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Joe Swenson

Making Madder Lake Question

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I often wonderered if the classical makers used distilled water or if they used their equivalent of "tap water" which could have been the source of the minerals found on the old instruments.

Joe

Oh yes they certainly knew about the effect of hard and soft waters on the tinctures that they were about to mix with various salts. In this respect they were exceptional chemist.

 

Madder that has been precipitated is also fixed. Madder in turpentine would not be fixed and might change when it comes into contact with acids or alkali.

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Oh yes they certainly knew about the effect of hard and soft waters on the tinctures that they were about to mix with various salts. In this respect they were exceptional chemist.

 

Could you please tell us where this fact is recorded?

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Could you please tell us where this fact is recorded?

Just pick up any book about historical chemistry. Water has been distilled since at least AD 200 when the process was  described by some Greek guy whose name I forgot ten seconds after I heard it.

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I should add that if you heat madder and are too impatient to wait until it cools down before you precipitate it, you might have trouble. In 1978 we had just moved into a house in Aylesbury (uuuugggh). We decorated the place with white emulsion. I decided to precipitate some madder in a tall glass chemistry jar. It was still hot and after a second or two the chemical effect of the precipitation was almost explosive. It shot out of the tall jar like a cannon and hit the ceiling. After this we had walls and ceiling with a rose pink tie dye pattern. We sold the house to a couple who thought it was a work of art.   

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Just pick up any book about historical chemistry. Water has been distilled since at least AD 200 when the process was  described by some Greek guy whose name I forgot ten seconds after I heard it.

The question was about classical violinmakers not historical chemists.

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The question was about classical violinmakers not historical chemists.

I wasn't talking about the classical violin makers. Even if they did use lake colours they almost certainly would not have made them themselves. The various guilds would not have allowed them to. 

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How come that we people of today seem to believe that we have evolved and developed a greater intellect!

We are drenched with information, that we mistakenly believe is knowledge.

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I forgot to mention shellac red lakes. Some of the most beautiful that I made, I made from seedlack (sticklack). Shellac was initially imported into Europe as a red dye, the varnish parts were thrown away. Today the story is the other way around. The difficulty again is getting the raw stick lack. I understand that the Indian government do not allow its sale because they want to extract the shellac themselves. Last time I bought any I had to get it from India directly. This might have changed. If you are interested in lakes it is easier to use and is certainly light fast enough.  

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I received the chemicals and have a batch going
Some observations and questions.

- After maybe 4 dl run through the espresso machine the liquid turned much lighter in color
and I stopped at this point.
- The alum was hard to dissolve and I had to heat and stir like crazy, eventually most of it dissolved.
- When adding the potassium carbonate the liquid froated a lot. Lesson learned: use a bigger jar next time :)
- Is it OK to use a normal coffee filter to collect the pigment when the cleaing is ready?

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I want to try David Rubio's recipe for making Madder Lake. I also found a MN thread on the same subject.  http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/315956-lets-make-some-madder-lake/

 

Bot use root which are in chunks and pieces.  I have Madder Root powder as a starting point.  My presumption is that thiswill reduce the cooking time which is stated to be about 36 hours for the first step.  

 

 

 

:)

I haven't read the whole thread so apologies if someone else has mentioned this, but I got terrible results from using pre-powdered madder root. The lake had a very weak colour. Far better to use good quality root and grind it yourself in my experience.

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I haven't read the whole thread so apologies if someone else has mentioned this, but I got terrible results from using pre-powdered madder root. The lake had a very weak colour. Far better to use good quality root and grind it yourself in my experience.

 

Busy with Varnish the past week and a half.  Thanks for the note.  I haven't had a chance to try it.  I did see a varnish making video by Ricardo Flores who uses the powdered madder root directly in the cooking varnish.  Wondering how cooking the madder compares to adding the lake to the cooked varnish.

 

But be careful when you try to sneak the mixer out of the kitchen, I got caught by my wife ...

 

I use a $20 Mr Coffee grinder to pulverize what I need.

 

:)

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Hey guys.  I just made some more madder lake.  I wish I'd read this whole thread first.  To be honest, I should have read my own thread from 7 years ago all the way through first.

 

Someone asked about adding the potash while vinegar is still present in the roots.

 

I used a lot more vinegar this time around.  Way too much.  I put in like 3 cups of vinegar, but I figured I'd just evaporate it all out and be perfectly fine.  I simmered my potash/root/vinegar concoction for over a whole day (over 24 hours), evaporating off at least half of the original volume.  I added more water several times to keep the level up, and stirred it very, very often.

 

Still, when I got to the point where I wanted to add my 100 g potash water into the mix, it erupted violently, with the attached result.

 

Btw, I was able to drive on.  I added some more potash to compensate for the amount that had reacted with the remaining acetic acid.  I just made a wild-assed guess and added some.  I figured if I was wrong it would all come out in the wash.

 

What's interesting is that the acetic acid/potash reaction generated a purplish hue.  That was only a portion of the dye water, however.  There was still tons and tons of unreacted dye, so I drove on with the potash, and then strained the liquor through t-shirts into a bucket, and added the alum water.

 

The amount of dye stuff was absolutely ginormous.  This was with 300g of roots.  I really should have jumped back into this in smaller quantities, like no more than 100g.  The dye was so plentiful that even with around 100-120gr of potash, and 100g of alum being reacted and precipitated out, the water I poured off before I got to the sediment layer was so dark I mixed up another 30g or so each of potash and alum, mixed it into this poured-off water, and fixed a lot of that too.  And it's still really dark stuff.

