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BigFryMan

How to mix and measure varnish?

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1 hour ago, nathan slobodkin said:

Varying any ingredient by 20% will for sure change the properties of any varnish.

I think the OP was referring to the problem of measuring out a small amount of something and then losing the portion of it that won't come out of the measuring spoon. Measuring by weight in a single vessel eliminates some of that but could result in an ever expanding batch if one accidentally adds too much of something. 

With colors some times there is more left on the spatula than going into the varnish.

In application, as you say, there is a certain amount of "that looks about right" but when making the varnishes themselves weighing out the ingredients leads to the most controlable results. 

Agreed.

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On 8/2/2019 at 7:22 AM, Mike Spencer said:

I use small one ounce plastic graduated measuring cups. They are marked fractionally in ml, ounces, drams and a few others and are disposable. Also if you have some extra mixed up varnish left over that you will use up in a few days you can put the cup in a zip lock bag and remove the air and it will keep ok. 

Just to be clear I don’t make my own varnish yet and use Joe’s products. I can see why folks that are making there own varnish weigh the components. 

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9 hours ago, David Beard said:

Look, I'm not saying there's any reason not to measure precisely if you want.  Just that it doesn't appear to likely matter so much. Do you have any varnish recipes you use that are actually expressed in anything other than very simple ratios?

All of them. All are denoted by weight of ingredients derived from actual experiments. The only time ratios come into play is if I want to produce a smaller or larger quantity.

______________________________________________________

"If an assistant made one of your varnish recipes but varied the balance of ingredients by not more than 20% between any components, do you think it would: Ruin the batch? "

I wouldn't say that it would necessarily "ruin the batch", but I would expect it to be quite far outside what I consider ideal for my own instruments. This isn't just conjecture. I've done lots of experimenting with things like that.

 

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3 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

Varying any ingredient by 20% will for sure change the properties of any varnish.

I think the OP was referring to the problem of measuring out a small amount of something and then losing the portion of it that won't come out of the measuring spoon. Measuring by weight in a single vessel eliminates some of that but could result in an ever expanding batch if one accidentally adds too much of something. 

With colors some times there is more left on the spatula than going into the varnish.

In application, as you say, there is a certain amount of "that looks about right" but when making the varnishes themselves weighing out the ingredients leads to the most controlable results. 

Yes. Of course a 20% variance  will have some real effect.  But I'm suggesting that as an extreme illustration.  How significant will the difference in the varnish be?  Probably very slight indeed.

Say a salad recipe calls for mixing three ingredients in equal parts of 1::1::1.  Now one day you mix the ingredients actually as 9::11::10.  That is a 20% variance between the first two ingredients.  How significant is this degree of alteration in the balance of ingredients?   Maybe that would make enough difference to be significant.  But obviously there is some thresshold below which the difference will become negligible for the purpose of making a salad.

And I think the evidence suggests that in some degree the old varish making didn't set its varnish recipes with a high degree of precision.

And to some degree, I think it's okay if a modern craftsman/artisan's approach to varnish has more in common come with a chef in the kitchen than an engineer in the lab.  Done with understanding and knowing experience, a 'two parts this, one part that, a handful of this, a dash of that' does not automatically spell disaster.

 

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27 minutes ago, David Beard said:

Yes. Of course a 20% variance  will have some real effect.  But I'm suggesting that as an extreme illustration.  How significant will the difference in the varnish be?  Probably very slight indeed.

Say a salad recipe calls for mixing three ingredients in equal parts of 1::1::1.  Now one day you mix the ingredients actually as 9::11::10.  That is a 20% variance between the first two ingredients.  How significant is this degree of alteration in the balance of ingredients?   Maybe that would make enough difference to be significant.  But obviously there is some thresshold below which the difference will become negligible for the purpose of making a salad.

LOL!

There is a much broader definition and acceptance range for "salads",  than there is for violins. ;)

I "get" that you are really into whole-number ratios, and can't rule out that Strad and Guarneri were too. But if they were, I think it had little-to-nothing to do with their success.

Before hanging my hat on some numerology explanation, I might first investigate their high ties with the Catholic Church.

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For color replication I found any measuring system insufficient at least if I would aim at the typical-Andreas-Preuss-varnish-color.

I rather go by eye matching with wood samples. At least this seems to be the only way to achieve certain color results because the same varnish looks different on wood from different logs. So overall I have a weight system for the base recipe and a by eye method for the fine tuning. This applies for both, alcohol and oil varnishes.

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36 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

For color replication I found any measuring system insufficient at least if I would aim at the typical-Andreas-Preuss-varnish-color.

I rather go by eye matching with wood samples. At least this seems to be the only way to achieve certain color results because the same varnish looks different on wood from different logs. So overall I have a weight system for the base recipe and a by eye method for the fine tuning. This applies for both, alcohol and oil varnishes.

Spoken like a chef!

