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Why were Strad's wood pores as wide open as Sacconi claimed?


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Can a hot solution of calcium chloride be used to open the wood's pores to an unnatural extent?

 

otter

I do not think the pores were opened as a goal, but rather they remain open as a by-product of the ground + varnishing process.

 

Unatural? I don't know, I think each piece of wood will have its own characteristics. All wood pores will open when water is applied, the extent is dictated by the characteristics of that particular piece and species. We could take 2 different pieces of wood and apply water to them, the extent of openness would probably vary piece to piece. It is best to not let one picture of one fiddle determine finality as there is so much variation in my opinion. 

jezzupe,

Definitely.  And further, the process of keeping the pore structure open must consider the wetting properties of the materials we use.

Joe

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Joe writes, "I do not think the pores were opened as a goal, but rather they remain open as a by-product of the ground + varnishing process."

 

Since I've always thought this, my emphasis has been to inquire how craft goals should be sequenced........

 

otter

otter,

I risk crossing the line into "commercial" response if I answer your question...but feel free to PM me and we can discuss it.

joe

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Joe,

 

I keep raising the subject of how craft goals should be sequenced, but it seems there are no takers in this forum. Alas!

 

In another thread on opening the pores, David Beard wrote, " . . . it seems important to not just open the pores, but to keep them open until the right something can get in there to stay. If that something isn't the 'ground', it would seem to suggest that small quantities of the 'something' are applied to the instrument before the 'ground'."

 

Hence I like to think in three steps:

 

a - do "things" which just happen to open the pores to an unnatural extent

 

b - get the right "something" else in there to stay, as Beard puts it

 

c - introduce and then consolidate the "ground" itself

 

Joe, I do not know how to PM you, but my email address is Brian.McLinden@gmail.com

 

otter

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Speaking of sugar, 

Back in the old days (Newark) 

Koen Padding and I made up some varnish made of heated sugar. You know , like when you make caramel with butter, only we used linseed. The colour of a burnt sugar is intense and beautiful, but we never followed through with this one. It seemed to fade and was always a bit soluble. Pretty though.

 

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1. was intentional nano technology available during Strads life....that's pretty easy...no

2.besides sugar or salts what material could someone from 1770....

Hi Jezzupe,

I think the sugar idea is interesting, and I'll be looking at it more. It particularly seems appealing as a way to deliver Carmel color into the wood texture.

However, the old Italians essentially did have techniques for achieving ultra fine particles. And nothing about those techniques limits you from proceeding to nano particles. Though they certainly didn't have that terminology.

Levigation was part of their arsenal of techniques for handling pigments.

In my own tests using lime milk, I found it easy enough to extract particles so small that the white lime dries with a violet colored crust. This indicates the particles sizes are down to the wavelength of visible light.

These nanoparticles were achieved using nothing more than water and tall glass goblets. These techniques are far older than violins. In this way, artists could separate the 'impalpably fine' portion of a powder if desired.

So, I would amend your list:

1) Did they have the ability to intentionally create nanoparticles? Yes

2) What materials could be used this way during that time? Most any pigment which includes a sufficiently fine portion when well ground. i.e. many earth colors and lakes

Here's an example of how these things can be used to delicately blush the wood figure without 'burning' in. The effect of this is somewhat similar to good application of burnt sugar:

Use a solvent like spirits of turpentine (or perhaps lavender) which does all of: penetrates well into wood, wets 'into' the fibers, and evaporates out fairly quickly and cleanly.

Throw some well ground madder lake and burnt sienna into a tall jar half full of your solvent and shake. Let stand a bit until most of the coursest particles settle, but while sufficient color still floats in the upper portion of the solvent.

Take a second bottle part full of clean solvent. Pour in a little color from the top portion of your first bottle. Test by brushing onto wood. Add more color as need to adjust. The right amount of blush should look essentially clear when brushed onto your wood, but leaves a hint of color settled into the figure.

If desired, you can levigate the pigment in solvent more carefully. You can isolate particles down to whatever desired fineness. But in practice this doesn't seem necesary. We want to carry particles into the wood structure, not deposit them on the surface. Only the smallest particles will be able to travel with the solvent as it wets into the wood fibers. So the application itself further separates particle size. The larger particles will be left on the surface or in the roughness of the surface. (This blush can also serves as a good 'discovery' stain to aid surface prep) The color we want however should actually be in the wood now. Fine scraping or cleaning of the surface after the blushing can enhance the effect.

