Stradivari's golden ground varnish


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3 hours ago, Richard Pope said:

Tango,

I clean the violin with denatured alcohol.  That raises the grain which I have to remove.  I repeat this process until no more grain pops-up and then I move to using a clean t shirt to rub a thin layer of washed linseed oil into the wood.  I put it in the sun or a light box if the weather isn't good and I wait until it's dry.  My current light box does the trick within 10 days.  I then take the violin out and apply another coat of washed linseed oil.  I put it back in the sun/light box again and wait until it's dried.  BTW...this is how the Mittenwald school of violin making does it.  Once out of the sun/light box a second time, I put a very thin layer of Damar varnish on the top only.  I let it dry and repeat the process a second time.  Once dry, I then being to varnish.  I hope this helps.

 

PS...if you put anything on the washed linseed oil layer, the sun will not darken the wood for you any more.  So if you really want a golden look to the wood, you have to have a lot of patience and leave it in the sun/light box a LONG time.  I know it's no fun to do that but the end results will please you.  

That seems like a fair bit of oil into the wood. I don't mind a bit of it, but things seem to get less lively quickly when many mL of oil are taken up by the wood, especially the belly.

Is this what they're still teaching at Mittenwald? Most American schools of violinmaking were founded by Mittenwald trained luthiers, none of whom I've met ground a violin in this way. 

Please note I seek not to criticize, but to understand. 

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Peter let one student, while I was at the school, use the linseed oil ground but pointed out in advance that it would take forever, if ever, to dry.

Peter graduated from the Mittenwald school in the late 50's/early 60's. He didn't teach this to us. He dissuaded us from putting oil on the bare wood.

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23 minutes ago, duane88 said:

Peter let one student, while I was at the school, use the linseed oil ground but pointed out in advance that it would take forever, if ever, to dry.

Peter graduated from the Mittenwald school in the late 50's/early 60's. He didn't teach this to us. He dissuaded us from putting oil on the bare wood.

That gels with what I've heard from everyone else I've spoken to out of Salt Lake.  

Michelman's take was total saturation. Maybe it looked good but I cannot imagine it sounded. Then again, he was working with Jackson Guldans in the white, so hard to tell anything useful off of that baseline. 

 

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11 hours ago, Richard Pope said:

Please understand these layers of washed linseed oil are VERY thin.  That's why I use a clean tee shirt and not a brush. 

Ok, I think I understand better. So you're just running a trace amount of oil, say, a dollop the size of a nickel on a t-shirt rag, over the whole instrument twice. That doesn't sound unreasonable at all. My ground sauce, which I adapted from something @Michael DarntonDarnton told me about, includes a few drops of linseed oil and some larch resin in turpentine.

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2 hours ago, Richard Pope said:

When Karl Roy was in charge of the Mittenwald school, he taught this method until he retired in the early 1990's.  But yes, it takes a lot of patience and a lot of time for the violin to turn a nice cinnamon color and some people just don't have the patience.  Karl Roy Jr., who lives in St. Louis taught me this method and when he was a student in the Mittenwald school, that's how he was taught.  That's how he still does it today.   

As my grandmother would say, "There's more than one way to skin a cat"...

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And there are different kinds of linseed oil. Raw, boiled, sun thickened, washed, standoil and many other prepared versions.

My own experiments from many years ago were with raw linseed gently cooked with home made lead oxide/acetate as a dryer. The oil thickened a bit and some of the dryer accumulated on botom of jar. After seeing similar thread year or so ago I tried jut to rub a layer of this oil (which is still liquid after almost 20 years in the closet) with finger onto piece of maple and let it to dry. To my own surprise it dried overnight to satin smooth wood without noticeable layer on top and after carving into surface it didn't penetrate to any measurable depth (that was without exposure to UV or natual light as my workshop is in the basement with small window facing north). I didn't try it on spruce but from my limited experience maple often sucks substances much deeper than spruce (e.g. when sealing endgrain of billets). If you don't leave thick layer and just wipe on-off then it won't penetrate anywhere, Just stays in the uppermost layer of cells.

Another similar experience was with my first fiddle I bought - it was stripped and badly sanded and I pulled out a bottle of semi-solidified tru-oil (not a clear linseed but based on it) and just wiped the jelly on and off till the whole surface was nice and smooth. Left to dry for few days and it created nice base for next layers of varnish much like the oil above (I believe I experimented with the glazing method with artist colors).

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As it is said "there are many roads to roam".

Linseed oil can be an effective Ground....along with a variety of other materials.  However my observation is that over time it does not provide the optical properties of the classic Cremonese Ground.   The ancient ground retains a crispness of detail and a degree of deep complex reflection that defines it's beauty and distinctive appearance.

Linseed oil has a similar effect when freshly applied.   However , due to capillary action and the effects of light it does not retain this appearance.

The linseed oil I made for these samples was washed, bubbled, and heated.  It was not any darker than raw oil but was the viscosity of honey at room temperature.   One application allowed to sit 5 minutes and then wiped completely dry.

on we go,

Joe

20201223_101824.jpg

20201223_102250.jpg

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1 hour ago, Michael_Molnar said:

I agree, Joe. The issue is whether makers are striving for (1)  any great looking varnish system, (2) a varnish system that mimics the Cremonese look, or (3) a varnish system that uses the Cremonese ingredients and methods.

