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Urban Luthier

Violin Varnish Book (notes and articles from KOEN PADDING)

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Padding differentiates coloured (which he calls paint) from uncoloured varnish layers.  The old texts talk about application of thick coloured varnish with the hand or a pad, rather equivalent to the application of a glaze.

 

 

It is definitely not going near Petherick in my library. 

 

It will be a reasonable addition to a varnish library for those who do not have access to Padding's original writings on general varnish concepts.

 

The loss is that the system was not documented better.

Not near Pethrick. That was a bit of a bad joke...

 

It is, perhaps, a reminder, for any of us who have what we think are "secrets", well, perhaps we should write them down somewhere. 

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Padding differentiates coloured (which he calls paint) from uncoloured varnish layers.  The old texts talk about application of thick coloured varnish with the hand or a pad, rather equivalent to the application of a glaze.

Yes, an enamel is a pigment in a varnish. Does Padding not distinguish between pigment (particulate) and a dye in a varnish? That seems very strange. Is he an American-born person? I could understand if he was from afar and was not an excellent English speaker.

My own glazes involve dyes and dyed silicates which are both transparent. They are easy to make and give good color. They are also very thin.

Does Padding anywhere talk of thin transparent glazes?? And I don't mean alizarin pigment which is semi-transparent in thin films.

Well, why not try these OLD ideas? Seems like a good idea to me......

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I would be extremely reluctant to categorize color differences so simply.

 

I provide only a one-sentence summary from the book.

 

Koen Padding is much more articulate in his articles about the Magister 5-component system and how it to a much older Byzantine system.

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Does Padding not distinguish between pigment (particulate) and a dye in a varnish?

Does Padding anywhere talk of thin transparent glazes?? And I don't mean alizarin pigment which is semi-transparent in thin films.

 

 

 

I would be extremely reluctant to categorize color differences so simply.

 

I provided only a one-sentence summary from the book.I am sure Padding thought deeply about pigments, dyes and coloured resins. 

 

Koen Padding was much more articulate in his articles about the Magister 5-component system and how it relates to a much older Byzantine system. I only provided a very succinct summary of his ideas as I understand them.

 

Perhaps other readers will comment also.

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My copy of Violin Varnish arrived a few days ago.  First, I skimmed the book, cover to cover and then I went back and read it.  Helen Michetschlager did a good job--the book is well wrtitten at a high level of english, it is well organized, it stays on focus, and it makes a real attempt to unearth or recreate what Koen Padding developed (and was lost with his death).  The pictures and illistrations are clear and of high quality.  The book feels good in the hand and has high quality paper--a first rate effort.  Helen Michetschlager should do more of this type of work.

 

It is clear that Koen Padding was loved by his friends, and this book is a testament to him. 

 

What is hard to understand is how such an intelligent man could have left no notes.  That is what this book is reallly about--the attempt to rediscover what Padding did. 

 

His primers are all based on nitrates and nitrites which help develop color in the bare wook when exposed to light.  I suspect that horse/rabbit urine/manure is also a component of the primers.  In any case, I do not think the manure will hurt, and the story is out now that these chemicals work to darken the wood, and others now offer them for sale.  The chemistry becomes less clear/certain as we move outwards in the creation of the film over the bare wood.  You will not learn how to make a varnish from this book though it appears that his varnishes were based on linseed and walnut oil.  I do not know where he puts the pigments, directly on the wood in a glaze or into the varnish, itself or perhaps both.  I am not certain what pigments or even varnish-soluble dyes that he was using.  I suspect Padding was experimenting and continuously refining his methods--perhaps that explains why there are no good notes--he was just not ready to put down on paper the definitive system. 

 

But this also points out a big danger--if you do not make your own stuff, you are not certain what is in it.  And this could have great importance in the coming years when your varnish deteriorates because something inappropiate was added, like asphalt, for example.  It is possible that Padding made some missteps in his methods, and I now worry about what is in proprietary varnishes.   

 

I recommend the book--I learned a lot.

 

Mike D

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Despite the immense knowledge of Koen Padding, this information content of this book is in no way comparable as the monumental book, Stradivari Varnish, by Brandmair and Greiner. This books contains several old published articles by Padding, which I failed to really understand and was skeptical of around the year of 2008. In hind sight, after reading Brandmair's book, and now re-reading this compilation, I can appreciate much more his knowledge system. Of course chapter 4 is a nice article written by Padding after he read Brandmair's book. This chapter is a nice synthesis of the observations made by him, Sacconi, and Brandmair/Greiner.

 

In order to not reveal commercial information, Padding had to withhold some of the core observations and practical know-how. This is fully understandable. Unfortunately he also did not leave notes in his workshop. So a lot of the hard-won knowledge is lost.

 

I did not know that nitrate salts were a major part of Magister products. And thanks to the chemical analysis in appendix 4 we have gained some insights. I also did not know that nitrates were produced by dung and urine, and I would assume that bacterial action would produce some nitrites in addition to nitrates. Does the nitrite play some role in wood staining? I do not know and it is very difficult to detect nitrate/nitrite in the wood.  

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There was a long discussion about the use of urine and dung as an historical stain during Rogers Double Bass blog. I provided him the reference in Roubo of how to produce a wood stain made from horse dung and urine. In subsequent conversation Roger suggested that this isn't too far off based on his own research.

