Varnishing under the fingerboard


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I am making my fourth violin and have decided to glue the fingerboard permanently and try to varnish under it, having done so with the fingerboards off for the previous three. I am curious to find out how many violin makers out there glue their fingerboards permanently and varnish under them, and if they have any special tricks for doing so.  

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I've made over 30 instruments so far, but the violin I am varnishing now is the first I've done with the fingerboard on. I wanted to try it so I don't have to deal with the hassle of gluing the fingerboard back on, and any touch up that needs to be done if the fingerboard doesn't glue back absolutely perfectly.

 

I have been getting in under the fingerboard ok with the brush. I've only been going since last Saturday, so the ground is finished with just one clear coat of oil varnish. Over the next week I'll be applying the colour layers, so I'm keen to see how much of a pain it will be to get the varnish to dry. I like the look of the neck though, and will be pleased I don't have to worry about it later. If the varnish dries ok, then I think I'll be doing it this way from now on.

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How feasible would it be to do as steel string guitarmakers do and finish the neck and body separately before gluing them together?

Totally feasible. I'm actually going to start doing this with cellos. More because of logistics. I have a new space that I can only fit a smaller light box. It will be big enough to varnish the the cello body and scroll separately.

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I liked Michael Doran's question about how many old instruments have had their necks replaced, let alone fingerboards over the years. I think there might have been a lot more dry under-boards than we have now-- someone who was offended by the bare patch when it was exposed swipes a bit of something on, and on we go...

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How feasible would it be to do as steel string guitarmakers do and finish the neck and body separately before gluing them together?

Totally feasible. I do this on pretty much all my instruments. It's a huge asset for cello, for violins I could go either way. One of my pet peeves is glueing fingerboards on twice, it just feels inefficient.

MD

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If you just use a flat brush as John suggests, reach in and paint out from the middle, then lay it off up and down, you'll cover more than enough.

 

Where Joe seems to just have varnished up and down beside the fingerboard on the 'group build' instrument, I varnish right in as far as the brush goes easily. That's what I often see on old fiddles. Either way, a bit of watercolour or dirt, and a man on a gallopin' horse will be none the wiser.

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When I used oil varnish I kept the fingerboard on.

But I've changed to spirit varnish. Spirit varnish don't level well by itself like oil varnish. I did not need to rub and polish the oil varnish under and close to the fingerboard much.

Not so with spirit. So now I have to remove the fingerboard for a good varnish job.

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When I used oil varnish I kept the fingerboard on.

But I've changed to spirit varnish. Spirit varnish don't level well by itself like oil varnish. I did not need to rub and polish the oil varnish under and close to the fingerboard much.

Not so with spirit. So now I have to remove the fingerboard for a good varnish job.

 

May I ask the reason for this change?

I'm more accustomed to hearing the opposite, ie change from spirit varnish to oil, something that even I am considering.

It would be instructive to know your motivations.

 

Regarding the fingerboard, I prefer to detach it for varnishing, to prevent warping during UV exposure.

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Regarding the fingerboard, I prefer to detach it for varnishing, to prevent warping during UV exposure.

 

Does the UV exposure cause the warping? Or heat, or dryness perhaps? I have been monitoring this carefully, since I think the normal practice is to leave the board over sized and finish it later after it has warped. I decided at the last moment to try to varnish with the board on, and my board is already close to finished, not over sized.

 

A week in to varnishing and the fingerboard height is the same, and the template fits it perfectly, so things are fine so far. That's why I was wondering if UV light causes warping, or is it heat or dryness. I don't experience dry air, I live in a humid city, I have to run the dehumidifier to help the varnish to dry.  I've read here that some people have to put a bowl of water in the cabinet to stop dryness. I felt silly when I realised that I didn't need to do this because the air was already so humid, and my varnish was slow to dry. For me, running the dehumidifier gives me good drying times, but even then the humidity is only down to around 60%.

 

I have a large vent in the side of my drying cabinet that a large fan blows air through. I have aquarium filter wool taped on the outside of the vent to stop dust from getting in. When I check on the violin, the air is cool in the cabinet. I'll see how the fingerboard goes over the next week, it may survive with no problem, or there may be tears.

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Does the UV exposure cause the warping? Or heat, or dryness perhaps?

 

You're right, I should say the changes in humidity and temperature induced by the use of UV box.

Maybe you can minimize by adopting "complex" systems like you did, but mine is very simple, no fans or whatever, so I prefer not to take any risks and remove the fingerboard.

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