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let's make some madder lake


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I have a jar of ground madder lake from Kremer Pigments that looks just like that. I don't use it because I don't like how it looks. I really dig the deep red color Fiddlecollector has, and the brownish/red color I've made before.

I just got back from a short vacation. I'll have to take some pictures, but I ground up the madder lake that I got from the batch I was making at the start of this thread. My wife accidentally threw away most of it, so I only got a little bit in the end, and I've lost a lot more of that powder in the form of it sticking to the ceramic media and rubber tub of the ball mill setup I just got. I'll see what I can get, and get a picture of it, a bit later on.

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Hello fans of pink madder

Fiddlecollector suggested I might have used too much alum (I didn´t have any idea on the ratios alum to madder so I relied on another recipe I had which used 1:1, so I had 200g Madder and 200g alum)

The madder came from Kremer, I don´t know about it´s origin.

I´ll take some pics what it looks like ground in oil...


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I got the same Barbie-esque results when I used ground madder root from Kremer. Using exactly the same extraction procedure (the "ertz-spresso" method) and the same quantities of Alum/potash, but with madder root from a different source (cornelissen's, London) I get nice deep red like Fiddlecollector.

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3 month for barbie pink why bother...

Fiddlecollectore, as it´s mainly your input that made me trying I´d give you half of the profit from my sales to W&N!!!

Fiddler´s pink...

Just passed the Kremer store and got another bag of madder root for a new attempt

I still hope for a more intense red


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Martina, you can make a beautiful wooden pig and paint it with your madder lake there!

Well, seriously it think it would be interesting to see what it looks like in a really dry oil to powder ratio? I think pigments perform at their best when crushed into just as little and as tick linseed oil as can possibly be enough to wet all the powder.

I usually put a super-tiny amount of thick varnish or oil onto the glass plate and a generous heap of coulour on that. I really suqeese it around with my muller and if the varnish or oil is very clear I'd might put some lamp black in there too, just to see what it looks like a bit darker. Personally I feel pigments for varnish should never be allowed to "swim" in oil it really disturbs the effect, make it a thick paste, stay as dry as at all possible, is my mantra but I guess there are as many techniques as there are makers....

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hi magnus thats what I usually do too, big heap of pigment as much

as possible! Just don�t have enough dry pigment yet to have

a proper go and do an ideal colour check I �ll send you a

piece of my varnished pig if you want, you could hang it up side

down on a tree, seems to be fashionable in Norway these days haha


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  • 6 years later...
  • 3 months later...

I'm back!  Fiddlecollector, I was just re-reading this old thread of mine, thinking about making a new batch of madder lake, and got to the end and saw this.  It really made my day.


Yes, at the time I was doing all my violin work back in the 2004-2007 time frame, my weight fluctuated in the 365-380 range.  In 2009 I decided I really wanted to serve in the military again (the National Guard, like your Territorial Army), and worked my butt off.  I've still struggled since I got back in to level off at a healthy weight, so I've been porpoising up and down within a 20-30 lb range, trying to find a way to stabilize at a very good level and just keep it there.

I'm still in the National Guard, happily serving again, and as I write this I'm a First Lieutenant, looking forward to promotion to Captain in the coming months.


You might notice I just started a new thread having to do with varnish.  I've really wanted to get back into violin making and experimentation again.  I'm going to do it in stages.  I'm going to revarnish my 2nd violin first.  Then I'm going to pick up my 3rd violin project again and finish it (I left off basically having just joined the maple and spruce plates and started working on the corner blocks), and then pick up the cello project I started years ago but never finished.  Before I can take the cello project up again I feel I need to make another violin, to get myself back into the violinmaking mindset again, remind my fingers what to do, etc.


I'm pleased that these old posts are still around.  Re-reading my description of making madder lake, complete with the lessons learned from pulverizing the roots in the blender, will serve me well this time around.  I have that vaccuum assisted jar and funnel that I bought back when this thread first came about, and I'll use it to great advantage.

I'll document what I do, and perhaps I'll start a "Let's make madder lake, Take Two" thread about it.  We'll see.  :D



I wonder where Seth disappeared to,i used to enjoy his posts on here. I know he had a weight problem and going by this article he should be real proud of himself.


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  • 1 month later...

Hi all,


I'm newly registered to Maestronet, and in fact quite new to violin making. I've just finished my first one and have made a damar oil varnish according to Michael Darnton's instructions. That's turned out pretty well, but my madder pigment not so much...


