varnish inside walls of ff holes? and other varnish questions


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I made an interesting discovery, and was wondering if anyone could give me an idea of why this happened. I built my first violin, and varnished it with italian balsamic oil varnish, thinking it was a soft oil varnish that didn't dry hard. (I'm disappointed to read some user reviews about it actually being a spirit varnish and that it eventually dries extremely hard.) I played my violin, and it had sounded beautiful, well-balanced, and responded well.

The problem was that the varnish was still sticky four months later, so I brushed on a couple coats of hammerl's standard oil varnish, and the sticky varnish problem went away, but the instrument sounded awful! (I had not put varnish inside the walls of the ff holes with the italian balsamic varnish, and was told I needed to varnish that area, so I did put a couple coats of the standard oil varnish inside the ff holes.) My instrument sounded closed in and very bright, and it was hard to play, where before, it had a warm, rich sound.

So, I scraped out the varnish inside the ff holes, and the sound difference was phenomenal!! Although not exactly the same warm sound as before I put the extra coats of varnish on it...but definitely a huge improvement. My end result is an overall loud instrument, where the upper strings are clear and carry well, and the lower strings have volume, but sound fuzzy.

When I scraped the varnished out of the ff holes, I was very surprised how easily the varnish came right off, and I am seriously thinking about scraping the varnish off the violin and starting over with Joe Robson's oil varnish as I hear his varnishes are very good. I've been trying to contact him the past few weeks, with no success.

I just finished building my second project, a five string viola in the white, and my violin teacher was shocked to hear that it was so well balanced, he asked why; and of course I couldn't give him an answer . I'm very happy with the way it sounds at this point, and I would like to do a little more research before attempting to varnish it.

So, my questions are:

-I'm interested why varnishing inside the ff holes had a major effect on the sound of the instrument? Was it that the varnish affected the movement of that area of the plate, or is it that the varnish made the holes a little smaller?

-What do you guys do inside your ff holes?

-My violin definitely sounds different with the standard varnish on top of the italian balsamic varnish. Is it because it is a harder varnish, and the properties of the different kinds of varnish affect the sound of the instrument that much?

-Has anyone done any experimenting on this? I hear softer is better...but I guess too soft is no good!

Thanks a bunch.

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What do you guys do inside your ff holes?

Typically paint goes on the f-hole edges, as well as in the pegbox. Some makers I've heard leave the final finish carving of the f-hole shape until after varnishing as well, then finish the edges with paint.

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