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Jonathan M.

How to finish violin neck?

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Hardware store 'Boiled Linseed Oil' is probably really raw linseed oil with metallic dryers added. It would work, but I would avoid it. I like to color the wood of the neck a bit first by rubbing a little artist's oil colors (your choice, but I use some lamp black, a little burnt sienna, and sometimes raw sienna) thinned down with mineral spirits. This is after the instrument has been varnished (but not the neck). The next day I rub in a little linseed oil (cold pressed if you've got time to let it cure, or Stand Oil is good otherwise-also sun thickened linseed oil would be good) with a rag. This could also be pigmented a little with the same kind of colors if you want. I hang the instrument in the light box overnight. If a little more gloss is desired just do it again the next day.

This has the advantage of resulting in a neck that looks like it's had some use but has an attractive appearance and shows off the flame in the maple.

Merry Christmas.

Doug

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My necks takes some dirt while I am varnishing the instrument, so when I finish varnishing it will be dark (I don`t like "white" necks). Then I rub some oil over it, but with no build up and it`s finished.

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Anyone burnish the neck rather than apply any finish? I've heard from some players that they prefer the "glide" of their thumb down a well worn/burnished neck over a "grabby" feeling they get with any kind of oil finish.

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There are several ways to color the neck... a couple have been mentioned here.

As far as "finishing" it goes:

I believe Doug is correct about the additive nature of most "boiled linseed oil" available... It has dryers added, as do most other commercially available drying oils. True boiled linseed (no additives) oil dries, but much, much more slowly than the stuff from the can (which dries pretty well in about 18-24 hours if applied sparingly), and some makers use it... a few even use mineral oil.

Doug probably has good reason he wishes to avoid products with dryers, as do other makers who stay away from them, but from a repair/restoration (experience of reworking parts that are meant to be reworked) standpoint I think if an oil is used, I prefer the use of drying oils *for the specific jobs of finishing a fingerboard or contact portion of the neck*. I haven't much liked the task of re-dressing a board or reshaping a neck where raw linseed oil is used by the person/maker before me. The stuff dries so slowly that it continues to penetrate quite deeply into the wood , and often the stuff that's soaked in (not exposed on the surface) is still wet years later. Granted, how much oil was used probably has bearing on how soaked the wood is, but it takes surprisingly little to make a mess.

Two examples from recent experience (last couple months):

A fingerboard on a well known maker's fiddle I recently worked on was soaked at least half way through with raw or thickened linseed... and was still very gummy. Very messy dressing job, and I had to clean the heck out of the upper end of the board to get the nut to stay on (it came off very easily at the start, though... so I guess that's something). The violin is over five years old.

An older (150 yr.) violin which I recently performed a neck reset on had some neck work done a decade ago. You could still smell the oil when I worked the neck heel out... The oil had apparently been applied to the neck and end grain where the finish of the heel had worn naturally (granted, that was ill advised anyway)... and continued to soak in behind the varnish that remained quite a way. The rest of the neck was still gummy under the surface as well. Very difficult to get that stuff out when it goes that deep, and nearly impossible to remove all of it.

For the record, I keep a pint of commercially available "Boiled Linseed" or Tung oil in the shop for this job and tool handles.

Happy Holidays all!

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For the coloring part , I'm much like Manfio , handled the neck while varnishing get a very nice natural colour .

Sometimes the neck get too dirty , maybe there are some varnish accidentally touching the neck that I have no choice to sanding off the color . I put on a wash of very concentrate instant coffee instead , very nice color too !

I have tried oil and coated with some wax I made myself from the past . Look really nice ! But now I'm preferring wiping a thin coat of flat(no gloss) brushing Lacquer(nitrocellolose based) , which is silky smooth , players like it !

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I use raw linseed oil with earth pigment and drier. I apply with a brush taking care to avoid a burned look in the end grain. I wipe away all the surplus oil and pigment untill none shows on a cloth. The aim is to have a sealed but porous surface.

Necks that have too much oil or are French polished totally smooth will drag on the skin. It is useful to study what goes on with the about to be banned competition swim suits when thinking about necks.

