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trey

Violin Varnish with no oil or alcohol

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It's easy to avoid alcohol... it is never in any of my varnishes.  There are plenty of other solvents to use as thinners:  turpentine, xylene, mineral spirits, etc. (are volatile oils considered "oil" to Sverdlik?)

Avoiding pigments depends on what you define as a "pigment".  You can start with a resin with lots of contaminants (that you don't call "pigments"), then cook the snot out of it and end up with something fairly dark.

That gives us a shot at a resin and solvent, but I think that would tend to be too brittle and perhaps also difficult to work with.  Oil would give you a pretty standard oil/resin/thinner varnish, so what could be done to avoid oil?  I haven't tried it, but thick, oxidized turpentine seems like it might work, perhaps in conjunction with using some more flexible resin.

Personally, it seems like oil is great stuff, almost certainly historically used, so why try to avoid it unless you want to advertise some magical superiority?

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The analysis that has been don on the old Cremonese varnish shows that it has an oil content right?  B&G, Echard etc.?    So this may be a good varnish or not, who knows but it's not HC  (historically correct)  

 

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31 minutes ago, MikeC said:

The analysis that has been don on the old Cremonese varnish shows that it has an oil content right?  B&G, Echard etc.?    So this may be a good varnish or not, who knows but it's not HC  (historically correct)  

 

That's my take on it as well , Linseed oil in the North , walnut in the south.

Considering the ease of preparation ,availability of materials , historical references, and the vast quantity needed for everything from carriages to boats to furniture to instruments , It seems like making varnish was one of those relatively common things that often get set aside when new process' develop. From a craft standpoint, secret " proprietary cooking methods" would be hard to fathom for 16/17th century varnish makers ,who's only thermometer was a goose quill. 

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19 hours ago, James M. Jones said:

That's my take on it as well , Linseed oil in the North , walnut in the south.

Considering the ease of preparation ,availability of materials , historical references, and the vast quantity needed for everything from carriages to boats to furniture to instruments , It seems like making varnish was one of those relatively common things that often get set aside when new process' develop. From a craft standpoint, secret " proprietary cooking methods" would be hard to fathom for 16/17th century varnish makers ,who's only thermometer was a goose quill. 

Did the Amatis and Stradivari even need varnish makers? Just Linseed oil and turpentine make a beautiful varnish that dries hard.

I suspect many subsequent re-varnishings in the 19th and 29th centuries got more and more alchemically complicated... and for what purpose?

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20 hours ago, MikeC said:

The analysis that has been don on the old Cremonese varnish shows that it has an oil content right?  B&G, Echard etc.?    So this may be a good varnish or not, who knows but it's not HC  (historically correct)  

 

Echard said that linseed oil was the first coat. Brandmair and Greiner say it was a lot more complicated. Their book is only $400 so they must be keen to share their amazing discoveries?

Echard's analysis seems to confirm what many experts have been saying for a long time, that the Cremonese 'secret' was a small amount of linseed oil applied to the wood before varnishing with oil/turpentine and maybe rosin plus some pigments. This initial application of linseed oil changes the sound of the instrument in a profound way. What puzzles me is why this is not a topic for serious discussion here on MN?

 

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59 minutes ago, sospiri said:

Did the Amatis and Stradivari even need varnish makers? Just Linseed oil and turpentine make a beautiful varnish that dries hard.

I suspect many subsequent re-varnishings in the 19th and 29th centuries got more and more alchemically complicated... and for what purpose?

but that's not what they used.  The varnish has more in it than just linseed oil and turpentine.   Echard's findings were incomplete.  Also while we're on the subject Barlow and Woodhouse findings of mineral ground is highly suspect.   

There is something simple that would explain the findings of  B&G but unfortunately those beans can't be spilled on a forum.  

Strad and company certainly could have made their own varnish, it's not hard to do.  But they just as easily could have bought it ready made and adjusted it to their own requirements.  We may never know that for sure.  

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9 minutes ago, MikeC said:

but that's not what they used.  The varnish has more in it than just linseed oil and turpentine.   Echard's findings were incomplete.  Also while we're on the subject Barlow and Woodhouse findings of mineral ground is highly suspect.   

There is something simple that would explain the findings of  B&G but unfortunately those beans can't be spilled on a forum.  

Strad and company certainly could have made their own varnish, it's not hard to do.  But they just as easily could have bought it ready made and adjusted it to their own requirements.  We may never know that for sure.  

You missed the most important part out. Just like eveyone else does. The sound man, the sound. Anyone can make a beautiful looking varnish.

