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Stradivari's golden ground varnish


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The Italians have used bark tannins for (you guessed it) tanning leather since ancient times.  Apparently different tree species have different color tannins which enables many different color leathers to be made.   It's probable that when spruce trees were cut for violin top plates that the bark was saved for tannin production.

Oak and chestnut tannin are used as preservative in wine making (Italy makes wine) and I tried a water solution of chestnut tannin to dye a curly maple strip.  It then was given several coats of Birchwood True-Oil gunstock finish (Brescia Italy was a   leader in gun production at the same time the violin was being invented) and the attached photo shows a center area which had the chestnut tannin dye applied.  The outer areas were plain wood.

The color was a light amber rather than a golden yellow.  Maybe spruce bark or some other tree bark might give a more yellow color tannin.


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