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BigFryMan

Joe Robson's ground

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Hi guys,

I am currently in the process of varnishing my 2nd violin build and as per the 1st, I am using some of Joe Robson's products.

If anyone is familiar with these products, I'd love to pick your brains as to how you use them on your own instruments.

For anyone who is not familiar with his ground system, it involves 4 different balsam preparations and then a ground varnish as a final step. Also, there are colors that can be added after the 2nd balsam preparation.

In the instructions I received from Joe, he recommends adding the aged wood color to a dilute mix of the 2nd ground preparation. After this, he mentions the aged wood red/brown and aged wood gray green can be added. He doesn't say if they should be mixed with the 2nd ground preparation or whether they are applied directly to the instrument. 
Can anyone here who's used these ground products help me out?

I've got some more of Joe's Alizarin color concentrates and the dark rosin varnish in the mail also.

Last violin I brushed on the ground and varnish for every coat, but I've been learning that a lot of makers use their hands to apply the varnish. I'd love to experiment with this approach, but I have no experience in it so I'm a little nervous about ruining the violin. What are you trying to achieve by using your hands? Putting varnish on heavier in some areas? Avoiding overloading the edges?

I know there is a thousand ways to skin a cat, but I'd love to hear from anyone about their particular method of working and way they use it. Especially useful if you're familiar with Joe's varnishes.

Thanks again and I very much appreciate everyone who is willing to share their experience on forums like this. It really does help someone like myself to find direction early on in learning to make!


 

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I think using your fingers to spread varnish around is just easier with some varnishes, especially thicker ones. Probably the goal is usually just a consistent even coat. I don't think you'll ruin anything by trying to spread varnish around that way.

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I have no experience with Joe's varnishes, but always recommend trying anything new (whether the varnish or the procedure) on sample pieces, working out any bugs on the sample pieces before the varnish goes on a fiddle. I actually go beyond that, varnishing sample pieces every time, prior to varnishing an instrument. It's a way to save a lot of grief.

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I have only ever used Joe's product and method, but my experience has been good.  The red brown and grey may be mixed in at the stage that you mention, but they won't come out very strong.  I do quite a bit of red brown, little or no gray.  

 

Spreading varnish with your fingers has a bit of a learning curve.  I'd suggest getting a white violin or just practicing on some scraps of wood that are prepared like the surface of a violin ready for varnish.  Also, consider keeping an extra piece of rib, top and/or neck that you can put through your varnishing process.  Subdivide the surface so you can refer back to it and see the ground coat, and each stage of color.  In other words, ground the whole piece, then apply the first color coat leaving one portion with out color.  The 2nd color coat will leave a section of the 1st color coat visible and coat the rest etc...  

 

Joe can give you some good tips on spreading the varnish with your hands, but viscosity is really important.  Makers who brush it will mix a little Gamsol or Turpentine.  Joe recommends using the Brown greek pitch varnishe to mix for viscosity.  That one is very thick, and if you add it to any of the colored varnishes you can thicken it up.  You want to spread it when it is just thin enough to be spreadable.  Move it with a thick bristled stipple brush as much as you can, and make sure to push some varnish into the grain lines.  To smooth it, tap the varnish with the base of your thumb (the part that looks like the meat of a chicken drumstick) and keep spreading it out that way.  You can work the varnish by hand as long as the tack of your hand is similar to the tack of the surface of the instrument.  As it dries out the tack will go up.  If your hand is getting tacky or has too much varnish on it you can reduce it by tapping it off on a blank sheet of notebook paper.  If you keep a notebook handy you won't have to chase the page around as it sticks to you because the weight of the notebook holds it somewhat, and you can just flip to the next blank page.

 

If you go back to an area that you worked a while ago you run the risk of having some unevenness.  You may run in to the issue where your hand has too much tack and pulls varnish away from the spot that you touch.  Then when you try to add varnish to that spot the fresh varnish is low tack, but the surrounding area is higher tack.  As you tap it out it will stick more to the surrounding area and you'll have a light spot in the middle and dark around it.  It's a little tricky.  I've ended up with some unevenness in this process, so I've done a little shading and it worked out fine.

 

I've liked using a middle ground and using a little Gamsol in the finish and brushing it, but also tapping a bit to smooth it.  Also, some people don't like the texture left from tapping by hand.  You can always cut this back in the clear coat stage.  After my last violin I decided to cut back the texture in the future or at least cut it back selectively in the places that people are used to seeing wear.  

