Danube Fiddler

The ground ( sealing) of the great masters - which was it ?

Recommended Posts

On 7/8/2018 at 10:06 PM, David Burgess said:

1) Agreed.

2) I have only one experience with alcohol on the ground of a rather pristine and original and largely un-retouched Strad. The musician had accidentally laid it on an alcohol rag he had been using to clean the strings. There did not appear to be any ground left. With less original instruments, or those which have a larger proportion of replacement varnish or filler, outcomes could be all over the place.

I am not sure, if I understand right

There did not appear to be any ground left on the violin back or not any ground left on the alcohol rag ? I assume the second. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Danube Fiddler said:

I am not sure, if I understand right

There did not appear to be any ground left on the violin back or not any ground left on the alcohol rag ? I assume the second. 

Why would you do that? The violin was mistakenly left on the alcohol rag. So the violin was damaged. And one would expect the violin to have ground on it, not the rag. So it is the first that is clearly meant.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Quadibloc said:

Why would you do that? The violin was mistakenly left on the alcohol rag. So the violin was damaged. And one would expect the violin to have ground on it, not the rag. So it is the first that is clearly meant.

Why ? It is not that easy to "wash" any resinous layer totally away from a wood-surface, even if this resin is total soluble. You will have to take several rags and you will need some minutes of continous rubbing. So this single exposition to an alcohol rag i.m.o. would most probably not remove the complete layer of any soluble ground as David Burgess reported with his words " There did not appear to be any ground left".

I assume, that David meant : after the alcoholized contact there was not any ground left on the rag.

 

On 7/8/2018 at 10:06 PM, David Burgess said:

1) Agreed.

2) I have only one experience with alcohol on the ground of a rather pristine and original and largely un-retouched Strad. The musician had accidentally laid it on an alcohol rag he had been using to clean the strings. There did not appear to be any ground left. With less original instruments, or those which have a larger proportion of replacement varnish or filler, outcomes could be all over the place.

Perhaps David himself can make the thing more clear ?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, Danube Fiddler said:

Perhaps David himself can make the thing more clear ?

 

While the varnish/filler on the rag wasn't completely dissolved (meaning that there were chunks or particles with some color bleeding into the surrounding fabric), the area on the violin from which the coating(s) had transferred to the rag appeared to be bare wood.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

While the varnish/filler on the rag wasn't completely dissolved (meaning that there were chunks or particles with some color bleeding into the surrounding fabric), the area on the violin from which the coating(s) had transferred to the rag appeared to be bare wood.

So then the conclusion of your experience with a most original Strad-ground would actually be, that the Cremonese ground is soluble in alcohol.

If I remember right, Sacconi found the fact, that in great Cremonese violins the "bare wood-fibres" couldn´t get polluted like on "normal" wood-surfaces. Eventually he could not see the "high-protective layer" itself but had seen its protecting effects.

Coming back to modern research of Brandair and Echard : there were made many microscopical pictures in natural and UV-light. Are there any pictures showing a special layer like this one, presumed by Sacconi and Joe Robson ? Then we should have this special layer also above the wood surface but below the actual varnish. Considered the very small observed thicknesses of the actual varnish-layers ( < 50 um ) this special high-protective layer should have an incredibly small thickness of less than 10 um or this protective layer was not stratum-building at all but combining/reacting with wood-fibres.

If assumed is the last one, this could combine both : your experience of bare wood - but beeing sealed  in spite of this ( and the removed things by the alcohol - rag were not the real protective ground but a colorless varnish-layer ).

What also could be interesting, is the claim of Hargrave or Biddulph, that Guarneri-del-Gesú in his later years would have changed to a more thick ( I assume : colorless ) ground. Obviously they could separate something like a ground, but stratum-building on the wood-surface - and located below the actual colored varnish.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it highly unlikely that much of what might have be in the wood would have been removed. This can be very difficult, even when that is exactly what we are trying to do, and even when it is water soluble (like the difficulty of completely getting rid of glue ghosts).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

I think it highly unlikely that much of what might have be in the wood would have been removed. This can be very difficult, even when that is exactly what we are trying to do, and even when it is water soluble (like the difficulty of completely getting rid of glue ghosts).

Yes, naturally.  Once I asked the famous german maker Josef Kantuscher, what probably will be more important, the varnish or the ground. His very interesting answer was approximately this : the ground -because you never will be able to remove it, while you can wash off the varnish, if you would like to do so. 

I have unterstood you that way, that on this particular Strad with a quite original-looking varnish-appearence there was a layer on the wood-surface, identified by you not as varnish but as "ground". And this layer ( thought by you as beeing an original layer ) was quite easily washed off by the alcohol rag in such an extent, that in this area, touched by the rag, only a bare-woodsurface remained.  Did I understand right ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Danube Fiddler said:

So then the conclusion of your experience with a most original Strad-ground would actually be, that the Cremonese ground is soluble in alcohol.

If I remember right, Sacconi found the fact, that in great Cremonese violins the "bare wood-fibres" couldn´t get polluted like on "normal" wood-surfaces. Eventually he could not see the "high-protective layer" itself but had seen its protecting effects.