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13 minutes ago, MikeC said:

but that's not what they used.  The varnish has more in it than just linseed oil and turpentine.   Echard's findings were incomplete.  Also while we're on the subject Barlow and Woodhouse findings of mineral ground is highly suspect.   

There is something simple that would explain the findings of  B&G but unfortunately those beans can't be spilled on a forum.  

Strad and company certainly could have made their own varnish, it's not hard to do.  But they just as easily could have bought it ready made and adjusted it to their own requirements.  We may never know that for sure.  

Hi Mike, curious why the beans can't be spilled here?  

-Jim

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Hi Jim,   There is some research but I'm not the primary researcher so it's not mine to reveal.  I probably shouldn't have even mentioned it,  I'm starting to sound like Darnton.  heh

Also instead of saying Echard's findings are incomplete, I should have caveated that with 'in my opinion'.  Also the 'something simple'  That is also 'in my opinion'   

 

--I'm very opinionated. :)

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Does varnish have an effect on sound.  Of course it does.  But I don't subscribe to the homeopathic theory of violin tone adjustment.  

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21 minutes ago, MikeC said:

Does varnish have an effect on sound.  Of course it does.  But I don't subscribe to the homeopathic theory of violin tone adjustment.  

I don't know what you mean by homeopathic theory of violin tone adjustment. But I do know that some varnishes give  a nasty shrill sound which everyone agrees sound nasty and shrill.

But I can see than you aren't interested in my investigations.

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1 hour ago, sospiri said:

Did the Amatis and Stradivari even need varnish makers? Just Linseed oil and turpentine make a beautiful varnish that dries hard.

I suspect many subsequent re-varnishings in the 19th and 29th centuries got more and more alchemically complicated... and for what purpose?

I believe they did . There is ample evidence of oil /rosin cooked varnish.In my own experiments on scrap woods,I found linseed oil dampened the wood response and that straight rosin as a top cote had not the durability we look for in a working tool , I could be wrong though, Mind sharing some details on what you do? perhaps some process photos? 

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Sospiri what are you saying about the sound?   What point are we all missing?  or did you explain it already and I missed it ? 

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1 minute ago, James M. Jones said:

I believe they did . There is ample evidence of oil /rosin cooked varnish.In my own experiments on scrap woods,I found linseed oil dampened the wood response and that straight rosin as a top cote had not the durability we look for in a working tool , I could be wrong though, Mind sharing some details on what you do? perhaps some process photos? 

The original varnish on instruments by the Amatis, Stainer, Stradivari is thin and to my eye, uncomplicated. I believe they all used this method of applying some linseed oil before the oil/turnpentine coats. I agree about too much rosin. I think it's the cause of chippy varnish, and completly pointless, when a simple varnish is so beautiful.

This is what I'm doing based on an interpretation of information written in various issues of The Strad and in Joseph Michelman.  About 10 ml of linseed oil applied over a few days before a 50/50 linseed oil/turpentine mix. Really the crucial issue is the initial application, because subsequent coats are extremely thin. I'm playing the intstrument regularly to test the effects, as I belive they did? Stradivari varnish with the fingerboard in place, so by logic we would be doing similar things up to a point? Try it yourelf on a cheap chinese violin, either in the white or by removing the shellac with alchohol. Removing most of it takes a while, but it's worth doing this experiment for the sound you get.

The oil in the wood is not drying it is just sitting there, maybe even after 100 years? doing wonderful things for the sound. Hearing is believing, the sound is so rich and pleasing. I can't state that it's better, because it's a matter of opinion, but it is something very interesting to hear.

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15 minutes ago, MikeC said:

Sospiri what are you saying about the sound?   What point are we all missing?  or did you explain it already and I missed it ? 

What I'm saying is that the 'Cremonese secret' isn't a secret. It's just that there are a million hypotheses to test so everyone overlooks this one:

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=90R8CgAAQBAJ&pg=PT105&lpg=PT105&dq=linseed+oil+violin+varnish&source=bl&ots=CZ9uhLGbqN&sig=mAacaSXXOcq46gyp0-Zxhfvn7zQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjipc_N-qbUAhVnJcAKHdpMDxM4ChDoAQhPMAc#v=onepage&q=linseed oil violin varnish&f=false

The conclusion by Michelman is slighly questionable regarding linseed oil acting as a moisture repellent because those violins were dried in a box in the sun, so the water would have been forced out by evaporation. But something weird and wonderful happens by the simple application of a small amount of linseed oil as described in his book above.

