How would you address this damage?


Recommended Posts

So. For a while now I've had a fun hobby/side business doing repairs and setup of old, mostly trade fiddles. Many of the German persuasion. Bridges, boards, nuts, pegs, seam repair, cracks (not soundpost or bass bar)...I like to think that by now I do some decent quality refurbishment and setup work.

 

I recently came across a really neat old German fiddle that I'm very excited to get playing. I've mended a crack, and cleaned it up the best I can. New fingerboard, and getting ready to start on the nut. 

 

Normally I don't touch varnish/finishes. However, this old fiddle could be a beauty, and has seen some rough treatment.

 

How would the experts here address this damage? I'm linking some pictures; on the belly there are some spots of bare wood, and what look like tell-tale fine-tuner gouges, and some spots around the bridge feet that look like moisture damage of some form. On the nicely figured back are a lot of scratches that go just a hair into the wood, and some bare wood down by the end block.

 

I'm not going after "shiny fiddle" look. But I wonder if it's acceptable somehow to undo a bit of the rough treatment. I know that the standard answer is "don't", but it seems unfair to not do a little.

 

20140906_165108.jpg

 

20140906_165120.jpg

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Expert refurbisher would probably not do much with the varnish but an expert restorer would probably have the know how to make this finish look great. I would definiotely not remove any of the scratches or patina. A restorer would know how to handle the worn down spots and bare wood. A nice authentic antique finish just needs some tlc IMO. Nice.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The back I would just clean and polish. I would personally also leave the tailpiece marks. But I do think the area around the bridge needs addressing. It looks like someone had a go at doing it and did a horrible job of it. Not entirely sure but it looks sanded. I see two options. One strip the attempted revarnish off, smooth it over and revarnish that whole area (big job), two smooth the area and apply clear varnish (maybe French polish) to seal the exposed wood. The horrible mess will remain obvious, though if you do not get option 1 right it may not be any better.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I had thought about a bit of JOHA touch up varnish there, or maybe just a very basic shellac, maybe using some amber and garnet shellac flakes to add some hue. I don't really want to remove any varnish in an effort to fix those spots; that particular endeavor likely has poor outcomes.

 

The back makes me sad, because it is otherwise so very pretty. I've cleaned it the best I am capable of without risking damage/change. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

the back i would clean, perhaps buff out a bit to soften the edges of the scratches and then lightly polish it over, the top is something i fill with a clear filler i get from howard core inc, works really well but does take some time to fill really deep holes like these, once it is built up they can be leveled and polished over

you may end up with dark spots but much less noticeable than now, if you get lucky the areas will blend in with the surrounding varnish with a bit of cleaning to get the dirt out first.

reese

 

product is call "rissfuller crack filler"

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the advice so far. 

 

As far as polish, are we recommending any techniques/products specifically? I typically clean with a warm damp cloth; for intransigent old rosin I'll occasionally use a light solution with gum turpentine, after testing, but I've never actually "polished" an instrument.

 

I'll look into that filler.

 

For the back, I had been thinking about a light buffing, then filling the deeper scratches with a thickly mixed clear shellac/sandarac varnish. After it dries, smooth it to the surrounding surface with some pumice and a cloth, maybe a bit of 1000 and 2000 grit sandpaper.

 

After David's point out of what he thought the bridge area damage was (Sanding! Ouch! That actually hadn't occurred to me...) I'm looking at some of the JOHA/Hammerl touch up varnishes. I figure "close enough" is better than what's going on there.

 

I appreciate any further advice. And to reiterate; my goal isn't to transform this into a shiny new violin. I like the neat antique qualities of it. I just want to treat some of the damage that goes a bit beyond "neat" and into neglect/vandalism.

Link to post
Share on other sites

All the experts here, and no other opinions...

 

Oh well. 

 

For those who have chimed in, are we talking polishing with rottenstone/oil/water/cloth? Or polishing with just a cloth.