Coming back to modern research of Brandair and Echard : there were made many microscopical pictures in natural and UV-light. Are there any pictures showing a special layer like this one, presumed by Sacconi and Joe Robson ? Then we should have this special layer also above the wood surface but below the actual varnish. Considered the very small observed thicknesses of the actual varnish-layers ( < 50 um ) this special high-protective layer should have an incredibly small thickness of less than 10 um or this protective layer was not stratum-building at all but combining/reacting with wood-fibres.

If assumed is the last one, this could combine both : your experience of bare wood - but beeing sealed  in spite of this ( and the removed things by the alcohol - rag were not the real protective ground but a colorless varnish-layer ).

What also could be interesting, is the claim of Hargrave or Biddulph, that Guarneri-del-Gesú in his later years would have changed to a more thick ( I assume : colorless ) ground. Obviously they could separate something like a ground, but stratum-building on the wood-surface - and located below the actual colored varnish.

B&G's Layer  3.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎7‎/‎8‎/‎2018 at 12:42 AM, Davide Sora said:

It's hard for me to believe this, because this never happened to me in all my oil drying tests.

 
Obviously I have no reason to doubt your experience, but simply I've never met an oil that behaved as you say.
 
Would you be so kind as to tell me how did you get a similar result?
 
I mean how to get an oil that when dry becomes so brittle as to behave like a hard rosin-like resin and that it remains so over time,
if I understand that is this what you mean?
 

I use very thin coats of raw linseed oil. I don't cook anything. My first few coats are just oil on the bare wood, then oil, turpenetine and rosin to give a honey glow effect, then oil and pigments, then many very thin coats of linseed oil.

I think if the coats are thin enough, they oxidize and polymerize to a hard layer. If they are thick they stay soft. A mixture of soft and hard coats might be beneficial? I have stated before that I am sure that a violin can be 'tuned' this way, such that a darker or brighter tone can be achieved with oil varnish and probably with lacs too?

But whatever method is used, I think the ability of linseed oil resisting fingenail scratches is beneficial too. But the effect of the varnish on the tone of the instrument is most important to me. I play as I'm varnishing to test the tonal effects and how they change over the drying period from muted to brighter.

 I am always obsessed with finding better ways of doing things and I spend a lot of time applying and removing layers if they don't do exactly what I want them to do. Some strange and wonderful things happen and repeating the process fascinates me.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎7‎/‎8‎/‎2018 at 10:03 PM, Michael Darnton said:

Where did you get the idea that shellac is inflexible? You have never used it in a what that really tests its flexibility, I"m guessing.

I started with shellac and didn't like the tonal results. I don't doubt that if applied very thinly or mixed with other things it will be better, but when I read Charles Reade's 1872 letters about oil varnishing I got sidetracked:

 

CREMONA FIDDLES

FOURTH LETTER,
August 31st, 1872.



THE fiddles of Cremona gained their reputation by superior
 tone, but they hold it now mainly by their beauty. For thirty years past violins have been made equal in model to the chef-d'oeuvres of Cremona, and stronger in wood than Stradivarius, and more scientific than Guarnerius in the thicknesses.
This of class violin is hideous, but has one quality in perfection —
Power ; whilst the masterpieces of Cremona eclipse every new
violin in sweetness, oiliness, crispness, and volume of tone as
distinct from loudness. Age has dried their vegetable juices,
making the carcass much lighter than that of a new violin, and
those light dry frames vibrate at a touch.

But M. Fetis goes too far when he intimates that Stradivarius
is louder as well as sweeter than Lupot, Gand, or Bemardel.
Take a hundred violins by Stradiuarius and open them ; you
find about ninty-five patched in the centre with new wood.
The connecting link is a sheet of glue. And is glue a fine
resonant substance ? And are the glue and the new wood of
John Bull and Jean Crapaud transmogrified into the wood of
Stradiuarius by merely sticking on to it ? Is it not extravagant
to quote patched violins as beyond rivalry in all the qualities
of sound ? How can they be the loudest, when the centre of the
sound-board is a mere sandwich, composed of the maker's thin
wood, a buttering of glue, and a huge slice of new wood ?

Joseph Guarnerius has plenty of wood ; but his thicknesses are
not always so scientific as those of the best modern fiddle-makers ;
so that even he can be rivalled in power by a new violin,
though not in richness and sweetness. Consider, then, these
two concurrent phenomena, that for twenty-five years new violins
have been better made for sound than they ever were made in this
world, yet old Cremona violins have nearly doubled in price,
and, you will divine, as the truth is, that old fiddles are not
bought by the ear alone. I will add that loo years ago, when the violins of Brescia and of Stradiuarius and (iuarnerius were
the only well-modelled violins, they were really bought by the
ear, and the prices were moderate. Now they are in reality
bought by the eye, and the price is enormous. The reason is
that their tone is good but their appearance inimitable ; because
the makers chose fine wood and laid on a varnish highly
coloured, yet clear as crystal, with this strange property — it
becomes far more beautiful by time and usage : it wears softly
away, or chips boldly away, in such forms as to make the whole
violin picturesque, beautiful, various, and curious.

