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Varnishing on the Cheap


Stanley5184

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i think the "honoured respected" contributor you refer to was ct, who like i said was taking his violin sailing, ive heard nothing but bad stuff about spar varnish and pure shellac varnish for that matter. shellac gives a hard brittle edge to the sound and robs the lows and mids, giving really obnoxious loud highs, what little ive heard of spar varnish it seems to have a deadening effect, and isnt flexible enough

id like to see that quote where joe robson says spar varnish or shellac for that matter sounds as good as his varnish

Please read the whole thread before you come to conclusions. You might want to learn just a smidgen about coatings chemistry, such as how you modify and control the physical properties of a coating, as well. Read the contributions in the thread by Robson, Oded Kishony, David Burgess, Chemmy, and others, not just CT - although I find his opinions about making generally pretty reliable. If you're unable to do it yourself, I'll find the thread where Michael Darnton writes about finishing violins with shellac. Maybe one or two of the more respected restorers will chime in about how hard it is to tell oil varnish from spirit varnish on old violins.

Might I also point out that the OP's request was for ".......for my first cheap white ebay viola. I'm wondering if any of you have cheap recipes that result in a good end product. I know that it will never look as good as the commercial products like joes but its my first instrument and my expectations arn't super high."

In response to that query, in my experience, a good oil based spar varnish such as those I recommended, or a spirit varnish of the formula I described (very close, if not the same as Behlen's Violin Varnish), with suitable ground and colorants, would be a pretty good choice. Not the only answer, by any means, but a decent one.

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you didnt provide a link, but i must admit some of your heroes definetly arent mine, your also over on the soundpost thread telling a beginner not to bother sighting through the endpin hole to fit a soundpost, nonado, seems to me youve stolen my troll suit!!

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i think the "honoured respected" contributor you refer to was ct, who like i said was taking his violin sailing, ive heard nothing but bad stuff about spar varnish and pure shellac varnish for that matter. shellac gives a hard brittle edge to the sound and robs the lows and mids, giving really obnoxious loud highs, what little ive heard of spar varnish it seems to have a deadening effect, and isnt flexible enough

id like to see that quote where joe robson says spar varnish or shellac for that matter sounds as good as his varnish

Haven't all the old Cremona violins been french polished?

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Haven't all the old Cremona violins been french polished?

yeah and from the one strad ive heard up close, it doesnt help the highs at all, i mean this one had coats and coats of shellac, and a really hard almost distorted top end, just like shellac varnished violins, the rest of the range sounded good though, if not a little muted

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you didnt provide a link, but i must admit some of your heroes definetly arent mine, your also over on the soundpost thread telling a beginner not to bother sighting through the endpin hole to fit a soundpost, nonado, seems to me youve stolen my troll suit!!

I provided a link to the varnish thread in an earlier post which you replied to, apparently after reading only a page or so. Here it is again: Varnish Do you need me to find you a link to the Darnton thread on shellac?

I didn't tell anyone not to do anything. I said I didn't bother to look through the end pin hole, and didn't find it necessary or even worthwhile. I also said there was nothing wrong with it IMO. I have earned a pretty good reputation across the country for getting sound out of an instrument, so I clearly get good results, and might possibly have a clue what I am doing. No trolling, just reporting my experience for people to use or not as they wish.

What "heroes" are you referring to? I think Burgess, Robson, Darnton, Kishony, and people at their level are well worth paying attention to, based on proven performance. I might not always agree with them, even as they don't always agree with each other, but I respect their opinions. I'll give their ideas a lot more weight than some anonymous poster (poser?) who never made a violin or sold one, or someone with clearly ill-founded opinions. There are a lot of others on this forum, amateur and professional, who have earned my respect through their obvious intelligence, open-mindedness, and willingness to share. Even you are on the mark a lot of the time, but sometimes.......... well, let's just say your troll suit is still safe for now :D

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You don't have to take my word that commercial oil based spar varnishes are an acceptable inexpensive alternative for violins, which is what the OP was looking for. Read the comments of some of our better known and more respected contributors in this thread: Varnish (I think Joe R has already commented.)