Pick your poison.

 

Exactly, and ones poison must be picked. You can't necessarily have it all, and there are (mercifully) a lot of great ways to choose from. 

For me (1) wins out. 

 

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2 hours ago, Michael_Molnar said:

The issue is whether makers are striving for (1)  any great looking varnish system, (2) a varnish system that mimics the Cremonese look, or (3) a varnish system that uses the Cremonese ingredients and methods.

Pick your poison.

This problem made me think of this cute little animal..:D I want the egg-laying woolly milk sow.

 

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6 hours ago, joerobson said:

As it is said "there are many roads to roam".

Linseed oil can be an effective Ground....along with a variety of other materials.  However my observation is that over time it does not provide the optical properties of the classic Cremonese Ground.   The ancient ground retains a crispness of detail and a degree of deep complex reflection that defines it's beauty and distinctive appearance.

Linseed oil has a similar effect when freshly applied.   However , due to capillary action and the effects of light it does not retain this appearance.

The linseed oil I made for these samples was washed, bubbled, and heated.  It was not any darker than raw oil but was the viscosity of honey at room temperature.   One application allowed to sit 5 minutes and then wiped completely dry.

on we go,

Joe

20201223_101824.jpg

20201223_102250.jpg

Was that applied directly on white maple?   I've noticed that linseed oil can darken a lot over time.  Especially the crud in a can from the hardware store but washed oil may behave differently.  

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12 minutes ago, MikeC said:

Was that applied directly on white maple?   I've noticed that linseed oil can darken a lot over time.  Especially the crud in a can from the hardware store but washed oil may behave differently.  

Yes.  This was applied to fresh white maple.

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6 hours ago, joerobson said:

 

Linseed oil can be an effective Ground....along with a variety of other materials.  However my observation is that over time it does not provide the optical properties of the classic Cremonese Ground.  

It very well might, if it were periodically smeared with an oil-containing polish, or "French polished" several times, like just about every example of a 17th century violin has been.

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2 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

It very well might, if it were periodically smeared with an oil-containing polish, or "French polished" several times, like just about every example of a 17th century violin has been.

It's good to read posts from people who have developed a good technique in this regard.

However there are an awful lot of naysayers who haven't. 

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On 12/20/2020 at 11:52 PM, Richard Pope said:

Please understand these layers of washed linseed oil are VERY thin.  That's why I use a clean tee shirt and not a brush. 

 

7 minutes ago, sospiri said:

Would that be a New clean tee shirt?

Can I use an Old clean one?

The advantage of using a fabric application, versus a brush, is that a super-thin film can be applied to the surface, and dried before it soaks in.

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3 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

 

The advantage of using a fabric application, versus a brush, is that a super-thin film can be applied to the surface, and dried before it soaks in.

I do that, but a different way. The total amount of linseed oil is very small except for the edges  where I gradually build up much more layers.

Drying times are very quick with very thin layers.

Michelman was using huge amounts which probably still haven't dried after many decades.

I'm certain that linseed oil plus rosin plus turpentine was traditional not just for looks, but for tone and  "bow grab". In the right combo it is super responsive to bowing technique in my opinion.

I want to use the word Resilient, but I fear it is misinterpreted here. Some people try to apply reductive physics to something which is more easily measured by feel and experience.

 

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12 minutes ago, sospiri said:

 For a more mature aroma, or to avoid spontaneous combustion? Or both?

No, they just get sticky and hard to get off if you wait too long.

So I've given up trying to reuse them.  Now I cut them up into roughly 4 inch squares and fold them over a few times before I dip a corner into my varnish. I throw them away after using them.  A very thin coating is applied and it takes me about 10 to 15 coatings to get the pore filling I like.  

If you chose to use new T shirts I recommend buying men's extra extra large ones (XXL) to get more squares with no additional cost.

 

I'm digressing a bit but did you ever notice men's clothing sizes seem to go:  small, medium, large, extra large, and extra extra large whereas women's sizes go:   extra extra small, extra small, small, medium, and large.

 

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2 minutes ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

No, they just get sticky and hard to get off if you wait too long.

So I've given up trying to reuse them.  Now I cut them up into roughly 4 inch squares and fold them over a few times before I dip a corner into my varnish. I throw them away after using them.  A very thin coating is applied and it takes me about 10 to 15 coatings to get the pore filling I like.  

If you chose to use new T shirts I recommend buying men's extra extra large ones (XXL) to get more squares with no additional cost.

 

I'm digressing a bit but did you ever notice men's clothing sizes seem to go:  small, medium, large, extra large, and extra extra large whereas women's sizes go:   extra extra small, extra small, small, medium, and large.

 

What sort of varnish are you using? 

I have noticed that people around me are getting bigger and the super sizing seems to start younger. I blame the internet.

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2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

It very well might, if it were periodically smeared with an oil-containing polish, or "French polished" several times, like just about every example of a 17th century violin has been.

David,

I disagree.   The slow capillary action of the oil in the wood softens the details in a way that over polish cannot correct.

Joe

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