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darkening the violin wood


Peter White

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Actually, Peter, Bruce Tai found a PAPER, by Nagyvary,  that contained a microphoto showing 12 layers. You could count them because they were all different colors. The photo was taken with a polarising microscope, but in non-polarised mode. I think the general concensus among makers was that this was probably part of an old retouch. I have never heard of anyone else repeating that observation.

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hey   Captain Hook.  I know Bruce was summarizing work but I did not know this was the photo  by Mr. Nagyvary. This helps to explain the difference between

B and G and Bruce Tai.  Thanks for telling me this. So the layer problem may not be as big a problem as I thought, if in fact these are touch up layers.

So now I am inclined to think that it could be possible that Strad used only a few coats---but who knows?  B and G do say that the color was somewhat opaque originally.  That's the only way I would think one could get powerful color and do it in one color coat. 

Thanks for this clarification.   One really has to read B and G carefully and repeatedly to try to figure out the exact meaning of every sentence because there are so many possible explanations for what they think they see. I should have read Bruce Tai more carefully.  Thanks.  Good point.  Peter  

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I don't have an opinion on how many coats the old masters applied. When I started making I had the impression, but don't remember the source, that they used few thick coats. I tried that with not very good results, because I was incompetent. Not long ago I applied 24 very thin coats to one fiddle and would defy anyone to count them in the final film because they were all the same color, so I would take the "one layer" of colored varnish to mean "what could be distinguished." They may indeed have used very few coats, as Roger and others (and even I sometimes) say they do.

 

Lyle

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I guess I should have asked who read Bruce Tai's paper. (I did a long time ago but forgot I did.) I forgot that the source for the multiple layers was Nagyvary who, IMO, tends to jump conclusions in favor of sensationalism. Well, that is my opinion. What do I know?

 

The reason I asked who read the B&G book is that often I find people commenting on books and articles as if they truly studied, no less understood, the publication. I failed to look at the paper contradicting B&G. After Peter's posting, I reread my B&G notes (Yes, I make notes of major books I read.) and even pulled out my copy of B&G. I am thoroughly convinced that Peter is arguing over semantics and must be more careful of his declarations. I wasted a lot of time over this red herring.  <_<

 

Thanks and a big tip of my hat to 'Hook.  ;)

 

Mike

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Mr. Michael Molinar:  Since I have spent 36 years as a professor of literature and language, I guess I am inclined to argue over the meaning of words. I am sorry to have wasted your time. I would assume that you have no difficulty in understanding the exact meaning of the words in Brigitte's science, but I do.  That's why I am trying to use Maestronet to see what other violin makers think about the conclusions of the book--or even if they have the same understanding of the conclusions of the book.

By the way, you say you pulled out the book and you looked at your notes---what are your declarations of the conclusions of the book?

No rational discussion of the literature of violin making is a waste of time. By the way, I never made any declarations, I am asking questions of my colleagues and some are providing useful, experienced and valuable insights. Peter

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Darkening the Wood...continued: 

 

 

I was browsing a guitar making forum and found this. 

 

the poster says this is a solution based on an old recipe used to age violin wood. It is a combination of boric acid, potassium chloride and a mystery ingredient because the poster couldn't remember off hand what the ingredient is but hopefully will post it later...

 

Have any of you ever heard of using boric acid and potassium chloride for darkening wood?  

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It could be that the clear coats and the color coats are many applications resulting in a single layer.  I would be more likely to think this way as opposed to a layer being a single coat or application.

I might tend to agree. I've done multiple varnish coats which wore off in somewhat of a stratified manner, and also multiple varnish coats which wore off as if it had been a single application.

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Mr. Michael Molinar:  Since I have spent 36 years as a professor of literature and language, I guess I am inclined to argue over the meaning of words. I am sorry to have wasted your time. I would assume that you have no difficulty in understanding the exact meaning of the words in Brigitte's science, but I do.  That's why I am trying to use Maestronet to see what other violin makers think about the conclusions of the book--or even if they have the same understanding of the conclusions of the book.

By the way, you say you pulled out the book and you looked at your notes---what are your declarations of the conclusions of the book?

No rational discussion of the literature of violin making is a waste of time. By the way, I never made any declarations, I am asking questions of my colleagues and some are providing useful, experienced and valuable insights. Peter

 

As for the B&G book, it is essential reading for anyone interested in historical varnishes. I think that some people who comment on varnishes here on MN should read it - carefully - again. For instance, get out your copy and turn to p. 18. Read the section starting with "The protective coating ... ." There you will see what I am suggesting - That section does not agree with what has been said here about the so-called protein layer. I find this intriguing.

 

The book is well illustrated with good graphics, data, incredible photography. The science seems solid, but some of this is not in my field. Too bad it is so expensive. I forget what I paid, but I know it hurt my wallet.

