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darkening the violin wood


Peter White

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Does the edge of the spruce in the tight turn of the mid bout top plate not look "burned," as though a stain was used or colored varnish soaked into insufficiently sealed end grain?

Could be uncleaned dirt, or a photo lighting artifact. Never seen end-grain staining like that on a well-preserved Strad. Need to have stuff in your hands to know what's really going on.

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Xylene isnt too bad as long as your sensible,worst you`d probably get is dermatitis from not wearing gloves). People relate strong pungent odour to toxicity,which isnt usually the case. For instance ethanol is probably far more toxic to humans (as in French polish) ,probably why violinmakers generally live longer than bowmakers(unless you spirt varnish). Acetone is strong smelling but relatively harmless compared to ethanol. The worst chemical on here that some people mention using  is formalin or formaldehyde . Very nasty stuff and best avoided outside of a fume cupboard.

Toluene (monomethyl Benzene ?)  is what you want to get high,  otherwise not of much use.  I use xylene to thin varnish at times.  It thins quickly with very little amounts.  But I spray some coats,  so perhaps others would not use it.

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Don,

Xylene is a pretty hot solvent.  If you use turpentine and a higher resin content you should be able to avoid this.

 

I have seen this "bleed through" detail in a number of classical instruments.

 

On the fire under the varnish....perhaps beauty is in the eye of the beholder...but:

At the last VSA competition I was with a friend...a medal winning maker with over 20 years experience.  We have worked closely together for a long time so he has had to put up with my ranting about luminescence etc. for years.  We were standing in a window looking at a late 1690's Stradivari...varnish mostly gone...great ground...not too polished....when the late afternoon sun broke through the clouds and the instrument lit up like a Christmas tree...I literally saw his jaw drop...he looked at me and said "NOW, I know what you mean....!"

on we go,

Joe

 

I am going to put this under my pillow.

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Getting back to darkening of the wood...I've always wanted to try Koen's primers but...I've recently ordered some Old Wood Italian Golden Ground primer to try and have a couple of questions for those who have experience with it.

First, what is in it?...and second is their a shelf life? I asked the company but I'm getting no response. Also is there a US distributor?

To me getting the wood color right is the most difficult/critical step.

Thanks

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Getting back to darkening of the wood...I've always wanted to try Koen's primers but...I've recently ordered some Old Wood Italian Golden Ground primer to try and have a couple of questions for those who have experience with it.

First, what is in it?...and second is their a shelf life? I asked the company but I'm getting no response. Also is there a US distributor?

To me getting the wood color right is the most difficult/critical step.

Thanks

 

Ernie,

I met and worked with the maker behind the Old Wood products several years ago when the Oberlin Workshop did a concentration on varnishing.  I was able to watch him use his primer and try it for myself.  As it is a UV activated material it is most likely a nitrite solution of some sort.  Not unlike the former Magister products.  The second phase is some sort of sealer..it had a very strong turpentine odor.  US disributor is Howard Core.

As alway you will trade some of the potential illumination of the wood for the "browning" effect of the chemical treatment.  Try UV tanning first to get an idea of the natural colors of the wood....then it is easier to be cautious with the primer.

on we go,

Joe

 

BTW...I'm a huge Lowell George/Little Feat fan...can't count the number of times I saw them..."there's a fat man ...in the bathtub...with the blues....I hear ya moan"

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Joe, I need to get the wood to a darker shade of color...I've tried just about everything and I'm still not liking what I'm getting. I know what you're saying about losing the sparkle if I use oxidizers and from my test experience I agree. But it is the price I'm "willin"... to pay.

If the old wood stuff does it then my next step would be to apply your balsam ground, then a few coats of varnish. I want to stay away from glazing and varnishes with heavy pigments or lakes. I like just a little tube color.

Rogers recent photo of the bass has the right color to me and I haven't gotten close to that yet. I've seen other photos that look really good and they all used Koen's primer. I know his primers had a shelf life so I assume the Old Wood products do too.

Sunshine is out of the question for me...I'm not "willin" to wait that long.

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I will further stir up things with the heretical observation that Cremonese violins, for the most part, do not display any breathtaking fireworks under the varnish.  The reflectance, luminescence, chatoyance, and all that stuff of the old instruments I've seen is not anything more specacular than a good modern instrument.  I will admit that some of the old ones with really nice wood, and polished up for 300 years by the best luthiers... tend to have a very attractive look and glow about them, but nothing paranormal that can't be explained by age darkening.

I'll agree, with the caveat that it depends on which modern instrument. A few exhibit more "stuff" than any Cremonese I've seen. Whether this is desireable or not is something a maker may need to decide, if they have that option. Other moderns are kind of dead and blingless.