 

the original discussion can be found here

 

I havent finished the book yet but I regret not providing this reference ahead of time to Helen. Never the less we did publish the reference in Rogers Bass Book Pg 105-106.

 

here is the original post

 

 

Regarding using urine as a wood stain, it is worthwhile to look at other crafts for clues like furniture making. Have a look the treatise by Andre Roubo called l'art du Menuisier. I referenced this book in #624. He gives a recipe for wood stain derived from horse dung and urine.

"Before finishing the dyeing of wood, I believe I ought to give a least-costly method of dyeing white wood red, which is done in the following manner:

You take some horse dung, which you put in a bucket of which the bottom is pierced with many holes, and you place it above another bucket, into which falls the water from the dung, as it gradually rots. When it does not rot fast enough, you water it from time to time with some horse urine, which helps a lot and at the same time gives a red water, which not only stains the surface of the wood, but penetrates the interior 3 to 4 lines deep. In staining the wood with this dye, one must take care that all the pieces be of the same species, and about equal in density if one wishes that they be of equal color throughout. This observation is general for all water-based stains, which have no palpable thickness nor even appearance [they leave no residue or any evident change in appearance], which requires the cabinetmaker to make a choice of wood of equal color and a density as I mentioned before."

There is an English translation of the marquetry sections of l'art du Menuisier published by lost art press and you can preview a chapter here which includes the recipe quoted above. You can read more the urine/dung stain at the lost art press blog and follow's Woodworker Jonas Jensen of Mors, blog where he is documenting the process.

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Hello!

I´m still waiting for my book - am I alone? (I pre-ordered in may maybe)

 

You behind big Atlantic ocean have it, and I from Middle Europe not :lol: .

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After reading excellent writings from Koen Padding, Joe Robson, Stefan Peter Greiner, and Roger Hargrave, all aiming at recreating the Cremonese varnish through endless experimentation, I start to realize how difficult this task is. Without doubt, all of them have achieved excellent results based on historically sensible approaches. And yet there are so many fundamental differences in their respective systems. 

 

On the other hand, the scientific data provided by Brandmair, Echard, Nagyvary, Barlow, White, and Meyer have been valuable in their own regard. Even if all their data were consistent, we would have a hard time reconstructing a workable wood finish system without missing some critical aspects. And since the data often seem contradictory, and obviously incomplete, there can be so many interpretations based on educated guesses. 

 

However, it appears that Cremonese masters had just one or two wood finishing systems running, which means that eventually we may arrive at something very close. But that time has not come yet. It is my feeling today that if anyone tries to summarize the Cremonese wood finish, he/she is going to  

get some things right and some things wrong. As soon as anyone commits his knowledge and ideas to publication, no matter how thorough and thoughtful, he/she would leave a record of how he got it wrong for later generations to be critical of. It is actually a scary feeling.  

 

Of course in the back of our mind we know that if the later generation can critically assess where we got it wrong, that means real progress has been made based on where we got it right. But it is human nature that we would like to be right and avoid being wrong. Perhaps what is even more scary is to write down something and to discover 10 years later one was wrong and has to correct oneself. But we must remember that the Cremonese way was based on then available materials and since many of those are no longer available, our practical goal should be recreating and improving the Cremonese oil varnish using materials easily accessible today and come up with some fool-proof protocols. And I think the development of commercial varnish products dedicated to violin making is a great direction. I can only hope that other crafts would also employ violin varnish products and expand the market to allow varnish makers to make continuous refinement and research. Since I do not build wooden objects nor varnish them, my thoughts and feelings only reflect oversimplified academic viewpoints. 

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I think Helen Michetschläger did a great job editing this work. Her Introduction painstakingly details how she treated each contribution to the book.

 

One big issue about making violin varnishes is whether the experimenter is trying to understand and duplicate the Cremonese system(s), or is he/she trying to make a superior varnish system. Most varnish makers get this confused and lose focus. 

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I'd like to use this as an opportunity to remind Joe Robson of the position he is in and the absolute importance of his existence right now, as well as what it will mean when he has passed to the great varnish pot in the sky. I implore Joe to make a video log, a highly protected locked away one. That documents, for lack of better terms "everything" this recipe log with proportions, cook times, ingredients, and all that must be preserved. This can then be bequeathed to his heirs who can opt to continue on or sell the entire package to the highest bidder. I would almost guarantee that there would be people willing to "buy it out" in order to continue making and selling it, just like if Koen Padding had written it all down in a transferable format. I know that small "mom and pop" varnish makers are not rolling in the millions, however, from an artistic preservation standpoint as well as keeping it available for "us" to use in the future, I think it's a good idea. I'd be a shame to see it not available to future generations, just like it's a shame about Koens knowledge that seems to have gone to the grave with him.

 

All I can say about Joe's stuff is it works great and has the best looking finished product top coats I've seen. It has amazing looking depth, yet the build can be very thin, as it ages it just looks better and better, more clear, more crystal. It's compatible with any products I want to throw in the mix layers wise, and well I'm pretty hooked on it and I'd be bummed if I couldn't get any more. So don't drop dead Joe, and get it on paper/video ....do it for the children :lol:

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just a little note- if urine comes in contact with an organic substance ammonia will be generated in time.

ya, but I'm still not gonna piss on on my violin, I'll just get some lime if I want lime :D

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