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I have no experience with Joe's varnishes, but always recommend trying anything new (whether the varnish or the procedure) on sample pieces, working out any bugs on the sample pieces before the varnish goes on a fiddle. I actually go beyond that, varnishing sample pieces every time, prior to varnishing an instrument. It's a way to save a lot of grief.

Now you tell us.

 

:lol:

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I recommend using the Aged Wood Red Brown and Gray Green at full strength after the Gold is satisfactory and before the #3.

Joe

I always used lots of the red-brown to bring out the contrast and highlights. 

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I have only ever used Joe's product and method, but my experience has been good.  The red brown and grey may be mixed in at the stage that you mention, but they won't come out very strong.  I do quite a bit of red brown, little or no gray.  

 

Spreading varnish with your fingers has a bit of a learning curve.  I'd suggest getting a white violin or just practicing on some scraps of wood that are prepared like the surface of a violin ready for varnish.  Also, consider keeping an extra piece of rib, top and/or neck that you can put through your varnishing process.  Subdivide the surface so you can refer back to it and see the ground coat, and each stage of color.  In other words, ground the whole piece, then apply the first color coat leaving one portion with out color.  The 2nd color coat will leave a section of the 1st color coat visible and coat the rest etc...  

 

Joe can give you some good tips on spreading the varnish with your hands, but viscosity is really important.  Makers who brush it will mix a little Gamsol or Turpentine.  Joe recommends using the Brown greek pitch varnishe to mix for viscosity.  That one is very thick, and if you add it to any of the colored varnishes you can thicken it up.  You want to spread it when it is just thin enough to be spreadable.  Move it with a thick bristled stipple brush as much as you can, and make sure to push some varnish into the grain lines.  To smooth it, tap the varnish with the base of your thumb (the part that looks like the meat of a chicken drumstick) and keep spreading it out that way.  You can work the varnish by hand as long as the tack of your hand is similar to the tack of the surface of the instrument.  As it dries out the tack will go up.  If your hand is getting tacky or has too much varnish on it you can reduce it by tapping it off on a blank sheet of notebook paper.  If you keep a notebook handy you won't have to chase the page around as it sticks to you because the weight of the notebook holds it somewhat, and you can just flip to the next blank page.

 

If you go back to an area that you worked a while ago you run the risk of having some unevenness.  You may run in to the issue where your hand has too much tack and pulls varnish away from the spot that you touch.  Then when you try to add varnish to that spot the fresh varnish is low tack, but the surrounding area is higher tack.  As you tap it out it will stick more to the surrounding area and you'll have a light spot in the middle and dark around it.  It's a little tricky.  I've ended up with some unevenness in this process, so I've done a little shading and it worked out fine.

 

I've liked using a middle ground and using a little Gamsol in the finish and brushing it, but also tapping a bit to smooth it.  Also, some people don't like the texture left from tapping by hand.  You can always cut this back in the clear coat stage.  After my last violin I decided to cut back the texture in the future or at least cut it back selectively in the places that people are used to seeing wear.  

Thanks for the info MaestronetLurker - that's given me a lot to think about (and try). Could you expand a little on your reasoning for using your thumb over a brush? Is it because it gives you better control of a particular aspect (say shading)?  When you say cut it back in the clear coat stage, are you talking about smoothing it down with abrasives?

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I recommend using the Aged Wood Red Brown and Gray Green at full strength after the Gold is satisfactory and before the #3.

Joe

Thanks Joe, appreciate you chiming in!

At the moment I've got a single coat of old wood gold on the violin and I'm not sure whether it needs another as I don't have any reference as to how gold it needs to get. These pictures are after having the last coat in the sun for a couple of days to tan.

post-78203-0-96310700-1470849396_thumb.jpgpost-78203-0-75100800-1470849401_thumb.jpgpost-78203-0-56550500-1470849405_thumb.jpg

post-78203-0-19984800-1470849409_thumb.jpgpost-78203-0-41797800-1470849413_thumb.jpgpost-78203-0-07631800-1470849418_thumb.jpg

Josh

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I have no experience with Joe's varnishes, but always recommend trying anything new (whether the varnish or the procedure) on sample pieces, working out any bugs on the sample pieces before the varnish goes on a fiddle. I actually go beyond that, varnishing sample pieces every time, prior to varnishing an instrument. It's a way to save a lot of grief.

