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elenab

Amber varnish

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Hello,

please, help.

I bought amber powder to make solvent free varnish (amber & walnut oil). I am an artist and wanted to try varnish as a medium.

Anyway, I cooked amber in walnut oil, and nothing happened. As I discovered after  amber has a  high melting point. I also found here some instructions how to do it right way - first amber is melted, then after some cooling oil is added.

Question about melting - what heat did you use? gas or electric stove? And about cooling - wouldn't amber crystallize when it's  off the heat? e.g.  damar resin crystallized immediately when off the heat

 

I would also like to ask you about copal resin.

 

I bought copal resin after my failure with amber. I cooked it with walnut oil in a deep frier and copal dissolved within 4 min. And because I have damar resin at home, I found that copal looks very much like damar. Copal I bought and damar have the same melting point ( tried to melt them together) both crystallize after and both crystalls  dissolve in turpentine immediately. I thought that copal varnish is hard to dissolve in turpentine and , although, I didn't try to dissolve my copal varnish ( the sample of it is not dry yet) I thought crystallized copal should behave as dried varnish.

Any thoughts, please?

very informative forum.

thank you so much,

Elena

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and don't do it on your stove inside the house.  Do it outside.  

 

Regarding copal.  I have some that I think is manilla copal.  It dissolves easily in alcohol so could be used as a spirit varnish.  When I tried to make oil varnish with it, it turned into an opaque chocolate brown colored mass that got as hard as concrete. 

 

is there any solvent that amber will actually dissolve in?  At room temperature?  

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I bought amber powder to make solvent free varnish (amber & walnut oil). I am an artist and wanted to try varnish as a medium.

Anyway, I cooked amber in walnut oil, and nothing happened. As I discovered after  amber has a  high melting point. I also found here some instructions how to do it right way - first amber is melted, then after some cooling oil is added.

Question about melting - what heat did you use? gas or electric stove? And about cooling - wouldn't amber crystallize when it's  off the heat? 

 

Yes, generally you have to fuse (melt) the amber first. Apparently it's possible to melt amber directly in oil but I could never get it to work. After the amber is fused it's allowed to cool and is broken into pieces before combining with the oil. I'd suggest you check out Donald Fels book "Lost Secrets of Flemish Painting" if you're interested in amber varnish for oil painting. That said, you'd probably be better off just buying the varnish...there is a steep learning curve with making varnish and it can be quite dangerous.

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I am an artist and wanted to try varnish as a medium.'
What do you need it for ? 


'what heat did you use? gas or electric stove?'
Don't go anywhere near a gas flame with hot oil and resin. 

a. Buy some Windsor and Newton 'artists' varnish in a bottle. 
b. Why do you want to use varnish 'as a medium', varnish on it's own ? 
c. Amber and walnut oil violin varnish is also available in small bottles for $100.
d. Cooking varnish will save you money if you do a lot of it, but if you can afford to do otherwise don't bother.

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I haven't actually made amber varnish myself, but saw it done... and smelled it.  I am under the impression that "fusing" amber resin actually breaks it down into something else, possibly asphalt, which then melts at a lower temperature.

 

Copal (Congo type) I think is much more reasonable to work with, and makes a nice hard varnish, if that's what you're after.

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Hello,

thank you for your replies.

 

a. I am aware of all the varnishes and mediums in art supplies store. 

b. because amber/copal/oil varnish has the properties I need as a medium : viscosity, transparency, drying time, etc

c/d. I paint enormous paintings ( they mostly displayed in office buildings) e.g 14'x20' and I use make thick layers and the last thing I ever like to do is to think about saving money.

 

I understand now how tricky amber cooking could be. I think it's going to be very hard for me to achieve a good result, I will drop amber from my options.

 

Now about copal I bought. I tried it to dissolve in 50% alcohol, it didn't. Neither dissolved damar resin.

What type of alcohol do you use to dissolve? does alcohol evaporates fast? that would be very interesting if it does.

and another question, what are the differences between copal and damar. So far I don't see any differences.

