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Texture


Jeffrey Holmes

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I believe the standard thinking would be that this pattern of fracture in the varnish develops when the final layers are less flexible than whatever is underneath. In practical terms (at least with oil varnishes systems) I think that means more resin, relative to oil, in the final layers. Theoretically, decreasing the proportion of resin (especially harder resins) in the final applications of varnish will allow the surface of the varnish to expand and contract more resulting in less tendency to crack. I'm not making a value judgment here about whether or not the cracking is desirable. That's a matter of personal preference. I don't see how 'body chemistry' would have much of anything to do with it's occurrence, though a player with oily skin might impart more dirt into the cracks (in areas of regular contact) accenting their appearance I suppose.

Doug

I happen to like it. :) Frankly, if more of the great old classic violins were left alone (not polished to death), they would be more instruments that had textures similar to this... As it is, we'll have to make due with the relatively few that "escaped". Problem is, since so few have, many aren't used to seeing them... and worse, some "fix" the ones they do see. :)

In this particular case, I am pretty sure that body chemistry does have something to do with the texture, or at least how quickly it's developed. You see, I've actually known this viola for the 22 years it's been around. The varnish did develop some texture while owned by the first owner (a pro who owned it for 20 years)... but it was very subtle... Since being purchased by the second owner, the texture I've illustrated has developed rather quickly... in the areas that come in contact, or come close to contacting, the body.

Fiddledoug; Yup, I did have a little touchup to do on this one... but only a little.

A.C.; Seems that sometimes body chemistry has an effect... or at least augmented progression... and sometimes it doesn't seem to... Sometimes the varnish seems like it "just does that". :)

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Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, on my second, when I re-varnished I got a very coarse crackle effect where I left the original DMV on the wood and put the commercial oil varnish over the top. Using the magnifier in Picasa shows it Number 2 back

The very nice, almost skin like, effect in the pictures clearly isn't the result of two incompatible varnishes. An archivist for a very long time, I am aware of the effects of temperature and humidity, and most particularly the impact of rapid and repeated changes, of temp and RH on things. Would/could such changes have contributed to what we see?

Regards,

Tim

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But a stupid question: isn't this basically a failure of the varnish?

It depends on how you look at it. Old Italian varnishes were subject to a lot of "failures". On some, the varnish on the back apparently chipped off easily at one point. Others developed craquele. Body contact areas could turn into a darkened, porous, semi-water soluble punky mess with certain players. The last is rarely seen any more, because there are hardly any instruments left (and being used) with original varnish in body contact areas, and it's usually one of the first things to get "fixed".

Certainly, there are modern coatings which will hold up much much better, if the goal of a maker is to have a static, highly durable coating. I don't know of any who have this as a goal though. It's much more common to view certain changes as validation that at least something about the varnish is similar to old Italian varnishes, which continue to be the standard.

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A question from a real ignoramus on this: is the texture a consequence of cracks, or of wrinkles in the varnish. I find it hard to tell from the photo. Is the texture immediately obvious to the fingertips?

You can feel it... but it's not "bumpy" or course. It's like running your finger over a piece of leather.

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For comparison, here's a Nicolo Amati:

Amazing photos, Mr S.

On the Amati the area with craquelure is the same colour as those without.

Does that mean that the 'polishing' has caused the top coat to flatten, evening out the wrinkles, rather than caused its removal altogether?

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The areas that are smooth have probably been flattened by polishing, but that's just an assumption. Objectively, I don't think we have any way to know for sure. In this case, that's probably why the texture remains only in the low areas. There are whole violins with this type of thing all over, though.

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The blackened area on the side of the scroll (Stradofear's post #34, last picture of the four) looks like the "punky, darkended varnish" I was talking about. It's common for players to touch some part of the scroll to their face, or have it close to the face when counting rests.

Another possibility is that the violin was inserted repeatedly 'head first' into a sheath-like case and the scroll back rested on the surface to guide it in.

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Yes. Players hate that, so it gets wiped off right away. I love it--to me it's a sign of good things happening. :-) It's almost the consistency of dried rubber cement, and gets dirty very quickly, as it is in the photo. Janito, my experience is that you get this particular grunge only where skin touches the violin. It's very common on heels and next to the heel where the hand touches, but never where there isn't a lot of skin contact, in my experience, so I think David's analysis is probably the right one.

This is a Venetian viola, but I think what's happening is that the texture is in the process of breaking through overvarnish, so it's not really a pure example. Rather, it's a real example of lean over fat, combined with a texture underneath. The sharp edges are the clue that there's a hard overvarnish.

VenetianViolaTexture.jpg

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Another possibility is that the violin was inserted repeatedly 'head first' into a sheath-like case and the scroll back rested on the surface to guide it in.

That could explain the wear, yes, but probably not the black, thickened varnish area.

The thickness of this stuff, above the A peg, is easier to see with the reflected light in the third photo.

Thanks for the photos, Strado. Otherwise, most people would never see something like this. Do you know if this instrument was eventually "sanitized" somewhat?

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Tasty varnish fail. You don't get to see this too often, but I think it's really cool.

Fascinating varnish condition - I've seen this before.

I'm curious.

If you have seen this varnish in person, is that just raw wood in the bare areas, in your opinion, or is there a base on those areas that is so intrinsic, that it acts like there is no coating there?

And, if there is a base of some sort - can you see or feel where the base wears through to just wood?

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. . . most people would never see something like this. Do you know if this instrument was eventually "sanitized" somewhat?

I don't know. I hope not. It was in the private collection of someone who didn't need to sell it, appreciated it, and (the family) had owned it since 1953 or something like that.

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It's very common on heels and next to the heel where the hand touches, but never where there isn't a lot of skin contact, in my experience, so I think David's analysis is probably the right one.

This violin has 'wear' down to bare wood.

Does this wear pattern look natural?

I had thought it had been created artificially, but, in retrospect, the varnish is very delicate and crazes (and goes opaque) when pressed with a finger nail.

post-24474-1246200610_thumb.jpg

post-24474-1246200623_thumb.jpg

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If you have seen this varnish in person, is that just raw wood in the bare areas, in your opinion, or is there a base on those areas that is so intrinsic, that it acts like there is no coating there?

And, if there is a base of some sort - can you see or feel where the base wears through to just wood?

Well, that's an interesting question. Obviously the head is worn in the usual places, and that would have to have been entirely through the ground, yet the "bare" wood is still highly colored in a way that you wouldn't expect--that sort of dark gold color. It reminds me of a Goffriller head I did a graft on where the wood inside the cheeks was every bit as dark as the wood on the surface, and when wet gave off a similar golden color. Though that kind of color, on the worn del Gesu head, is not what you'd normally see, I do remember seeing it on several other del Gesus. Conundrum.

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