To approach the same conclusion by a different road — No.
94 is a violin whose picturesque beauty I have described already ;
twenty-five years ago Mr. Plowden gave £450 for it. It is now,
I suppose, worth £500. Well, knock that violin down and
crack it in two places, it will sink that moment to the value of
the "violon du diable," and be worth£350. But collect
twenty amateurs all ready to buy it, and, instead of cracking it,
dip it into a jar of spirits and wash the varnish off. Not one
of those customers will give you above £40 for it ; nor would
it in reality be worth quite so much in the market. Take
another example. There is a beautiful and very perfect vio-
lin by Stradiuarius, which the Times, in an article on these
instruments, calls La Messie. These leading journals have
private information on every subject, even grammar. I prefer
to call it— after the very intelligent man to whom we owe the
sight of it — the Vuillaume Stradiuarius. Well, the Vuillaume
Stradiuarius is worth, as times go, £600 at least. Wash off the
varnish, it would be worth £35 ; because, unlike No. 94, it
has one little crack. As a further illustration that violins are
heard by the eye, let me .remind your readers of the high prices
at which numberless copies of the old makers were sold in
Paris for many years. The inventors of this art undertook to
deliver a new violin, that in usage and colour of the worn parts
should be exactly like an old and worn violin of some favourite
maker. Now, to do this with white wood was impossible; so
the wood was l)aked in the oven or coloured yellow with the
smoke of sulphuric acid, or so forth, to give it the colour of age;
but these processes kill the wood as a vehicle of sound ; and
these copies were, and are, the worst musical instruments Europe
has created in this century ; and, bad as they are at starting, they
get worse every year of their untuncful existence; yet, because
they flattered the eye with something like the Hght and shade and
picturesqueness of the Cremona vioHn, these pseudo-antiques,
though inimitable in number, sold like wildfire; and hundreds
of self-deceivers heard them by the eye, and fancied these tin-
pots sounded divinely. The hideous red violins of Bernardel,
Gand, and an English maker or two, are a reaction against
those copies; they are made honestly with white wood, and they
will, at all events, improve in sound every year and every decade.
It comes to this, then, that the varnish of Cremona, as operated
on by time and usage, has an inimitable beauty, and we pay a
high price for it in second-class makers, and an enormous price
in a fine Stradiuarius or Joseph Guarnerius. No wonder, then,
that many violin-makers have tried hard to discover the secret
of this varnish ; many chemists have given days and nights of
anxious study to it. More than once, even in my time, hopes
have run high, but only to fall again. Some have even cried
Eureka ! to the public : but the moment others looked at their
discovery and compared it with the real thing, "inextinguishable
laughter shook the skies." At last despair has succeeded to all
that energetic study, and the varnish of Cremona is sullenly given
up as a lost art.

I have heard and read a great deal about it, and I think I
can state the principal theories briefly, but intelligibly.

1. It used be to stoutly maintained that the basis was amber ;
that these old Italians had the art of infusing amber without im-
pairing its transparency ; once fused, by dry heat, it could be boiled
into a varnish with oil and spirit of turpentine, and combined
with transparent yet lasting colours. To convince me, they
used to rub the worn part of a Cremona with their sleeves, and
then put the fiddle to their noses, and smell amber. Then I
burning with love of knowledge, used to rub the fiddle very
hard and whip it to my nose, and not smell amber. But that
might arise in some measure from there not being any amber
there to smell. (N.B. — These amber-seeking worthies never
rubbed the coloured varnish on an old violin. Yet their theory
had placed amber there.)

2. That time does it all. The violins of Stradiuarius were
raw, crude things at starting, and the varnish rather opaque.

3. Two or three had the courage to say it was spirit varnish,
and alleged in proof that if you drop a drop of alcohol on a
Stradiuarius, it tears the varnish off as it runs.


4. The far more prevalent notion was that it is an oil varnish,
in support of which they pointed to the rich ai)pearance of what
they call the bare wood, and contrasted the miserable hungry
appearance of the wood in all old violins known to be spirit
varnished — for instance, Nicholas Gagliano, of Naples, and Jean
Baptiste Guadagnini, of Piacenza, Italian makers contemporary
with Joseph Guarnerius.

5 That the secret has been lost by adulteration. The old
Cremonese and Venetians got pure and sovereign gums, that
have retired from commerce.

