Ludovic Proulx

Antiquing trick

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I've seen some bad antiquing jobs, or what I consider bad, so many times. And I don't even see that many instruments. So these are common errors. Such as:

You can see the shapes of the crumpley packing tape that was used to remove varnish, which was used several times in the same way and at the same angle. It looks like a preschoolers' first discovery of printmaking. But I didn't want to cry and put that fiddle on my fridge, I wanted to look away.

Craquele looked like oily, deep, fissures in the thick varnish. No fracking allowed in the varnish. I think that is a good rule. Absolutely no fiddle fracking allowed. There are some really awesome methods to produce realistic craquele. Find one or more before you try it on an instrument.

What's worse, some frackers do so by mistake and adjust their "antiquing" plan based on their frack up. Some mistakes can be erased by alcohol. Not in a "drink until she is Cremonese" sense, but in a "for the love of God, start over" sense. Why would you try to pass off some hideous greasy old leather-like effect as intentional?

There are no scratches, just varnish removed with alcohol in a couple places. This is what makers do when everything about the instrument is an afterthought. Or maybe not, but that's what it looks like, like they planned nothing about the aesthetic. So you have to wonder about the rest of it.

The woodwork is pristine; the varnish is 300 years old. It's very common to work like this and I think the practice has been debated here before. I don't like it.

Also, like others said, any use of black schmutz, especially liberal use of the same color of black in every scratch and dent.

Please add to this list, anyone.

Like others have mentioned, it is a completely different skill than the instrument making itself, and at times my husband had said he didn't want to antique anything and resented that there is little choice but to do it (the market Jackson Maberry refers to is really how it is). I think a lot of violin luthiers go though that. But now he has fun with antiquing, and I hope you all do too, just don't do anything above in the process. 

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'Fracking' as describe above can occur on new oil varnishes that are a bit thick. 

I just tried some packaging tape wrapped round the hand over areas of oil varnish that had been softened with alcohol slightly, it worked
quite well in pulling off small bits but not too much, tiny islands rather than continents. 

Now I'm wondering if Conor will be antiquing his bass....

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1 hour ago, ~ Ben Conover said:

'Fracking' as describe above can occur on new oil varnishes that are a bit thick. 

I just tried some packaging tape wrapped round the hand over areas of oil varnish that had been softened with alcohol slightly, it worked
quite well in pulling off small bits but not too much, tiny islands rather than continents. 

Now I'm wondering if Conor will be antiquing his bass....

I think I will, just a bit.

I feel that it's not necessary to make a three hundred year old instrument, just maybe a fifty year old. I see so many with almost no varnish left, and heavily polished, when the old instruments we most treasure are the almost pristine examples. So I've taken to using the Lady Blunt as my ideal, with a little less wear on the lower back. For the player, that seems quite old looking enough, and in five years they add lots of real wear themselves.

I feel sorry for the experts of the future. I think they'll have a hard time telling who made what. So many makers seem willing to obliterate their own personal style in the quest for the better copy.

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18 minutes ago, Conor Russell said:

I feel sorry for the experts of the future. I think they'll have a hard time telling who made what. So many makers seem willing to obliterate their own personal style in the quest for the better copy.

well said

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20 hours ago, Conor Russell said:

I think I will, just a bit.

I feel that it's not necessary to make a three hundred year old instrument, just maybe a fifty year old. I see so many with almost no varnish left, and heavily polished, when the old instruments we most treasure are the almost pristine examples. So I've taken to using the Lady Blunt as my ideal, with a little less wear on the lower back. For the player, that seems quite old looking enough, and in five years they add lots of real wear themselves.

I feel sorry for the experts of the future. I think they'll have a hard time telling who made what. So many makers seem willing to obliterate their own personal style in the quest for the better copy.

You should. Make it look fifty or so years old, I mean. Players see an instrument that is a little antiqued as friendly and inviting. Plus, a lot of the Chinese basses out there are straight varnished. I think that is part of the very frustrating problem. They use oil varnish too. Players need to be able to see a difference right away. If I ever bought a bass again I think I might want it to look new, since I know just enough to not confuse a $20,000 Chinese bass with a real one. But I am not buying.

