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To Antique...or not?


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Hi all. Being fairly isolated from what other makers are doing, my dear husband has asked me to ask on here about what it is you do antiquing-wise, and why. European makers, is it easier to sell a fiddle that looks old?

I don't mean those making bench copies, since that's a completely different endeavor than just trying to create an old-looking painting on a violin.

Curious about all perspectives on antiquing, or to hear from those who renounce the trend. If that's what's going on...I mean, if 200+ years of something can be just a trend. But then, it may be: men were wearing wigs for longer than that.

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not,

There are two different schools of opinion on the subject of antiquing. 

One is that it makes an instrument more "sale-able".

The second is the aesthetic of old vs new looking instruments.

 

My observation is that good instruments will sell, if priced properly, whether they are antiqued or not.

If your personal aesthetic appreciates the look of old instruments, then antiquing is a good choice.  If not, then pursue an alternative.

Wherever the instrument lies on the scale from "untouched and unplayed" to "beat to death and hoping for resurrection" the varnish must be convincing within your chosen context to be viewed by dealers, players, and other luthiers as a proper varnish.

on we go,

Joe

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Yea, I have seen plenty of antiquing jobs where I knew exactly how it was done. And sometimes I'm not that bright. In other words, if one is making the 40+ hour commitment to antiquing, make sure non-experts can't see how you did it.

I am interested in what techniques are popular, though. I honestly don't know. I recognize a few tricks but only painfully obvious gambits.

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Yea, I have seen plenty of antiqueing jobs where I knew exactly how it was done. And sometimes I'm not that bright. In other words, if one is making the 40+ hour commitment to antiqueing, make sure non-experts can't see how you did it.

I am interested in what techniques are popular, though. I honestly don't know. I recognize a few tricks but only painfully obvious gambits.

Roger Hargrave gave several good tips on his thread on bass making. Maybe some others here will add some of their tips. I think alcohol, rocks for scratches dents and dings, and burnt umber are important tools to have in an antiquers tool chest.
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Roger Hargrave gave several good tips on his thread on bass making. Maybe some others here will add some of their tips. I think alcohol, rocks for scratches dents and dings, and burnt umber are important tools to have in an antiquers tool chest.

Thanks! I was holding out for the book, but I found the part you referenced (post 467 on) and this is all great information. I have to read from a screen the size of a business card, which is why I didn't get through the entire thread before.

Looks like any other mention of techniques would be well nigh pointless when we have that explanation. Thank you Roger for that incredible thread.

Still if anyone does something different I'd enjoy hearing it. As well, I am curious about Americans who don't do antiquing. Do you do anything to make the instrument not look new? Do you hold off because you know it won't look authentic or some other reason? Those who do full antiqueing, how long do you spend on it, and is it a part of the process that you find exciting and personally rewarding, or just satisfying a demand? I think these issues are what he is curious about.

I am wondering...those who do shading with zero scratches--why? Or why beat a violin into pieces without peg bushings? Why use tape, in the rectangular dimension of the actual tape? Just saying...I barely know what I'm looking at (In fact, I often have exactly zero clues) but I guess I see enough pictures of authentic aging to see certain problems with antiquing. I have a feeling some makers are impatient, which imo doesn't work with any task in any part of the process. Lol

Sorry if this idea has been debated 8463 seperate times in the past year. I am still newish to MN.

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I've never used tape, but I believe they ball it up and just dab at the varnish to pull off in small random areas. I do remove areas of varnish around edges of top, back, and scroll. I think it highlights the borders and kind of frames the fiddle. I also lightly distress sometimes. A grafted neck also helps with the look especially if you have contrasting figure in the maple. One of the hardest things for me is making (what I think are) are nice corners and then sanding them off to look worn. I wish I had some photos, but I rarely take pictures of my fiddles, I'm trying to change that and be more diligent about photos. I'll look through my pics and see if I can find something.

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If it hurts so much, why not just leave it alone? It seems absurd to me to destroy something like a beautiful, crisp, angular corner...not that it's really destroyed, just turned into something else I guess. But nonetheless I don't understand the appeal myself unless it's a bench copy. That would be fun. Approximating or creating an interpretation of some sort of average wear pattern sounds frustrating.

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What's antiquing ?

 

It's like worn out and ripped jeans... :blink:...it can be cool...or not depends how it was done....I did not like it before, but one of Marilyn Wallin's violins I saw looked really beautiful, tasteful.... it opened my mind...and she rang like a bell, just a wonderful sound.....seen lots of picts of great looking pristine violins that got ruined by antiquing....

 

edited - most likely right after Michael's post..before reading it...nice he also mentioned Marilyn.... :)

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It's like worn out and ripped jeans... :blink:

Great analogy.

 

I remember Benjamin Ruth explaining his philosophy of antiquing at one of Robson's Varnish Workshops: Antiquing tells a story. What a great concept, but I get exhausted trying to think how to tell that story about a violin's life.  :unsure: So, I stay away from antiquing. It's hard enough trying to make a good fiddle without compounding that trouble by antiquing it. Nevertheless, there are some people who really master antiquing. Take a look at Marilyn Wallin's work, for instance.