 

Mike

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(5) Does anyone have a reasonable (scientific or practical) method of darkening the wood before varnishing?

 

While most of this thread has been dedicated to historical methods, this question appears fairly wide open.  So therefore:

post-25192-0-16165000-1372109692_thumb.jpg

This is all the same set of European maple.  The center is a sample recently planed, from the original blank.  It is sitting on top of a recently planed piece after thermal processing.

This set came out a bit darker than I might have liked.

 

On the other hand, another set of European maple was in the processing chamber at the same time, and the instrument made from it is sitting out in the sun after nitrite treatment, trying to get more color into the wood.

 

One of the points here is that each piece of wood responds differently to any chemical interactions, be it thermally induced or otherwise.  And age may also be considered a chemical interaction, in my opinion.

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As for the B&G book, it is essential reading for anyone interested in historical varnishes. I think that some people who comment on varnishes here on MN should read it - carefully - again. For instance, get out your copy and turn to p. 18. Read the section starting with "The protective coating ... ." There you will see what I am suggesting - That section does not agree with what has been said here about the so-called protein layer. I find this intriguing.

 

The book is well illustrated with good graphics, data, incredible photography. The science seems solid, but some of this is not in my field. Too bad it is so expensive. I forget what I paid, but I know it hurt my wallet.

 

Mike

I have not seen this book, but from what I've heard about it, perhaps expensive may not be the word, granma is a rare book dealer / restorer / binder, me a humble collector, what granma calls a "good book" (figurative sense) usually has good content, quality print paper, many times marbled paper, proper binding, expensive print inks, sometimes different papers for illustrations, silk paper, maybe a larger size etc, these things make for a limited edition, for a limited edition to be worth the knowledge and hours inside, it is not cheap. This seems like a "good book" not expensive in my mind, it's in the price range. (from what I remember last I looked into it) Plus good books keep their value and with time may increase, specially first editions.  :) Hurts the wallet but it's healthy for the mind and soul. :) I may hurt the wallet before long :wacko: . 

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Just for the information and research alone, this book far surpasses great value for the money. I would have been disappointed if it was only published as a paperback periodical with a full color centerfold.

 

This book is definitely heirloom material.

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I received emails from friends who would like to hear some more about p. 18.  In fact, I hope after reading this short excerpt people will buy the B&G book.

 

"We consistently found significant quantities of protein in the uppermost structure of the wood. ... Had we found only isolated areas of protein on the instruments, we would have had to consider the possibility of glue residue or an accidental transfer of protein, through foodstuffs, for example. However, due to the consistency with which we were able to establish the presence of these proteins in all samples across the entire production span of Stradivari's instruments and at different places on the instruments, the possibility of a coincidence can be ruled out."
 

 

Stay Tuned.

Mike

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 short excerpt from the B&G book.

 

"We consistently found significant quantities of protein in the uppermost structure of the wood. ... Had we found only isolated areas of protein on the instruments, we would have had to consider the possibility of glue residue or an accidental transfer of protein, through foodstuffs, for example. However, due to the consistency with which we were able to establish the presence of these proteins in all samples across the entire production span of Stradivari's instruments and at different places on the instruments, the possibility of a coincidence can be ruled out."

 

 

Stay Tuned.

Mike

 

 

 

In a paper by Echard 

 

"These features can be

interpreted as those of a partially oxidized and hydrolyzed

drying oil. 

[21] The absence of amide I and amide II bands,

around 1650 cm-1 and 1550 cm-1 respectively, rules out

protein materials such as egg, casein, or animal glue as

significant components of this layer."

 

 

Why the discrepancy in findings?   Echard may have been looking at one instrument not a reprentative sample?   Or only looking at the oil layer and not the wood maybe?  

 

 

 

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In a paper by Echard 

 

"These features can be

interpreted as those of a partially oxidized and hydrolyzed

drying oil. 

[21] The absence of amide I and amide II bands,

around 1650 cm-1 and 1550 cm-1 respectively, rules out

protein materials such as egg, casein, or animal glue as

significant components of this layer."

 

 

Why the discrepancy in findings?   Echard may have been looking at one instrument not a reprentative sample?   Or only looking at the oil layer and not the wood maybe?  

 

Mike,

Previous examinations of the film noticed this linseed oil too...but dismissed it as immaterial.

Joe

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Why the discrepancy in findings?   Echard may have been looking at one instrument not a reprentative sample?   Or only looking at the oil layer and not the wood maybe?  

Mike,

 

I am slowly coming to the conclusion that Strad was constantly changing what he did. Reading B&G, I feel that Strad was an experimenter. There is no single way the Master did things. For instance, look at the number of violin forms he used. Furthermore, there is evidence in B&G that he was changing his ground system. So, I am not surprised by any "discrepancy". Expect them. Lots of them.  :blink:

 

Stay Tuned.

