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joerobson

Just curious...a varnish question

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Whichever you select, straight, antiqued, or shaded, you must do a good job and make it look great. I have seen spectacular instruments and disasters varnished either way. Know your skill level and try to improve.

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2 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

I have made instruments which were fully varnished, and had crisp edges  black picking on the chamfers and real ebony purfling. They looked really good until the first player tried it for a few weeks. After that they looked really scratched. I am sure those instruments will look great in about 30 years but in the meantime all any one sees are the scratches and dings even though toned down with the retouching brush. I also make instruments with lots of tool marks, a few deliberate dings and scratches and varnish wear in the places one expects to see it. No attempt to make it look old yet players seem to find them friendlier looking and the unavoidable edge wear and scratches blend right in and can be retouched in a few minutes and look fine.

I would say that a personal model with full varnish which shows off the design abilities and technical skills of the maker for better or worse is really the most challenging and "artistic" expression of the craft. However unless the instrument is made on commission for some one who appreciates that  I think you find it harder to sell. If you are selling through dealers or any situation where someone is auditioning many instruments looking for the one they feel most comfortable with shading and a few freckles are the way to go.

This has also been my feeling.

Pristine varnished instruments are for the makers, roughed up varnished instruments are for the players. Another way of looking at it might be pristine varnished violins are art objects, antiqued violins are tools. And of course there are shades in between. When I hand a player a clean varnished instrument all I can think is that it will inevitably get scratched and please be careful with it. With an antiqued one I think "have fun and play the hell out of it!"

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1 hour ago, arglebargle said:

When I hand a player a clean varnished instrument all I can think is that it will inevitably get scratched and please be careful with it. With an antiqued one I think "have fun and play the hell out of it!"

This doesn't seem to have bothered 90% of violin makers in the past. Why has it become such an issue?

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Back in the 1970's I was a maker of brazed steel racing bicycle frames.

More than one customer confided in me that they just could not bear the pain

of putting the first few nicks and scratches in their pristine painted finish and

asked me to somehow artfully distress it for them in advance to soften and

disguise those inevitable first stark ugly blemishes caused by daily use.

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2 hours ago, arglebargle said:

This has also been my feeling.

Pristine varnished instruments are for the makers, roughed up varnished instruments are for the players. Another way of looking at it might be pristine varnished violins are art objects, antiqued violins are tools. And of course there are shades in between. When I hand a player a clean varnished instrument all I can think is that it will inevitably get scratched and please be careful with it. With an antiqued one I think "have fun and play the hell out of it!"

 

52 minutes ago, martin swan said:

This doesn't seem to have bothered 90% of violin makers in the past. Why has it become such an issue?

I agree with Martin, I don't understand all this concern about scratching the instruments.  Of course every player should do his best not to ruin them, be they antiqued or pristine, of course without this concern going to affect his playing. Some scratches are not a drama, it is simply a sign of the violin's life. I offer free maintenance to prevent the musicians from worrying too much about ruining my strictly pristine looking varnish when new, no need for artificial antiquing, I prefer the real one.

 

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4 minutes ago, Davide Sora said:

 

I agree with Martin, I don't understand all this concern about scratching the instruments.  Of course every player should do his best not to ruin them, be they antiqued or pristine, of course without this concern going to affect his playing. Some scratches are not a drama, it is simply a sign of the violin's life

 

I look after my instruments carefully but I like it when they show signs of use, I think that just shows that they have been used for what they were intended and adds character.  But I prefer that to be natural, whether by me or someone else.

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On 7/2/2019 at 2:04 PM, ClefLover said:

As a consumer, I do like the ‘practicality’ of slight antiquing so that future touchups don’t seem devastating.  Plus, the areas where hands might naturally wear down the varnish, I like those areas when I can see the ground. But when it’s excessive with all the little purposed scratches and nicks, I don’t like that much.  

My sentiments also, except no bare ground.  

I create  enough non-purposeful nicks and scratches with out any help, thank you. :-D :blink:

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I think everyone just needs to ask themselves:

1. Am I using this instrument as intended?

2. Am I collecting this instrument and putting it up on a pedestal - to be admired from afar as an ideal?  Let reality keep at least an armslength away!

