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Joe Swenson

Making Madder Lake Question

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I thought red  pigment particles had been found in Cremona varnish?  Cinnabar for example?   maybe lakes too?   Not enough to account for all of the color though? 

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I thought red  pigment particles had been found in Cremona varnish?  Cinnabar for example?   maybe lakes too?   Not enough to account for all of the color though? 

It seems you do not want to believe what you are reading.  :)

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Roger, my question to you is this:  is it a waste of time because you don't think it looks good, or because you don't think the classic Cremonese did it this way?  I guess those two could be connected, if you define "looks good" as "looks like classical Cremonese".

 

I do this because it's fun, and because whether the Cremonese did it this way or not, I don't know what they actually did, so I can't do that anyway.  I have to do something, and I like the look of a good madder lake.  So, I may as well work on it.  I don't think that "looks good" is strictly limited to "is the same as classical Cremonese".  As an amateur, I'm never going to be the next Stradivari anyway.  I think that's liberating: I can do something because it appeals to me, not because it conforms to a standard which is impossible.

 

I'm interested in your reasoning.  I've read some of your articles in the past, and respect your opinion.  Your ultimate goals, however, may or may not be congruent with mine.  I think that's perfectly OK.

 

 

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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Oh, I was sick of limiting my coffee source to the Kuerig maker.  I've got some beans that don't work very well in the Kuerig, and had been thinking of getting a new cheap drip coffee maker anyhow, soooooooo.... I spent the $40 at Walmart on the cheap espresso maker.  I'm going to give that method a shot.  Probably tonight.  :D

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Roger, my question to you is this:  is it a waste of time because you don't think it looks good, or because you don't think the classic Cremonese did it this way?  I guess those two could be connected, if you define "looks good" as "looks like classical Cremonese".

 

I do this because it's fun, and because whether the Cremonese did it this way or not, I don't know what they actually did, so I can't do that anyway.  I have to do something, and I like the look of a good madder lake.  So, I may as well work on it.  I don't think that "looks good" is strictly limited to "is the same as classical Cremonese".  As an amateur, I'm never going to be the next Stradivari anyway.  I think that's liberating: I can do something because it appeals to me, not because it conforms to a standard which is impossible.

 

I'm interested in your reasoning.  I've read some of your articles in the past, and respect your opinion.  Your ultimate goals, however, may or may not be congruent with mine.  I think that's perfectly OK.

 

Look I am not trying to stop your fun. I am just suggesting that your time might be better spent. Perhaps perfecting a varnish rather than colours. I have no idea what the Cremonese put in their varnishes. But when I am judging competitions, modern makers are often amazed when I identify the colors that they have used. 

"How did you know that it is an alizarin red, black and Indian yellow mix? How did you know that it is (madder, cochineal, pernambuco, alizerin) lake color? How did you know that it is dragon’s blood? How did you know that it is an earth color, analine stains, tinctures etc?" 

Well I know, because I have done it all myself. Now I am not saying that there are no varnishes out there that contain such things and still look great. There may well be. Nor am I saying that all nice varnishes are Cremonese. What perhaps I am saying is, that most of what I see just does not come close to great Cremonese varnish and this is because to reach some depth of color, these varnishes all need to contain so much pigment that the pigment itself becomes the prominent feature of the varnish. Varnish should enhance the wood not the coloration. (This bloody American spell check is driving my potty.)

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 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.

Alot of it has to do with the pH when you produce the precipitate, ive had yellow ,orange ,red ,purple etc lakes from lac dye. Also the metal salt you use .

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I dont know if the Cremonese used lake in their varnish or not but if someone wants to use them thats their choice. Also theres many other nice varnishes from other schools  early 19th century french comes to mind.

Roger keeps mentioning Raymond White saying he thought all the strong colour from a Seraphin(i think) came from oxidation. Im rather sceptical on this. I also dont totally beileve all varnish research, too many conflicting results by accomplished scientists of what should really be a quite straight forward process. They can do it in amazing detail with old master paintings (which often have many,many more layers of allsorts of stuff) so why is it so hard with a relatively simple coating such as a violin varnish. :)

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No one has mentioned the decorated violins,  the ones with all the black designs on the sides and on the peg box and scroll.  Would there have been a less colored varnish on those so that the designs would be more visible and then a more colorful varnish on the more plain undecorated instruments?  

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I dont know if the Cremonese used lake in their varnish or not but if someone wants to use them thats their choice. Also theres many other nice varnishes from other schools  early 19th century french comes to mind.

Roger keeps mentioning Raymond White saying he thought all the strong colour from a Seraphin(i think) came from oxidation. Im rather sceptical on this. I also dont totally beileve all varnish research, too many conflicting results by accomplished scientists of what should really be a quite straight forward process. They can do it in amazing detail with old master paintings (which often have many,many more layers of allsorts of stuff) so why is it so hard with a relatively simple coating such as a violin varnish. :)

 

You seem to think that I am against lake pigments and there manufacture. I am not. Either I am not expressing myself clearly enough, or you are ignoring what I am saying. Take a look at the red violins on the topic about, what reddish Cremonese varnishes looked like.... #103 from carlobartolini. These are undoubtable red and they may indeed have had red colour added to them, but this redness in the varnish is not the major feature of the varnish. In this case these varnishes enhance the wood rather than detracting from it. It must be remembered that madder lakes are relatively stable colours. Had they been added to the varnish in the amounts that would be required to make a relatively clear varnish red. These instruments would still today look like English post boxes and they would also be almost as opaque. There are Andrea Amati violins that are almost 400 years old. These have paintings on them that were in part painted with red pigments. Some are bright red and some are flesh coloured. These pigments were probably lake pigments of various types. The point is that they have not faded; at least not appreciably.