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I think that what is important is that the neck surface must be quite polished, as glass, and its feeling must be "dry", as if you were touching dry wood.

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I've used a very light bit of tung oil on bare necks.

It's simple to remove excessive finish on a neck - easy area to access. I just play and see what's too shiny, what grabs/drags too much. My neck finish goal is usually a very slight sheen caused mostly by polished wood and 'almost none' of the dried oil left. If you want to color the neck, I use watercolors first... raises the grain and has to be dry and leveled before applying anything.

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Mike--Tru-oil acts more like varnish than like oil. It's good that it dries fairly quickly but it would tend to build, so if I were going to try it I would dilute it a bit. This has worked well for me in the past on exotic woods but would require some experimenting to see if it can give the right result on a maple neck.

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Thanks for all the help. I do have cold pressed linseed oil. I was thinking maybe I could mix a very small amount of burnt umber oil paint into the linseed oil than rub it into the neck. Also has anyone tried the potassium silicate and tannic acid on the neck as described in "The Art of Violin making."

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Cobalt? Combination?

................

Good question.....To be honest I just use Blackfriers brand liquid driers from the local hardware store and plenty of them. I want that oil in the neck below the surface to give a nice visual effect and inhibit water absorbtion but I want it dry, minimal in application and surface effect.

A long time ago I would French polish on top of the finish I already described. Players complained of their hands sticking to the shiny surface.....( not because it was sticky in a glue kind of way but from some kind of vacuum effect....try moving your hand fast over your car wind screen) Since then I always finish my necks with 800 or 1000 grit and many wettings to ultra smooth but still porous surface.

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................

A long time ago I would French polish on top of the finish I already described. Players complained of their hands sticking to the shiny surface.....( not because it was sticky in a glue kind of way but from some kind of vacuum effect....try moving your hand fast over your car wind screen)

Yes! I always thought it was the sweat that caused this sticky vacuum sensation. I think this statement is key " 800 or 1000 grit and many wettings to ultra smooth but still porous surface."

Good question though. I spend a lot of time on the look and feel of the neck.

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We just stain very lightly, then sand a couple of drops of paraffin oil in with 600 grit wet/dry paper. Then buff hard until dry.

Makes a very slick, dry-feeling neck, that's good in any weather. My main personal fiddle is done that way as well, and hasn't needed any attention in over four years of fairly heavy playing.

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"tongue oil"

I'm not quite clear on this - do you mean tung oil or spittle?

Haha... oh brother... a nice late night mistake. :) Actually it's a special forumal that I've been working on for years.

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I like the raw wood feel but hate the dirt on maple, I have just finished one violin and the neck I've done it on the following manner, sanded to a fine grit, applied several coats (about 6) of a very dilute Joe Robson's greek pitch Gold + Brown,one after the other, made a thick paste with Joe's greek pitch gold and brown and tripoli, burnished with it and a cloth, than applied a thinned coat of the same varnish without the tripoli, waited 20 minutes and rubbed with a cloth with turpentine, after the turpentine rub it feels like bare wood  again.

 

Let dry and repeat several times, feels very smooth, not sticky, like dry wood but sealed.

 

Will try to improve on the next one. Any better methods?

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The method used at Francais' in the early 90's was very different. Sand through the grits to 400 wetting between grits then tea, potassium dichromate, chicory, powdered earth colors on a rag just barely moistened with mineral oil then French polished with shellac. The polish is thin enough that there is no drying time you can handle it within minutes.

I have not had complaints from players about the finished necks but am interested to see so many people here using just oil. I'll be asking for feedback from clients on this.

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Potassium dichromate...it'll kill ya. I suppose one should use as little as possible. It does have a nice effect, but...well, I'm not sure how to safely use it, so I probably won't. But I hope everyone else enjoys Francais' s recipe. Thanks, Nathan.

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I noticed in this old thread that I posted (5 years ago!) that I used casein/ammonia.  I still think it's fine, but now I'm lazier, not wanting to bother re-sanding raised grain, and I don't always have a fresh batch of the stuff made up.  Now I use a light coating of tung oil, rubbed off.

 

I think linseed oil stays too gummy and sticky (I have come across a few like that, it feels awful); tung isn't sticky.

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