What people name a finish isn't nearly as important as what's in it, and how it performs. Good oil based spar varnishes have a nice balance of toughness and flexibilty, as long as you don't get too heavy a build. Names are just a marketing decision, and the same product may be sold under a variety of names to different markets. For example, take a simple alkyd oil varnish, and thin it down 50% or so -- Presto,instant Tung Oil Finish! Not a drop of Tung Oil in it.

IME, the skill in application is more important than the exact formulation of the varnish, to a great extent. Now ground is another matter, but that's for a different thread, and much more controversial.

thanks for bringing that thread link up, I had been looking for it. I am getting ready to finish an "experimental/my screwup/learning experience" violin and am going to use the shellac/ ace hardware approach.

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i guess i just dont like half ass solutions, if your going to make a violin, buy the best tonewood, if you cant afford it consider making a dulcimer, if your going to varnish a new violin use the best sounding varnish, looks you can live without, for me that would be an oil varnish i make myself but because ive had three fires and 10 days in intensive care with 60% second degree burns, i cant really recommend a newbie making their own, of all the formulas and recipes ive heard on maestronet, joe robsons seems to be the closest to mine, so i recommend it HIGHLY

if this guy cant come up with 100usd for a good robson varnish, then i suggest he put his white violin on the shelf and look for a good job, not use spar varnish or shellac, either option IMO is going to sound worse than the varnished violins out of china, with robsons varnish you can almost guarantee it will sound better

im here on maestronet to offer the best advice i can, not offer people shortcuts to do things half ass, although i did bring up sandpaper fitting bass bars!!

anyway i dont have any gripe with you nonado, the OP asked for cheapy solutions and you gave him some, i just dont think not having 100 is an excuse, almost anyone can come up with 100 if they try hard enough, he obviously came up with it to buy the white violin. next think hell be asking for the cheapest strings, in all i think its just going to be a big waste of time if you dont get good parts......

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How..this is pretty intense. I kinda feel bad creating an awkward situation.

Firstly, if joe is reading this, could you reply with how much 1 bottle of your varnish(preferably the colour that will turn out like the violins in the photos) would cost shipped to Australia...you can chooses the cheapest shipping option, i dont really mind waiting.

I've watched all the oldwood1700 application videos - http://www.oldwood1700.com/videos_aplicacion.aspx and really like the way the whole process is done. Will applying joes varnish be similar to oldwoods (just tiny spots then spreading the tiny thin layer with your hands)

I'm trying to plan out the whole prcess so i've got an idea of what to do and the order of everything

1. I suppose i could make the protein insulation with gelatine - easy

2. I'm not sure what they use for their ground coats - would i be able to use something like tea/coffee/linseed/onion/shellac? Any one got a good recipe?

3. Do i need something like the refractive ground?...it would be nice to bring out the wood beauty but not necessary right? and alternatives/similar products?

4. Do i need the mineral coats? if so what should i use?

5. Varnish will either be joes or the spar varnish.....is the spar varnish like oldwoods where you use a tiny bit and spread it with your fingers...or do you paint it on with a paint brush?

6. I'll use artist oil paint to get colour and glaze some areas darker and leave other areas just as they are.

7. A last coat of varnish to seal it all.

8. Not sure what comes next??? Polish? - but i dont want it shiny like a VSO i prefer a dull but still maintain the beauty of the wood look.

BTW - I love the way alot of the oldwood products make you 'rub' in the coat instead of using a paint brush....i'd love to do that.

Thanks alot for all the help and input....Try not to kill each other....your making me feel bad.

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why dont you go to joes website

'Everything happens for a reason' i think thats how the saying goes.

I have been on his website and have seen that bottles range from $25-$50 depending on the colour and the i'm not sure which colour to get...thats why i'm asking. I'm also wondering whether just the 1 bottle of varnish will be sufficient for the whole viola if i make my own ground. And lastly, it doesn't state the shipping prices.

Thanks anyway

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I'm trying to plan out the whole prcess so i've got an idea of what to do and the order of everything

1. I suppose i could make the protein insulation with gelatine - easy

2. I'm not sure what they use for their ground coats - would i be able to use something like tea/coffee/linseed/onion/shellac? Any one got a good recipe?