On the recent commission my dh had, it was hard to know how much to antique because the buyer chose a picture of a well preserved 300-year-old instrument as the ideal level but said to do around 50 years of normal wear.  Oh, ok...so he wants it to look expensive. I think erring on the side of more antiquing makes most buyers happy. That was my theory. But I could be wrong. I really don't understand why they want their instrument to look 600 years old in 300 years, just that many buyers want to look like they are holding some relic, now. Obviously they don't think about posterity like the luthiers do.

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I've seen some pretty impressive antiquing out of China lately, and just generally excellent workmanship across the board in the higher level work coming from that country. Sure, there's still a flood of really lousy stuff, but I believe it's dangerous to dismiss the entire output of China as 'not real'. The truth is, from my perspective, that we should all be concerned about the really good fiddles coming in that we could never hope to out-compete pricewise. 

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If you don't believe that there is a very important and real difference in every way between the mass production stuff out of China, most likely done by piecework, and something made by a person who knows what they're doing, why persist in this trade at all? Give up now.

This is not the same thing as saying that some guys in China don't know what they're doing. Those people aren't charging $20,000 retail for a bass. I don't know what Conor charges, but I know for sure I would know it when I saw it. I doubt most buyers can really see the difference though. I am cringing a thousand cringes right now, but I know it is true. 

Most Chinese antiquing is a horror show, but good enough for players. So it's good enough. Don't think anyone doesn't see that. The challenge is to be very obviously different from the Chinese or East European stuff, because you have to appeal to different players than those who would buy that stuff. Hopefully not too tremendous a challenge, and certainly not for Conor I bet, but you're right that it's getting harder for everyone.

 

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On January 26, 2018 at 4:12 PM, Conor Russell said:

I think I will, just a bit.

I feel that it's not necessary to make a three hundred year old instrument, just maybe a fifty year old. I see so many with almost no varnish left, and heavily polished, when the old instruments we most treasure are the almost pristine examples. So I've taken to using the Lady Blunt as my ideal, with a little less wear on the lower back. For the player, that seems quite old looking enough, and in five years they add lots of real wear themselves.

I feel sorry for the experts of the future. I think they'll have a hard time telling who made what. So many makers seem willing to obliterate their own personal style in the quest for the better copy.

Even ten years of wear may be enough to avoid the "awkward phase". I beleive there is a picture on my website of an instrument I made pristine and fully varnished in 1996 which is now impossible to tell if it is twenty years old or a well preserved one hundred.

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On 1/25/2018 at 2:14 PM, MikeC said:

What varnish would you recommend?  

Just now saw this.  I make my own varnish, but obviously what one person makes will be extremely different from what another person makes.  I don't know much about commercial varnishes.  Ideally, for both straight and antiquing, find something that has properties that allow it to wear well (am I being too obvious?).  Softer varnishes often disguise wear better than harder varnishes, and surface texture DOES play a huge role in what's more obvious.  A good ground that dents instead of chipping or turning white makes everything much better!  Does that answer the question at all?

 

Here are a couple shots of my varnish the way it ends up off the brush.  I polished it out a bit later, but still like to leave some texture.

IMG_2181.JPG

IMG_2178.JPG

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On 1/27/2018 at 12:01 PM, not telling said:

If you don't believe that there is a very important and real difference in every way between the mass production stuff out of China, most likely done by piecework, and something made by a person who knows what they're doing, why persist in this trade at all? Give up now.

True, although it's dangerous to assume that anyone who makes a violin start to finish by hand knows what they're doing, and that someone making pieces in a factory doesn't know how to make those pieces at a very high level. 

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On 1/27/2018 at 2:01 PM, not telling said:

If you don't believe that there is a very important and real difference in every way between the mass production stuff out of China, most likely done by piecework, and something made by a person who knows what they're doing, why persist in this trade at all? Give up now.

 

I'm left wondering if you really read my post that you were responding to, in which I clearly acknowledge the distinction. 

In any case, thank you for the kind sentiment of encouragement and support. 

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You know..if I was going to try it myself - on a violin...I would scuff up the new varnished violin in a "normal" wear pattern.  Then I would French polish.

Repeat as necessary.