 

The final result is still drying, but I've taken some chips from around the edge of the filter paper that dried sooner and ground them into varnish on glass to see what it looked like.  It has a slight purplish tinge to it, but it's actually not bad. 

 

I'll attach another photo showing the huge blob of precipitate drying on a coffee filter.

 

Oh yeah.  This time I used the filter flash/hand vaccuum pump that I'd bought off eBay 7 years ago after talking to Fiddlecollector.  I also used normal coffee filters in a strainer for a couple smaller side quantities of stuff I wanted to test.  The vacuum pump filter paper/flask thing freaking ROCKS.  You can actually watch the level of stuff drop as water is forced through the filter paper by the vacuum pressure.  Any of you who've dried this stuff through a conventional coffee filter in a strainer will know how slow it filters once it builds up a significant layer.  The vacuum-assisted filter flask simple doesn't care.  Check out the blob (with filter paper under it, set afterwards onto a coffee filter) in the 2nd pic.  That blob was an inch thick in the filter flash.  I should have just left it there to dry and shrink and crack into chunks, but I wanted to use the flask for another experiment, so I removed the blob to dry separately.

post-4641-0-04981900-1393301793_thumb.jpg

post-4641-0-85416300-1393301800_thumb.jpg

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Btw, having now read all about Neil Ertz's (and Roger's, and Eero Haahti’s) espresso method, I'm very seriously considering going out to Walmart and spending the $30-40 on a cheap espresso machine just to give that method a try.  Heck, I've still got some roots.  Btw, this stuff is pretty fun for me.  I hope it's fun for you guys too.  I know it's work for some of you, but at least I hope you enjoy your work.

 

Btw, using the methods I've used recently and in the past, I have a devil of a time grinding the lake into the consistently fine powder that we want.  In fact, it boggles my mind that Neil can get his lake ground down from chunks to a finished mix in varnish using only a pallet knife and a muller.  With the chunks I've made, that would be a No Go.

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In my other 7-year old madder lake thread, I mentioned the vacuum-assisted filter flask.  This was recommended by Fiddlecollector, and I bought one off eBay back then and never used it until today.

 

You pour off the water until you've got just the water precipitate layer at the bottom of your bucket or jar, then pour that layer into this filter funnel/flask combo.  It takes filter paper (doesn't look like it would pass water easily, but it does).  You can see the filter paper two posts up in the photo of three quantities of different portions of drying madder lake.  It's the round circle on the left.  The thick blob of lake is actually sitting on a filter paper as well, and then on top of a coffee filter on the cookie rack.

 

In the case of the huge blob, I wasn't able to get all the precipitate into the funnel in the first pouring, so I did like half or 2/3 of it, stood there pumping on the cheap plastic vacuum pump from time to time to keep a good vaccuum going, and watched water come out the bottom of the funnel until there was more room in there for the remaining precipitate.  It goes surprisingly fast.  It took me maybe a half hour to finally get the last of the precipitate in there.  You go from the watery precipitate layer to a thick blob of drying lake in no time at all, especially compared with using a coffee filter in a strainer, and the force of gravity alone.

post-4641-0-50588400-1393304059_thumb.jpg

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Look, I know how much fun this is; looking at your pictures brought it all back, but I really think that you should think twice about even bothering. It is such a waste of time and money. I have spent a small fortune on ancient books and thousands of hours experimenting. And this at a time when few if any makers were working on this. But surely the many hundreds of violin makers that have been unsuccessful, (although they may not believe that they are unsuccessful), must tell you something. Historically this was always one of the most difficult colours to make. Today, most of the knowledge has died along with the numerous varieties of madder plants that were previously available. Moreover, there is little evidence to suggest that madder lakes were used to colour classical Italian varnishes. I have written extensively on MN and elsewhere, about why I believe this to be the case.

If you or anyone else wishes to pursue this course then go ahead, it really is fun, but don't say that you have not been warned. In my opinion, trying to colour varnishes with madder lakes is a 'red' herring.

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I forgot to mention shellac red lakes. Some of the most beautiful that I made, I made from seedlack (sticklack). Shellac was initially imported into Europe as a red dye, the varnish parts were thrown away. Today the story is the other way around. The difficulty again is getting the raw stick lack. I understand that the Indian government do not allow its sale because they want to extract the shellac themselves. Last time I bought any I had to get it from India directly. This might have changed. If you are interested in lakes it is easier to use and is certainly light fast enough.  

 

Any possibility that shellac color was used in classical italian varnishes? They sure used it to make red varnishes at the time.

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Why wouldn't you use 'ruby shellac' rather than stick lac to make a red color?

 

ok

 Hi Oded

Sticklac has a lot more of the red dye in it than ruby lac.

When I made a lake from sticklac using potash and alum it came out a dark violet color!

Lac dye, the unfixed red dye from lac is obtainable from Kremer as a red powder. http://www.kremer-pigmente.com/en/dyes-und-vegetable-color-paints/lac-dye-36020.html

Kremer sell sticklac too.

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When I made some 1704 varnish the resulting color was very red/burgundy and this only comes from the seedlack used in the recipe since all the rest is colorless. So indeed you can get color out of the seedlac. But I seem to remember trying to melt shellac into oil to make some colored oil varnish and the shellac never got into the oil. So I as under the impression it was insoluble in oil?

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It's been a while since I dappled with this stuff. I recall that Kremer had most of the things mentioned above. Look at the documentation Kremer also supplies. Some of it is very useful. I think you can google around to find other sources and methods for making lakes. However, read Hargrave's remarks in this thread - at least twice. He's on to something that I think is important.  ;)

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