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"is there any solvent that amber will actually dissolve in?  At room temperature? "

 

Oil of spike lavender in a sealed glass container left for at least a year will make a jellied solution of the amber...no visible particulate or sedimentation at that point..  Interesting stuff...but varnish doesn't like to stick to wood treated with it.  This research dates from about 1999 and I haven't tried anything similar since.  Anyone else tried this?  Results?

on we go,

Joe

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A fact, true fossil copal resin mixed with a vegetable oil cannot be cracked because by the time the copal is depolymerized the oil has formed an insoluble gel due to the need of maintaining heat over 600oF (this is solution temp, plate temp (interface to solution) can be 7-800oF) to crack the resin is beyond the gel point of linseed and other oils. No question the Copal resins are a confusing bunch, for solution is  from hi temp cracking to dissolving in alcohol. I has to do with how old the group is.

 

I'm a firm believer early inst makers took the absolute simplest path to anything they did. After years of learning how to make a fossil copal varnish (not easy), a couple of runs using rosin was all that was needed to convince me how wrong I was. What is so interesting is the industry of commercial varnish at that time was solely based on fossil copal varnish, other minor varnishes were made for special uses, but copal varnish was it, and they essentially never produced a rosin varnish. So there is schism, a varnish readily available commercially, closely resembles rosin varnish with proper wood preparation, but it was not used. You can say it was because of acoustical reasons, or making  rosin varnish was so  simple and offered a chance to signature and beautify the inst for selling, I believe why it was used.

 

Copal and rosin varnishes readily mix. Could they have added enough copal to make a varnish that was more stable. I say no, they stayed within their comfort zone of understanding.

 

Discussion is about iron pot- did Strad use a copper pot, brass pot, glazed, unglazed pot,- each colors rosin differently. Keep in mind the finest umbers of that period came from Italy, not much of a stretch  for rosin and umber meeting somewhere.

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I'm a firm believer early inst makers took the absolute simplest path to anything they did. After years of learning how to make a fossil copal varnish (not easy), a couple of runs using rosin was all that was needed to convince me how wrong I was. What is so interesting is the industry of commercial varnish at that time was solely based on fossil copal varnish, other minor varnishes were made for special uses, but copal varnish was it, and they essentially never produced a rosin varnish. So there is schism, a varnish readily available commercially, closely resembles rosin varnish with proper wood preparation, but it was not used. You can say it was because of acoustical reasons, or making  rosin varnish was so  simple and offered a chance to signature and beautify the inst for selling, I believe why it was used

Fred,

I have long thought that this was the key to violin varnish.  Though the "modern" fossil resin varnishes were the rage throughout Europe from the early 18th century on, the violin trade largely chose to use the old methods of making rosin based varnishes.

Joe

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Lots of 'modern fossils' meeting in Paris for climate change now. ;-)
Shame they won't do much to end the problem. 

Strad wrote to a client saying sorry for the for the delay, varnish taking time to dry.
That would indicate his varnish wasn't super stringy in the pot. 

Using UVA there are no such problems these days, Strad would be both amazed and sickened 
by what the world is churning out day after day. 

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Hello, 

I am still trying to figure out if there are differences between copal and damar. I just got email from the supplier of my copal, the certificate says that is Shorea Javanica, which is damar. 

But I thought that copal and damar are different resins, and copal is a hard resin, unlike damar.

I found some information about resins here: http://www.faculty.ucr.edu/~legneref/botany/gumresin.htm

But I still would like to hear from you if you ever made copal varnish 

 

thank you, and sorry, my messages are posted 2 days later, because I am new here :)

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You need to follow posts #4 and #7.  You will have to heat your amber or, now it's copal?, to a certain temperature all by itself.  550F at least.  Around that temperature amber goes through a change.  You'll have to recognize the change, then remove from heat immediately.  If you miss the  reaction change you'll lose what you need from amber, supposedly.  No, I have not tried doing so myself, cracking amber,  because nobody here at MN could help me any, though I must admit I don't recall asking for help.  I can't remember.

 

14ft x 20ft. paintings with amber or copal?  I believe you may be chewing off more than you can handle.   Prove me wrong. :)     

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Elenab- buy Spar varnish that I think is sold by hardware chains. Keep in mind Copal varnish was used in the past because it has Actinic qualities,  ie, the ability to absorb UV rays, protecting anything that was constantly outside. I do not know if  amber has that ability. The other choice is go to a boatyard where marine supplies are sold and they most likely sell a modern product that absorbs UV rays. Dammar and Copal resins are completely different, each has good qualities for what is used.