 

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2 hours ago, Rue said:

You know..if I was going to try it myself - on a violin...I would scuff up the new varnished violin in a "normal" wear pattern.  Then I would French polish.

Repeat as necessary.

 

repeat three hundred times,  once for each year of wear. 

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7 hours ago, Advocatus Diaboli said:

Just now saw this.  I make my own varnish, but obviously what one person makes will be extremely different from what another person makes.  I don't know much about commercial varnishes.  Ideally, for both straight and antiquing, find something that has properties that allow it to wear well (am I being too obvious?).  Softer varnishes often disguise wear better than harder varnishes, and surface texture DOES play a huge role in what's more obvious.  A good ground that dents instead of chipping or turning white makes everything much better!  Does that answer the question at all?

 

Here are a couple shots of my varnish the way it ends up off the brush.  I polished it out a bit later, but still like to leave some texture.

 

 

Answers it in a vague sort of way :D   That's an oil varnish I assume,  I like it, its a good looking color.   

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11 hours ago, MikeC said:

Answers it in a vague sort of way :D   That's an oil varnish I assume,  I like it, its a good looking color.   

Yeah, it's oily varnish.  Pretty much just sun thickened linseed oil, pine gun I collected and larch turp.  I'd be happy to send you some tonplay with if you wanted. 

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On 2/5/2018 at 1:12 AM, Advocatus Diaboli said:

Here are a couple shots of my varnish the way it ends up off the brush. 

That is very nice.

The graining on the top is excellent,, I really like it.

Were old fiddles done this way to begin with, or is this effect always the result of wear,

I don't want to say it but did "Brad" do it to his new fiddles at times, or did anyone else of antiquity ,,,

Just curious Evan

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On 2/6/2018 at 2:57 AM, Evan Smith said:

Were old fiddles done this way to begin with, or is this effect always the result of wear,

How do you mean?  This doesn't have any wear or antiquing.

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I am not saying that your fiddle has any wear or antiquing, it looks very nice.

But there is concentrated color in the grain lines on the top. It takes wiping some of the color off, or having some more concentrated color in the grain lines to produce this effect.

I'm not terming this as antiquing, because it  really is not,,, I am asking if it was as common for the old guys to do this exact thing,,, or if generally they just evenly colored the entire fiddle without accenting the grain lines as much as we have a tendency to do now days..

 

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Ah, there's a very small amount of corduroy texture that the varnish could have pulled into some, but I think what you're seeing is mostly just the darkness of the winter grain lines making the color more noticeable.

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I like the advice given above to do “10% of what you can imagine”. I also try to avoid sharp objects like rocks, nails, etc and instead prefer ‘hard but softened’ objects that a violin is more likely to encounter. Here are a few of such things that are in my “kit”. Subtlety is the aim.

image.thumb.jpg.8c21dde8162274b1a4c522f34ac81469.jpg

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On 2/5/2018 at 3:12 AM, Advocatus Diaboli said:

Just now saw this.  I make my own varnish, but obviously what one person makes will be extremely different from what another person makes.  I don't know much about commercial varnishes.  Ideally, for both straight and antiquing, find something that has properties that allow it to wear well (am I being too obvious?).  Softer varnishes often disguise wear better than harder varnishes, and surface texture DOES play a huge role in what's more obvious.  A good ground that dents instead of chipping or turning white makes everything much better!  Does that answer the question at all?

 

Here are a couple shots of my varnish the way it ends up off the brush.  I polished it out a bit later, but still like to leave some texture.

IMG_2181.JPG

IMG_2178.JPG

Lovely

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On 2/9/2018 at 10:03 AM, curious1 said:

I like the advice given above to do “10% of what you can imagine”. I also try to avoid sharp objects like rocks, nails, etc and instead prefer ‘hard but softened’ objects that a violin is more likely to encounter. Here are a few of such things that are in my “kit”. Subtlety is the aim.

image.thumb.jpg.8c21dde8162274b1a4c522f34ac81469.jpg

It is worth remembering that instruments rarely encounter something that is truly sharp or rough. Even buckles, case locks, etc are all somewhat softened. Violins tend to get bumped into things like wooden stands, cabinets, etc.

I especially like pegs and bridges for putting in dents because of the many complex and softened shapes to chose from all in the same object.

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