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Soluvar Varnish as Crack Filler


Brad Dorsey
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Many years ago, when I was in SLC, the Federation meeting was hosted by the Smithsonian's Conservation Lab. I was studying with Mike and Carrie Scoggins, and they went away to the meeting, and Soluvar was one of the things that they brought back from the meeting.

I have used it since then. I seems a bit slower to build up than Deft, faster but softer than Sandrac.

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I use it straight from the can, and perhaps if I let some of the solvent evaporate, it would build up quicker...

Dries a bit slowly, like anything else of this type, as you build up more coats. Rushing will reward you the same way rushing Deft does. Deft seems to dry more quickly with exposure to UV, as in a light box, but the SoluVar doesn't "seem" to dry faster. I've just learned not to rush things.

It scrapes fine, and is quite compatible with the ETOH based retouching stuff that I use. Now there's a topic: What are standard retouch materials?

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I've used it a little bit on an "experimental" basis, it is certainly much more reversible and non-invasive than any other candidates. The thing is I still haven't quite found the way to blend it nicely into the surrounding varnish layer, it sort of always stands out a bit as a "different" matter, I might just need to get used to it. I find it quite "gummy" and rubber-like compared to standard shellack based alcohol varnishes.

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...The thing is I still haven't quite found the way to blend it nicely into the surrounding varnish layer, it sort of always stands out a bit as a "different" matter...

I have the same problem whenever I use any type of filler to fill a crack in varnish. Any type of coloring applied on top of the filler does not blend in well. Perhaps the solution is to color the filler to match the varnish. I have never tried to do this.

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...Brad, what is the make up of your current crack filler?

I have used both Deft and a sandarac/shellac mixture dissolved in alcohol. I have rarely been completely happy with the results, perhaps because I'm not using them properly. Maybe the Soluvar will work better for me.

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I have used both Deft and a sandarac/shellac mixture dissolved in alcohol. I have rarely been completely happy with the results, perhaps because I'm not using them properly. Maybe the Soluvar will work better for me.

I used to use sandarac and shellac, now I use a fill varnish that is mostly copal and a much smaller percentage of light shellac and sandarac. It trims much better than fills I've tried with a high percentage of sandarac. I find that matching the sheen (controlling gloss) early on helps the way it blends later on. Adding gloss in later layers is easy if you need to do it.

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Sorry. ETOH=Ethyl Alcohol. Anything that is soluble in Alcohol is what I meant. It costs extra to get it here in WA State, but I prefer it to Methanol, and on a bad day, I can drink it!

I agree that the SoluVar takes longer get dry and level, but is it reversible and easier to remove. I would imagine that the difficulty that we have making the filled crack look like the surrounding area is what gave rise to polishing instruments to a cue-ball shine. If I can't make this small area look like the rest of the instrument, perhaps I can make the rest of the instrument look like this small area...

ALso, I think that the SoluVar shrinks less over time. Cracks that I have managed to make invisible to the player (but certainly not a good violin maker!) seem to hold up better over the years. The Deft "seems" to continue to shrink more and make the crack more visible. I had less of a problem with the shrinking over time with the Sandrac, but that may be because it takes sooo long to dry that I take more time with the filling and waiting.

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