:P

 

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Considering the value that's associated with old instruments, it's hardly surprising that players gravitate towards violins that mimic their visual and tactile traits (I personally suspect the feel of a well played instrument is a huge part of the appeal, although it's probably subconscious). The fact that it helps take the pain out of the first few dings makes it an easy choice for market-conscious builders.

That being said, a pristine, beautifully finished instrument is a wonderful thing.

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19 hours ago, Three13 said:

 The fact that it helps take the pain out of the first few dings makes it an easy choice for market-conscious builders.

 

Doesn't seem to stop people buying new cars.

I think it's entirely to do with the fetishization of old Italians, and that contemporary makers should have more self-confidence.

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17 hours ago, Davide Sora said:

 

I agree with Martin, I don't understand all this concern about scratching the instruments.  Of course every player should do his best not to ruin them, be they antiqued or pristine, of course without this concern going to affect his playing. Some scratches are not a drama, it is simply a sign of the violin's life. I offer free maintenance to prevent the musicians from worrying too much about ruining my strictly pristine looking varnish when new, no need for artificial antiquing, I prefer the real one.

 

Davide.

You are usually making on commission right? In that case the instrument is presented to the owner new and perfect. If it is being tried by even one person before it sells then everyone else sees it as "damaged" although Martins comment about putting in a few chips and selling it at a discount might be a good tactic.:D

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2 hours ago, martin swan said:

 

Doesn't seem to stop people buying new cars.

I think it's entirely to do with the fetishization of old Italians, and that contemporary makers should have more self-confidence.

I agree.

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2 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

Davide.

You are usually making on commission right? In that case the instrument is presented to the owner new and perfect. If it is being tried by even one person before it sells then everyone else sees it as "damaged" although Martins comment about putting in a few chips and selling it at a discount might be a good tactic.:D

:D

Sometimes it can happen but I'm sorry, no discounts, just a good retouching technique (made easier by having the exact original varnish available) that will make them invisible:ph34r:

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As Davide Sora said, the real antique instruments have been antiqued through use over many years, not usually through deliberate construction.  However, the real antique instruments have been antiqued, in a way, through the history of use.  In the end a highly skilled contemporary luthier could achieve the same appearance as the historic process does.  Consider the work of the Voller brothers, for example.  Now a question might be do you personally think that, for example, the Vieuxtemps del Gesu or the Soil Stradivari instruments look more beautiful than a freshly new straight varnished instrument?  If you prefer a newly straight varnished instrument then fine, that's the end of the discussion.  But if you prefer the look of the great old instruments, what is it about the antique appearance that appeals to you?  I'm just talking about the appearance, not the sound, the name of the maker, or the history embodied in the instrument. 

I, myself, have two contemporary instruments which have shaded varnishes which differs from beating them with chains and wearing away wood by sanding, etc.  I wonder whether the more radical treatment might make the instrument more vulnerable to future deterioration due to edge damage, removal of varnish, etc.  And I have seen beautiful instruments with straight varnish and beautiful instruments with deliberate antiquing.  Isn't it finally mostly  a matter of personal preference?

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I think the attraction of so called antique finishes is really about complexity.

Straight varnish presents a much smaller number of colors than anything found in nature

and this can become boring to the eye. Perhaps it doesn't really matter how the complex

patinas found on older instruments were achieved but rather how many subtly complex color variations

they present to keep our eyes interested. It just so happens that the wear imposed by use and time

is currently the premier means of achieving the most interesting complexities.

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On 7/3/2019 at 11:05 AM, finnfinnviolin said:

I’m pretty sure that comment is the real plowden. 

There are a couple of the real deal and a couple of the copy mixed together..

Back to the original topic, I do make some instruments that are either approximately other makers' models (Guarneri, Guad, Strad, etc.,) and a few copies, but I really enjoy making my own models the most.  I also prefer leaving them straight and watching them wear naturally, but if a player wants theirs antiqued, I'll do it for them.  In the end we're making tools, not pieces of art, so how it looks is kind of up to the real artist using the tool.

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59 minutes ago, Advocatus Diaboli said:

making tools, not pieces of art,

In german there is a proper word for what we are doing, called ‚Kunsthandwerk‘ - a combination of art and craft

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