As for the decorated (inlayed) violins that Mike mentions. With one or two exceptions I have seen them all, including all the painted Amati's. These were not noticeably varnished with anything other than that which was normal for the period. 

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Thanks Roger, thought provoking posts - - not having a trained eye, but a trained ear and palate, I must say that the power of our senses is something quite astounding compared to technology.

 

Just to be clear, the extra red in the varnishes in the above mentioned post #103 picts was digitally added in Photoshop Lightroom, except for the first one which is the unmodified Lady Blunt.

 

Thanks again  :)

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Thanks Roger, thought provoking posts - - not having a trained eye, but a trained ear and palate, I must say that the power of our senses is something quite astounding compared to technology.

 

Just to be clear, the extra red in the varnishes in the above mentioned post #104 picts was digitally added in Photoshop Lightroom, except for the first one which is the unmodified Lady Blunt.

 

Thanks again  :)

 

Do you know the stories of Dylan Thomas? This reminds me of a line in one of them. "Caught again Connie!" Said by a husband to a lady when she was being just a bit too cleaver. It's a shame though because it illustrates my point exactly.

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Ops, sorry, did not realize it untill now :blink: .... I re-edited my sentence that explains about the digital editing of the picts in that post I think it was not clear and easy to be mis-interpreted, thanks again.

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There have been times in the past, for a different application, that I have made test panels to determine the lightfast effects of various colorants. To observe the effects of UV light and time on various varnishes, grounds and pigments can be quite educational. Those who feel that they will be creating instruments and making their own varnishes over a period of their life, may wish to make sample panels that have varying recipes and pigment so they may observe how colors and varnishes perform over time. The sooner one makes these panels the longer timeframe they will have to observe them. I suggest both spruce and maple samples, I would leave the bottom half of each sample raw wood some one may observe the effects on the raw material itself which will show how the wood darkens.

 

Regardless of when a sample/piece was varnished the general effects of time and light exposure will remain fairly constant within similar bases and pigments. Sticklac with cochineal tinting the base applied 200 years ago will age like just like something applied today, assuming the proportions and character are the same. The only difference is one has 200 years of light exposure compared to the other, but 200 year later, the one applied today will look very similar to the 200 year old one that we are observing now.

 

I agree that lakes are pretty strong colors not prone to fading when used in a proportion that achieves a notable color change in a varnish base, and that I don't think when I look at Cremona instruments I see much of that in there. Like Roger said, they would still be pretty blaring red. If someone were to have made panels say 30 years ago they would not match 200 year old instruments, but they certainly yield clues as to how various pigments fade over time. One could even add some chin grease and razor stubble effects by chin'ing the sample board if one were so inclined.

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I'll just toss this into the pot and apologize in advance if I'm repeating myself.....

 

there is a ridiculously simple way to color oil varnish:

 

extract color from any and/or all.... madder, cochineal, rosewood, pernambuco, oak bark, cherry wood etc etc then apply this tincture, perhaps diluted with a bit of water, right over oil varnish.

 

On some oil varnishes the color will penetrate without dissolving the varnish. Viola, a transparent deeply colored varnish to which you will need to add some body in the form of pigments or it will look like stained glass

 

Oded. 

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Interesting, Oded. So the tincture seeps into the varnish? I really do not understand how this is possible, but I will give it a shot one of these days. Thanks.

Just a bit of back pedaling, this technique may not work with every oil varnsh out there, there are thousands of permutations, but it CAN work and when it does it's quite wonderful!

Oded

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I know you mentioned this earlier in another thread or two. I am just wondering whether this is a surface effect in which pigment just settles out (down) on the varnish surface. Again, I cannot fathom how an aqueous solution can permeate an oil-based varnish. I can believe that this could happen in a spirit varnish. Nevertheless, it bears repeating in a controlled experiment. Again, thanks.

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A couple of things before I hit the sack. Tinctures of madder etc are really quite fugitive if not fix in some way. They are also prone to color changes because they work rather like a litmus paper. Unless they are fixed they can change color as acids or alkalis’ come into contact with them, (sweat etc). 

 

As for color fastness. For about two hundred years strips of various colors have been prepared and placed under the glass roof of the National Gallery in London. I believe that there are some of Turners colors there. As far as I know, this is still being done. There are many thousands of them and the National is not the only place, although it is one of the oldest. Of course color makers devote a lot of effort with this theme. Consiquently, quite lot is known about colour fade. 

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Interesting, Oded. So the tincture seeps into the varnish? I really do not understand how this is possible, but I will give it a shot one of these days. Thanks.

Some dyes, like transtint, will stain anything they touch.

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Alot of it has to do with the pH when you produce the precipitate, ive had yellow ,orange ,red ,purple etc lakes from lac dye. Also the metal salt you use .

 

How does one control the pH?

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