3. Do i need something like the refractive ground?...it would be nice to bring out the wood beauty but not necessary right? and alternatives/similar products?

4. Do i need the mineral coats? if so what should i use?

5. Varnish will either be joes or the spar varnish.....is the spar varnish like oldwoods where you use a tiny bit and spread it with your fingers...or do you paint it on with a paint brush?

6. I'll use artist oil paint to get colour and glaze some areas darker and leave other areas just as they are.

7. A last coat of varnish to seal it all.

8. Not sure what comes next??? Polish? - but i dont want it shiny like a VSO i prefer a dull but still maintain the beauty of the wood look.

BTW - I love the way alot of the oldwood products make you 'rub' in the coat instead of using a paint brush....i'd love to do that.

If help from a newbie is not damaging, here it is, I have been re-finishing my boat (amongst other repairs) for the last year and a half, found Maestronet because of the beauty of the violin varnish, stayed here posting because I like the people, and where else can you post about making varnish?

I am in Brazil and here we do not have ALL the options of the super high quality oil based marine varnish. We have some, and they are ugly, and become uglier with time (4 years), the problem is the alkid resin and the UV stuff, maybe ther is a way to treat it so that it does not happen, but usually marine varnishes become opaque and and ugly dark with time, so my advice is don't use them unless you speak with someone that has experience with a certain specific one. (as Nonado) I don't use it, in fact I ONLY started cooking varnish (about 15 liters 1.5 years later) because I could not find the products with the characteristic I wanted down here, it all started with a oil based grain filler....

I have tried tons of the easily available stuff, but nothing I make or have tried looks as good as Joe's picts you've posted. I can not use purchased violin varnish because it would cost me a fortune. I'll try to help with the iittle I know.

1 - yeas, but I would try (on a sample) Jezzupe's sugar seal, I think it looks much better.

2 - coffee, tea, onion are for darkening, have not tried it, linseed is ok if you do the Darnton thing, 2 parts turps, 1 part linseed 2 coats, and then shellac.

3 - The refractive ground from Oldwood, I have some, I'm not impressed, some of my newbie stuff looks better, and the picts from Joe's stuff looks much better.

4 - you don't need mineral coat's unless that's the look you want, or you want to grain fill. (and you don't need it for that either)

5 - As far as the pad printing application, it depends, it also can depend on the viscosity (do not have much experience with it), but it does not work with spirit.

6 - What I have learned is that the quality of the pigment/color is of extreme importance, so if you go with artist color, do some search on MN and use what they recommend here such as some specific W&N colorsor Kremer or Natural Pigments. Or buy madder root, or other material, it's cheap, and make your own. Maybe you have good stuff in you surroundings.

But one thing is, if you buy the "real" stuff, at the end I am sure you will not regret it, and you may if you improvise, and you will learn what the real stuff is supposed to look, feel and behave like. So if you start later making your own stuff, you have something to guide you. Plus, think of the hours yo will spend on it.

Well I hope some expert will correct me where I went wrong.

Have fun.

smile.gif

.

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'Everything happens for a reason' i think thats how the saying goes.

I have been on his website and have seen that bottles range from $25-$50 depending on the colour and the i'm not sure which colour to get...thats why i'm asking. I'm also wondering whether just the 1 bottle of varnish will be sufficient for the whole viola if i make my own ground. And lastly, it doesn't state the shipping prices.

Thanks anyway

If you're considering Joe's products why don't you contact him directly and ask him these questions, I'm sure he'll be more than happy to advise you.

Edit: One thing worth mentioning . . a big advantage of working with a professional varnish is you get back up support that you won't get winging it on your own . . . apart from the 24 /7 global help desk here of coursecool.gif

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carlo, you make some good points, but you cant analyse violin varnishes and grounds on looks alone, the sound is the most important part IMO

funny that carlo varnishing his boat doesnt like marine spar varnish, though

stanley i would still recommend buying joes ground varnish, i havent heard of many people using gelatin, ive heard of a lot using shellac ground but i still wouldnt try that

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i havent heard of many people using gelatin, ive heard of a lot using shellac ground but i still wouldnt try that

Sorry Lyndon I can not post about sound of varnish, have zero experience with it.

