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darkening the violin wood


Peter White

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I can apply a ground under a fingerboard. Varnish, no.

 

Why?  Your ground is thin?  Easy to get it under there with a brush?  or what?   

 

With the ground that I want to use if I ever build again, there is no way I could get it under a finger board and it wouldn't dry if I did.  

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setup and tuned in the white possibly but the ground has already been applied because it is under the fingerboard so that would eliminate tuning plates by scraping them on the outside unless more ground is then applied after scraping which is possible.

 

If the finger board was an important part of alignment does that mean it was already attached to the neck before the neck is attached to the body of the violin?  If that's the case then the steps listed below would be in the wrong sequence (entirely possible since this is guesswork).

 

The ground might be applied after both plates are glued to the ribs and the neck already attached because the clamps used would mar the finished edge so the edge would not be finished and the ground not applied until after final gluing of the plates. 

 

 So the steps would be:  Attach either the top or back, then the neck because it has to be nailed in, then the other plate,  then finish the edge work,  then apply ground,  then attach finger board, then apply varnish.

 

    Varnish might be applied as the last step because it is softer and more easily damaged than ground especially when it is still fairly new and that's the part that needs to be perfect in appearance especially if you are making it for the king king as he needs his bling bling but ground could be applied earlier in the process because it's more durable and less subject to damage. 

 

Possibly ground would also be put under the fingerboard because it adds color and you wouldn't want stark white wood to be visible under there?  That's assuming the instrument isn't suntanned or stained. 

 

Well that's my wild guesses

 

 

Why?  Your ground is thin?  Easy to get it under there with a brush?  or what?   

 

With the ground that I want to use if I ever build again, there is no way I could get it under a finger board and it wouldn't dry if I did.  

Your first remark seemed to suggest that a ground could not be applied under a fingerboard. There are lots of different grounds that can be applied with, say, a slim pad. We are not confined to using just brushes.  :)

 

Seriously, the question I have is whether (any of) the old masters made body adjustments to their in-the-white instruments. Then, they went on to varnishing after removing some material internally or externally. I recall Oded was advancing this hypothesis for del Gesù.

 

Stay Tuned.

Mike

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I think it was Oded?  that pointed out stains on the inside of a del Gesu and suggested applying a colored tincture on top of the varnish?  Could be.   R. Hargrave suggested that they may have used casein glue, would that include gluing the top and back to the ribs?  If so then it might be difficult opening up a white instrument to make internal adjustments, unless those kinds of adjustments were done before a final more permanent gluing.   Violin building history has more twists and turns than a gordian knot.  

 

Original thread title is 'darkening the wood'  I still have not found out the secret third ingredient for the magic age darkening sauce from the guitar builders  but still hoping to get it.   :D

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post-25192-0-04069200-1372869110_thumb.jpg

 

In doing some tests today on the back wood for my next fiddle, a couple of illustrative things showed up.  The wood is tightly and strongly flamed, and I was applying a resin/solvent  on one side of the pencil line.  (more specifically, terpene resin in xylene, but rosin in turpentine would probably look exactly the same)

 

Thru capillary action, the grain of the flame conducted the fluid under the surface and popped up a few mm away.  You can also see the "glue ghosts" along the center joint.

 

While I like the optical effect of the resin/solvent in wetting the wood, I doubt this thin first application is what the Cremonese did.  Otherwise, almost all Cremonese violins with flamed ribs would show ground soak-thru on the inside, and it is my understanding that it is not so.  Therefore, I would surmise that the Cremonese ground was relatively thick, although perhaps it varied from maker to maker.  I believe Joe had speculated about a very short oil varnish, and that makes sense to me.

 

If there are any folks out there that have inside rib observations, or similar information from scroll grafts (where skew-cuts might show up depth of penetration) from Cremonese instruments, please chime in.

 

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.

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attachicon.gif130703 terpxy.jpg

 

, terpene resin in xylene, but rosin in turpentine would probably look exactly the same)

 

If there are any folks out there that have inside rib observations, or similar information from scroll grafts (where skew-cuts might show up depth of penetration) from Cremonese instruments, please chime in.

 

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.

 

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

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

 

Did I say I wanted to avoid it? :)  For dense, lightly flamed maple, this might be a good thing.   On spruce, I definitely don't want anything penetrating, so I use something else.