 

For what it's worth, I've done about all I can with just a cloth and some gentle cleaner in parts. If I'm going to polish away the harder edges of those back scratches, I think it will have to be with a fine abrasive like rottenstone/tripoli.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Banzai, Problem (for me) is that I can't really ascertain exactly what is going on with the top.  It looks like it was sanded (as David said) and then some dark stain was put on the bare wood.  I would try to get it out, but I'm guessing I wouldn't be very successful.  I;m not really sure without seeing it, sorry, wasn't ignoring you, just couldn't figure anything worthwhile to share.  jeff

Link to post
Share on other sites

Banzai, Problem (for me) is that I can't really ascertain exactly what is going on with the top.  It looks like it was sanded (as David said) and then some dark stain was put on the bare wood.  I would try to get it out, but I'm guessing I wouldn't be very successful.  I;m not really sure without seeing it, sorry, wasn't ignoring you, just couldn't figure anything worthwhile to share.  jeff

 

I'm going to agree here.

That top has been damaged to the point where it cannot be "corrected", easily or quickly, because it looks like the varnish areas where the bridge feet removed material from the original varnish layer (which happens and is fairly "normal" on some violins.) has been sanded down for the surface to be 'even' again - which doesn't really make anything even, or level - - but gives this effect as shown...

That some dark stain of some sort was then put on what looks like bare wood, is even worse.

A top like this is a nightmare to deal with. Often, the best way to deal with such things is not to.

The damage has been done. Someone screwed up.

Time to move on.

I am not a 'repair expert', and there are people who could make this area disappear, I'm guessing. 

Is it possible to give advice so this can be done here, with this fiddle?

Not likely.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you so much for the replies! I'm putting a few more pictures, hope you don't mind.

 

When I first looked at this fiddle, I merely thought that there was some form of moisture erosion of the varnish. It looks like, even in the pale wood, there's some of the old black varnish residue that has become, more or less, a permanent part of the belly around the f-holes. 

 

But, now that you say it, perhaps it has been sanded. 

 

I swear it wasn't me. At present, the violin is in the exact condition I acquired it, save for a gentle cleaning.

 

If that wood has been sanded bare, my going in plan is some touch up varnish, an effort to blend, and probably a touch of clear shellac to blend it all together. On the back, I'm still pondering a "fill" of the scars with a shellac/sandarac/copal mix, and then a level and polish.

 

Thank you again for the tips and advice.

 

Cheers!

 

Mike.

 

20140910_210022.jpg

 

20140910_210113.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Banzai, you might try some things like wetting the area with triton x100, and then warming it with a heat gun on low setting , or a hair dryer.  That very well might raise some of the oils in the wood, along with the stain enough to wipe some off.  If your planning on filling and touching up the area, then ridding some of that will go a long way in making your like easier.  Heat may be the ticket.  jeff

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmmm...I just looked up triton x100. That looks like pretty aggressive stuff. I'm not so much interested in stripping off the 100 year old rosin as I am in undoing some of the most egregious damage. Besides, I think that a lot of the black/brown is more-or-less part of the varnish now. It's pretty smooth, barely tacky at all. I cleaned away all the rough build up, and that's what's left. 

 

Based on the sanded/stripped part, it looks like it's penetrated the varnish through to the wood. I have a feeling I'd have to remove a lot of stuff to clean it off.

 

Mostly I just want to take care of those bare patches, patch up those gouges/holes, and smooth the cuts/scratches on the back.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Banzai,

The best judgement as to what needs to be done should be made with the violin in hand. That being said, one approach for the top would be to use Citristrip to remove the varnish and crud from the area. If it's been stained with an oil stain, you won't be able to remove that. On the otherhand, a water based stain will wash out to a large degree. There is a citristrip remover that you can also buy, but there is alcohol in it, which will soften the varnish you don't want to remove, if you are not very careful. Let the wood dry out overnight, and put a coat or two of a thin clear shellec varnish on the bare area without sanding first. Once that has completely dried, sand it with a 320 paper just enough to smooth the fuzz off. Now you can use micromesh to buff the area down to a dull gloss, up to 6-8000, dry.

 

I know I'm putting myself in front of the firing squad here, but hey! it's a trade fiddle. The original varnish wasn't exactly the best to begin with either, and had already been removed by someone else.

