Very embarrassing post, VARNISHING 101


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I am embarrassed to ask these questions, but the time has come where I can avoid it any longer. I build guitars for a living. I go through about 3 gallons of nitro lacquer every 6 months at minimum. I also use a lot of urethanes on my solid body guitars, and other woodworking projects that do not require a thin, lite finish. I work on a lot of violins, and “experiment” with building cellos and basses. The only varnish experience I have is with shellac that I mix myself,… Which I French polish into a nice thin finish. Also, I use a product called “Tru-Oil” In a mixture of flack seed and oil pigmentations. The Tru-Oil started just for my gunstock finishing projects, and then moved onto other woodworking projects like furniture. When I realized I was getting a very thin finish that after curing was very resilient and had great viewing depth. SOOOOOO,… I tried it on a few unfinished upright basses, and it turned out nicely. I measured the thickness of the finish, and was surprised at the minimal thickness I could achieve.

So my questions come in here….

- I am 90% finished building my 4th from scratch cello, and it is my best one yet. Actually will have all of the correct geometry, and dimensionally is perfect. I am a machinist, and am very good at fallowing dimensions, so that’s what I did. I just hope it’s better than the previous instruments. So my question is, I want to use a very good oil varnish, and would like to go with a more traditional method. Not a store bought gun stock finish. How do I do this? I don’t know ANYTHIG about varnishing, so I don’t want to cook at all, or use chemicals I have never heard of. Is there a simple recipe that I can add oil pastels to (from the art store)

- Do I go with a premade varnish? How long does it need to dry? Do I cure it in a UV light box? How do I apply it? Where do I find a good varnish brush? How do I rub it out?

- I know I need some kind of sealer to go on the bare wood, to also enhance the grain. I have been using a thinned down shellac amber/blond single coat. But I really want the grain to pop on this cello. I used the most beautiful flamed maple I have ever seen on a cello, and really want the grain to pop. HOW DO I DO THAT? I plan on going with a deep crimson reddish brown, that is very transparent, but very rich in color. I hate the bright cellos, that look like a modern day Chinese violin varnish, or some type of ghetto Cadillac.

- I know the words simple and varnish don’t mix, but shellac is very straight forward, I would love to find a good oil that is easy to apply.

- I want to really have the best refractivity possible. I want it to glow from underneath the deep red color. I want the grain to appear alive, like under some of my shellac finishes.

Thank everyone for any input you can give. I really appreciate your time. Sorry this is long, just trying to get my ideas across.

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I am embarrassed to ask these questions, but the time has come where I can avoid it any longer. I build guitars for a living. I go through about 3 gallons of nitro lacquer every 6 months at minimum. I also use a lot of urethanes on my solid body guitars, and other woodworking projects that do not require a thin, lite finish. I work on a lot of violins, and “experiment” with building cellos and basses. The only varnish experience I have is with shellac that I mix myself,… Which I French polish into a nice thin finish. Also, I use a product called “Tru-Oil” In a mixture of flack seed and oil pigmentations. The Tru-Oil started just for my gunstock finishing projects, and then moved onto other woodworking projects like furniture. When I realized I was getting a very thin finish that after curing was very resilient and had great viewing depth. SOOOOOO,… I tried it on a few unfinished upright basses, and it turned out nicely. I measured the thickness of the finish, and was surprised at the minimal thickness I could achieve.

So my questions come in here….

- I am 90% finished building my 4th from scratch cello, and it is my best one yet. Actually will have all of the correct geometry, and dimensionally is perfect. I am a machinist, and am very good at fallowing dimensions, so that’s what I did. I just hope it’s better than the previous instruments. So my question is, I want to use a very good oil varnish, and would like to go with a more traditional method. Not a store bought gun stock finish. How do I do this? I don’t know ANYTHIG about varnishing, so I don’t want to cook at all, or use chemicals I have never heard of. Is there a simple recipe that I can add oil pastels to (from the art store)

- Do I go with a premade varnish? How long does it need to dry? Do I cure it in a UV light box? How do I apply it? Where do I find a good varnish brush? How do I rub it out?

- I know I need some kind of sealer to go on the bare wood, to also enhance the grain. I have been using a thinned down shellac amber/blond single coat. But I really want the grain to pop on this cello. I used the most beautiful flamed maple I have ever seen on a cello, and really want the grain to pop. HOW DO I DO THAT? I plan on going with a deep crimson reddish brown, that is very transparent, but very rich in color. I hate the bright cellos, that look like a modern day Chinese violin varnish, or some type of ghetto Cadillac.

- I know the words simple and varnish don’t mix, but shellac is very straight forward, I would love to find a good oil that is easy to apply.

- I want to really have the best refractivity possible. I want it to glow from underneath the deep red color. I want the grain to appear alive, like under some of my shellac finishes.

Thank everyone for any input you can give. I really appreciate your time. Sorry this is long, just trying to get my ideas across.

The first thing you need to do is see a sample of Joe Robson's varnish on wood. If you like it, proceed to step B and buy his system. He is the expert here.

DO NOT put coloring in the wood, or close to the wood, except yellow. Well, you might not like that look. But I do. But please, no brown close to the wood.

Again, Joe is the expert here.

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The first thing you need to do is see a sample of Joe Robson's varnish on wood. If you like it, proceed to step B and buy his system. He is the expert here.

I second that. Do what Strad did and just go out and buy it from a specialist varnish maker. From what I've seen of Joe's stuff it's really good.

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Joesph

I'm no expert but I like Joe Robsons products too...for a nice glow/fire within his Balsam ground is hard to beat...and his transparent colored varnishes are supreme

I have also use Magister varnishes which are beautifully colored and have a high consistency like Joes'

Pigments that I like are Quinacridone Violet and Purple...I buy them here:

http://www.danielsmith.com/Item--i-284-300-074

I also color with Madder Lakes...available here:

http://www.kremerpigments.com/

More info on application here:

http://www.classicalvarnish.com/

http://www.violinvarnish.com/

http://www.scottstudios.net/magisterproducts/demonstrations.html

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Thank you all for your input and replies. I will most definitely sample some of MR. Robson’s varnish on some sample pieces of maple and spruce.

Now to answer your questions,…

Robertdo- I used a mixture of tru-oil and shellac. It’s not that I am not happy with it, just that I feel using gun stock varnish CANT be the best way to go. I love working with it. It’s very forgiving and the learning curve isn’t that bad at all. But if I am going to really devote a lot of my life and brain to learning the best methods that I can make work for me, I don’t want to continue down the wrong direction.

Homey- I have used an amazing amount of colored sprayed lacquer. Not only do I paint 90% of everything I build with it, I also use it on motorcycle tanks, fenders, and other parts. Also use it in my taxidermy business to paint all of my fish, and touch up deer noses, bear paws,……

Michael N.- I build A LOT of guitars. Between 2 and five per week get started, and I finish most of them inside of 45 days for electrics, and 90 days for acoustics. I also restore 5-10 guitars a quarter, and paint motorcycle tanks/fenders/parts, and fish. ….. Taxedermy. I also refinish furniture, and kill weeds with any other lacquer that I'm not satisfied with or that sets up. Haha, I use seagrave/mcfaddens.

Again…. Really appreciate all the info guys,… keep it coming.

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Ernie,

Like many other makers I used it. In fact I used it for a few years until I came across Joe Robson's Greek Pitch Varnishes and Balsam Ground System.

I should start varnishing in a few weeks and I will post photos.

Stay Tuned.

Mike

Mike

I look forward to the photos...I have'nt used or even seen photos of his Greek pitch varnishes...are they pine resin varnnishes?

-Ernie

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