 

Overall, though, I have to agree with you... I find it hard to believe that several mm of penetration is necessary for any visual effect, and I'll be messing around with thicker stuff.

 

edit:

....when the late afternoon sun broke through the clouds and the instrument lit up like a Christmas tree...

 

Today it was cloudy (upper pic), with the sun breaking thru in the late afternoon (lower pic).  Lighting does make a difference, for sure.

post-25192-0-88133700-1372894733_thumb.jpg

 

... and no, I didn't post-process the contrast.

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If you were to venture a guess, why do you think someone would apply a ground where there will be no varnish? And if the fingerboard was there before varnishing and made it less convenient for varnishing, why would this not be the case for applying a ground? Would this mean the ground is not only there to prevent the varnish from soaking inside the wood?

 

Just a thought but if the ground was water based rather than oil based or thinner rather than thicker then it could pass under the fingerboard more easily. This certainly happens with the baroque violins that I make. My thicker varnish does not reach quite so far. Also I have seen one or two Cremonese instruments where even the ground does not cover the whole under the board area. One thing about which I am certain is that both the ground AND the varnish MUST have been applied AFTER the fingerboard had been fitted and the edgework completed. 

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Sorry, I don't have a copy of the "Artists Handbook." Does it describe the production and application of Cremonese violin varnish?

 

I do have many long years of experience as an analytical chemist, using a wide range of instrumental techniques, so I am not easily impressed by the method du jour.

 

My copy describes the process of applying Cremonese varnish in great detail. I understand that this is a special super delux first edition signed copy. It is the only one of its kind. I will be offering it for sale to the highest bidder. The starting price is 250000 US dollars.

Oh and I was always given to understand that xylene is not nice stuff to work with. I stopped its use in our workshop back in the 1980's 

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I remember the end of this film, the first Indiana Jones, when the Arch of Alliance is eventually stored like an ordinary box in a large warehouse, in the middle of thousands of similar boxes.... Well is there such a large warehouse near Cremona? And is it where your edition is kept :)

In any case It's amazing that no document have survived dealing with instruments varnishing of this era. Because I keep thinking that since many people of the violin world agree that varnishes/ground of Stradivarius, Guarnerius, Amati and several other makers of this period are all amazing it's hardly thinkable that all of these makers made the same "discovery" independently across several decades. there must have been a common "ancester", or of course a common cause (that is 200-300 years of life, but that would be a little more annoying :) ).

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Oh and I was always given to understand that xylene is not nice stuff to work with. I stopped its use in our workshop back in the 1980's 

Yeah, the fumes are nasty (not as nasty as what comes off while cooking terpene resin, but that's not something for the shop).  I have the shop vent fan on, and work front of my flowbench sitting backwards, so I get the fresh air and the fumes blow the other way.

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Did I say I wanted to avoid it? :)  For dense, lightly flamed maple, this might be a good thing.   On spruce, I definitely don't want anything penetrating, so I use something else.

 

Overall, though, I have to agree with you... I find it hard to believe that several mm of penetration is necessary for any visual effect, and I'll be messing around with thicker stuff.

 

edit:

 

Today it was cloudy (upper pic), with the sun breaking thru in the late afternoon (lower pic).  Lighting does make a difference, for sure.

attachicon.gif14back cloudy sunny.jpg

 

... and no, I didn't post-process the contrast.

 

Great stuff, Don ! Absolutely fantastic. Can't wait to hear it played when fully finished.

Are you going to torture it a bit with your running in set up ?

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Xylene

 

"A xylene (from Greek ξυλος, xylos, "wood") is an aromatic hydrocarbon consisting of a benzene ring with two methyl substituents."

 

" Xylenes are mainly produced as part of the BTX aromatics (benzene, toluene and xylenes) extracted from the product of catalytic reforming known as "reformate"."

 

"Xylene is flammable but of modest acute toxicity,"

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Xylene

 

"A xylene (from Greek ξυλος, xylos, "wood") is an aromatic hydrocarbon consisting of a benzene ring with two methyl substituents."

 

" Xylenes are mainly produced as part of the BTX aromatics (benzene, toluene and xylenes) extracted from the product of catalytic reforming known as "reformate"."

 

"Xylene is flammable but of modest acute toxicity,"

 

 

Yes I saw that on 'Wikiwhatever' as well. But 'modest acute' is enough for me. I grew up in a city with highly toxic air; I don't need that in my proffession too. 