Gelatin is just a glue, as hide glue, rabbit glue etc., they have been using it for centuries, although in Italy at the time for furnishings they seemed to prefer the really clear fish glue, treated in a certain way and highly polished.

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... your also over on the soundpost thread telling a beginner not to bother sighting through the endpin hole to fit a soundpost, nonado, seems to me youve stolen my troll suit!!

Nonado gave some excellent tips on soundpost fitting.

yeah and from the one strad ive heard up close, it doesnt help the highs at all, i mean this one had coats and coats of shellac, and a really hard almost distorted top end, just like shellac varnished violins, the rest of the range sounded good though, if not a little muted

You've heard just one Strad up close?

It had a coating, so you assumed it was shellac?

You assumed that certain sound qualities of this violin were due to the coating?

Overcoatings can be many things. I was originally taught to "french polish" using an oil varnish.

i guess i just dont like half ass solutions, if your going to make a violin, buy the best tonewood, if you cant afford it consider making a dulcimer, if your going to varnish a new violin use the best sounding varnish,

I once knew a guy who was particularly challenged executing three dimensional shapes, so I recommended that he practice by carving bars of soap, and then move on to junk wood. I guess that was pretty half-assed. :D

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varnish tends to chip off hide glue grounds, i think, theres very little adhesion of the varnish to the wood

no david, the dealer that was repairing the strad told me it was shellac, frankly david your just a big wet blanket, why dont you pick on someone your own size, like michael darton!!!on top of that i know full well the difference in finish between shellac and oil varnish, and i know full well the downside tonally of shellac varnishes, and this violin had the same problems, i have never hear an old oil varnished violin with that hard treble

your right though, nonado gave some good advice about post fitting, just that not sighting the post fit through the endpin hole was not part of the good advice, seriously youre going to tell me you never look through the endpin hole david, when fitting a post, and you wouldnt recommend that to a beginner along with using a mirror?? i didnt think so

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I am in Brazil and here we do not have ALL the options of the super high quality oil based marine varnish. We have some, and they are ugly, and become uglier with time (4 years), the problem is the alkid resin and the UV stuff, maybe ther is a way to treat it so that it does not happen, but usually marine varnishes become opaque and and ugly dark with time, so my advice is don't use them unless you speak with someone that has experience with a certain specific one. (as Nonado) I don't use it, in fact I ONLY started cooking varnish (about 15 liters 1.5 years later) because I could not find the products with the characteristic I wanted down here, it all started with a oil based grain filler....

Sustained sunlight exposure is problematic for many transparent coatings, including typical oil-resin violin varnish formulations. Linseed oil (which many think of as a plasticizer) will itself become hard and brittle with enough daylight exposure.

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Sustained sunlight exposure is problematic for many transparent coatings, including typical oil-resin violin varnish formulations. Linseed oil (which many think of as a plasticizer) will itself become hard and brittle with enough daylight exposure.

You are correct David, sorry, I forgot to mention I was talking only regarding interiors, boat interiors receive less UV than the interior of a house, what happens with these varnishes is that when they receive lots of UV, they become an ugly yellow, when not they become a ugly dark/red/brown, both opaque.

The exterior stuff we usually call bright work.smile.gif

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no david, the dealer that was repairing the strad told me it was shellac,

And the dealer knew this because ???????

frankly david your just a big wet blanket,..

Thanks. I try to use the right tool for the job at hand. B)

Carlo, dried linseed oil too can become dark/red/brown without enough light exposure. It happens to runs on the outside of the bottle I keep in a dark cabinet. Violin varnish isn't a magic bullet. The coatings industry has mostly moved away from these types of formulations specifically because of performance problems.

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im sorry that you havent learned what the appearance of french polished shellac looks like, david, but for many people in the business its easy to spot, just a hint for your future reference, its just about the shiniest, high glossiest, glass like finish youll ever see, seriously im surprised you dont know this already, david

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im sorry that you havent learned what the appearance of french polished shellac looks like, david, but for many people in the business its easy to spot, just a hint for your future reference, its just about the shiniest, high glossiest, glass like finish youll ever see, seriously im surprised you dont know this already, david

OK....I'm definately not doing that then.....i despise shiny glassy VSO type finishes.

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