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Novice varnish question

Beaux Eau

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I bought a (not-completely-hack-job) white Italian violin as a gift for my son (The Prodigy), which I'd like to finish myself (on the cheap) in clear varnish. Can anyone suggest over-the-counter finish alternatives for truly amateur application? Thanks, all!

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Just a thought, despite the apparent novelty of a clear varnish, I have never seen a really light violin that was appealing. It is done from time to time by amateurs but it is always a mistake. If the violin is a good one, you will be much happier in the long run with a more traditional varnish color.

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When I was young, my cello teacher had an nstrument that was very

light, and absolutely stunning.  I remember it clearly to this

day.  The details of construction are a bit fuzzy in my brain,

but I remember him telling me something about custom ordering it

with only clear varnish, so it would age over time.  It could

have been made with a light amber, but I "remember" him saying it

was done completely clear.

At that time, I think the cello was around 10 years old. He said it

had darkened a bit naturally, and would continue to do so for many

more years.

I dunno, but that's what he told me.  Maybe only certain types

of varnish will do this? Anyway, that cello looked

amazing.  That teacher has long since passed away, so there's

no way for me to check.

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Originally posted by:

An Amati like golden yellow (giallo-oro) is quite a good colour, fantastic, but difficult to achieve...

Perhaps Amati used cler varnish on his violins?

My experience is that all pine resins change colour in time (20-30 years) Some resins, especially what ouses out of larch can turn a very attractive red-brown colour. Spruce resin from northern Europe turn to light to darker amber colour. It happens to natural resins without any processing and over a long time.

Cheers Wolfjk

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It may be... but that golden yellow is quite intense... I think there is a colour or pigment there...

Beaux Eau: Varnishing is a rather complex subject... I think that you could try ready made varnish... For a light coloured varnish, I would reccomend sun tanning followed by Magister Products (Koen Padding) Vernice Liquida rubed with tripoli or very fine pumice over the wood (leave no residue over the wood) followed by "doratura Cremonese" till you get the desired colour. These varnishes are rather simple to apply (if varnishing can considered simple...) compared with other varnishes. Making your own varnish would make things much more difficult and complex to you, I think. Just my two cents...

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Beaux Eau

I thought I saw some application steps / tips in the International Violin Company catalog. If you buy some commercial oil varnish from them and follow their steps, you can achieve the amateur varnish job that you are looking. It will be very amateur, but sometimes you just have to do it and see what happens to learn something and have fun. It isn't necessary for you to make varnish just to do that. Most suppliers of varnish materials include some application tips.


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You can go to your local hardware store and buy a can of Bulls Eye

Amber Shellac, and apply about six coats to the violin,

and polish it a bit after it's dry. The Amber color is a nice

golden yellow, it's very easy to apply, and it dries very quickly.

This will be a very satisfactory finish for your son's violin.

If you want a nicer, more professional finish, you could apply a

few coats of diluted amber shellac (dilute it with de-natured

alcohol), and then varnish it with a varnish available from one of

the retailers I've linked to below, or do a search here for Michael

Darnton's Mastic Varnish if you'd like to make your own (it's

really very easy, although it takes a couple of weeks to dissolve

the mastic). The shellac provides a very good ground for the

varnish, and clear or colored varnish looks very good over the nice

amber color.

Violin Varnish (Joe



Kremer, now Sinopia


International Violin



Luthiers Supply


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