Now, as to theory No. i. — Surely amber is too dear a gum
and too impracticable for two hundred fiddle-makers to have
used in Italy. Till fused by dry heat it is no more soluble
in varnish than quartz is ; and who can fuse it ? Copal is
inclined to melt, but amber to burn, catch fire, do anything but
melt. Put the two gums to a lighted candle, you will then
appreciate the difference. I tried more than one chemist in
the fusing of amber ; it came out of their hands a dark brown
opaque substance, rather burnt than fused. When really fused it
is a dark olive green, as clear as crystal. Yet I never knew but one
man who could bring it to this, and he had special machinery,
invented by himself, for it ; in spite of which he nearly burnt
down his house at it one day. I believe the whole amber
theory comes out of a verbal equivoque ; the varnish of the
Amati was called amber to mark its rich colour, and your a priori
reasoners went off on that, forgetting that amber must be an
inch thick to exhibit the colour amber. By such reasoning as
this Mr. Davidson, in a book of great general merit, is misled so
far as to put down powdered glass for an ingredient in Cremona
varnish. Mark the logic. Glass in a sheet is transparent ; so
if you reduce it to powder it will add transparency to varnish.
Imposed on by this chimera, he actually puts powdered glass,
an opaque and insoluble sediment, into four receipts for Cre-
mona varnish.

But the theories 2, 3, 4, 5 have all a good deal of truth in
them ; their fault is that they are too narrow, and too blintl to
the truth of each other. In this, as in every .scientikic

INQUIRY, THE TRUE SOLUTION IS THAT WHICH RECONCILES
ALL THE TRUTHS THAT SEEM AT VARIANCE.

The way to discover a lost art, once practised with variations by
a hundred people, is to examine very closely the most brilliant
specimen, the most characteristic specimen, and, indeed, the
most extravagant specimen — if you can find one. I took that
way, and I found in the chippiest varnish of Stradiuarius, viz.,
his dark red varnish, the key to all the varnish of Cremona,
red or yellow. (N.B. — The yellow always beat me dead, till I
got to it by this detour.) There is no specimen in the collection
of this red varnish so violent as I have seen ; but Mr. Pawle's
bass, No. 187, will do. Please walk with me up to the back
of that bass, and let us disregard all hypotheses and theories,
and use our eyes. What do we see before us ? A bass with
a red varnish that chips very readily off what people call the
bare wood. But never mind what these echoes of echoes call
it. What t's it ? It is not bare wood. Bare wood turns a dirty
brown with age. This is a rich and lovely yellow. By its
colour and its glassy gloss, and by disbeUeving what echoes
say and trusting only to our eyes, we may see at a glance it
is not bare wood, but highly varnished wood. This varnish is
evidently oil, and contains a gum. Allowing for the tendency
of oil to run into the wood, I should 's.'A.y foia- coats of oil varnish:
and this they call the bare wood. We have now discovered
the first process : a clear oil varnish laid on the white wood
with some transparent gum not high coloured. Now proceed
a step further; the red and chippy varnish, what is that?
"Oh, that is a varnish of the same quality but another colour,"
say the theorists No. 4. "How do you know?" say I. "It is
self-evident. Would a man begin with oil varnish and then go
into spirit varnish ?" is their reply. Now observe, this is not
humble observation, it is only rational preconception. But if
discovery has an enemy in the human mind, that enemy is
preconception. Let us then trust only to humble observation.
Here is a clear varnish without the ghost of a chip in its
nature ; and upon it is a red varnish that is all chip. Does
that look as if the two varnishes were homogeneous ? Is
chip precisely the s^me thing as no chip ? If homogeneous,
there would be chemical affinity between the two. But this
extreme readiness of the red varnish to chip away from the
clear marks a defect of chemical affinity between the two.
Why, if you were to put your thumbnail against that red
varnish, a little piece would come away directly. This is not
so in any known case of oil upon oil. Take old Forster,
for instance . he begins with clear oil varnish ; then on that
he puts a distinct oil varnish with the colour and transparency
of pea-soup. You will not get his pea-soup to chip off his clear
varnish in a hurrj'. There is a bass by William Forster in the
collection a hundred years old ; but the wear is confined to the
places where the top varnish must go in a played bass. Every-
where else his pea-soup sticks tight to his clear varnish, being
oil upon oil.