 

The Messiah isn't very blingy. Sure, if you get just the right light on it, it can come alive, but so can many otherwise uninteresting varnishes.

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Joe, I need to get the wood to a darker shade of color...I've tried just about everything and I'm still not liking what I'm getting. I know what you're saying about losing the sparkle if I use oxidizers and from my test experience I agree. But it is the price I'm "willin"... to pay.

If the old wood stuff does it then my next step would be to apply your balsam ground, then a few coats of varnish. I want to stay away from glazing and varnishes with heavy pigments or lakes. I like just a little tube color.

Rogers recent photo of the bass has the right color to me and I haven't gotten close to that yet. I've seen other photos that look really good and they all used Koen's primer. I know his primers had a shelf life so I assume the Old Wood products do too.

Sunshine is out of the question for me...I'm not "willin" to wait that long.

 

Ernie,

Try some of the Aged Wood Gold in the #2 Balsam.  don't let the initial avacado color scare you...it is fugitive and what is left is the right color.  Please make sure the "primer"is COMPLETELY done reacting before you apply the Balsam Ground.

warped by the rain,

Joe

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Thanks for the instructions...haven't been to your site in awhile. The color and contrast look good! I haven't been able to get anywhere near that. But I haven't mixed the gold into solution#2. The spruce on the cello looks uneven. Is that discoloration from the wood or slight burning? I've had burning using the AW colors and that's why I ask. I've never diluted it down though. I like to get as clear and even on the spruce as possible or it really really bothers me!

Would it be alright to lightly size (not seal) the spruce with gelatin and alum, (2 percent)before starting with the applications? I'm talking just the spruce and engrains.

Can you list what and how many applications it took to get the results in the photo? Also what species of wood?

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To me the spruce is just as beautiful and sometimes more than a gorgeous piece of figured maple, especially bearclaw spruce which I have and plan to be using soon. Your BG still is the best that I've used. The oxidizers I've used have diminished the sparkle but I'd rather have less bling and more evenness on the spruce. Although I'd much prefer to have both.

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Thanks for the instructions...haven't been to your site in awhile. The color and contrast look good! I haven't been able to get anywhere near that. But I haven't mixed the gold into solution#2. The spruce on the cello looks uneven. Is that discoloration from the wood or slight burning? I've had burning using the AW colors and that's why I ask. I've never diluted it down though. I like to get as clear and even on the spruce as possible or it really really bothers me!

Would it be alright to lightly size (not seal) the spruce with gelatin and alum, (2 percent)before starting with the applications? I'm talking just the spruce and engrains.

Can you list what and how many applications it took to get the results in the photo? Also what species of wood?

 

Ernie,

The color you see on the spruce is not burned.  It is just the shear of the grain as it is shaped for the top.  If the color changes as your angle of observation changes then it is just wood, not "burnt".

The Aged Wood gold is quite strong on its own.  In combination with the viscosity of the #2 Balsam it is very easy to control.

Number of applications?...3 or 4 is a guess..

Spruce is European, maple is Chinese.

on we go,

Joe

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Thanks. what are your thoughts about sizing?

 

The balsam ground needs to be applied to bare wood.  I do recommend an application of alcohol to the spruce...just for safety sake.

Actually the Balsam #1 will also insure an even application.  Best advice is to be conservative in application until you are familiar with the materials...knowing every instrument will be a bit different.

Joe

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I think it is helpful to distinguish between darkening the wood and coloring the wood.  Coloring, not staining.

For me darkening implies the use of rapid oxidizers...ie. nitrites, ammonia, etc.

Coloring the wood implies UV tanning, tinctures, resins etc.

Joe

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What I like about UV tanning is that it is almost impossible to burn the wood like other processes can. I haven't experimented with nitric acid in years, but I thought this can run away and burn the wood.  

 

The trick is to get control over the darkening process so that you can stop it before it does damage. It's also important that the process remains stopped and not work on the wood over time.

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I would put UV tanning in the other category, with the chemical reactions that change the color of the wood itself.

I agree, and more technically, "darkening "would seem to be to imply intensifying the color already present within the wood, the maple and spruce are not white white  they are very light browns ,very light ,but not white ...or blue or green. I just got my latest violin to a grounded state using "reactive substances" including jerky cure ( containing sodium nitrite) and a concoction of horse poo tea and wood ash water, the color came out very complex with a lot of depth.all the solutions were used very thin low concentrations, so at least I felt like I had some control. What I really liked about the whole process is the was no color buildup in the trenches, with a good dark IN the wood ,the colored varnish now  'pops' on the samples/ without that annoying pink. 

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