Mike

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Two questions:

1.  Is Strad's varnish noticably superior to the best modern varnish work, and if so, in what way that is definitely not due to age effects and/or wear and polishing?

2.  If Strad was working today, would he use the same varnish materials he did 300 years ago?

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Two questions:

1.  Is Strad's varnish noticably superior to the best modern varnish work, and if so, in what way that is definitely not due to age effects and/or wear and polishing?

2.  If Strad was working today, would he use the same varnish materials he did 300 years ago?

Probably not. And he would be advertising in The Strad.

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Two questions:

1.  Is Strad's varnish noticably superior to the best modern varnish work, and if so, in what way that is definitely not due to age effects and/or wear and polishing?

2.  If Strad was working today, would he use the same varnish materials he did 300 years ago?

Nevermind the varnish, would he still use the same ground?  

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Why the discrepancy in findings?   Echard may have been looking at one instrument not a reprentative sample?   Or only looking at the oil layer and not the wood maybe?  

These scientists do not have a career because they miss things.  Their primary subject of investigation is not, brace yourself, is not violins.

In the world of museums, violins are not at the top of the list.  Art objects, Paintings are the primary object of investigation.

 

Echard looked at and had easy access to the entire museums collection of instruments.

"Mr. Échard’s group had access to the museum’s collection,"

8750notw9_violins1.jpg

 

It has been brought up before that he failed to examine both the top and back surface. 

"  Mr. Échard’s group had access to the museum’s collection, but even so it took days to decide where on each instrument to take its samples. Often this was from an area under the tailpiece, which was both unobtrusive and less likely to have been retouched."  'Often' is not the same as 'Always', and this is only the selection of material that would be lost due to a destructive test. 

 

Other tests do not destroy the material.

 

eg. - "Non destructive analysis of an 18th century Italian violin with optical coherence tomography"

257.jpg

 

 

RTEmagicC_restau_instrument_musique3.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

This would be like saying maybe Sherlock Holmes missed the clue for the 'cause of death' when someone had their head blown off by a shotgun.

"Mr. Échard said. “If we’ve missed things, it’s maybe because they are not there anymore, or they’ve never been there.”

 

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Try imagining the background work and education J.P. Echard or for that matter any of the scientists that have worked in this field, and try to imagine all these other scientists who want their jobs.   Now imagine the 'Publish or Perish', 'you are only as good as your last job' environment that they live in.   'Competitive' would be one word that comes to mind, and 'Highly' another.   They just don't give PhD's to anybody.  

 

Not only is Dr. Echard highly skilled, he is: 

"A 12-person team led by Jean-Philippe Echard, a conservation chemist at the Museum of Music, used a combination of micro-Raman, micro-Fourier transform infrared, and X-ray spectroscopies to tease out the microchemical composition of five violins that span 30 years of Stradivari's career in the late 1600s and early 1700s (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., DOI: 10.1002/anie.200905131)."

 

You can rest assure that these are not 12 people randomly picked off the street.  A similair case might be to imagine yourself in a room with 12 highly trained and educated violin experts, some perhaps from Maestronet, and see if they fail to cover the ground fully. 

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Now imagine Echard's team finding something really interesting, unusual instead of:  " The team found that Stradivari laid down a layer of linseed oil, similar to that used by artists of the time, to seal the wood, followed by an oil resin that contained red iron oxide and other common crimson pigments, also used by artists of that era."

 

"Douglas Cox, a violin maker in West Brattleboro, Vt., said he was not surprised by the findings. “The simplest explanation is most likely to be true,” he said. The recipe “is not all that different from varnishes found on fine furniture from the same area.”"

Then we would have more testing, and more papers, but to find nothing out of the ordinary, means it's time to move on.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

So there is conflicting information out there.  So who are you going to believe?

There is though one consistent factor in every investigative report I have noticed on Golden period instruments:

 

There is nothing out of the ordinary being found.  

 

So if you want to do something outside of good practices of the 'Artists Handbook' you are on thin ice.

That the studies find different applications, but all within 'accepted practices' of Artists that are used on other art objects, only speaks to the mastery being displayed.

 

So I would advise anyone who does not want to master the correct techniques of the Art World, that they would be best off purchasing and following the instructions of someone that has mastered them.

 

"Says Echard, “ Stradivari thus did not use any unusual or secret ingredients, he was simply a true master of his craft.”"

 

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After all that... someone found protein and someone else didn't.   I'm still confused.   heh  oh well.     That's a nice group picture though!  So much better than the usual flat washed out diffused lighting that you usually see them photographed in.   Any chance of getting a larger high resolution copy? 

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