Now, take a perfectly distinct line of observation. In var-
nishes oil is a diluent of colour. It is not in the power of man
to charge an oil varnish with colour so highly as the top varnish
of Mr. Pawle's bass is charged. And it must be remembered
that the clear varnish below has filled all the pores of the wood ;
therefore the diluent cannot escape into the wood, and so leave
the colour undiluted ; if that red varnish was ever oil varnish,
ever}^ partical of the oil must be there still. What, in that
mere film so crammed with colour ? Never ! Nor yet in
the top varnish of the Spanish bass, which is thinner still, yet
more charged with colour than any topaz of twice the thickness.
This, then, is how Antonius Stradiuarius varnished Mr. Pawle's
bass. — He began with three or four coats of oil varnish contain-
ing some common gum. He then laid on several coats of red
varnish, made by simply dissolving some fine red unadulterated
gum in spirit ; the spirit evaporated and left pure gum lying on
a rich oil varnish, from which it chips by its dry nature and its
utter want of chemical affinity to the substratum. On the
Spanish bass Stradiuarius put not more, I think, than two coats
of oil varnish, and then a spirit varnish consisting of a different
gum, less chippy, but even more tender and wearable than the
red. Now take this key all round the room, and you will find
there is not a lock it will not open. Look at the varnish on
the back ot the "violon du diable," as it is called. There is
a top varnish with all the fire of a topaz and far more colour ;
for slice the deepest topaz to that thinness, it would pale be-
fore that varnish. And why? ist. Because this is no oily
dilution; it is a divine unadulterated gum, left there undiluted
by evaporation of the spirituous vehicle. 2nd. Because this
varnish is a jewel with the advantage of a foil behind it; that
foil is the fine oil varnish underneath. The purest specimen of
Stradiuarius's red varnish in the room is, perhaps, Mr. Fountaine's
kit. Look at the back of it by the light of these remarks. What
can be plainer than the clear oil varnish with not the ghost of
a chip in it, and the glossy top varnish, so charged with colour,
and so ready to chip from the varnish below, for want of chemical
affinity between the varnishes ? The basso di camera by
Montagnana is the same thing. See the bold wear on the back
revealing the heterogeneous varnish below the red. They are
all the same thing. The palest violins of Stradiuarius and Amati
are much older and harder worn than Mr. Pawle's bass, and
the top varnish not of a chippy character : yet look at them
closely by the light of these remarks, and you shall find one of
two phenomena — ^either the tender top varnish has all been worn
away, and so there is nothing to be inferred one way or other,
or else there are flakes of it left ; and, if so, these flakes, however
thin, shall always betray, by the superior vividness of their colour
to the colour of the subjacent oil varnish, that they are not oil
varnish, but pure gum left there by evaporating spirit on a foil of
beautiful old oil varnish. Take Mrs. Jay's Amatise Stradiuarius;
on the back of that violin towards the top there is a mere flake
of top varnish left by itself; all round it is nothing left but the
bottom varnish. That fragment of top varnish is a film thinner
than gold leaf; yet look at ^ts intensity; it lies on the fine old
oil varnish like fixed lightning, it is so vivid. It is just as
distinct from the oil varnish as is the red varnish of the kit.
Examine the Duke of Cambridge's violin, or any other Cremona
instrument in the whole world you like ; it is always the same
thing, though not so self-evident as in the red and chippy
varnishes. The Vuillaume Stradiuarius, not being worn, does
not assist us in this particular line of argument ; but it does not
contradict us. Indeed, there are a few litttle chips in the top
varnish of the back, and they reveal a heterogeneous varnish
below, with its rich yellow colour like the bottom varnish of
the Pawle bass. Moreover, if you look at the top varnish
closely you shall see what you never see in a new violin of our
day; not a vulgar glare upon the surface, but a gentle inward
fire. Now that inward fire, I assure you, is mainly caused
by the oil varnish below ; the orange varnish above has a
heterogeneous foil below. That inward glow is characteristic
of all foils. If you could see the Vuillaume Stradiuarius at
night and move it about in the light of a candle, you would be
amazed at the fire of the foil and the refraction of light.

Thus, then, it is. The unlucky phrase "varnish of Cremona"
has weakened men's powers of observation by fixing a pre-conceived notion tliat the vamish must be all one thing. The LOST SECRET IS THIS. THE CREMONA VARNISH IS NOT A VARNISH, BUT TWO VARNISHES; AND THOSE VARNISHES ALWAYS HETEROGENEOUS : THAT IS TO SAY, FIRST THE PORES OF THE WOOD ARE FILLED AND THE GRAIN SHOWN UP BY ONE, BY TWO,
BY THREE, AND SOMETIMES, THOUGH RARELY, BY FOUR COATS
OF FINE OIL VARNISH WITH SOME COMMON BUT CLEAR GUM IN
SOLUTION. Then upon this oil varnish, when dry, is LAID A HETEROGENEOUS VARNISH, VIZ. A SOLUTION IN SPIRIT OF SOM,E SOVEREIGN, HIGH COLOURED, PELLUCID, AND, ABOVE ALL, TENDER GUM. Gum-lac, which for forty years has been the mainstay of violin-makers, must never be used ; not one atom of it. That vile, flinty gum killed varnish at Naples and Piacenza
a hundred and forty years ago, as it kills varnish now. Old
Cremona shunned it, and whoever employs a grain of it, commits
wilful suicide as a Cremonese varnisher. It will not wear ; it
will not chip ; it is in every respect the opposite of the Cremona
gums. Avoid it utterly, or fail hopelessly, as all varnishers have
failed since that fatal gum came in. The deep red varnish of
Cremona is pure dragon's blood ; not the cake, the stick, the
filthy trash, which, in this sinful and adulterating generation, is
retailed under that name, but the tear of dragon's blood, little
lumps deeper in colour than a carbuncle, clear as crystal, and
fiery as a ruby. Unadulterated dragon's blood does not exist
in commerce west of Temple-bar ; but you can get it by
groi)ing in the City as hard as Diogenes had to gi-ope for an
honest man in a much less knavish town than London. The
yellow varnish is the unadulterated tear of another gum, retailed
in a cake like dragon's blood, and as great a fraud. All cakes
and sticks presented to you in commerce as gums are audacious
swindles. A true gum is the tear of a tree. For the yellow tear,
as for the red, grope the City harder than Diogenes. The
orange varnish of Peter Guarnerius and Stradiuarius is only a
mixture of these two genuine gums. Even the milder reds of
Stradiuarius are slightly reduced with the yellow gum. The
Montagnana bass and No. 94 are i)ure dragon's blood,
mellowed down by time and exposure only.

