linseed oil applied on top of a coat of Fulton varnish makes the varnish go tacky.

Be careful using pumice and linseed oil for rubbing down between coats - it can be really hard getting all the pumice off and out of tricky corners before the next coat. The less rubbing down you do between coats, the better. One fairly rigorous rubdown after two or three coats to level things a bit is OK, but be careful not to rip though a coat of varnish - the Fulton varnish is very soft at first. That is why I do the final polishing only after at least a week of curing. When you set the violin up, wipe some beeswax on the bridge feet - in hot weather the bridge feet will stick to the varnish.

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Seth,

I agree with Jacob. I wouldn't use linseed oil, there are other things that work better. As mentioned very fine sandpaper (or Micro Mesh) and water work great. If you want to use oil, use mineral oil (the kind you buy in a drug store, baby oil). It won't hurt the varnish. I keep a two inch paint brush that I use just for dusting the instrument off while varnishing. I go over and over it. The air is always full of dust and lint, dust it really hard before any varnish is put on then go over the area to be varnished gently. Be obsessive about this dusting. You'll find you have very little dust and lint in the varnish. Keep it as basic as you can.

Berl Mendenhall

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And I'll third what Jacob says.

Water (in a spray bottle with just a drop of dishwashing soap added for surface tension relaxation) and fairly fine micro mesh is my choice for this type of job.

Then too, some of the 3M plastic adhesive pads work well for this application, just be sure not to use a grit that will put actual scratches in the finish, or you'll have to deal with them also.

0000 or 00000 Steel wool used to be my material of choice, but I got tired of dealing with the steel fibers.

Sometimes I like to just keep adding whatever finisn I'm using and then, when it has a decently thick coat - start the rubbing then I don't have to worry as much about rubbing through.

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Seth, the color looks very good--excellent contrast. How dark did your Fulton varnish get? I cook mine until it appears to be black in the bottle but goes on as red-brown color that is really not dark enough without augmentation by adding pigment to the varnish. For maximum clarity, add the pigment to the varnish rather than using the glazing technique.

Seth, I would not use water because at this stage, you will cut through the varnish, and the wood will absorb the water and swell up, leaving you with a high patch (island) that will be troublesome. Use the 3M pads, dry, or 0000 steel wool (if you must) or some form of very fine sandpaper. I use flax seed oil as the lubricant and just wipe it off with a soft cloth before the next coat of varnish.

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Mike, the fulton varnish looks black in the bottle, but goes on to leave a slightly yellow-tinged film, as you can see in the area of the neck heel and pegbox. Don't look at the back and ribs for color, because I finished carving the outside of the back, and the ribs, over two years ago and the wood had that golden color before the varnish ever touched it. But the neck was just recently carved, and shows the difference in color added by the plain Fulton varnish. That was the clear fulton varnish with no pigment in it. For the color coats I've got a small jar of Fulton varnish with madder rosinate and asphalt in it. I do like the way this varnish seems to have highlighted the flaming of the maple.

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