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bmccarthy

Varnish Making Materials

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I'm going to attempt making Neil Ertz version of the Marciana varnish recipe which has been discussed at length on this forum. As a novice to varnish making I'm confused as to which products to buy. I've contacted Kremer who said they no longer stock the dark brown colophony violin makers prefer to use but sell two other types, brown and a dark brown, and two types of cold pressed linseed oil, a very expensive Swedish oil and really cheap oil, similar, but which has more gunk/impurities. Apart from the potential wast of time and expense, I would like to avoid using the incorrect materials and was hoping that someone could advise which are the best ingredients to use and where to get them, if not Kremer. Thanks in advance, Brian.

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First, remember that cooking oil varnish is VERY DANGEROUS, not only the varnish catches fire but the vapours too, so cook it outdoors, use protection, etc. etc.

I get the expensive Swedish oil for my varnish, from Kremer. The dark colphony Kremer sold, which you said they no longer have, if used alone would produce perhaps a too dark varnish, so you can use some

normal rosin with some of the brown or dark brown rosin they have now (which I don't know).

So you can get your oil and rosin (in different types) from Kremer.

For the mastic, I think the best thing is getting it directly from Greece (most cheaper than from Kremer):

http://www.saranti.com/contents/en-us/d1_Chios_gum_mastic_mastiha_mastixa_Xiou_skoni_mastixas_elma.html

You can contact George in Greece too, here his email:

ANEMOS <info@e-anemos.gr>

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You might also consider using Walnut oil. That's what I used, and it's commonly available from local health food stores. Cold pressed, no additives food grade is what I bought.

It's good stuff too. Drizzle the leftovers over some arrugula, with a slice of pear, some goat cheese and crumbled roasted walnuts... mmmm... good salad!

E

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Maybe this has already been beaten to death and I just missed it, but is there any evidence that the old boys were more able or willing than us to find and use super refined, super high quality ingredients? Maybe they couldn't send to Greece for special mastic orders, for example, and made do with what was offered or available. And maybe they sought out cheap over pure. Of course, no matter what they did, it doesn't mean we shouldn't do what works for us or looks good to us, but like those who aren't happy with their results when comparing them to the classic Cremonese, I'm still looking for reasons.

Just as an illustration, a friend scraped resin off a tree, twigs, bugs, dust, and all, and just cooked it into a varnish, and it was pretty damned good. As it heated up, he would ladle out the large impurities and he DID filter it, of course! :-) So, just how much value do we get by getting the purest, most expensive stuff? And could we actually be defeating ourselves in the process?

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is there any reason why one couldn't use regular old violin bow rosin in the marciana recipe?

Bow rosin often has proprietary additives which may not help us. I have used the stuff they put in rosin bags for baseball pitchers.

Joe

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... is there any evidence that the old boys were more able or willing than us to find and use super refined, super high quality ingredients?

Less refined, lower quality, on average, before the Industrial Revolution. On the other hand, we now have many industrial processes that produce materials unsuitable for violin varnish. Like hardware store grade linseed oil. I also recently had some turpentine that smelled more like a junkyard gas tank.

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Thanks Manfio, great to get that information....and WARNING!!:) It seems Kremer are the people to deal with for colophony and oil. I emailed your contact George in Greece who got back to me immediately with mastic info and prices. Thanks again, Brian.

First, remember that cooking oil varnish is VERY DANGEROUS, not only the varnish catches fire but the vapours too, so cook it outdoors, use protection, etc. etc.

I get the expensive Swedish oil for my varnish, from Kremer. The dark colphony Kremer sold, which you said they no longer have, if used alone would produce perhaps a too dark varnish, so you can use some

normal rosin with some of the brown or dark brown rosin they have now (which I don't know).

So you can get your oil and rosin (in different types) from Kremer.