Thanks David, yes I did that on my last violin and I completely forgot on this one. I might have to build one up, but I'll have to work hard to get the mixtures exactly the same.

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Thanks Joe, appreciate you chiming in!

At the moment I've got a single coat of old wood gold on the violin and I'm not sure whether it needs another as I don't have any reference as to how gold it needs to get. These pictures are after having the last coat in the sun for a couple of days to tan.

attachicon.gifE-IMG_8830.jpgattachicon.gifE-IMG_8831.jpgattachicon.gifE-IMG_8832.jpg

attachicon.gifE-IMG_8834.jpgattachicon.gifE-IMG_8836.jpgattachicon.gifE-IMG_8837.jpg

Josh

Josh,

If you look at the Group Build thread from last year you can see the whole sequence of the way a did ground and varnish.

Joe

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BigFry,  please show pictures after each step,  It would be interesting to see the progression from white wood to finished 

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BigFry,  please show pictures after each step,  It would be interesting to see the progression from white wood to finished 

Hi MikeC,

I like your idea, but not sure if I know what I am doing enough with a camera to make it worthwhile for comparison. 

Here's a few pics after the second coat of old wood gold and a few hours of sun, but I changed the white balance to automatic for these and in the flesh it's a lot more golden.

post-78203-0-99452600-1470870156_thumb.jpgpost-78203-0-39463400-1470870161_thumb.jpgpost-78203-0-57856900-1470870164_thumb.jpg

post-78203-0-40069600-1470870168_thumb.jpgpost-78203-0-70759900-1470870171_thumb.jpgpost-78203-0-28006500-1470870175_thumb.jpg

 

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Joe runs a fantastic varnishing course that will answer all your questions. It's well worth the fees.

I'm going to sell whatever body parts I have left to try and get to the next one. I'll likely not have another opportunity like it after next year as I'll be heading back to Australia before next September. I'm waiting to hear if there is another course in the works. Do you how much (ballpark) the course usually runs?

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I'm going to sell whatever body parts I have left to try and get to the next one. I'll likely not have another opportunity like it after next year as I'll be heading back to Australia before next September. I'm waiting to hear if there is another course in the works. Do you how much (ballpark) the course usually runs?

a kidney will more than cover the cost. 

  I took Joe's class a few years ago , I would consider taking it again , besides being a good teacher , he is also a great human. while I have changed some of the ideas and procedures shown/ practiced in the class , the course provides a real springboard to dive into the world of varnish. 

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I'm going to sell whatever body parts I have left to try and get to the next one. I'll likely not have another opportunity like it after next year as I'll be heading back to Australia before next September. I'm waiting to hear if there is another course in the works. Do you how much (ballpark) the course usually runs?

You can get his contact details on his violinvarnish.com website. I'd better not divulge commercial info here.

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I recommend using the Aged Wood Red Brown and Gray Green at full strength after the Gold is satisfactory and before the #3.

Joe

Hi Joe, how many drops, or proportions can be used, how to get that full strength withour overdoing it.

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Hey guys,

I'm now just finished ground preperation #4 however I think I may need to strip it back and start again on the back. The rest of the violin is fine, but somehow when I was applying old wood red brown, it seemed to accumulate unevenly on the back. I tried to run it back a little, but it seemed to make it worse. Also I think I've gone too dark on the ground.

I'd hate to strip it back as the rest of the violin looks good and the ground products are not cheap haha. I wonder if I can even it out a little with careful application of the colored varnish coats. post-78203-0-30069000-1471591113_thumb.jpegpost-78203-0-65074500-1471591197_thumb.jpeg

Yup, I definitely need to get to that varnish workshop next year hahaha.

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BFM,  If you're going to strip, what harm would it be to see if you can feather in the color to make an even coat.  I would treat as learning opportunity.

 

Cheers,

Jim

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Hey guys,

I'm now just finished ground preperation #4 however I think I may need to strip it back and start again on the back. The rest of the violin is fine, but somehow when I was applying old wood red brown, it seemed to accumulate unevenly on the back. I tried to run it back a little, but it seemed to make it worse. Also I think I've gone too dark on the ground.

I'd hate to strip it back as the rest of the violin looks good and the ground products are not cheap haha. I wonder if I can even it out a little with careful application of the colored varnish coats. attachicon.gifimage.jpegattachicon.gifimage.jpeg

Yup, I definitely need to get to that varnish workshop next year hahaha.

Josh,

It looks like accumulated material on the surface. Have cleaned off with turpentine?

Joe

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