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varnish as usual

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Spring cleaning this week.  I moved some plywood that had been leaning against a window sill .... forever...I found this sample sitting in the sun.   My guess is that it has been there or on some other window sill in the shop since 2002.  It is an educated guess as the ground is linseed oil not the Balsam Ground  which I was working on in those days...but it was a work in progress.

The sample is knife scored in one inch increments 3 times.  The top is linseed oil.  The second has a coat of clear Garnet Rosin varnish added.  The third has a coat of Alizarin Scarlet Color Concentrate [which is also a Rosin varnish] and this one was covered with foil.  The rest of the sample is the same, but it was left exposed to the light.

So it seems this color varnish making sequence makes a light fast color.

on we go,



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Friends and Colleagues,


I am pleased to share some news with you.  I have finished my work on the Stradivari Cochineal Varnish.  Six years ago two studies of this varnish emerged: The Stradivari Varnish Book, Brandmair et al and “The Nature of the Extraordinary Finish of Stradivari’s Instruments” J.P.Echard et al.   These separate studies gave us the basic contents of the Stradivari Varnish.  However “contents” are not a recipe and a recipe is not a road to a useable varnish.  Over the past six years I have been working with this information to provide us with a useable varnish.


The varnish I have formulated strictly comply with the brackets provided by these studies.   The varnish is made from raw pine sap, linseed oil and turpentine [used as a catalyst in the cooking process not a solvent].  The color source is Mexican Cochineal. 


It is likely that this varnish is a component in most of the varnishing of the instruments post 1698, basically half of the output of the Stradivari shop.  Though unique, the varnish and varnishing of these instruments differs greatly.  This aspect was a major factor in the formulation of this product.


In order to give us the widest choice in color options, I have made this as a set of 2 varnishes.

One is deeply colored with a cochineal lake which is fixed on the linseed oil to ensure a deeply colored yet translucent varnish.  The other is precisely the same varnish but without the cochineal. This allow for the mixing and/or layering of the varnishes to adjust the hue and optical effects.


I will introduce these varnishes commercially at the VSA 2016 convention in Cleveland.


Further information is available if you are interested.

I look forward to these new varnishes being a working tool for us.



Joe Robson

Violin Varnish Ltd.



607 387 9280






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