Comments on Spirit Varnish recipe


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Hi All,

I'm ready to put on the ground goat on my first violin (see picture at the bottom of this post). I'm really happy with how it came out. Except for the quality of the wood I used (but I have more)...

I've seen recommendations on obtaining oil varnish rather than trying to avoid the dangers of perparing these varnishes on one's own. I still may do that after I hear your comments. But I was wondering about the pros and cons of using the recipe I found here:

http://www.leroydouglasviolins.com/varnish.htm

I have mixed up a batch of the Variation of the 1704 recipe and its been sitting in a jar for a few months now ready to filter and try out.

Spirit Varnish Recipes

Spirit varnish recipe. The 1704 recipe first mentioned in the book`Gabinetto Armonico Piero D`instrumenti Sonoro` by BonnaniIt. It makes a golden spirit varnish, good for touch-up as well as for new instruments.

o 45 g seedlac

o 7.5 g gum elemi

o 200 ml alcohol

o 9 ml Lavender Oil Spike

Place all of the ingredients in a glass jar and let it dissolve, stirring at least twice a day, until the lac no longer sits and sticks to the bottom of the jar (this may take from one to three weeks).

When completely dissolved, boil in a double boiler for seven minutes, let cool, and then boil again for seven minutes. While still warm, filter through a fine cloth. Repeat the filtering process until there is no more dirt in the filter. Once this process is complete, and the varnish has cooled, it is ready to use. Thinning with alcohol may be necessary to obtain brushing consistency.

________________________________________

Variation of the 1704 varnish; a small amount of mastic improves adherence between coats, and the sandarac adds a bit of hardness.

o 45 g seedlac

o 5 g gum mastic

o 5 g gum sandarac

o 200 ml alcohol

o 5-7 ml lavender spike oil

Preparations are the same as for the 1704 recipe.

I've been using spirit varnish to do touch ups and had to completely re-finish a couple instruments and thought it worked quite well. Well... Except for the stuff I bought from Stewart McDonald which never hardened properly even after 6 months.

I assume the oil varnishes are easier to apply due to the longer drying time. But how much longer are we talking about? A couple days, weeks? I saw where they recommend a UV ox and putting the violin out in the sun to cure. How much does this speed up things?

I can put on a second coat of spirit varnish in 12 hours and have the instrument done in a few days.

But on my first violin I wondered what would be best to learn how to do properly?

Thanks,

Joe

MyViolin.jpg

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Hi Joe - I can't comment on using spirit varnish because I'm stuck in a rut of using oil varnish. For my oil varnish, I give 2 days drying time for each coat at 70 degrees at about 35-40% humidity so if I put on 6-8 coats, I'm looking at 12-16 days and then I let it sit for about 2 more weeks before I rub things out. Different oil varnishes need different drying times. I could probably go with just one day in between coats but I prefer two for no real reason.

Anyway, I wanted to say "nice work" on your first violin!

James

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Hi James,

Thanks! Yeah I'm pretty happy with the way it came out. Minimum of mistakes. I used less expensive wood so the back and neck is plain maple (with even a couple small knot areas) and the front has grain streaks and is probably not the best acoustically. I didn't expect it to come out so well and so now I'm sorry I used cheaper wood as now I want it to sound as good as it looks. :)

I actually took the top back off to do more scraping on the top since that picture was taken. The top had some thick spots and the sound was kind of "thin" although it had enough volume. Now the top is nominally 2.5 mm thick now with a couple "thin" spots above the C-bout where I have a strong "dip" in the arching. I made the top more arched than a Strad model and more like Vuillaum a' Paris copy I have which I really like the sound.

I have "good" wood for violin #2...

SO oil sounds reasonable... just have to check out where to get it. I saw many references to someone on the forum - sorry I forget the name.

I need to get some oil varnish for touch ups regardless if I use it for my first violin.

I've realized afterwards that touching up a damaged finish with spirit varnish doesn't always look right as it doesn't blend in with the underlying oil varnish. At least that's my explanation why some touch up work didn't come out as well as I'd hoped.

Thanks,

Joe

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Also if you're used to varnish with spirit varnish then it's fine. But if it's your fist varnishing with spirit you will realise it's quite difficult to do because each brush basically dries on the spot. So you have to be sure to get it right or you will see many "legs" on your violin. You will have to put on many coats to even out every little defect from each coat.

I used the 1704 recipe on small pieces of wood and it was brushing nicely. But the result was not really impressive. the good side is that you will be able to get the colour you want easily since you can get many different spirit soluble dyes and the varnish should be very translucent. And it will smell nice... :)

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Yes I have tons of dyes and it is interesting in doing touch up work... how the dye beads up if the coating is too thick and forms an ugly ring of color which I found out indirectly (coffee stains do the same thing) is due to spherical nature of the dye molecules.

When you say not impressive is that the case for spirit varnish in general? Or the 1704 recipe with the gums added?

Cheers,

Joe

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SO oil sounds reasonable... just have to check out where to get it. I saw many references to someone on the forum - sorry I forget the name.

You are probably thinking of Joe Robson - link I've yet to try his varnish but I understand it's very good.

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weve been through this before, the "1704" varnish formula probably dates more from circa 1804 france and has absolutely nothing to do with stradivari, at least according to some experts, and in relation to modern chemical analysis of strads varnish, which found no seedlac or shellac products in the varnish

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Sorry... I'm still on "probation"... so my posts are quite delayed. (Is this just a way t reduce "spam"?)

No "Strad" impersonations to ever be attempted here. B)

I was only wondering about the merits of the resipe and whether using any particular gums and resins in a basic spirit varnish really does anything like is claimed in the recipe about adding hardness and adhesion between coats. It seems these are assumptions, correct?

Is there any "recommended" spirit varnish recipe? Or do people here generally recommend oil varnish?

Still wondering about putting ground coat inside the instrument and whether thin hide glue would be a good choice or use Vernice Bianca inside AND out?

Thanks again!

Joe

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[

I need to get some oil varnish for touch ups regardless if I use it for my first violin.

I've realized afterwards that touching up a damaged finish with spirit varnish doesn't always look right as it doesn't blend in with the underlying oil varnish. At least that's my explanation why some touch up work didn't come out as well as I'd hoped.

Thanks,

Joe

Ummm...You might want to rethink that. Most of the big dogs here attest to using spirit varnish only for touch up as it is

reversible. I'm thinking you need to figure out why your having trouble with the spirit varnish on touchups, instead of switching to oil. Oil varnish will work it's way right into the original....like or not, no turning back if it doesn't work out. Maybe someone who has more experience than I will post better info on this. BTW, I think we'd like to see more pics of that violin as it looks pretty nice for #1. Better off having your current regrets on it, than the opposite :(

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HI Jeff,

Thanks for the comments. You should be careful what you ask for. I documented #1 on Facebook. "Building a Violin" parts I thru IV...

Right now its sitting with the top off waiting for the meringue to separate and allow me to coat the inside of the violin with the Vernice Bianca I am brewing this evening. Just checked and the albumen has settled out nicely on the side of the bowl, so I think I can do the inside coat using the albumen from this egg and half the gum arabic sugar and honey mixture.

I will post the links to my facebook photo galleries.

Cheers,

Joe

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Specific problems is different opacities on spots I have added spirit varnish to cover a hole in the original varnish. The two areas look good but at the right angle you can see the patch and it reflects light differently.

I'll try find a couple pictures I can post tomorrow.

Cheers,

Joe

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