A violin varnished as I have indicated will look a little better
than other new violins from the first; the back will look nearly
as well as the Vuillaume Stradiuarius, but not quite. The belly
will look a little better if properly prepared; will show the fibre
of the deal better. But its principal merit is, that hke the violins
of Cremona, it will vastly improve in beauty if much exposed
and persistently played. And that improvement will be rapid,
because the tender top varnish will wear away from the oily
substratum four times as quickly as any vulgar varnish of the
day will chip or wear. We cannot do what Stradivarius could
not do— give to a new violin the peculiar beauty, that comes to
the heterogeneous varnishes of Cremona from age and honest
wear; but, on the other hand, it is a mistake to suppose that
one hundred years are required to develop the beauty of any
Cremona varnishes, old or new. The ordinary wear of a
century cannot be condensed into one year or five, but it can
be condensed into twenty years. Any young amateur may live
to play on a magnificent Cremona made for himself, if he has
the enthusiasm to follow my directions. Choose the richest
and finest wood ; have the violin made after the pattern of a
rough Joseph Guarnerius ; then you need not sand-paper the
back, sides, or head, for sand-paper is a great enemy to varnish :
it drives more wood-dust into the pores than you can blow out.
If you sand-paper the belly, sponge that finer dust out, as far
as possible, and varnish when dry. That will do no harm, and
throw up the fibre. Make your own linseed oil — the linseed
oil of commerce is adulterated with animal oil and fish oil,
which are non-drying oils — and varnish as I have indicated
above, and when the violin is strung treat it regularly with a
view to fast wear; let it hang up in a warm place, exposed to
dry air, night and day. Never let it be shut up in a case except
for transport. Lend it for months to the leader of an orchestra.
Look after it, and see that it is constantly played and constantly
exposed to dry air all about it. Never clean it, never touch it
with a silk handkerchief. In twenty years your heterogeneous
varnishes will have parted company in many places. The back
will be worn quite picturesque ; the belly will look as old as
Joseph Guarnerius ; there will be a delicate film on the surface
of the grand red varnish mellowed by exposure, and a marvellous
fire below. In a word, you will have a glorious Cremona fiddle.
Do you aspire to do more, and to make a downright old
Cremona violin ? Then, my young swell, you must treat yourself
as well as the violin ; you must not smoke all day, nor the last
thing at night ; you must never take a dram before dinner and
call it bitters ; you must be as true to your spouse as ever you
can, and, in a word, live moderately, and cultivate good temper
and avoid great wrath. By these means, Deo volente, you
shall live to see the violin that was made for you and varnished
by my receipt, as old and worn and beautiful a Cremona as the
Joseph Guarnerius No. 94, beyond which nothing can go.

To show the fiddle-maker what may be gained by using as
little sand-paper as possible, let him buy a little of Maunder's
palest copal varnish ; then let him put a piece of deal on his
bench and take a few shavings off it with a carpenter's plane.
Let him lay his varnish directly on the wood so planed. It
will have a fire and a beauty he will never quite attain to by
scraping, sand-papering, and then varnishing the same wood with
the .same varnish. And this applies to harewood as well as
deal. The back of the Vuillaume Stradiuarius, which is the
finest part, has clearly not been sand-papered in places, so
probably not at all. Wherever it is possible, varnish after cold
steel, at all events in imitating the Cremonese, and especially
Joseph Guarnerius. These, however, are minor details, which
I have only inserted, because I foresee that I may be unable to
return to this subject in writing, though I shall be very happy
to talk about it at my own place to any one who really cares
about the matter. However, it is not every day one can restore
a lost art to the world ; and I hope that, and my anxiety not
to do it by halves, will excuse this prolix article.

CHARLES READE.

2 Albert Terrace, Knightsbridge.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Michael_Molnar said:

B&G's Layer  3.

I think, what Sacconi assumed with his high-protective layer, would not be any "layer 3" but more a "layer 1".

My B&G´s book is since a longer time on loan - therefore I can only try to remember, what they had written. May be they counted protein-pretreatment and stain as different layers. Then the layer 3 would be the first stratum-building layer ( assumed by B&G to be a lean-oil-varnish of 4:1  resin/oil-ratio ). Such a layer re-dilutes very easily in alcohol but would not be a high-protective layer.

What concerns the filling of spaces near the wood-surface, this should be clear  It´s oil or oil-varnish. Directly above the wood-surface the thing is even more clear : it is oil-varnish 

However the most miraculous thing seems to be a possible existing high-protective layer, nearly not or not at all stratum-building. I.m.o. this would be an "application 1" or eventually only was produced by a double-application then consisting of the reaction-product of application 1 and application 2 eventually also reacting with the wood itself.

