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Will L

CLEANING VIOLINS? DO NO HARM!

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1 hour ago, Will L said:

 

I also wonder how much damage was done in the past even by notable people, just because the area of cleaning and polishing (for want of an ideal word) was relatively primitive by comparison to recent times.  At least I assume it was.  

Note what happens 10 or 20 seconds after the 5 minute mark. :(

http://www.marthastewart.com/913022/restoration-valuable-stringed-instruments

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I do hate all this soundpost-bashing. I really think that if a soundpost is a good fit under string tension, forcing it into a different position without releasing the string tension must damage (or at least risk damaging) the inner surface of the table.

Every time I see someone doing it I just cringe. 

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14 minutes ago, martin swan said:

I do hate all this soundpost-bashing. I really think that if a soundpost is a good fit under string tension, forcing it into a different position without releasing the string tension must damage (or at least risk damaging) the inner surface of the table.

Every time I see someone doing it I just cringe. 

I noticed that too, I've been guilty of that just today :o your right it can cause digging in of the post, I seen Daniel Strings do it a LOT on YouTube!

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I'm wondering exactly what was going on in that video.  The way that it was presented made it sound like what we saw was an ordinary overhaul, performed routinely.  If so, it seemed more than a little extreme to me.  I've seen such replacements done to other multi-million dollar objects as part of a maintenance schedule, but violins aren't ships or aircraft.  Any thoughts from other viewers?  PM's are welcome. :)

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2 hours ago, carl1961 said:

I've been guilty of that just today :o your right it can cause digging in of the post,

I hope it wasn't to that violin I like.  I'd rather have a good soundpost patch than some of the messed up top insides I've seen.

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I notice Martha describes the "coating of mineral oil and then a 'resin CONCOCTION.'"  That there sounds mighty proprietary, IMO.  :)    Probably would sell for a good deal more than the artificial saliva recently discussed.

By the way, from the prices quoted, that must be a pretty old video.

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4 hours ago, Violadamore said:

I'm wondering exactly what was going on in that video.  The way that it was presented made it sound like what we saw was an ordinary overhaul, performed routinely.  If so, it seemed more than a little extreme to me.  I've seen such replacements done to other multi-million dollar objects as part of a maintenance schedule, but violins aren't ships or aircraft.  Any thoughts from other viewers?  PM's are welcome. :)

I think it's an interesting question.  I don't know too much on the subject, but I remember one friend of mine with a lovely Strad who told me a certain restorer had just reworked it (about 1980) and reworked all the old cracks.  I don't know how many it had because it always looked like it didn't have any.  Certainly it looked like it didn't have any after the restoration.   :)  

I knew someone with a Ruggieri which looked mint condition; I don't remember that you could see a crack in it (circa 1960).  He made the mistake of taking it on tour to Malaysia and the humidity caused all the beautiful old restoration work to open up and he had no idea how many cracks had already been there, and had to have it reworked.  So looks, I suppose, can be deceiving.  Personally, once an old crack looks like it is "getting tired," I would think it is better to firm it up, but I assume that requires at least more touch up work.  So I don't know what the current thought is.  The last I heard is many are trying to be more conservative, and if something shows, it shows.  Someone please fill us in on the latest attitudes.

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6 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

The way the video is cut you can't tell if he loosened the strings or not.  If he did, the film editor is not going to know to leave that in.

I hear all the strings resonating at full pitch as he taps the post.

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7 hours ago, Will L said:

Personally, once an old crack looks like it is "getting tired," I would think it is better to firm it up, but I assume that requires at least more touch up work.  So I don't know what the current thought is.  The last I heard is many are trying to be more conservative, and if something shows, it shows.  Someone please fill us in on the latest attitudes.

It's a judgement call... If the crack is unstable, it's probably time to address it, but pulling a top off for a single crack if it can be stabilized from the exterior is unnecessary and invasive.  Often, the best time to address "tired" previous restorations is between owners, in my opinion.

Approaches to crack reinforcement and retouch is much more conservative... scraping varnish off a few mm on each side of a fault is a habit that's faded away quickly... as has unrestrained polishing. More conservative crack cleaning, fill & retouch techniques are pretty common.  New patching and mass installation of under-edges are much less common (and new alternatives are developing thanks to laser scanning and CNC cutting: missing wood can be replaced without removing more of the original in many cases), but if that work is already there, one is faced with the task of re-addressing it. Sound post patching is still common, but it's probably still the best way to address that flaw in many cases.  We'll see what the future brings.

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Going back to cleaning approaches, the salt used in dishwashers helps to break down protein in much the same way as saliva. It's a slightly old school technique to put a heaped teaspoonful in a pint of warmish water. I think vulpex has largely superseded it, but it is another artificial saliva. 

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4 hours ago, martin swan said:

I hear all the strings resonating at full pitch as he taps the post.

Good catch!  I didn't have the sound up that loud til just now.  I like how he stops the player by making some remark about the sound like a teacher but then fixes it by working on the violin :)

 

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Hi all,

Saliva is actually a great cleaning agent to remove dirt and grime because the enzymes in it will break down greasy grime and make it more soluble in the watery component of the solvent. (See my general cleaning tips below to determine if this is safe for your instrument.)

Tips to using saliva for cleaning:

  1. Brush your teeth and tongue half an hour before you need to clean something.
  2. Refrain from eating or drinking anything other than water until you are done cleaning with saliva. Stay hydrated!
  3. Use cotton swabs to have fine control in your cleaning. You can control the amount of moisture really well by sticking these directly into your mouth to wet them, but it that seems too icky you can spit into a small, clean cup and dip into that. (I personally find the second option ickier.) If you roll the swab across the surface rather than dragging it you significantly reduce the chances of scratching the varnish. (Using a cloth is always dragging and can be quite abrasive.)
  4. Clear off the saliva residue by going over the same area with distilled water-- not too wet! You can blot the swab on a paper towel first if needed.

If you have to report that you used saliva for cleaning-- honestly, this is a professionally-approved cleaning agent-- you can either say you used saliva cleaning, or you can say you cleaned with an "aqueous enzymatic solution", which is also true but more clinical.  If you are concerned about an exchange of germs, keep the instrument for several days after cleaning before returning it to the owner. 

Other tips: avoid smoking and eating onions and garlic for a long while before beginning the process-- these will add unpleasant odors to your saliva. 

I don't think saliva alone will remove stubborn rosin accumulation. 

 

Other tips:

  • Do a visual inspection before you clean to make sure you aren't using any wet cleaning techniques on spots where the wood is not protected by the varnish, including areas of damage to the varnish.
  • ALWAYS do a spot test with a bit of your cleaning solution on an inconspicuous part of the varnish-- if it causes changes, don't use it!
  • Tips about "feeding" or "nourishing" your wood with oils or other substances are a MYTH (even if shared by a professional luthier like in that last video). They do not prolong the life of the wood, may actually dull sound a bit by clogging up the pores, and are hard to remove. Moreover, if there is a good varnish on your instrument-- one that is safe for you to clean-- it will prevent oil from getting to the wood anyway.
  • Oils like olive oil, if left on the surface, will eventually cross-link and form a gummy or even hard residue on the surface. You can wipe fresh oil residue away with a lot of elbow grease, but it's better to find a compatible solvent that is completely safe for the varnish but dissolves the rosin residue.

I appreciate the title of this thread: DO NO HARM!

Edited by Viola Kat
clarification

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