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Texture


Jeffrey Holmes

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For a minute I thought, Franz Zinfandel Janito, but then I realised the flaw.

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Fine v coarse

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Much later

For the record, this is a cello varnished with NRI Fulton's where I used lean over fat (don't ask why).

Those lines look almost like indentations in the varnish

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Texture will be visible in the whole instrument. It is not only in the varnsih, but in the wood beneath

The top will show more texture because the dark and light lines have very different, , the dark lines are hard and the light lines are soft. In the classic building system the instrument is refinished with a scraper (rasiera), not with sandpaper. The scraper will cut the dark (hard) lines of the spruce and compress (compact) the light (softer) lines. These compressed light lines will swallow with the ground/varnish and get "proud" from the surface, they will stand higher than the hard/dark lines that will now swallow with the ground and varnish, causing theh corduroy effect or texture in the top.

When you work with the scraper its hard to get rid of this texture. I have to confess that I try to get rid with some of it with some sandpaper (not all players will like it), but eventually it will appear again, it is not an intentional visual aspect, it is a visual aspect caused by the technique used by the maker to build the instrument.

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It's an old thread, but I just realized that I never asked about one aspect of the texture that I find so lovely:

Why might it appear only on the belly of my fiddle? There is not a hint of the texture on any of the maple.

Sincere thanks for any thoughts,

A.C.

Jeffrey's original post highlighted texture which has appeared in the varnish with age and use. This can appear on any part of the instrument, whether spruce or maple.

A separate component of texture comes from the surface of the wood under the varnish. As Manfio mentioned, using the same tools on spruce and maple will inherently result in a different surface. One can mess with this to try to get them similar, but the 17th century makers didn't do it, it looks boring to me, and it's not what I like to do. I also tend to associate it with cheaper fiddles, because that's mostly where I've seen the smooth, sanded tops.

In fact, I recently used a piece of top wood which exhibited less of this difference than usual (something about the wood), and I was rather disappointed. Jeffrey has seen this fiddle, and probably remembers me saying that it didn't turn out quite the way I like.

Another factor affecting the surface appearance of new varnish is the varnish itself, or the way it's applied. Some varnishes will flow and level rather well, while others will dry to a pebble-grained or sandy texture, or even an orange-peel appearance. This increased roughness is probably what most 17th century Italian instruments started with, but I'm not quite that brave, so I prepare varnish in a way that it flows and self-levels moderately well. Getting the rougher appearance would be as simple as changing the cooking time and the solvent mix, and I've done it on a few instruments, but it's definitely an acquired taste that probably wouldn't be appreciated by anyone outside a small circle of hardcore fiddle snobs. A few like this have been entered in competitions by good makers though, and done well.

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A separate component of texture comes from the surface of the wood under the varnish. As Manfio mentioned, using the same tools on spruce and maple will inherently result in a different surface.

Another factor affecting the surface appearance of new varnish is the varnish itself, or the way it's applied. Some varnishes will flow and level rather well, while others will dry to a pebble-grained or sandy texture, or even an orange-peel appearance. This increased roughness is probably what most 17th century Italian instruments started with,

David,

I work hard at creating this kind of texture....I think of it as worn, polished saddle leather. Wood prep is essential. Then a ground which accentuates the geography of the grain rather than leveling it. Then a varnish which will hug the surface, flow out, but not pool in the low spots. Then you can control the degree and location of this surface as you want.

The picture is a cello I am working on. Ground done and ready for varnish. I think you can see the surface texture...well I hope so anyway.

on we go,

Joe

post-6284-1276781032_thumb.jpg

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Someone might find the following interesting (though you may have seen it before, whatdoiknow):

This violin is from 1995 and I varnished it with Michelman varnish.

I can't remember what I did to the wood, but I know that I polished the varnish flat, and that the texture has developed later.

I hope it can be seen from the pictures that the texture follows the wood structure underneath: where there is a medullary ray, the varnish surface is elevated, and where there are pores it has sunken into them.

The only explanation I can see is that I must have compressed the wood when finishing, and varying moisture in the air since then, has raised the wood, just like burnished wood will be raised when moistened directly with water. (The varnish is soft enough to yield.)

post-29099-1276783704_thumb.jpg

post-29099-1276783715_thumb.jpg

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Cool! Just to add another texture-example from the unmistakeable Norwegian school of violin making, I've recently been printing my varnish on (no brush involved) and try to avoid to do any flatting of it afterwards; on a good day it can produce a velvety texture with very little reflection that I personally like. Some might hate it, and it might not be commercially advisable ;-)

post-23901-1276788664_thumb.jpg

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Cool! Just to add another texture-example from the unmistakeable Norwegian school of violin making, I've recently been printing my varnish on (no brush involved) and try to avoid to do any flatting of it afterwards; on a good day it can produce a velvety texture with very little reflection that I personally like. Some might hate it, and it might not be commercially advisable ;-)

"Printing." Would you please explain what you mean by this? As for texture, I have found that grain structures often telegraph through to the surface of the varnish. This usually is seen a few months after completion, and I like the appearance. My varnishes have always been fairly thin. I don't know what I would expect from thicker fatty varnishes, but I have seen many such varnishes with no grain visible on the surface.