At the moment there are only very few indications for such a high-protective "layer" :

- observations of Sacconi, and may be also Joe Robson

- from the scientific side only some coloration of wood-cellwalls near the surface in UV -light and some chemical protein- indication by e.g. Fuchsin-detection -----> my conclusion is, that there is something and within the areas of this "something" were found traces of protein   AND   if one would assume something not beeing of proteinous character, then it becomes really miraculous ! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The protein content is discussed in Don Noons recent topic on iron rosinate varnish. Apparently, it is not present as persistently as one would expect of an intentional coat, and is possibly an artifact of dirty hands or from processing pigments out of textile off-cuts. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
39 minutes ago, JacksonMaberry said:

The protein content is discussed in Don Noons recent topic on iron rosinate varnish. Apparently, it is not present as persistently as one would expect of an intentional coat, and is possibly an artifact of dirty hands or from processing pigments out of textile off-cuts. 

May be. 

If it was not an intentionally protein-coat, what would remain of the idea of an high-protective coat ?

Then there were not any more indications in modern science for this coat with the exeption of the cell-wall-coloration. Then one had to look for a completely unknown substance, isn´t it ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, Danube Fiddler said:

I think, what Sacconi assumed with his high-protective layer, would not be any "layer 3" but more a "layer 1".

My B&G´s book is since a longer time on loan - therefore I can only try to remember, what they had written. May be they counted protein-pretreatment and stain as different layers. Then the layer 3 would be the first stratum-building layer ( assumed by B&G to be a lean-oil-varnish of 4:1  resin/oil-ratio ). Such a layer re-dilutes very easily in alcohol but would not be a high-protective layer.

What concerns the filling of spaces near the wood-surface, this should be clear  It´s oil or oil-varnish. Directly above the wood-surface the thing is even more clear : it is oil-varnish 

However the most miraculous thing seems to be a possible existing high-protective layer, nearly not or not at all stratum-building. I.m.o. this would be an "application 1" or eventually only was produced by a double-application then consisting of the reaction-product of application 1 and application 2 eventually also reacting with the wood itself.

At the moment there are only very few indications for such a high-protective "layer" :

- observations of Sacconi, and may be also Joe Robson

- from the scientific side only some coloration of wood-cellwalls near the surface in UV -light and some chemical protein- indication by e.g. Fuchsin-detection -----> my conclusion is, that there is something and within the areas of this "something" were found traces of protein   AND   if one would assume something not beeing of proteinous character, then it becomes really miraculous ! 

Please get the damn book back and stop apologizing. No offense meant, but you really need to check your assumptions/conclusions about the findings.  :rolleyes:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, Michael_Molnar said:

Please get the damn book back and stop apologizing. No offense meant, but you really need to check your assumptions/conclusions about the findings.  :rolleyes:

I loaned the book to a friend and wants to give him a lot of time to read exactly - he is very interested and also makes quite fine violins. Eventually I will donate the book to him.

Where is your problem ? Apparently you also own this book and could easily post, where I am wrong. I just have read the review of Nagyvary and believe to remember the most important things quite right. Please correct me, if I am wrong and please give your conclusions, if you want.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Michael_Molnar said:

As I said, no offense meant, but I find your apologies for not having the book annoying and that is indeed my problem. 

Really ?! 

Then the salvation could be not to apology any longer ( indeed I did not apology, but only explain. I paid the whole price for this book - all is o.k. and I don´t need to apology for anything / I hope, it´s not a crime to loan this book ). 

But you refused any content-related discussion in spite of the fact, that I made quite detailed claims - for example a longer time ago about the difficulties to separate between resinous and oily FTIR- spectra. Interestingly yesterday I saw, that in his review Nagyvary made quite the same limitations - I am now happy not to be the only one, who "misinterpreted" the findings of B&G.

If you want to ever contribute any detailed argument against or for any of my posts, you are invited. 

I will repeat the B&G- assumptions as I remember them

1) proteinous pre-treatment ( eventually consisting of two applications one tannic and following the protein or vice versa)

2) stain

3) colorless lean-oil-varnish

4) coloured lean-oil-varnish

Last chance : Please tell me, where I am wrong. Is your "layer 3 of B&G" the (colorless) lean-oil-varnish or not ? If not, what is it instead of the lean-oil-varnish according to B&G ? Did I forget something ? A sugar-honey-egg-separatinglayer similar to one of the layers, assumed by Sacconi ? Why not just tell it ? Because you believe, that I don´t really own the B&G-book and therefore wouldn´t have any right, to be told some sentences of it ? You really have such problems ??

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Danube Fiddler said:

Really ?! 

Then the salvation could be not to apology any longer ( indeed I did not apology, but only explain. I paid the whole price for this book - all is o.k. and I don´t need to apology for anything / I hope, it´s not a crime to loan this book ). 

