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Varnishing on the Cheap


Stanley5184

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Nonado gave some excellent tips on soundpost fitting.

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 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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Nonado gave some excellent tips on soundpost fitting.

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 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

David, Care to elaborate on French polishing with oil varnish? sounds interesting.

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and these amounts are enough for me to make my favorite ground

Stuff from Hammerl to thin their varnish. I have used stuff from a can I bought at Lowe's labelled Pure gum Spirits of turpentine to thin Hammerl varnish successfully as well.

do you mind sharing your favorite ground? Grounds and finishing is my favorite subject. :)

I have some of the stuff in the can from Lowe's. It's labeled pure gum spirits of turpentine but it smells awful! I use it as a fire starter for my burn pile in the back yard.

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do you mind sharing your favorite ground? Grounds and finishing is my favorite subject. :)

I have some of the stuff in the can from Lowe's. It's labeled pure gum spirits of turpentine but it smells awful! I use it as a fire starter for my burn pile in the back yard.

I did some experimenting with grounds awhile back and my current favorite is made by cutting a plastic pill bottle in half, pouring in about a half teaspoon of clear Hammerl varnish, mixing in enough tripoli powder to make a paste, then using a folded paper towel or little piece of t-shirt cloth to rub (burnish) it into the violin's wood, then rub it off and polish the wood a bit. This rubs the ground into the wood's pores but keeps the ground thin so it will dry nicely (usually overnight in my UV box). The way I do it does not let the ground soak into the wood - it keeps the ground on top (I cut in sections some wood scraps treated with my grounds to see if they penetrated or not). I also like a ground made of tripoli powder and boiled linseed oil (BLO) rubbed into the wood and rubbed off. The BLO/tripoli ground dries fine, does not penetrate, brings out the wood grain, and I believe it enhances chatoyancy (some of the maple seemed to change color like flames flickering when I tilted the wood scraps to different angles in the light). I've tried grounds of clear jello gelatin and Hammerl waterbased stain, clear varnish/tripoli paste, clear varnish/pumice paste, BLO/tripoli paste, BLO/pumice paste, and something called Langsather's DA ground. The best looking is the BLO/tripoli ground, but I like the clear varnish/tripoli becausue their should never be any adhesion problems between coats, although I have never had any adhesion problems between coats of any of these grounds and the next layer of varnish. I mix each coat of varnish separately in a cutoff pill bottle (which just fits my ox-hair brush) by pouring in barely enough varnish to almost cover the bottom of the pill bottle, adding a few drops of whatever tint I want, then stirring in a couple drops of pure gum spirits of turpentine until I get it to the brushing consistency that I want and brush it on. I find that it self-levels quite well, just don't brush back over what you've laid down once it gets tacky or it can streak. I also thin the clear varnish top coats slightly for easy brushability.

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Hi Bill

I've tried colorless varnish applied thin so it doesn't soak in and it works well but I didn't try mixing tripoli or anything else with it. I'll try that and the BLO and see what happens.

Something else I tried recently that might work well is copal dissolved in alcohol.

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Hi Bill

I've tried colorless varnish applied thin so it doesn't soak in and it works well but I didn't try mixing tripoli or anything else with it. I'll try that and the BLO and see what happens.

Something else I tried recently that might work well is copal dissolved in alcohol.

I'd suggest trying it on scraps such as the pieces cut off from around the top and back outlines so you'll get to see what it will look like on the wood that you are using.

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