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Hello, 

I am still trying to figure out if there are differences between copal and damar. I just got email from the supplier of my copal, the certificate says that is Shorea Javanica, which is damar. 

But I thought that copal and damar are different resins, and copal is a hard resin, unlike damar.

I found some information about resins here: http://www.faculty.ucr.edu/~legneref/botany/gumresin.htm

But I still would like to hear from you if you ever made copal varnish 

 

thank you, and sorry, my messages are posted 2 days later, because I am new here :)

 

Ok, complex subject, the true Copal is the resin from the Jatoba (Hymenea) in the Americas, after so many years other resins begun being called copal and it ended with so many different kind of resins called Copal, there has also been a confusion in the past with the oleorsin from the tree the Brazilian Indias called Cupai, and the oleoresin is called Copaiba Balsam, and it is not a true balsam, and not Copal as one book describes it.

 

Zanzibar copal, Mozambique, I^indi, Red Angola, Pebble, Sierra Leone, Yellow Benguela, White Benguela, Cameroon, Congo, Manila, White Angola, Kauri, Sierra Leone (new), Hymenea [s. America, Brazil, Demerara, from the locust tree]. These copals are in order of descending hardness. In lustre and colour the copals are vitreous, transparent, dull, colourless to yellow, reddish yellow and black. A vitreous gum is preferred to a dull cloudy resin. In fusibility the hardest copals have the highest melting points. Zanzibar melts at 24O°-25o° C.: West African copals melt at 120°-180° C.; Sierra L,eone, 125°-137° C.; Manila and Kauri, H5°-i40° C.; Hymenea copal (fossil), i8o°-200° C., but the softer varieties melt below'115° C. The fusibility depends essentially on the age, the new varieties fusing at lower temperatures.

 
Morrell, R. S. (Robert Selby), 1867-1946; Waele, A. de (Armand), b. 1887. Rubber, resins, paints and varnishes ( London, Baillière, Tindall and Cox. 

 

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........and another question, what are the differences between copal and damar. So far I don't see any differences.

Copal is a harder resin than dammar.  Maybe for murals it wouldn't matter but for violin work I would think to start with one then alter the first with the other- hard resin add a softer resin or start with a soft resin then harden it with the other.  I think dammar is from the far east-India region, from a certain tree and is called white gum or white resin.

 

Like Fred mentioned try a hardware store.  I'd probably end up at Sherwin Williams or a M.L. Campbell distributor.  Someone who handles the stuff everyday should be able to help the most.   

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Anyone try Pratt and lambert no 38? this is what we were advised to start with when I took my violin making classes because it was easy to use. I think it any oil-based soybean product? It takes pigment well, flows easily with good working time, drys quickly and polishes up well. One could do a lot worse starting out.

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Anyone try Pratt and lambert no 38? this is what we were advised to start with when I took my violin making classes because it was easy to use. I think it any oil-based soybean product? It takes pigment well, flows easily with good working time, drys quickly and polishes up well. One could do a lot worse starting out.

 I looked over the msds for the gloss or clear version of #38.  They recommend a .013 tip for use with an airless sprayer.  That means pretty thick bodied stuff if the .013 number s accurate.  For those murals it should offer a thick coat if that's what is called for.  For violins I could see myself cutting that stuff down to nothing.  It has to be smooth, no effort for me to use, something I learned before I got to violins.     

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Off topic somewhat- I read some time ago about making a homemade varnish with styrofoam and laquer thinner.  The thinner melts the styrofoam to liquid form.  Has anyone tried that or do the chemical/scientist people have an opinion?

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Off topic somewhat- I read some time ago about making a homemade varnish with styrofoam and laquer thinner.  The thinner melts the styrofoam to liquid form.  Has anyone tried that or do the chemical/scientist people have an opinion?

 

Styrofoam is expanded polystyrene.  

I see two problems with this.  The first is you're coating your resonant body with plastic which i would think would dampen vibration.  The seconds is that since its plastic and not oxidizing to form larger polymer changes, so you probably would find it hard to build up any kind of thickness since the solvent in the new coat would take off the old coat.

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