But you refused any content-related discussion in spite of the fact, that I made quite detailed claims - for example a longer time ago about the difficulties to separate between resinous and oily FTIR- spectra. Interestingly yesterday I saw, that in his review Nagyvary made quite the same limitations - I am now happy not to be the only one, who "misinterpreted" the findings of B&G.

If you want to ever contribute any detailed argument against or for any of my posts, you are invited. 

I will repeat the B&G- assumptions as I remember them

1) proteinous pre-treatment ( eventually consisting of two applications one tannic and following the protein or vice versa)

2) stain

3) colorless lean-oil-varnish

4) coloured lean-oil-varnish

Last chance : Please tell me, where I am wrong. Is your "layer 3 of B&G" the (colorless) lean-oil-varnish or not ? If not, what is it instead of the lean-oil-varnish according to B&G ? Did I forget something ? A sugar-honey-egg-separatinglayer similar to one of the layers, assumed by Sacconi ? Why not just tell it ? Because you believe, that I don´t really own the B&G-book and therefore wouldn´t have any right, to be told some sentences of it ? You really have such problems ??

 

 

You got the B&G system correct,. Layer 3 is the thin colorless lean varnish boundary intended to separate the colored varnish Layer 4 from the ground Layers 1 and 2. Sometimes Layer 4 did leak through Layer 3 into the wood pores. I feel that Layer 3 was intended as a protective layer, but didn't succeed always. This failure  is noted in B&G.

Are you really going to give your friend your copy of a $400 book? You are a better person than I. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, Michael_Molnar said:

You got the B&G system correct,. Layer 3 is the thin colorless lean varnish boundary intended to separate the colored varnish Layer 4 from the ground Layers 1 and 2. Sometimes Layer 4 did leak through Layer 3 into the wood pores. I feel that Layer 3 was intended as a protective layer, but didn't succeed always. This failure  is noted in B&G.

Are you really going to give your friend your copy of a $400 book? You are a better person than I. 

 

O.k. - then I remembered quite right. Layer 3 is protecting the wood from soaking in of coloured varnish - eventually not completely preventing. However this also could be of advantage, because a small amount of coloured varnish in the upper parts of some pores could finally look even more interesting than a coloured varnish having the same depth at all points of surface.

I am afraid not to be a better person than you. This friend years ago gave me a much more valuable present than this book - I will gó on to owe him a lot ! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/10/2018 at 7:15 PM, sospiri said:

I use very thin coats of raw linseed oil. I don't cook anything. My first few coats are just oil on the bare wood, then oil, turpenetine and rosin to give a honey glow effect, then oil and pigments, then many very thin coats of linseed oil.

I think if the coats are thin enough, they oxidize and polymerize to a hard layer. If they are thick they stay soft. A mixture of soft and hard coats might be beneficial? I have stated before that I am sure that a violin can be 'tuned' this way, such that a darker or brighter tone can be achieved with oil varnish and probably with lacs too?

But whatever method is used, I think the ability of linseed oil resisting fingenail scratches is beneficial too. But the effect of the varnish on the tone of the instrument is most important to me. I play as I'm varnishing to test the tonal effects and how they change over the drying period from muted to brighter.

 I am always obsessed with finding better ways of doing things and I spend a lot of time applying and removing layers if they don't do exactly what I want them to do. Some strange and wonderful things happen and repeating the process fascinates me.

 

Thanks for answering, much appreciated.:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/10/2018 at 7:15 PM, sospiri said:

I think if the coats are thin enough, they oxidize and polymerize to a hard layer. If they are thick they stay soft.

Thanks for giving this experience !  I think your observation is very essential.

How much time is needed to completely dry such a very thin layer of oil in your system ?

How one can apply such a thin film ? Just take one little drop of raw oil on a little cloth, let distribute it in this cloth for ~ half of an hour and then rubbing the wood surface ? 

One should mention, that linseed-oil in a cloth can produce fire in some circumstances !

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Danube Fiddler said:

One should mention, that linseed-oil in a cloth can produce fire in some circumstances !

This risk is enhanced in presence of metal driers (I read somewhere).

Should a sun cold-bleached and /or washed linseed oil or stand-oil make any difference in the final effect?

I was wondering if somebody did made any comparison of the performances of different oils or application procedures.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Diluting a few drops of linseed oil into a quantity of pure gum spirits of turpentine, then padding a very light coat once or twice onto the body of the instrument, is one possible way of putting down a very thin and even coat of oil. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sospiri - and forgive me if you have posted them already - but would it be possible to see some photos of your work? It would be useful to see it, in order to percieve the full value of your unique approach. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, francesco piasentini said:

This risk is enhanced in presence of metal driers (I read somewhere).

Should a sun cold-bleached and /or washed linseed oil or stand-oil make any difference in the final effect?

I was wondering if somebody did made any comparison of the performances of different oils or application procedures.

Different drying oils will most probably make a difference but I assume, that even more or additional in a big amount the preparation procedures including cooking/sundrying intensity will play a big role. 

The risk of fire is enhanced much by doing the rag into a jar with limited ways for reactionheat to escape.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.