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My opinion is that mediocre antiquing looks better than mediocre straight varnish. My hope is that if I can learn to make a really great pristine violin it will lay the foundation for being able to make a great antiqued violin. I don't believe you can skip this step. If you look at Picasso's early works he was capable of painting a very fine portrait.

 

http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/pablo-picasso/portrait-of-the-artist-s-mother-1896#close

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As a buyer...I'd prefer to buy an instrument with a 'good' new finish.  Not a shiny, 'dipped in laquer' finish...nor an obviously fake, distressed finish.  Some shading is fine...
 
This copy is just too obvious, reminds me of the 'faded' new blue jeans that obviously have been sanded:

http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Antique-Oil-Varnish-Antonio-Stradivari-1715-The-Titian-Copy-T20-Violin-/141271644610?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20e47239c2

 

And then there is another 'obvious' runny-varnish type antiquing I don't like either.  The new Guad viola copy I just bought has it around the chinrest area...but oh well...

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Not to undermine Joe, but one of the reasons I started and continued with antiquing was to understand the methods used by the Cremonese and other Italian makers. Imitating their idiosyncrasies really helped me to understand their methods. However, it takes a long time to get good and for two reasons, the better you get the more difficult it becomes.

1. Your standards get higher.

2. You can easily get lazy and start relying on slick tricks, rather than carful thoughtful techniques. 

By the way the bass blog has almost reached the 100,000 hits required for my date at the opera with Violadamore and Addie. Anyone know where Addie is?

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My personal preference is for an antiqued instrument, both for the aesthetics of being a fiddler (yes, there are some, but the opposite of normal folks), and the comfort in knowing that I don't have to be careful handling it.  Any new dings and scratches just add to what's there, rather than creating an obvious new blemish.

 

I have also heard from MANY sources that antiqued instruments sell better than straight varnished... although I'm sure that horrid antiquing wouldn't help.

 

For contest entry, you have to consider that Roger and/or people like him will be scoring your varnish work, and their standards are likely much higher than yours.  It is far easier to lose more points for mediocre antiquing than it is for medoicre straight varnish, I think.

 

So, for these reasons, I continue to try to develop my antiquing skills, but also straight varnish skills for VSA work until I think I'm good enough at the antiquing.  I will have to make an exception this year for my viola entry, as I just don't think a shiny new da Salo would look right.  Near zero chance of a workmanship award anyway, so why not.

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Yeah - any violin made today (well, not today today, this very day, but made recently...) has to be varnished.

Right?

And for me, personally, straight varnish - or antiquing a varnish, are pretty much considered (by me) in the same "realm" anymore. I started out simply varnishing my violins (non - antique style) because that's how I was taught. Then, somewhere along the line, I got the idea that antiquing would be, if nothing else, an interesting challenge.

I did write quite extensively here, about my adventures into the realm of "antiquing". For what that's worth. But the fact is that I have grown into the idea that antiquing is simply another modern, and accepted, way to varnish a violin.

And, I like it. I not only like the process, but I like the finished product - I like the look.

 

It takes, (again, my opinion here only)  or I should say that it takes me about as long to get an antique finish that i'm happy with, as it does to make a straight, non-antique varnish job, that I like. The sensibility that I have now about antiquing is that I don't really have to copy any specific antique violin in order to antique my own violin, because if you look through the literature ...all violins age differently. 

That fact leaves me lots of room to antique my own violins without worrying if they look a specific way, or a pattern sort of antiquing , but I can do it to them, individually. They deserve to look as different as any handmade violin looks - they just need (in my opinion) to look genuinely old - or genuinely older.

 

For me - it's just ;

1. fun

2. challenging

3. monetarily rewarding

 

and since there are no rules governing exactly what we do as makers, there is absolutely no right or wrong, regarding this aspect of our craft... well, I think anyone reading this will understand how I feel about "To Antique... or not?"

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 Then, somewhere along the line, I got the idea that antiquing would be, if nothing else, an interesting  

and since there are no rules governing exactly what we do as makers, there is absolutely no right or wrong, regarding this aspect of our craft... well, I think anyone reading this will understand how I feel about "To Antique... or not?"

 

And yes, I am insinuating that those people who think that there is something that is somehow dishonest or disingenuous about antiquing a violin... well, I believe that such thinking is self-limiting. 

 

either way of varnishing is as easy, or difficult, or accepted, or not well accepted, as believable or  as not -believable or as etc., etc., etc. the other way is. What anyone thinks about the ethics of the situation, is merely an individual thought and does not "cross the tracks" easily or very well.

 

In my opinion, that is.

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OK.  I understand that people don't consider "shaded" varnish to be antiqued.  But is an instrument with shaded varnish "fully varnished" or "straight"?

 

I believe that really well made and appied varnish can look spectacular on a non-antiqued instrument with beautiful wood and harmonious design.

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I believe that really well made and appied varnish can look spectacular on a non-antiqued instrument with beautiful wood and harmonious design.

I like looking at beautiful violins, period. I sincerely hope that your views are not radical somehow. Personally it does not matter to me if a luthier takes on the antique job or not. Whatever is done should be done mindfully, as Roger said.
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