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PhilipKT

Varnish melting point and repair options

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Howdy folks!

So a kid brought her nice Chinese cello to a lesson after spending a Texas July afternoon in the car. The varnish had melted into streaks all over the instrument.

I raged-gently-about never leaving the cello in the car at all, much less in Texas in July, and I suddenly wondered what is the melting point of varnish, from factory to fancy?

a car interior can teach 180 degrees or so, and it was enough to ruin this varnish, but what’s the melting point? I never leave my cello in the car, but it’s nice to be able to warm the kids with specifics.

what repair options are there for this kid’s cello?

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Nice Chinese cello can cover a lot of different $ values, and streaks also covers a lot of ground. Can they be rubbed out with  wet/dry (wet) paper, or do you need to go further? If you can level the surface, then a thin coat of rubbed on varnish might be all that's needed to bring it back to good.

 

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Softening and melting points of varnishes can be all over the place. What I generally recommend is not putting a fiddle (or cello) in an environment that you wouldn't leave your baby in, which includes being left in a parked car, of course. That doesn't cover everything, but most people start to get the idea, when there isn't enough time to go into my full tirade. :D

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Doug the cello has been to a violin shop and it seems the damage is really bad. It came back looking not much different.

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48 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Softening and melting points of varnishes can be all over the place. What I generally recommend is not putting a fiddle (or cello) in an environment that you wouldn't leave your baby in, which includes being left in a parked car, of course. That doesn't cover everything, but most people start to get the idea, when there isn't enough time to go into my full tirade. :D

Agree totally. I tell my kids my own cello is either in my hand or in my case and the case is never anywhere I wouldn’t want to be myself.

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7 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

Doug the cello has been to a violin shop and it seems the damage is really bad. It came back looking not much different.

That doesn't help much.

 

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12 hours ago, FiddleDoug said:

That doesn't help much.

 

 Well, to be more detailed, I think the violin shop owner, who is my very dear friend, said he had tried to compound it? Is that the term he used? The varnish had bubbled and the bubbles looked like plastic? I know they aren’t plastic but that’s what they looked like and they could easily be broken with your fingernail and he attempted to level out the bubbles and touch up the varnish,  and despite his expertise, he was so unsuccessful and unhappy with his work that he didn’t charge anything. 

The cello is a very nice instrument, originally sold by a shop in California, although I don’t remember the model. It’s certainly worth repairing, I’m just wondering if it needs to be stripped and completely re-varnished.

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4 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

 Well, to be more detailed, I think the violin shop owner, who is my very dear friend, said he had tried to compound it? Is that the term he used? The varnish had bubbled and the bubbles looked like plastic? I know they aren’t plastic but that’s what they looked like and they could easily be broken with your fingernail and he attempted to level out the bubbles and touch up the varnish,  and despite his expertise, he was so unsuccessful and unhappy with his work that he didn’t charge anything. 

The cello is a very nice instrument, originally sold by a shop in California, although I don’t remember the model. It’s certainly worth repairing, I’m just wondering if it needs to be stripped and completely re-varnished.

"Compounding" is slang for using some sort of abrasive paste  (something commercial such a no. 7 polishing compound, or a fine abrasive powder and a lubricant) to wear down a finish.  It can be quite detrimental to texture.  

Dependent on the the Chinese manufacturer it might have some sort of polyurethane coating on it, which will bubble and separate from the layers below it.  Regardless, to do an adequate job with enough precision to look great, the cost of doing such a job might render it not cost effective.  

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It's iffy, but sometimes you can fumigate an instrument with a solvent in a closed chamber, and soften it enough get it to lay back down and adhere. Explosion hazard.

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This is too bad.  Pictures would help.  Here are several suggestions:

1.  Take it to a luthier who will strip and revarnish.

2.  Take fittings off and use spray paint to paint it blue.  Put stuff back on and play.

3.  Do nothing.  It becomes a conversation point.

Mike D

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