polkat

Fake maple flaming?

Recommended Posts

polkat   

I've seen a number of cheaper violins that appeared to have nice flaming of the ribs and back. Yet, when taken apart, the back of these woods were quite plain, with no visable flaming at all. I imagine this was quite common in cheap instruments in the past, but some of it is quite convincing....from a distance.

I was wondering of anyone knows how this was done? Paint? Stains? Chemicals? Any ideas?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Michael Ange Garini violins are usually like this.I have seen a few 18th century violins with it also, i suppose its done like other fake antiquing effects like graining which was popular in Victorian times.It usually involved iron oxide stains.Probably put on directly to the wood and then varnished as usual.Im just guessing that violinmakers used a similar process.

Some of it looks quite realistic but others like Garinis are just too wide and perfect ,with not much variation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I came across a cello once, it had a nicely figured back but

looking inside it was plain. Having a closer look you could

 see that it was a sandwiched back, one thin layer of figured

maple veneer glued onto plywood.

Martina

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
COB3   

The ones I have seen, I thought were paint-- but I s'pose they could have been stain-- looked as if they had been airbrushed on. Quite convincing, until you rock them to and fro in the light and see that the flame is dead-- it does not flicker and change under the light the way real curly grained wood seems to do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have an almost new " Wurzburg violin ". The back is a beautiful flamed maple, but the rib flames are painted on, and a

sloppy job it was. Maybe they ran out of flamed rib material.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
polkat   

Interesting! I've used iron oxide solutions in the past to 'bring out' the flame in slightly flamed maple. Works, but doesn't bring out the radiance as COB3 already mentioned. I was once told that to create flame in cheaper plain maple fiddles, one can paint on the flame with a concentrated black tea solution, which enhances (adds to) the natural tannin in the painted areas, then pop it out with iron oxide. I've never tried this.

I also read last night about flaming wood with...flame! Using the fire of a candle to burn marks into the wood, but it seems one would have minimum control with this method. I suppose this topic is of little interest here, as most of us prefer to work with nicely figured wood. But it's been done, and it's always fun to experiment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some Collin Mezin Junior have, not so much "fake" flame, but "enhanced" whereby coloured varnish was applied above the darker flame making it more pronounced. pretty unsubtle, I'd say, and unnecessary as the wood is very nice in the first place! I had a one piece back CM fils cello in the workshop recently, rather garish for my liking.

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I made a substantial part of my living doing faux wood graining for a number of years. One of my specialties was making the maple bench and lyre match the ribbon mahogany on Steinway pianos that were refinished and refurbished by a colleague. When customers pay $60,00 and up to have a piano rebuilt, they want it to look right.

Tiger or fiddleback maple is really pretty easy to do. I've seen a number of techniques on stringed instruments, but basically you use a glaze (sort of a thick-bodied stain, in this case) applied with a special brush to simulate the desired figure, then use a badger hair brush to soften and blend the glaze til it looks right. Then a clear sealer, perhaps some more glaze to soften and antique, and topcoats. Others appear to have been wrapped with string, glaze sprayed on, string removed, glazed brushed out, and topcoated.

If you want to learn more, there are lots of good books on faux finishing, either at home improvement stores or at your library. Pierre Finkelstein's book is the best have seen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
COB3   

No matter how good a fake flame is, it is not alive, in the sense that as you rock the wood in the light, REAL flame seems to move, change shape and position. Fake flame, no matter how artistically applied, can't do that. Even heavily "enhanced" flame is limited, but it will move a little.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
pbelin   

I have seen instruments with fake flames that I am sure where "in the wood", perhaps painted on the bare wood with dichromate or nitric acid or something like that.Then the flame doesn' t move the right way, but it still moves with the light, which makes it look very realistic at the first glance. On one particular cheap chinese violin it was so well done that I didn' t notice it was fake untill the fitting up was done. In mirecourt they used to have templates and airbrushes, some are also pretty good I find. It just gets too obvious when the varnish on the neck wears off.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Any figure made with a glaze will not show chatoyance, and that's the giveaway. Still I have done the work for a long time, and know what to look for, and I still see some that fool me until I take a close look at them.

The shimmer or chatoyance of fiddleback maple comes from the orientation of the fibers in the wood, and can't be duplicated with stains or chemicals, but a good craftsman can come pretty close, and fool all but a careful observer.. It's really pretty easy, once you get the knack of it..

Templates and spray guns or airbrushes canbe used to apply the glaze, but it's definitely not the best way. The trick is still in how you soften and brush out the glaze. It's just that a sprayed-on application is harder to brush out and make look good than a hand-applied glaze.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
COB3   

Having been burned on this one, I have learned to hold the instrument in the light and rock it gently from end to end, and watch for the movement in the flame.

Before now, I had never heard the name "chatoyance", and I would assume the name is somehow related to a cat's-eye, like the stone, "tiger-eye" which has the same shimmering reflective quality. Must be a French derivation....

All that being said-- while some are hard to detect-- as you have said, it is in the changing angle of the grain itself, and cannot really be duplicated. So I check, hopefully every time.

Once-burned, they say, twice shy. Besides, rocking violins in the light is pleasant to do, since it induces the "flickering" of the flames...so the seller doesn't have to know that I am checking for a fake, unless I have already detected it.