Now maybe the sugar idea is better. But at least this presents an alternative method yielding similar result, within the toolkit of things the old makers could have readily done.

Now, if some of the old makers deliberately blushed the wood figure --either using burnt sugar, pigments, or something else, that might motivate them to purposefully open the wood structure to help enhance the process and improve penetration.

As far as I'm aware, hot water is the most straightforward way to open pores. But perhaps there are other good ways? And what happens if hot water with additives is used? NaCl? Sugar? KCl? Alum? Lime?

Very interesting topic.

I understand there are many ways people do, and even more ways people could enhance the wood figure. What started me looking for pigment based methods is the observation that the old makers seemed to be able to enhance the figure toward different colors. It appears they could variously deepen the figure toward any balance of brown, red, or black. And, the color in the figure sometimes compliments rather than absolutely matches the general color.

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Yes, extensively. I primarily used grape slag from a local winery. The anthocyanins which show as strong purple are fugitive and eventually settle to a light golden brown. Alone it has limited uv resitance, fixed however, it has more staying power. It generally settles into a nice mild base brown.

I was thinking about using white wine grape juice not red but that would miss some of the health benefits.

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Come to think of it, segregation of silt sized (more or less "nano") particles by differential settling as referred to by David Beard has probably been known since as long as a transparent glass vessel to observe it in has been available.  There also was a recent publication about genuine nano scale particles being intentionally produced in some Roman glass as a colorant.  On the basis of that, I'd have to consider it possible that Strad and his contemporaries might have been able to produce nanostructures as a craft process.

 

It also occurs to me that carbonates could have been precipitated (as referred to in another thread) to form a microcrystalline layer, though I don't remember seeing any examples specifically cited in the violin literature as seen in Cremonese examples.

 

Otter, hot water by itself will swell pores.  Why calcium chloride?  You know that it's obnoxiously hygroscopic?

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Violadamore writes, "Otter, hot water by itself will swell pores.  Why calcium chloride?  You know that it's obnoxiously hygroscopic?"

 

Agreed. Yet many master violins are apparently loaded with a variety of minerals. Presumably inorganic salts were used, but in service of what craft purposes or goals?

 

Hygroscopic inorganic salts were used a century ago as wood fire retardants. However, over time acid hydrolysis caused by these salts does work to attack the wood fibers, causing degradation of mechanical performance. The process is insidious and progressive.

 

otter

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The old guys boiled wood that was going to be used for high value items so that they'd not get sued or have reputation destroyed by worms emerging 3 years after the selling date. This speeds up the seasoning process allowing wood to be used nearer to the felling time than in modern times as indicated by dendro. Cooking pops the pores

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The old guys boiled wood that was going to be used for high value items so that they'd not get sued or have reputation destroyed by worms emerging 3 years after the selling date. This speeds up the seasoning process allowing wood to be used nearer to the felling time than in modern times as indicated by dendro. Cooking pops the pores

I have a book printed in Madrid, 1806 that states exactly this. It was common use of different wood trades, including the instrument makers. 

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The old guys boiled wood that was going to be used for high value items so that they'd not get sued or have reputation destroyed by worms emerging 3 years after the selling date. This speeds up the seasoning process allowing wood to be used nearer to the felling time than in modern times as indicated by dendro. Cooking pops the pores

Thanks much, Melvin.  That single fact in itself explains a lot  :) .

 

I have a book printed in Madrid, 1806 that states exactly this. It was common use of different wood trades, including the instrument makers. 

 

Muchas gracias, Jose.  You just saved Melvin from getting a PM from me   :lol:

 

 

(M)any master violins are apparently loaded with a variety of minerals. Presumably inorganic salts were used, but in service of what craft purposes or goals?

 

 

IMHO, modern laboratory research into historical violin making methods has been plagued since its inception with a bizarre blending of the non sequitur and post hoc propter hoc logical fallacies which states "We found X in the analysis of the violin so X must be an artifact from how it was made and therefore influences how it sounds at the present day".  Sometimes, as anyone who has spent enough time analyzing samples can tell you, some of the things you find are nothing but background noise.  Trying to match every little compound or element with a process step leads nowhere but to the on ramp for the road paved with good intentions ;),  [if not to the public pillory, where your peers are always waiting with an ample supply of rotten vegetables and acid wit.   :lol: ]

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Melvin,

 

How long do you think the wood was boiled?  And how much boiling was considered "enough" boiling?