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Nice to see this thread resurrected. It is great to see these pics of members work and to be honest I wish for less modesty so we could see more!

The issue of how finishes and textures change over time is well worth examining. If I'm not mistaken some modern scraper finish is quite an exaggeration of what we might see on an old Italian but I don't necessarily think we should be constrained by tradition. Texture is a nice thing to play with and I love seeing what makers do with it.

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Jeffrey's original post highlighted texture which has appeared in the varnish with age and use. This can appear on any part of the instrument, whether spruce or maple.

A separate component of texture comes from the surface of the wood under the varnish. As Manfio mentioned, using the same tools on spruce and maple will inherently result in a different surface. One can mess with this to try to get them similar, but the 17th century makers didn't do it, it looks boring to me, and it's not what I like to do. I also tend to associate it with cheaper fiddles, because that's mostly where I've seen the smooth, sanded tops.

Hi David,

I sincerely appreciate your comments, as always...

All the best,

A.C.

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Intended texture is good, but there are many textures that are the result of entropic processes, and to me that's what craquelleure looks like: someone did their sums wrong, and the object (or its surface) is slowly falling apart. I'm still not getting why that's good. If that's good, and interesting/admirable, why don't people go into raptures over, e.g., a dead body in a similarly early stage of entropic decomposition?

Not quite a 'dead body', but certainly 'slowly falling apart'. Perhaps the beauty some see here is similar to what they perceive in the craquelure and age wear of old instruments.

post-5156-1276826518_thumb.jpg

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What if you have an instrument that has been over-polished to a shiny gloss? Is there any safe method to reduce the shine (other than playing it for 100yrs?)

The C&J book recommend using tripoli powder after the last colourless varnish to get a nice texture without being too polish. I guess it makes sense since the powder is a very fine abrasive that will leave microscopic scratches . Maybe that could work over the gloss of the violin.

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What if you have an instrument that has been over-polished to a shiny gloss? Is there any safe method to reduce the shine (other than playing it for 100yrs?)

Under the french polish thread

No... I'm not going into what I used any further than I already did in the linked thread, as what is safe for one instrument is very likely not for another. Some varnishes are even a bit water soluble.

Sooo... method of removal depends on several factors... and if it's advisable to even try it depends on several factors.

I'd avoid the tripoli powder or other abrasives in most cases, as it will not gain anything in terms of returning the texture to the varnish... the polish or added materials will be "stuck" in the low spots, and there is a chance some original varnish will be removed from the high spots... and the whole thing might end up looking a little like a plastic laminated ID card.

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I used tripoli in oil on a pad of cotton to polish my varnish and it worked pretty well.

But it won't work to remove an overcoat.

We had very hot and humid weather, recently, and it softened my varnish. It has imprints from the silk bag I keep it in, now.

Interestingly the two fingerprints I left earlier disappeared.

Maybe my varnish is slightly water soluble, as it doesn't happen so easily in an dry environment?

Has anyone had similar experiences with varnish?

I add two photos of the texture on my violin.

Matthias

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post-24875-1276882289_thumb.jpg

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If we follow your logic, then, I'm sure you agree that kids should be fed a diet of ice cream and candy bars, since that's what they would choose without further data than just their tastes.

A bit OT but I think it's interesting that when kids in a school setting were allowed to eat anything they wanted in the cafeteria they did have cake for lunch sometimes but over a long period they had a fairly nutritionally balanced diet. I don't know how this would relate to violin varnish, though.

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Thank you, David, for your extensive answers to my questions. Seems like everyone wants to psychoanalyze me for asking them, though.

My goal is to build violins that professional musicians would want to own and play, so they will have to sound and look good. I just wanted to know if I HAD to use a varnish that wore and aged in a certain way, or if I could still meet my goal using something that aged less rapidly. The answer I gather is no... I don't have to make it wear and age just like the Cremonese; less wear and slower aging is OK.

I suppose it might be a legend but I believe I read somewhere that some orchestra violinists prefer to buy antiqued instruments because the conductor doesn't like unconventional looking instruments. On the other hand I think some cellists in the Boston Symphony use Luis and Clark carbon fiber cellos, which do look a bit unconventional, even the brown ones, lacking corners and a traditonal scroll as they do.

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