You are right, some are quite artistic. But I'll bet (or at least hope) I don't get fooled again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MikeV   

Does this look like fake flaming?  I've seen some older violins that have this look due to old varnish.  Hard to tell if this is legit.  The bottom right hand portion of the violin has me wondering.  Any help/insight would be much appreciated.

 

 

lowerback.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Looks pretty convincing to me. Notice how it interacts with the grain. 

In really crappy technique is called "photo flaming". Commonplace on cheap electric guitars.  It's literally just a printed flame that's applied with that one dippy method, like with camo patterns on metal. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Mike V and welcome. This was discussed not too long ago on another thread. Someone posted pictures of convincing real nice curly maple back but then when he posted a picture of the inside back viewed through the f hole you could see no figure in the unfinished wood. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's very easy to tell real flame from fake if you have the instrument in your hands.  Rotate it so that light strikes it at different angles.  Real flames move; fake flames don't.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MikeV   

Thanks to all for the feedback, it's very helpful.  I'm new to the violin and have been doing a lot of searching/research online.  I know this isn't ideal, but I'm looking to make an educated gamble. :)  As a result, I only have photos for reference.   For the most part, I think I can tell if something looks reasonable.

That being said, I have seen a few examples that look a bit odd; was hoping for an extra set of more experienced eyes that could help me better discern true from false. Here's another example of what I'm calling a flame "grid".  Doesn't seem like this should look this way, but I'm not sure if it's due to how the wood was cut or varnished.

gridflameEx.jpg.b5d152c5906babffeca7c397f014c5c9.jpg

Depending on varnish, you can get the sense of the flames, but with some it's harder to tell.  In this case, the flaming wood seems right, but the pattern just throws me off.  Thanks again for the insight.

 

 

Edited by MikeV

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Throws you off in what way?

To me, this one looks obviously to be real flame.  Among other clues, I've never seen fake flame on a two-piece back.  It's not too hard to paint fake flames going all the way across a one-piece back, but it would be very hard to paint them on a two-piece back and make them all discontinuous at exactly the same line along the center joint.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MikeV   
On 3/15/2017 at 3:26 PM, Nick Allen said:

Looks pretty convincing to me. Notice how it interacts with the grain. 

In really crappy technique is called "photo flaming". Commonplace on cheap electric guitars.  It's literally just a printed flame that's applied with that one dippy method, like with camo patterns on metal. 

Does this back look like it could belong to a quality instrument?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
sospiri   
22 hours ago, MikeV said:

Does this back look like it could belong to a quality instrument?

Yes, Mike, both the photos you posted look like real maple figuring. You are seeing both the figuring and the grain in those photos.  The figuring is a wavy pattern in the growth of the tree, a ripple effect. What I'm finding is that it's not as rare in woodland as many say. I'm finding a lot of it near where I live, so even some of the cheaper instruments have it. Painted figuring looks false especially on a two piece back where you never see a true bookmatch of figured maple, because of the way the wood is cut.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its worth  noting that many very cheap violins were and are made with beautifully  flamed wood. Mirecourt  alone must have used forests of the stuff. But the workmen had the skill, training and practice to work  it quickly and easily, just as they have today.

On the other hand some of my favourite  instruments  were made of the plainest stuff. Perhaps the ultimate  test of craftsmanship is to make a beautiful new  violin with simple wood. 

All of the greats made plain instruments from time to time.  You  can't  judge the quality of any instrument by the flame in the back.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MikeV   
47 minutes ago, Conor Russell said:

Its worth  noting that many very cheap violins were and are made with beautifully  flamed wood. Mirecourt  alone must have used forests of the stuff. But the workmen had the skill, training and practice to work  it quickly and easily, just as they have today.

On the other hand some of my favourite  instruments  were made of the plainest stuff. Perhaps the ultimate  test of craftsmanship is to make a beautiful new  violin with simple wood. 

All of the greats made plain instruments from time to time.  You  can't  judge the quality of any instrument by the flame in the back.

Ignoring the flame, does it look like good work?  What can someone look for to determine violin quality?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, MikeV said:

  What can someone look for to determine violin quality?

What an excellent, and very special, question.  I'm sure it's got answers somewhere on this forum, given from multiple points of view.  Why don't you go search for them quietly? :)  Then perhaps World War III won't break out in here. :rolleyes::lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
sospiri   
12 hours ago, MikeV said:

Ignoring the flame, does it look like good work?  What can someone look for to determine violin quality?

Sound and playability. Some cheap and nasty vilolins look very nice on the outside, but inside they are roughly carved and some of them don't have corner blocks, which you can see by looking through the f holes in a good light. This takes a bit of practice.

Some old Chinese violins have all 4 corner blocks but are very roughly gouged underneath the top plate and some old German violins are roughly gouged with no corner blocks or only two.

So you can't go by looks. As Conor says, cheap ones can look very beautiful.

You can buy some very well made new Chinese violins on ebay for littly over $200 including postage. They look good and sound good because they are very well made inside and out. These are perfect for someone to learn on and avoid the frustrations of trying to play something that can't or won't make a good sound. The only problem with these violins is that the bridge is a bit high which makes it harder to play. It's easy to cut them down by a few millimeters if you do it carefully.

 

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

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.