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let's make some mastic varnish


Seth_Leigh
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Specific properties, such as...? The fact that it is a drier? or the fact that it is soluble in pure turpentine? or--what? Are there other resins that might have similar or at least functionally similar properties?

There are many resins more easily obtainable than mastic, but some just don't make good varnish-- others that make good varnish but require cooking (which I would like to avoid...). Is mastic unique in this regard? Would others suffice with the addition of something? For instance, boiled linseed oil, containing metallic salts and other compounds affecting rapid drying-- would that make up for the lack of driers in another resin?

Maybe someone already knows these answers?

Chet

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Chet--in prior threads Michael pointed out that this recipe works because mastic is a drier. That's the basis for this unique 'cold' oil varnish recipe.

You can probably do something similar with damar resin (another one that dissolves easily in turpentine) but you'd have to experiment and probably use some type of processed oil i.e. cooked, bubbled, sun-thickened, etc. Off hand I can't think of another oil-compatible resin that dissolves at room temperature, although no doubt there are modern synthetics which do.

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All the pine and balsam resins dissolve easily in turpentine, at room temperature-- and in alcohol even easier, but I don't know the rest of their inherent problems. It could be they simply would remain sticky forever, without cooking. (Probably why I am not a varnish chef...) But it seems to me that colophany which is pretty hard and dry at room temperature, at least in the form of rosin, might be something to experiment with. I am sure it has been tried, in many forms, but I don't know where to find records of such.

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A funny aside.

When I got my mastic tears from Chios, they sent some Greek Mastic candy along with the order (which is a product of that company), a few hard pieces and a few chewey pieces (perhaps ten of each type). I like the flavor of them, but everybody else I let try them, without exception, didn't really seem to like them, and said that they tasted sort of like dirt.

I guess they're used to typical American candy which is mostly flavored sugar.

My wife, who occasionally exhibits some symptoms of pica, couldn't get enough of them and still craves them, because of the distinctly *earthy* flavor...

I'm thinking of ordering some more of the candy, whether or not I get any more mastic tears from them.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey, Seth, how about another picture or two? Here are a couple of mine so far. I added the linseed oil May 25th, after getting things started about a week earlier than that. Looks like it's clearing nicely, although since the jar I used has a label on it, it's hard to get a picture that does it justice. I think it's pretty much done, but I'll give it another week just to make sure the sediment is sitting as far down as it's going to go (unless someone tells me otherwise). Unfortunately, due to health issues the past month, I haven't done much else on the violin, but I expect to get back to it this week...

varnish1.jpg

varnish2.jpg

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  • 1 month later...

Here's what I'm considering my final shot of this varnish batch. It shows how clear it is after weeks of sitting, undisturbed, on my shelf. It's very clear, though I can still shine a very bright, narrow flashlight beam through it and see some very fine clumps of cloudiness that haven't settled out yet. After settling this for a couple of weeks, during which it clarified an unbelievably huge amount, I filtered it through an old tshirt into a clean jar, and yet it still had some very fine particulate suspended in it, even though it looked very clear. Now it still does, but a lot less, and it looks very, very clear.

This varnish won't get used until I finish up Jasmine's cello (my daughter Jasmine, not the Jasmine who made her own cello and documented her project and shared it with us here), so I imagine even the very fine amount of particulate that's left will have settled out by then. Either way I'm not worried about it, this is very clear stuff, and it looks great.

final varnish appearance mnet 1365.jpg

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quote:


Originally posted by:
ctviolin
A funny aside. When

I got my mastic tears from Chios, they sent some Greek Mastic candy

along with the order (which is a product of that company), a few

hard pieces and a few chewey pieces (perhaps ten of each type). I

like the flavor of them, but everybody else I let try them, without

exception, didn't really seem to like them, and said that they

tasted sort of like dirt. I guess they're used to typical American

candy which is mostly flavored sugar. My wife, who occasionally

exhibits some symptoms of pica, couldn't get enough of them and

still craves them, because of the distinctly *earthy* flavor... I'm

thinking of ordering some more of the candy, whether or not I get

any more mastic tears from them.

My mother is Greek and she used to give me that gum to chew when I

was a child. Great stuff! If you like it, you may want to try

Retsina Wine. It is made with the same mastic and has the same

earthy flavor. It's great in the summer chilled with some olives

and feta cheese to snack on...mmmm...

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  • 6 years later...

Well, since I'm back, and ressurrecting 6 or 7 year old threads, I figure this is a good one to resurrect.

If anyone wants to know what a 20 oz or so jar of mastic varnish looks like that sat on my shelf for the last 7 years, well, it looks like this.