I discovered this second hand through another author, Joseph Wechsberg. My method is pretty much the same amount of linseed oil applied as described above. I found this out by careful experimentation and regular playing to test the effects.

What you put on top of this is your own varnish.

What is really strange is that all 9 of the violins I have applied this to seem to have my own sound to them even though I didn't make any of them. So the effects of this method on the sound of the instrument is very profound. I have no knowledge of what everyone else is talking about in terms of frequency response it all looks like gibberish to me. I have no idea what they are talking about and they have no idea what I am talking about. They use graphs and whatever, I use my ears. I've always been obsessed with tone. I'm very grateful to those people who wrote about this stuff, which is no longer a popular idea for discussion, probably because a few people made some bad experiments with it and discarded the idea? I do it carefully and always get good results.

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The varnish was a tenth of a millimeter thick when they first applied it  that's  0.1mm   It's much thinner now on most of them due to 300 years of polishing.   On pristine example like leMessie though it's still has near original thickness.  

 

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I think I have that book as a PDF somewhere or used to.  I'll have to search for it.  That google books link doesn't show the entire contends of the book, only parts of it. 

If you have something that produces a good tone then congratulations

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20 hours ago, MikeC said:

The varnish was a tenth of a millimeter thick when they first applied it  that's  0.1mm   It's much thinner now on most of them due to 300 years of polishing.   On pristine example like leMessie though it's still has near original thickness.  

 

Yes, that's the kind of thickness I'm aiming for.

18 hours ago, MikeC said:

I think I have that book as a PDF somewhere or used to.  I'll have to search for it.  That google books link doesn't show the entire contends of the book, only parts of it. 

If you have something that produces a good tone then congratulations

Thanks Mike. The link to the Michelman book shows enough to get people interested, if only they weren't so caught up in their 19th century concept of what violin varnishing is supposed to be? Maybe I'm on the wrong website?

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6 hours ago, sospiri said:

 

Thanks Mike. The link to the Michelman book shows enough to get people interested, if only they weren't so caught up in their 19th century concept of what violin varnishing is supposed to be? Maybe I'm on the wrong website?

Have you looked around ? :)

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On 6/5/2017 at 5:08 PM, sospiri said:

 

What is really strange is that all 9 of the violins I have applied this to seem to have my own sound to them even though I didn't make any of them. So the effects of this method on the sound of the instrument is very profound. I have no knowledge of what everyone else is talking about in terms of frequency response it all looks like gibberish to me. I have no idea what they are talking about and they have no idea what I am talking about. They use graphs and whatever, I use my ears. I've always been obsessed with tone. I'm very grateful to those people who wrote about this stuff, which is no longer a popular idea for discussion, probably because a few people made some bad experiments with it and discarded the idea? I do it carefully and always get good results.

Could you please post some sound samples of your results ? You seem to believe that everybody else is somehow misguided. Well, you could be right and it would be nice if you could show us the results of the true way

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Since it appears to me that many of the finest sounding Cremonese violins are now varnished primarily with dirt and French polish, I'm more than a bit skeptical of anyone promoting the acoustical benefits of a fancy recipe... especially if they're trying to sell it.

Oil varnish ... Apply thinly ... Sounds good.  Maybe even better if you wear a lot of it off and then French polish.  That's my current understanding of it all.  Prove something different. 

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On ‎06‎/‎06‎/‎2017 at 10:46 PM, Don Noon said:

Since it appears to me that many of the finest sounding Cremonese violins are now varnished primarily with dirt and French polish, I'm more than a bit skeptical of anyone promoting the acoustical benefits of a fancy recipe... especially if they're trying to sell it.

Oil varnish ... Apply thinly ... Sounds good.  Maybe even better if you wear a lot of it off and then French polish.  That's my current understanding of it all.  Prove something different. 

The question I'm alluding to is; Does the hypothesis that the Cremonese master luthiers apply linseed oil before varnishing or not?

You have addressed this issue to a small degree, why not take it a step further as I have to test the hypothesis. My results have been encouraging enough for me to repeat it several times. Over the weekend, two more violins, one new one old, taking it up to eleven in total. These last two will be changing their tone gradually like the others. A well reported phenomenon of some of the older instruments is it not?

I'm not making fantastic claims, just testing an old hypothesis, but I am saying the results are interesting enough for you to give them a try. Look at the data in the Michelman book shown in the link above, it shows a potentially interesting phenomenon, that the small amount of linseed oil in the wood similar to the amount I suggested to you a few days ago, makes the instrument lighter presumably by repelling moisture?

With the addition of turpentine and rosin, wouldn't that act as a preservative and deterrent to woodworm etc?

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