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What is your favorite stain post the "tan"


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I am rethinking my finishing system for my violins and I have done some reading of previous posts on "staining" prior to applying the ground in the archives. I do not use the default search function but rather google's search function. " stain ground site:maestronet.com" which works very well. As far back as 2002 people have been saying quite loudly DO NOT STAIN the wood for many reasons. The agreement is that sun tanning is best followed by a large group that use tea and coffee. But is not tea or coffee a stain? For the top I have been using 5% gelatin followed by a very light yellow-brown alcohol stain, light coat of shellac, two coats of clear followed by color varnish etc... I have tried tea and also tried sodium nitrite with mixed results.

Finishing systems seems to be a wide open subject and much more confusing with contradictory conclusions than violin construction.

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Thank you for the kind words, Craig. I’d like to point out your words in post #11 as being particularly to the point --

“I believe shellac is simply offered as a present day workable solution, for people who actually make violins and need to use something.”

And I’ll go a little further on my choice -- I need to learn how to use the stuff I have. We can talk all we want about materials, and I do find it interesting, but I know I am capable of ruining perfectly good wood that a more experienced maker would do justice by. And I can’t blame the wood.

I did use a tea stain on this one, as well as letting it get what sun it could this time of year. I have used tea stain on others, with middling results, but this is the first one that I’ve liked the result. Same materials, more experience putting it on.

I have also used coffee as a stain, but didn’t like it because of the particulates in my coffee. Made the wood look dirty. But with more experience, I’m sure one could get coffee to work as well.

The point is, I could spend my time chasing around different stains, or I could stick with one, see if I can get it to work. Will this be my ultimate method? I doubt it. But I am gaining experience by completing fiddles.

For those looking for a possible clue to authentic Cremonese methods, perhaps this is of interest --

Giuseppe Lamma's Bolognese Hot Chocolate, Circa 1660

At least it gives one something to drink while pondering....

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I do color the wood prior to applying varnish because I want to enhance the figure without 'burning it' and I want to keep the amount of color varnish under control without sacrificing an intensity of color in the final product. In general, I've found that dyes tend to enhance figured wood while pigments tend to muddy the figure. After some time in the UV box I do use tea stain and also TransTint dyes in water or alchol. I may apply a light sealer to end grain areas of the scroll and neck before adding dye. After the dye has reached a satisfactory intensity of color and figure (and this is mostly golden-tanned color at this stage) I seal all the wood with gelatin-alum sealer before applying the ground varnish. My colored varnish is tinted with pigments (red and brown, sometimes a little blue or black added) to reach the final effects. This way the varnish doesn't penetrate the wood, pigment particles aren't burning the figure in the maple, and yet the end result has nice intensity and transparency.

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For you tea users... I find that intense concentrations of tea when left to cool actually precipitate color to the bottom, leaving less intensity of color to the remaining liquid... If the precipitate is shaken up prior to application the effect is a bit like pigment... with the disadvantages of pigment on bare wood...

How do you deal with this?

best regards,

Ernie

I know what you mean - strangely, if you warm it up it goes quite clear, until it cools.

If you make a very strong mix with the tea dropped into boiling water for a few mins ( 20 tea bags to a litre of water ) - then leave to stew off the heat. Let it clear until there is a sediment - then discard the residue. Reduce the clear stuff by boiling down. Tea is cheap enough. You then get a dark fluid that is 'clear'when cold. I will sometimes form a mould on top - I just scoop it off.

Geoff

Geoff

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Well, guys. After sun tanning (we have plenty of this here in Spain) and before shellac I have been using Hemmerl Antique Stain #421. I believe it is potassiun nitrite followed by a thin clear varnish coat.

But I think I will be trying the "tea way" next time. A question: what kind of tea do you use: black, red????

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A question: what kind of tea do you use: black, red????

I'm not sure what red tea is. I used Irish Breakfast tea, because that's what I have in most quantity around the house. And I generally play Celtic tunes. Rumor has that Prince of Wales tea was used by the Edinburgh maker Stewart Porran, whose labels read 'S PORRAN MAKER'.

When I'm building a fiddle and aiming for a darker, smoky tone, I use Lapsang Souchong, another favorite of mine, but more costly.

I think the real pros, though, use Earl Grey, which contains Italian bergamot.

!!

I think any black tea would work, just brew it really strong.

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I am rethinking my finishing system for my violins and I have done some reading of previous posts on "staining" prior to applying the ground in the archives. I do not use the default search function but rather google's search function. " stain ground site:maestronet.com" which works very well. As far back as 2002 people have been saying quite loudly DO NOT STAIN the wood for many reasons. The agreement is that sun tanning is best followed by a large group that use tea and coffee. But is not tea or coffee a stain? For the top I have been using 5% gelatin followed by a very light yellow-brown alcohol stain, light coat of shellac, two coats of clear followed by color varnish etc... I have tried tea and also tried sodium nitrite with mixed results.

Finishing systems seems to be a wide open subject and much more confusing with contradictory conclusions than violin construction.

I think that if the stain is golden yellow, it is great. But red or brown stain would never work on the bare wood. But then again, I am NOT a professional maker. Just my personal opinion after many years. I recently put yellow alizarin in alcohol and then added some shellac flakes. This is very thin. Although the concentration of alizarin is saturated. And for that matter, the shellac flakes sit at the bottom too. But I really like the effect I get on maple. I worry that the alizarin is not really permanent, however.

