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Shunyata

Varnish: At my wits end!

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For the life of me I cannot figure out how to avoid this blotchiness using spirit varnish.  I sealed first.  The colored varnish will simply not go on evenly.  This violin is ruined now. My first one didn't turn out any better.  I am very unhappy and would welcome any suggestion.

IMG_20190331_25937.jpg

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This is what I am using.  I have thinned the varnish with pure denatured alchohol.  I have experimented with adding a little linseed oil.  You get what you see above.  :-(

IMG_20190331_12526.jpg

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I might suggest buying cheap white violins to practice on. Everyone here has screwed up a violin or two or three.  It happens. It takes the sting out a bit if you haven't spent hours creating the thing you just screwed up. Cheaper in the long run?

 

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Just saw your new post.

Throw that away. Don't add linseed oil to spirit varnish.

Buy a good varnish from a known varnish maker/supplier, one that specializes in vanish for violins, and keep practicing. And read and ask and read and ask and practice and read and practice...

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It looks like you might be trying to put too thick of a layer on.  With spirit varnishes you generally want to build thin layers. 
Oil varnish is much more forgiving in application.  You can smear it around and pad it with your hands till it looks right.

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I am putting a super thin coat on - so not going thick.  The stuff dries so fast that there is no way to get on the next brush load without a big dark spot where you touch the already applied areas.

Stripping just soaks pigment into the wood which is just as bad.

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I feel your pain! You could strip the violin and revarnish using another commercial product. HAMMERL makes a volatile oil varnish called A1 which is very easy to apply. They also supply colouring agents 

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just saw your most recent post.  the process now would be to try to isolate the transtint (which is a dye and not a pigment) and then apply  a clear layer on top of that.  After that slowly and strategically apply color to even out the blotchiness.  Another idea is to antique this violin, using the "diversity" that the unevenness provides to some advantage. 

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Sealing the wood with an oil based ground could be a solution.  Then apply colored oil varnish in a way that evens out the splotchiness. 

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Two points about spirit varnish:

First, you absolutely cannot brush over the same place twice in one run. You lay on each brush stroke as well as you can, and don't go back. If you go back, by that time what you applied has dissolved what is under it, and you ruffle it all up, making an immediate mess. You MUST resist the temptation to go back immediately to brush out a problem or add to a missing spot!

Second, if you work with the varnish and color very dilute, then each coat only represents a tiny proportion of the final whole. Mistakes in the first coat are a 100% mess, but by the time that coat is one of 33 it represents only 3% of the total,  each mistake means much less, and mistakes tend to average out. 

These are pretty much strict laws in brushing spirit varnish, and I bet you violated them. 

If you can't resist touching when you shouldn't and lack patience, buy and learn to use an airbrush, which can result in a perfect job very quickly

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So maybe I can fix my work with careful application of subsequent layers, and using a smaller brush?  I am using a squirrel hair mop brush.

I did not go back a rebrush, as badly as I wanted too.  I think the bigger issue was I didn't have a systematic way to cover territory on the top plate without having things partially dry on me.  (ie Working around f holes, neck, and saddle.)

 

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This isn't any help... but it's a good illustration of why I'm not tempted to do spirit varnish... among other reasons.

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That kind of brush looks like it drags the varnish around a lot. I would try a shorter flat synthetic brush, going in rows across on the back, and rows down on the belly. Rub down after each coat to remove texture. 

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There is lots of great advice here. My own experience points to being moderate with the darkness or opacity of a single coat. You need to average out each coat's variations as Darnton says. You may also want to make the ground darker which will help blend or mask the variations.

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Adding tint to spirit varnish is a very tricky adventure. Unless the pigments are thoroughly dispersed, or in the case of a dye, fully miscible with the varnish, the tint gets pushed around or absorbed unevenly into unsealed wood. Additional layers will melt the previous layer and make the problem worse.

A foolproof method is to apply clear, dewaxed shellac in a thin, diluted coat to the bare wood to seal it.

Then apply naturally colored shellac. You can find deep amber shellacs from commercial suppliers, or order shellac flakes in a variety of colors and make your own varnish.

Apply the colored shellac in successive thin coats until you have the depth of color you like.

 

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29 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

This isn't any help... but it's a good illustration of why I'm not tempted to do spirit varnish... among other reasons.

Me too.

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Don, I am rapidly coming to your conclusion.  I am setting myself up to do my next with oil.  I cannot go through the agony of a botched finish again.  I am still going through a dark day of mourning.

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