For the mastic, I think the best thing is getting it directly from Greece (most cheaper than from Kremer):

http://www.saranti.c...tixas_elma.html

You can contact George in Greece too, here his email:

ANEMOS <info@e-anemos.gr>

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Less refined, lower quality, on average, before the Industrial Revolution. On the other hand, we now have many industrial processes that produce materials unsuitable for violin varnish. Like hardware store grade linseed oil. I also recently had some turpentine that smelled more like a junkyard gas tank.

I have some of that turpentine. I used it as a fire starter for my burn pile in the back yard.

Is hardware store boiled linseed oil unsuitable for making varnish? I used some and it seemed to work out ok. My varnish finally dried and got harder after more days in the sun.

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There are steam extraction methods, and acid processes etc. (IIRC) that produce lower grade linseed oils. They also add driers. Again, from memory, the low grade oils yellow faster (maybe OK for varnish), but the additives can also influence the other ingredients you add to make a varnish. And you really don't know exactly what, or in what proportions things have been added.

I've often wondered about using food grade flax seed oil. The art grade cold pressed oil is expensive.

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Food grade linseed oil may be a different animal and may not dry since it may contain anti-oxidant added.

I would stick to artist's grade linseed oil.

If you want to save money while making varnish (mainly if you are going to varnish just a few instruments) it may be cheaper - and safer - getting good ready made varnish

because in the process of developing your skills as varnish maker you will invest a lot of time and spoil resins and oil in unscessfull tentatives.

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I agree with Luis... beware of the additives.

The walnut oil I used explicitly said on the bottle that it had zero additives, and cautioned that the oil should be kept in the fridge and would oxidize and become unusable (for eating) in 6 months even if refrigerated.

That sold me... and I may have been sold!

E

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I've often wondered about using food grade flax seed oil. The art grade cold pressed oil is expensive.

Just check the nutrition labeling. You want an oil high in polyunsaturated fats, buy the oil with the largest amount. Also, it's better if it doesn't have antioxidants like vitamin E. The oil hardens (it's not really drying since nothing evaporates) by oxidation so you don't want to stop that.

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I am working on the same varnish at the moment and have had success at cooking it without the mastic.

Still dries in a few hours in the sun, the only thing is, you have to work a little more on your oil, by cooking it longer and stirring it to pre-polymerise it.

I have gotten back to including a bit of Turpentine in my varnish. (I am sure this will make Joe get his sleep back... :rolleyes: )

Have fun cooking!!!

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I have used the cheap hardware store linseed oil with success.I use the rraw oil, not the boiled. I first check to make sure it will dry by putting a thin film of it on a glass slide and letting the sun shine on it for a day or two. If it drys, I consider that it will work for me. I then wash the oil, usually 4 or 5 freeze thaw cycles. I then vacuum it through a filter and leave it to thicken in the sun for a few months.

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I have used the cheap hardware store linseed oil with success.I use the rraw oil, not the boiled. I first check to make sure it will dry by putting a thin film of it on a glass slide and letting the sun shine on it for a day or two. If it drys, I consider that it will work for me. I then wash the oil, usually 4 or 5 freeze thaw cycles. I then vacuum it through a filter and leave it to thicken in the sun for a few months.

Take Pete's advice on oil prep. "Food grade" linseed [flax] oil in the US is made from a genetically altered flax strain whose primariy function is "non-drying.

Joe

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Hola Jose, this is Brian who you met in Cambridge this year. Good to see you're still cooking away, I really liked the varnish you were using at the time I met you.

I am working on the same varnish at the moment and have had success at cooking it without the mastic.

Still dries in a few hours in the sun, the only thing is, you have to work a little more on your oil, by cooking it longer and stirring it to pre-polymerise it.

I have gotten back to including a bit of Turpentine in my varnish. (I am sure this will make Joe get his sleep back... :rolleyes: )

Have fun cooking!!!

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According to Neil, if you are reading this please correct me if I am wrong, he has been using the recipe for quite some time with good results.

The colours are produced by cooking the rosin, they should be pretty stable.

J

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