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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.

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Xylene

 

"A xylene (from Greek ξυλος, xylos, "wood") is an aromatic hydrocarbon consisting of a benzene ring with two methyl substituents."

 

" Xylenes are mainly produced as part of the BTX aromatics (benzene, toluene and xylenes) extracted from the product of catalytic reforming known as "reformate"."

 

"Xylene is flammable but of modest acute toxicity,"

 

My concern with Xylene is that it is a member of the benzene family, which has a pretty nasty reputation.  So over a long violin career, who can say with a high degree of certainty, that everything will be alright, when there are other ways of working around Xylene, that are less precarious.

 

I always try to error on the side of safety, and for me I try to avoid any possible health problems.

Now IF doing something can only be done with Xylene say, then I would be taking all the other safety precautions, such as gloves, and breather, limited exposure etc. to reduce the 'unknown factor' as much as possible.

 

I aim to out live Antonio Stradivari by quite a ways, so if I can't beat him at making, then my claim to fame will have to be outliving him.

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it seems the proteins were identified as collagen (consistent with hide glue), casein and ovalbumin (these two having been described here as possible ground/sealers). Unfortunately the matter will remain uncertain as long as a second analysis is not done.

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I think it was Oded?  that pointed out stains on the inside of a del Gesu and suggested applying a colored tincture on top of the varnish?  Could be.   R. Hargrave suggested that they may have used casein glue, would that include gluing the top and back to the ribs?  If so then it might be difficult opening up a white instrument to make internal adjustments, unless those kinds of adjustments were done before a final more permanent gluing.   Violin building history has more twists and turns than a gordian knot.  

 

Original thread title is 'darkening the wood'  I still have not found out the secret third ingredient for the magic age darkening sauce from the guitar builders  but still hoping to get it.   :D

Most darkening of wood is done through oxidation of the wood, so most reactions that oxidize the wood are then neutralized/stopped by a second component.

Exposing your wood to the Sun, is also causing oxidation, and the neutralization/stopping is removing the wood from the Sun.

 

If you use something highly reactive, then things happen faster, and so you need to 'slam the brakes on' to get things stopped.

Go slow, and you can 'drag you feet' to stop things, just like Fred Flintstone. ;)

 

Do nothing, and the wood will naturaly oxidze on it's own just through everyday exposure.

So you will notice that most products sold for this 'darkening of the wood' are two part applications.

The oxidation of old violins will only stop if you place the violins in a protective environment, like the U.S. Constitution in an

inert gas.

Inert gas " Historical documents may also be stored under an inert gas to avoid degradation. For example, the U.S. Constitution is stored under humidified argon. Helium was previously used, but it was less suitable because it diffuses out of the case more quickly than argon."

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Did I say I wanted to avoid it? :)  For dense, lightly flamed maple, this might be a good thing.   On spruce, I definitely don't want anything penetrating, so I use something else.

 

Overall, though, I have to agree with you... I find it hard to believe that several mm of penetration is necessary for any visual effect, and I'll be messing around with thicker stuff.

 

edit:

 

Today it was cloudy (upper pic), with the sun breaking thru in the late afternoon (lower pic).  Lighting does make a difference, for sure.

attachicon.gif14back cloudy sunny.jpg

 

... and no, I didn't post-process the contrast.

Nice looking pics Don!

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In my experience, any clear coating that has sufficient penetration can produce a strong darkening effect on the endgrain. Glue or shellac won't. It is hard to tell from the photo exactly what might be going on.

So,  would you rule out shellac or glue as a sealer or size ?

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 like the U.S. Constitution in an

inert gas.

Inert gas " Historical documents may also be stored under an inert gas to avoid degradation. For example, the U.S. Constitution is stored under humidified argon. Helium was previously used, but it was less suitable because it diffuses out of the case more quickly than argon."

 

Well since you mention that I couldn't resist showing it off.  The Ohman lithograph made in 1942 made by combining the last photograph of the of the original before it was sealed in the national archives in 1903  and the Stone engraving of 1823.  Actual size 25 x 30.  

 I have two of these but don't have a copy of the constitution. 

declaration of independence ohman - Copy.jpg

post-31367-0-02092900-1373398952_thumb.jpg

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