scordatura

Do you make your own varnish or purchase from a vendor?

Who Makes Their Own Varnish vs. Buying?  

52 members have voted

  1. 1. Do you make your own varnish?

    • Yes
      34
    • No
      18


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There may need to be an additional choice of making your own varnish but also use purchased varnish.  I am currently experimenting with combining varnishes throughout the process of finishing.  It may not be an either / or case all the time. 

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I make my own varnish because the type I use isn't available from vendors. If it  would be, I would buy it to save time. But of course varnish making is a lot of fun.

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IMHO, you should've structured the poll to allow a spectrum of  "sometimes" answers, rather than strictly an XOR.  Or is your day job political and market research?  :lol:

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Just making varnish is no problem if you have a good recipe. The hard part is to develop a good recipe which works well aethetically and acoustically for all layers, ground, undercoat varnish, and color varnish. 

 

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I make my own. after decades of pain and  research I feel capable to control both the look and the texture as it effects sound. There are some great varnish makers out there for makers to buy from if they feel inclined but harsh as it might seem I can't really respect a maker who can't make their own varnish...what next sending off the tools to be sharpened?

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18 minutes ago, Melvin Goldsmith said:

...what next sending off the tools to be sharpened?

Sadly where I work, people bring in their chisels and gouges to be sharpened. Not just re ground, but honed. It's super expensive and takes over a week for the service guy to bring them back. Whenever people bring their tools to be honed I try and steer them over to the stones and strops for them to learn to do it for themselves. 

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33 minutes ago, Melvin Goldsmith said:

I make my own. after decades of pain and  research I feel capable to control both the look and the texture as it effects sound. There are some great varnish makers out there for makers to buy from if they feel inclined but harsh as it might seem I can't really respect a maker who can't make their own varnish...what next sending off the tools to be sharpened?

Who needs to sharpen tools, when there are Chinese outfits offering to "make our violins for us"? :lol:

Yes, I make my own varnish. If there was a varnish supplier who offered a varnish that did everything I want it to do, I might be a candidate, but I haven't run across one yet.

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6 hours ago, Melvin Goldsmith said:

There are some great varnish makers out there for makers to buy from if they feel inclined but harsh as it might seem I can't really respect a maker who can't make their own varnish...what next sending off the tools to be sharpened?

Are you offering to sharpen tools for us?  :lol:  This ignores the fact that some of us live in areas where pyrotechnics are fround upon, and also suffered through advanced degreees in chemistry, so are fully capable of distilling and analyzing under various conditions certain terpenes and long chain aliphatics (fatty acids) and polymerized resins. :-) We also know what heating certain organics in closed environments can do to one's health, if not using fume hoods.  Not to mention being confused with tweakers... :D:ph34r:

6 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Just making varnish is no problem if you have a good recipe. The hard part is to develop a good recipe which works well aethetically and acoustically for all layers, ground, undercoat varnish, and color varnish. 

 

Agreed.  And for all wood types. One thing I learned from Joe's varnish workshop is that the wood can actually "speak" to you; that is some wood looks better with one varnish than another. Or perhaps like VdA's  !X0R (that is, not X0R) mention, use several different types of varnish, likely from different sources.  Spending time developing optimal multiple colors and foundations does seem to be a waste of time, unless one is making violins full time.  Then of course, we would guard our secrets jealously. :-D  Why reinvent the wheel?

As an exercise, to dive into the gestalt of violin making? Sure.  But some of us lived in labs way too long for that to be even interesting.  Perhaps a suitable project for a graduate  undergrad student?  What to do if the wood behaves slightly differently, so another varnish might look better?  I would think using several varnish types is optimal.  I didn't believe this immediately, but that's what a workshop is for: time for eperimentation. Another thing I learned from Joe is the "illuminating power of the ground," and a really far out word: chattoyance. :lol:  Thanks, Joe. :)  I use that word to annoy even some luthier friends, who didn't know what it meant! 

  

 

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37 minutes ago, l33tplaya said:

Are you offering to sharpen tools for us?  :lol: 

I did that for a "handyman" who would use a chisel to cut out recesses for old-style door hinges.

I'd be much more reluctant to do that for someone who professes to already be an accomplished violinmaker or restorer, since one of the most basic skills (not by any means easy) is knowing how to sharpen.

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I like certain particular things in the materials and process, I also very much prefer knowing what I'm working with.

Making my own is the easiest and probably the only way to really get what I want, and know what I have.

But my resources so far are quite limited, so I do use some prepared component ingredients.  One component I use is a rosin from larch balsam that I make myself.  But when I want specially prepared oils, like sun thickened, I buy them.

Same with pigments and ground.  Sometimes a get involved in preparing an ingredient, but most lakes and such I buy.

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Varnish making and antiquing are skills that don't seem to have much to do with violin making. I don't mean to insult anyone who does everything, just the opposite... these are really almost mutually exclusive skillsets and great for you if you mastered everything. But imho It shouldn't matter where the varnish comes from just like it shouldn't matter whether or not antiquing is done. What matters is that the result is beautiful and functional and lasting. Varnish selection and application are part of violin making, varnish making doesn't have to be. Antiquing definitely doesn't have to be. But if you like to antique, or you like to make your varnish system, and/or customers like that stuff, great. 

Comparing someone who can't sharpen a gouge to someone who chooses not to become an expert in varnish chemistry isn't really fair. Arguably there were varnish experts 300 years ago in Cremona too, seperate professionals from the violin makers. Arguably. Not that I know or can argue, but there have been arguments made.

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4 hours ago, David Burgess said:

I did that for a "handyman" who would use a chisel to cut out recesses for old-style door hinges.

I'd be much more reluctant to do that for someone who professes to already be an accomplished violinmaker or restorer, since one of the most basic skills (not by any means easy) is knowing how to sharpen.

Agreed.

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8 hours ago, Urban Luthier said:

I've made varnish and purchased it. My preference is for the latter. I've made my own and it was a fun learning experience, but it is time consuming and expensive to experiment. 

Cooking, especially experimenting with varnish can be expensive, but when I look at all the jars I've bought so far in order to find the right one, I wouldn't say this was cheap either.

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For violin makers themselves personal integrity and belief in their own skills are essential in promoting self-belief and confidence. But for the musicians who play their instruments these are not really important because it is the way the instrument itself plays and looks that concerns them. Where the varnish comes from or who sharpened the tools doesn't matter and even the name of the maker is not important except in terms of the personal relationship that exists between maker and musician.

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11 hours ago, Melvin Goldsmith said:

I make my own. after decades of pain and  research I feel capable to control both the look and the texture as it effects sound. There are some great varnish makers out there for makers to buy from if they feel inclined but harsh as it might seem I can't really respect a maker who can't make their own varnish...what next sending off the tools to be sharpened?

Do you think Strad made his varnish himself? ;)

But I guess you meant contemporary makers.

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1 minute ago, Andreas Preuss said:

No. Wasn't usual in those days. And if you put Cremonese instruments from the same period in one row you can see it.

 

Really? I don't believe that. What is your evidence?

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27 minutes ago, sospiri said:

Really? I don't believe that. What is your evidence?

Varnish making was the work of an alchemist or apothecary. One famous varnish maker who wrote down his recipes was Kunckel. 

What is your evidence that he did? 

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