 

Now it gets a little more complicated. You'll need to invest in some alcohol soluble aniline dyes. You'll need yellow, a true brown that doesn't turn out red, and a reddish brown. With these 3 you'll be able to match most colors of violins. I mix that with a thin, clear or blonde shellac prepared from flakes. I like the mix to need 3 coats before the original color is matched. That way you'll have room to make adjustments to the color if needed. If the violin seems to have a yellow ground, that's where you start. Use a scrap of spruce to test color by going through the clear, yellow, etc. I use an artist brush with a fine point to apply the color coats. Apply very thin coats, with the brush barely wet. Once you have a good color match, you may need to scrape with a razor blade (most effective when completely hardened) or sand down the high spots in the varnish. If you are adept with french polish, you can make a pad and use alcohol with no varnish to buff the finish to a sheen. If you don't have any experience with french polish, this isn't the place to learn. You can really mess up a finish in no time flat. The second option is to polish the area with micromesh, rotenstone with oil or water, or a polishing compound. If there are adjustments needed to the color, do it with a gloss on the finish. Once the color is right, 2 or 3 coats of clear finish are needed. After the second coat, sand lightly with a 400 grit paper, and clear coat again. Then you can buff out by whatever means you feel comfortable with. If you get the finish work done within 2 days, the varnish will shrink, leaving a slight valley between the grains, and blend in well with the surrounding wood.

 

Also important! All color work should be done in direct or indirect sunlight! Only natural light will reveal the true color. I once did a lot of touch up on a fiddle that looked great, until I took it outside. It was one of the first lessons I learned with color.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you so much for all the advice.

 

It is a "trade fiddle", which is the only reason I'm contemplating doing anything with the varnish/finish. That, and it's already been a bit worked over, so can I really make it that much worse? (The answer is yes, but don't blow my confidence...  ;) )

 

However, it is much nicer in construction than the "average" trade fiddle I typically work on. That's why I'm agonizing over what to do with it. I'll probably keep it, rather than sell it; the pictures don't do it justice, but it is really neat.

 

I'm going to try to do as little as possible to the existing finish, even if it is just a trade fiddle. I really appreciate all the advice, and I'll start looking into more materials. I already have shellac flakes, sandarac, copal, everclear (yes, everclear...much better than denatured alcohol...), and some Hammerl/JOHA touch up varnish. And some micro mesh/sandpaper/brushes/etc.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey, it looks like somebody marked the bridge placement with a scribe. Possibly what somebody was trying to 'fix' by destroying the top. There are also a lot of small dings which look like they could be from a scraper.

If you plan on leaving basically as is, perhaps just drop a tiny bit of shellac over any bare wood (to seal) then when that's dry I would use a light version of my cleaning method (a dab of white spirit/turpentine and a dab of castor oil together on a rag or paper towel. Wipe on the rub off. I often go over this with a cloth just damp with spirit to get any remaining residue off. The castor oil changes the spirit so it is comparatively safer, but having said that go too far with any of these ingredients and you'll have a right disaster. For safety with spirits make sure the cloth is nearly dry (as you would for polishing). For me that's when it looks dry but feels cool.

After that I would usually follow with either just a polishing cloth or a commercial polish (I mix Ocedar and Hills', but whatever works) followed with a polishing cloth. Usually just the cloth will suffice but its important whatever you do that any residue is wiped off the instrument. My polishing cloth is an old pyjama shirt, but any soft lint-free cloth will do.

I must stress when using solvents on the instrument to be extremely careful. Any information involving solvents for varnish is potentially dangerous. In this case the solvents being turpentine and spirits. FYI if I want to strip any varnish, a mix of both often wipes it clean off. So bare that in mind.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It looks to me that this fiddle is one of those that started life with a big patch of that dark stuff over the entire bridge area, and that someone tried to scrub it off, thinking that it was a build up of rosin and dirt. Often this colour seems to have been put on to the fresh varnish, and has bitten right in, so that it can't be removed without taking the varnish with it. I think it's just earth colours, and if you want to repair it, you should be able to retouch the varnish a bit, and then replace the missing 'antiquing'.  You can hide an elephant under this stuff.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Conor,

 

I suspected that it might have started with a patch of dark "antiquing", given how deep it seems to go, and how smooth it is after cleaning. I wonder what kind of earth tones/antiquing would work?

 

David,

 

I'm starting to think that I ought to do the barest amount of touch-up varnish to try to blend, then clear shellac over to patch up the bare wood. I'm not going to try to learn to french polish on this, but I'll do my best to clean it up. On the back, find a way to smooth the cuts, make some fill varnish of shellac/sandarac/copal, then smooth everything out.

 

I'll try not to screw it up...

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.