I used 100g of madder root, and have ended up with about 8-10g of dried pigment (lost some on the way), though it's not nearly as red as I was hoping - more a very pale brown. My questions are as follows:


Will 10g of weak-ish pigment be enough when mixed into the varnish for several coats on a violin?

What was my mistake that it turned out so pale? Should it maybe have soaked in the lye water a bit longer? i gave it 10 days or so.


Many thanks for any replies, and for all the informative discussion on here. Been reading for years on-and-off while making my first fiddle. It's truly amazing how much one can learn on the internet these days!

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robertdo thanks for your reply. To give you an idea of what it looked like on day 1: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152103914414081&l=3cad946d8e


When you say you don't add 10g of madder lake, do you mean to say that's too much? (Excuse my ignorance) If I were to buy some ready-made from Kremer for example, how much would I need for one fiddle?


By the way, there's a very purple-looking neck in that facebook album, my feeble attempt at an April Fool's joke ;)

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the colour looks right in the lye solution. After precipitation in presence of alum it should stay that red.

Yes, 10g in the volume of varnish for 1 violin is too much. I can't give you a number but the best way is to experiment.

What was the molarity of your sodium hydroxide solution?

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I just want to state that if you  incorporate plain soap as an  alkaline to dissolve out the madder, then add alum you will have an oil soluble madder dye. Soap has the glycerin end of the molecule replaced with sodium or potassium attached to the fatty acid portion which is oil soluble. When you add the alum you get an aluminum oleate mordant with the madder dye. Rinse and dry, add to turp. I've only recently done this and got a fairly good yield, so the method has some value. I hope someone plays around with it cause I dye the wood, not the varnish. Ivory soap is still fairly pure. Add  about  a tsp of cheese grated soap in couple ounces of hot water, add about a tsp of madder powder, then, with vigorous stirring, slowly pour in ounce or two of saturated solution alum until liquor part looks clear.


Also, a colored oil varnish can easily be made using an acid resin like rosin, mineral pigment umber, linseed oil. Cooked together through a simple

procedure will give you a varnish that starts out a yellow and goes to a reddish brown with final coats.


May as well list all the weird coloring methods- making a hot soap solution, then adding just ferrous sulfate (green vitriol)  you will get a beautiful blood red oil soluble dye. Wash and dry. This is a mineral based dye, not organic, so it is very permanent. This process was known in earlier times.fred

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robertdo, I put 2g of lye in 700ml of water (as I was using less madder root than Mr Darnton suggested).


FredN, I'd never heard of using soap, but it makes sense. Re your second point, my damar varnish has turned a nice dark orange colour. Maybe multiple coats of that would give a decent enough colour without much or any pigment at all.


I've built a UV box now, so I'm ready to go. Will keep you all posted!



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the strange thing is that once the madder alizarin is dissolved in the lye solution it becomes very red due to the basic pH (and it looks like it's really red on your picture). Precipitation with alum should not change the pH enough to lose this color. Do you remember if the color was still red when you added the alum? Did the color fade afterward?

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Looking back through my photos, it appears I lost all the colour when mixing with the alum. (Maybe someone sold me flour on ebay...)


This is my filtered madder water



Mixing the alum solution



The precipitating pigment



which turned to a beige slurry, rather than a nice red one


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Mike (post 71), soap is nothing but lye attached to part of the oil it was made from, so it is similar in use to ordinary lye. I would guess it is not as strong as plain lye, but I did get a good yield, maybe enough to color varnish to do a violin with that teaspoon of madder.  You are pretty much set up to try it, just use ivory soap instead of lye. When you add the alum you will get a waxy soft curd, floating and sinking in the remaining liquor. Fold a coffee fileter into pleats and place in a small funnel over a jar. Pour the contents into the funnel, rinse with cold water until there is not much color to the water in the jar. Take the filter and place on a warm surface to dry. Trapped water is a problem, so you have to wait until everything looks the same color, then scrape into  turp. This is as far as I got. If there are problems beyond that I don't know, but I doubt it. I know the main thing is to make sure the curd is dry before you add to turp.


Re dammar- I don't know if dammar reacts like rosin does since it is very acidic. I do know your varnish has to be deeply colored to get a  finish in a few coats with color, so your dammar sounds like being weak on color. Be glad to answer questions if you  want to make the rosin varnish. It is so easy to have a beautiful colored varnish.  fred 

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I mus stay that the first picture doesn't show the right colour at all. It should be much much redder, a real deep red. It's strange because the picture you showed earlier in the thread seemed red. the problem comes from the lye solution I would say.

Also after filtration there should be no particules left in the madder/lye solution. It seems that you still have a lot of debris.

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