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Trenchworker

Revarnishing with oil varnish

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I have stripped an old school violin for revarnshing.  Can (and should) I revarnish with an oil varnish rather than spirit varnish?  (Don't know how to tell what the original was).   Do I start with a ground system, considering that the instrument is not starting out in the white?  After stripping and  sanding, it has an even golden color.

 

Thanks for any suggestions.

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I have stripped an old school violin for revarnshing.  Can (and should) I revarnish with an oil varnish rather than spirit varnish?  (Don't know how to tell what the original was).   Do I start with a ground system, considering that the instrument is not starting out in the white?  After stripping and  sanding, it has an even golden color.

 

Thanks for any suggestions.

Way too many unknowns, to give anything approaching a solid answer.

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Here's a rickety answer -- Why not?  If you need to see if wood is sealed you can put water on it or spit on it and see if the spot darkens for a minute.  People here mention shellac-like formulas for a sealer, and shellac will go on top of anything, no problem.  I think you definitely want to insure it is sealed before you start varnishing.  If it was a chair, at least...  No expert luthier here...

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Make sure you've removed all the stripper. A wash with ca 70% isopropyl (cheaper than ethyl) will help. Also, your final finish is only as good as the surface, so make sure it is  smooth as you can make it. If it has some uniform surface like washboarding, leave it like that.  A good way to learn about oil varnishing.

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I used methyl alcohol and steel wool to strip, then sanded.  Made in Germany, 3/4 violin, no maker label except usual "copy of Anton... Strad... Crem...1713".  Label has insignia, can't decipher.  I have a couple of photos of original varnish condition, but have trouble attaching them here. 

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I'll add .02 cents here also.

I'd go with oil varnish simply because I've tried both, and only gotten what I was looking for in a final finish with oil and NOT with spirit.

 

Oil varnish has the added advantage (and disadvantage) of drying very slowly usually - and you can "work" (and re-work) it, far better than a relatively quick drying spirit varn. If you're in rush of sorts, to get this done, then go with spirit - as it can do quite well very quickly - once one gets used to using it  - but I will always recommend using an oil varn for violins when anybody asks this is what I'll tell them..

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See previous post for images.  Misspelling of belly.  Clamp on the stripped version is to repair a small crack above the lower eye of the f-hole.  Client does not want edges fixed, wanted revarnish.  Note -- fingerboard was painted.  David, this is all the information I have.

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Cracks would normally be glued, prior to doing anything which would contaminate the crack, such as stripping.

 

Regarding following a client's wishes:

You don't always need to do what the client initially wants. There is also the option of advising the client, and thereby possibly getting them to choose better options.

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Oil varnish has to be more forgiving than spirit if you've never varnished a violin before. In my limited experience spirit takes quite a bit of practice.

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I was taught in violin-making school how to use spirit varnish, but not oil varnish, because "spirit varnish is harder to do"  I have used spirit varnish ever since.  I would like to try oil varnish which avoids doing 18 coats, and may have other advantages, from what I have read.  David, thank you for the suggestion re crack repair and stripping.  Too late for this one, but will remember that in the future.  Re advising clients, I try to do that if it will not cost the customer more than he/she wants to pay.  This is a public school instrument which gets a lot of punishment, but the kids don't want to play on "bad looking" instruments.  Edges get especially banged up, but the orchestra director usually wants them just smoothed to be without splinters.  I throw in touching up with varnish for no charge, to protect what bare wood remains after filing and smoothing.  

 

Thank you all for your suggestions. 

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I think you should choose the varnish system you're most comfortable and most successful with. That said, I don't see how the amount of time needed to strip, revarnish and setup that violin is worth it. No offense intended, I've taken on my share of money losing jobs in the past.

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Ordinarily, DarylG, if cash is all one fixes instruments for, I would agree with you.  But the delight on a child's face to see a shiny violin, plus knowing my work allows a child to continue to learn music, plus I get the practice of oil varnishing for the first time on a less-expensive violin, plus a decent violin gets to live another year at least, swings the balance way on the other side.  I think you would agree, seeing as how you've done the same.

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I have stripped an old school violin for revarnshing.

 

Any chance of seeing the final product before sending back to school?  I have a 3/4 in worse condition, just need an idea or two to see if I really want to proceed. 

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