 

Since I haven't made a new violin since then, this varnish has never been used.  I poured a very small amount of it into another jar to do my varnish experiments with a couple days ago, otherwise the full quantity that I made when I started this thread 7 years ago is still in the jar, minus that little bit.

As you can see, this varnish is crystal clear, but as it's aged, it's gone from a clear pale yellow to a deep golden yellow.  It's really beautiful stuff.  Michael Darnton once said that this mastic varnish just improves with age.  If that's so, I've probably got the best mastic varnish in the world right now.  :Dpost-4641-0-99009500-1392959567_thumb.jpg

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Howdy Berl!  I've got those maple test curves and such you once sent me on my shelf.  All of this is getting dusted off again as I get back into this.

 

Michael, if you or anyone else can point me to a thread where the cold-mixed mastic varnish is pretty well shot down, I'd like to read it.  I can tell you that the varnish on my first violin is still going strong (though it looks like crap because it was my first one, and my colorants ended up too opaque) ten years after I built it. 

 

Other than being a bad and hasty glaze job that wasn't meant to be permanent, the varnish that I just stripped off my 2nd violin was very thin on the wood (it was meant to be), looked good as far as shrinking and letting wood texture show through, especially the corduroy on the spruce top, and seemed to be holding up well.  There was some softness on the back of the upper bout on the side where my wife's skin oils got on the varnish on a daily basis as she held it with her left hand, and she never wiped that off. 

 

Is a little softening of the varnish where bare fingers groped the wood on a daily basis for years considered a very bad thing?  From my point of view it looked like the violin was accumulating the pleasing sort of wear and tear evidence that some people will pay good money to have a maker introduce artificially to the finish.

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If your fiddles held up good, don't pay attention to what others say.  The proof is in the pudding, or the eating, or something like that.  Sounds like you made a good varnish.  You've got to short out who you listen to and who not to listen to.  There is no shortage of the second group.

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Berl, it's easy for me to be pleased with my own work, because I was ever the only one who had to care.  Those making a living out of this work have always got to consider what will please others.  I recall that Michael Darnton said of his varnish that it was soft enough to accumulate that pleasing wear and tear through use that many people really like in an old, previously-enjoyed violin.  I can say this, on the violin I just stripped, with 7 year old mastic varnish, there was no evidence of chippiness, the varnish layer was pleasingly thin, it brushed on easily, dried easily, polished easily, etc.

I'm still really curious what others say about it though.  If it's been "shot down", I'd be curious to know on what grounds.  Not durable enough?  Ok, I could see that, but that would only be an effective argument with some people.  I know a violinist who has tried for years to keep her violin looking brand new, and is horrified by any little evidence of wear and tear.  There are other violinists who pay good money to have a maker artificially distress the varnish on their new instrument to make it look like a 300 year old master work. 

 

I've been searching the forum for any thread supposedly "shooting down" MD's mastic varnish, and so far I haven't found it.

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Bill Yacey, I've made some small batches of his varnish, and then that large jar of it that I showed up above, and in every case the film would dry to the touch, without taking fingerprints or anything, in literally like 3 or 4 hours or less of exposure to our nice Arizona sun, or overnight in my UV box.  And I don't have fancy-pants UV bulbs either - my box is stocked with black lights from Walmart, the kind people use to make white stuff glow purple on Halloween.  I've brushed the mastic varnish onto something at 1 AM, hung it in the box, then come down again at 7 or 8 AM and checked it and it was bone dry and could be handled without problem.

 

I suspect that if you're having drying problems with mastic varnish made according to MD's recipe, it's an oil problem.  Btw, the oil I used was the standard cold-pressed linseed oil from Kremer.

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Or, if the oil is good, then maybe you used heat while making it and got the snot mixed into the varnish that normally settles to the bottom of the jar and is removed if you do it cold as MD specifies.  Or, barring that, if you didn't let it clarify and settle and become crystal clear, you'd have all that "stuff", whatever it is, that shoudn't be there.  If you compare the photos I posted 7 years ago, showing a translucent yellow, cloudy liquid, with the photo I just posted of a golden, crystal clear liquid, you'll see what I mean.

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Tim, where did you get the mastic from? locally or overseas?

Doug, bought it from Chios via the net (I'd much rather go there in person).  I think the site I used years ago has gone, but found this:

 

http://www.mastic.gr/contents/en-us/d1_Chios_gum_mastic_mastiha_mastixa_Xiou_skoni_mastixas_elma.html

 

Regards,

 

Tim

 

Edit: - This is the site I think I bought it from in 2007: http://www.masticha.gr/english/items.php?catid=7

Edited by TimRobinson
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