 

Then too, I have questions about planning for center joints and also the ribs. What were the optimal dimensions of the boiled pieces, considering that gluing was to follow the boiling?

 

TIA,

otter

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The old guys boiled wood that was going to be used for high value items so that they'd not get sued or have reputation destroyed by worms emerging 3 years after the selling date. This speeds up the seasoning process allowing wood to be used nearer to the felling time than in modern times as indicated by dendro. Cooking pops the pores

Melvin

 Have you tried this? I have not but would think that the pores on the surface would enlarge but that carving would find interior wood that would be less affected

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Joe writes, "I do not think the pores were opened as a goal, but rather they remain open as a by-product of the ground + varnishing process."

 

Since I've always thought this, my emphasis has been to inquire how craft goals should be sequenced........

 

otter

 

otter,

Think about it this way: Before the ground process the wood [in simple terms] is like a bundle of paper straws.  After the ground is used the wood is [again simplified] like a bundle of plastic straws.  The structure is open but not distorted by severe treatments.  The "pores"  are open and the structure is hydrophobic.....sealed fiber not sealed pores.

My method for this is to treat the wood with raw balsam...tree sap...the stuff the tree uses to heal its wounds.  This is a five step process.  The final application is a ground varnish that has the same components in the same proportions [ 4 pine resin to 1 linseed oil] that M. Brandmair finds as the varnish which has first contact with the wood.  I had been making this material for over 10 years when the book came out.  Same conclusion from different  directions.

on we go,

Joe

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What wood mass (overall dimensions) do you boil?

 

How much boiling is considered "enough"? How do you know?

 

Boil the size you want to use, unless you want to splice pieces together. "Enough" is when it is "done." Experience.

 

Actually, you don't have to boil. Soaking in cold water for a week or two is usually enough for violin-size pieces. My 5th fiddle, made in 1991, is from wood that was cut five months before and soaked. It is still in perfect condition. (I didn't say a perfect instrument.)

 

I would stay away from the miscellaneous odd salts unless you are a chemist (I am).

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For those who are interested, I have gone digging and found a traditional Australian recipe for boiling violin wood.

On a large block of land (a paddock) make a bonfire. Be sure to take all safety precautions and do not light fires in Catastrophic Fire Danger conditions.

Take tractor with bull-dozer attachment and fill it with water at the nearest watering hole.

Carefully place dozer attachment with water on the bonfire, making sure not to spill any water. Undo the attachment and remove the tractor.

Place violin timber into dozer attachment.

Start the fire. Keep a full bucket of water handy as fires get quite hot, and if the water level drops too quickly your precious violin timber will turn into firewood.

As the fire heats up, place your billy and fresh meat and potatos on the fire. Well done, you deserve a beer.

Now keep an eye on the water levels once it starts boiling. When the meat and potatoes are ready, pull them of the fire and eat them with either tea from the billy or beer from the esky.

When the beer runs out, check the water again. If it is getting low top it up, and if necessary poke the fire to get it going again.

You can now open the bottle of whiskey. When that reaches halfway, check the water levels again, and if necessary put out the fire.

You can now sleep. When you awake, the violin timber will be appropriately boiled.

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Why do I get the feeling that this nonsense is going to end in someone standing vigil over a bubbling cauldron of water contaminated with various substances including borax and rabbit excrement, watching tonewood parboil in it while they swig whiskey and brandish a ceremonial sawzall?  If so, please post photos.   :P  :lol:

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PHOTOS NOW UTTERLY OUT OF THE QUESTION.

I

ALREADY WELL UNDER YOUR TABLE, I DO RESENT YOUR INSINUATIONS AND ASPERSIONS ABOUT WHISKEY INTAKE.

 

MAY WE REQUEST CIVILITY, PLEASE  . . .

 

OTTER

 

PS - A hydrophobic wood structure requires synthesis of an aluminum silicate. Who on earth could possibly disagree with this?

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