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Melvin, i dont think everyone has 350 euros to spend on yet another expensive violin publication.I gave up buying expensive books a while ago.If i remember right i first mentioned this publication on here and you were the first to discredit it and said you wouldnt be buying it. Funny how hype changes minds. I guess the book may be useful to some but there is not an awful lot in it that i wouldnt really have guessed at.Also it is just one `camps` view of things. But if everyone wants to make Greiner richer thats fine by me. :)

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Melvin, i dont think everyone has 350 euros to spend on yet another expensive violin publication

I second that. I would like to have nice books but can't afford them.

Nicolas T. Potassium permanganate looks purple as a solution and when applied but I don't see a purple tint after it turns brown.

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Hi Nicolas, yes, I use tea.

I have an approach to finishing, I think the finishing must integrate your making style. So, if I had a very neat and clean work alla Stradivari or Amati, I would use a light coloured varnish - and perhaps no or very little stain - to enhance this aspect of my work, we see this approach in the work of many contemporary makers. In my case, I work fast and my instruments are far from being clean and neat, so I think a dark coloured varnish over stained wood goes well. But I may be wrong.

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Its funny, I half way through this book "The violin maker" by John Marchese, my dad got it for me for Christmas, not really my cup of tea, but at any rate, there is some interesting stuff in it. It is primarily an account of Sam Z {someone I respect, not because of his reputation, its just the things that come out of his mouth remind me of me} So in this book Sam is building a Violin for Gene Drucker. When we get to the part where the author has returned from his Cremona trip he is visiting Sam when he has just started the finishing phase. Apparently it gives an account of a first "pigment wash". It implies that the vehicle was water as he speaks of grain raise, perhaps alcohol, or both as a vehicle. I just thought it was interesting in that he is applying color directly to the wood, I assume very little. Of course no detail of just what it is or how he applies it is discussed.

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Jezzupe your post above was exactly why I posted the original question. If you look back a few posts you will see i mention "the violin maker". That and I had not been too satisfied with some of my attempts in the past.

What strikes me about the book is what a brilliant way to market his instruments. I am not saying that he said "hey I am going to find some guy to write about me". Even if he did good for him. After all how can a maker sell instruments? Win as many competitions as you can. Have customers with a big name. Partner with a well known violin business. It is not just about making great looking and sounding instrumets...but yet again I am "off topic". Back to the stain.

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After all how can a maker sell instruments? Win as many competitions as you can. Have customers with a big name. Partner with a well known violin business. It is not just about making great looking and sounding instrumets...but yet again I am "off topic". Back to the stain.

Off topic to a degree perhaps, and yet, this is also a difficult aspect of violin making - as important as the finishing, at least.

It wouldn't bother me at all to see this aspect of the business come up as an interesting twist in this thread, and since it is your thread - it wouldn't be considered hijacking.

By the way, I love that book, because, in my opinion, it shows eactly how it goes in the violin making world, for both new makers and (apparently) fameous ones, the violin doesn't come out as if it was some sort of "magic relic", depending on arcane secrets and lost procedures, it comes out as most new violins do - no matter how well done, i.e. still lacking in that elusive quality that (in many cases) only great age can seem to supply.

It also points out a "weakness" in the system, that is, that all violins need to find the appropriate owner, which may not be the guy who commissioned the violin in question.

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ctviolin you bring up some good points. Some years ago I approached Zigy. Hope he does not mind that name but I have to think too hard on the spelling. :D Does he even look at online violin boards? Anyway, I asked him how long it would be for a fiddle. From what I remember it was something along the lines of two years. I asked him if I could return the instrument for a refund if I did not like it and he said sure. I kept asking myself if I wanted to roll the dice and get in line. In retrospect I should have because the instruments were MUCH cheaper then they are now. From a pure business perspective I should have. I think this was before the $130K auction of the Stern fiddle. I did not because I wanted something now. I ended up settling on a modern maker that is a great players instrument but the price has not gone up much at all...Ironic isn't it.

The book is very good because it enlightens the non making public about our little corner of the world. I have an extensive library of "fiddle" books. After being somewhat out of the making/repairing life for a while I went on an amazon buying spree. I read "The Violin Maker" in one day. I could not put it down. It was interesting from so many angles. My wife (also a player) worked with the Emerson quartet in school. I am a fan of Zigy's fiddles and a player and maker(of sorts) myself. Can you imagine a cronicle like this about Strad, del Gesu, Vuillaume, etc? (Vuillaume) "we opened the del Gesu that we got from Tarisio's estate. Unfortunately the repairman took too much from the top's upper bout in the regraduation. The violin went from stiff to hollow sounding. No matter we have a slew of Strads and Guarneri's to modernize...Besides I got one heck of a deal from Tariso's widow. All of those Christmas cards paid off".

BTW I also picked up a copy of "The Countess of Stanlein Restored". For those who do not know it is the story of Morel's restoration of Greenhouse's Strad cello. Not nearly as good of a "book" as "The Violin Maker" but a good read for us fiddle junkies.

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...Sam Z... "pigment wash"... Of course no detail of just what it is or how he applies it is discussed.

When I interviewed him for an article for our local violinmakers' group (SCAVM), the topic of varnishing was about the only thing about which he preferred not to give specifics. He did, however, admit to "sometimes" using minerals in a ground, and that he used no oil in the first few things that go onto the wood.

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Off topic to a degree perhaps, and yet, this is also a difficult aspect of violin making - as important as the finishing, at least.

It wouldn't bother me at all to see this aspect of the business come up as an interesting twist in this thread, and since it is your thread - it wouldn't be considered hijacking.

This topic is of increasing iterest to me, and probably deserves its own thread. So I'll start it.

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