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James Williams

Dark Shellac as ground?

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Yes Sharron, I seal all the spruce and maple with Danish oil, even the bridge.

I'm not talking about soaking the wood in oil, just enough to seal it.

It was my restoration teacher Bharat who told me about sealing the violin body with Danish oil,

back at Newark. I was delighted when I realised that a small 250ml tin lasts a long time, it's cheap too.

You can go straight in with the Danish oil, but there are some who would bark at the idea,

so woof woof to them in advance.

Danish Oil works well enough, a few coats and you can just varnish straight on top of it.

I use a very simple oil varnish on top of that, a few coats of clear, a few of colour, then a few clear.

All the coats I apply are thin, not thick or honey like.

Although my varnish looks like brown/green Manuka honey, I thin it down before application.

I use Gum Benzoin in alcohol to seal the inside of the violin, since it smells very nice.

Although it is not a 'total hermetic seal' it does help combat the humidity changes that can cause problems.

In the past I have used gelatin to size, Lac to seal, and many other methods in the past,

I have decided to just use Danish oil to seal, and oil varnish to finish, from now on, keep it simple.


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Was this instrument sun tanned or put in the UV box first?


Hey Joe...I plced it in my UV box for 3 days but couldn't tell that it made any difference. I used a test piece as well will tape strips to protect it from the light. After the 3 days I removed the tape and could hardly tell any difference.

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The potential problem with "garnet" or "orange" shellac is that the color it contains is highly reactive to other ingredients or compounds (such as iron) that it may come into contact with.

I don't consider it a stable color.

Hi David, could you talk more about this? What happens to the color, does it fade or is it something worse?

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"Oded reminds me of a tan English cello I was cleaning once. I was experimenting, and tried ammonia, which worked great--it immediately removed everything that didn't belong, very nicely. However, in doing that I noticed something happening, and had to keep going, anyway, because everywhere the ammonia was it turned the tan varnish orange, due, I suspect, to something reactive but unactivated, like madder, in the mix. So don't wash Oded's cellos with ammonia, unless you want a bright red cello. :-) It may not be fair to set a booby trap like that for someone in the future, since you never know when a customer is going to try Windex on your instrument."

Shellac's original use was as a colorant, and the color in orange shellac is very reactive to an alkaline environment, and will turn red, similar to what happened in the incident above.

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Hi James,

I ordered the Hammerl kit for the first one and I reckon you could easily get 3 or 4 instruments out of it.

I also got it direct from Hammerl as it was so much cheaper if I remember rightly.

I found it was fairly idiot proof......good for me :)

Dried really quickly......I haven't waited as recommended......and fitted up the violin within 24 hours. :) ....I am very impatient.

I have ordered since from them and have enough to finish about 50 I reckon.....I bought the large individual sizes as the difference in price along with shipping made it virtually no difference than ordering a small quantity.

I think from my view as a newbie, it was a good choice as I had enough to be thinking about.

The last one I have just finished is the cornerless one, and that is done with the Hammerl oil varnish....only about 4 coats though.

I can't seem to get their gelatine size to though, so wondered about the sealing with something else, hence the post.

PM me if you need more of my *inexperienced* help.


I also used Hammerl varnish on my latest violin. I used their Ia Oil Varnish. I really like results, I did six coats with amber, brown, dark brown & clear after two coats of orange shellac sealer.

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Interesting Matt.

A tin of Hammerl Ia costs peanuts and lasts ages.

It's a good quality varnish, very easy to apply, takes a good polish, and not prone to wear after it has dried totally.

Peanuts? I paid nearly $30 a bottle for it. Where are you guys buying it from? :)

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