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I feel that the real issue is repeatably and or consistency, but perhaps also economy and not wanting to waste the precious sauce....

So, one of the first ways to introduce waste is to use "devices" other than brush, such as spoons, syringes or any container other than the small container you are using to hold the "mixed" varnish. "Mixed" implies that there may be a small amount of base thinner,pigments or different colors added to thin the sauce.

So the brush I use, every time, is used for 2 purposes., I actually have a few, that are identical, all used for the same purpose. Just for different colors

They are used for bringing the sauce from the container it is in to the container it will be mixed in, and then it is used to transfer it to the instrument from the mix container.

By doing this there is zero waste and even the small amount of turp used to clean the brush will be saved and recycled into future batches

As an example I will dip my "thinner brush"into the turp 5 times, and side wipe the brushloads into the container, I do not know what that amount is by weight or volume, but I do know that it is basically the same amount every time, then I will do the same with my varnish brush, and load in say 6 to 7 brushloads mixed with the small amount of thinner.

edit....keeping in mind viscosity differences and how thinner vs varnish will yield different brushloads...but still consistent...5 brushload of thinner does not equal the same amount as 5 of varnish based on viscosity and the ability for varnish to cling

I think it is also a good idea to use the same type of container every time and that a "fill" line should be hashed onto the container so you know how much needs to be added to have sufficient amount, and that gets figured out by learning how much to use based on varnishing a few instruments.

This is actually a good question that has many right answers I'm sure

 

 

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10 hours ago, David Burgess said:

All of them. All are denoted by weight of ingredients derived from actual experiments. The only time ratios come into play is if I want to produce a smaller or larger quantity.

______________________________________________________

"If an assistant made one of your varnish recipes but varied the balance of ingredients by not more than 20% between any components, do you think it would: Ruin the batch? "

I wouldn't say that it would necessarily "ruin the batch", but I would expect it to be quite far outside what I consider ideal for my own instruments. This isn't just conjecture. I've done lots of experimenting with things like that.

 

Kudos to you.

But I think you're unusual, at least historically, in using emperically derived varnish recipes that are more fine grained in balance of ingredients then just simple ratio approximations of a good balance.

Regardless of being expressed in volume, weight, or just parts, most historical written varnish recipes and many you see today are given with numbers that in fact are in very simplistic ratios. 

Not because ratios have any magic or specialness in varnish, just the opposite.  Because such ratios are simplistic and easy.  And because the authors of those varnish recipes don't have any finer knowledge of the balance of ingredients needed than can be expressed in the crudest simplest terms.

If you have done the work to emprically refine your required balance of ingredients in your varnishes, then kudos to you.  And certainly to refine a recipe to such a high degree would  require precision.  And to repeat such a recipe would require precision.

 

BUT, when a famous historical  varnish recipe calls for quanties that happen to fall into the ratios. 1::1::2::4::4, such numbers declare that it's author wasn't able to discern the needed balance of ingredients and better than powers of 2 differences.  That is very crude indeed.

But such crudeness is historically typical.  Your level of empirical finesse is the exception, not the rule.

 

So you don't  use 1704, or Marciano, or Ceruti, et al?  Or if you do you've empirically modified them away from their more commonly expressed recipes?

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I never use the recipe quantities in old manuscripts. I may convert them to modern weights and adjust them to get agreement with what I see. Using their  highly inaccurate methods is noise, pure and simple.

I do not understand how using the measurement techniques of Renaissance times increases the likelihood of reproducing what we see in their varnish. The point of precise weights is control, namely the ability to reproduce what we do, not what they did. I suspect you are working with a different interpretation of the word, reproduce. Burgess and I are talking about us reproducing what we did last week. For that we need control, something the Renaissance varnish makers lacked. We want repeatability which we don't get with eyeball techniques that add noise to our methods.

 

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The real breakthrough will come from discovering what Stradivari used to wipe his butt, and where it went after that.

He probably didn't use corn cobs, or pages from a Sears catalogue, since these were mostly "new-world"  practices which came after his time.

What then? Wood shavings? Scrolls? Entire fiddles in the white?  His sleeve? :lol:

If we could find some genuine Stradivari butt-wipes, it might set an auction record for Stradivari artifacts.

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2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

The real breakthrough will come from discovering what Stradivari used to wipe his butt, and where it went after that.

He probably didn't use corn cobs, or pages from a Sears catalogue, since these were mostly "new-world"  practices which came after his time.

What then? Wood shavings? Scrolls? Entire fiddles in the white?  His sleeve? :lol:

If we could find some genuine Stradivari butt-wipes, it might set an auction record for Stradivari artifacts.

Oh crap! You figured out the secret of Strads ground.   I wonder he liked eating beets and mango skins?

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3 hours ago, David Burgess said:

The real breakthrough will come from discovering what Stradivari used to wipe his butt, and where it went after that.

He probably didn't use corn cobs, or pages from a Sears catalogue, since these were mostly "new-world"  practices which came after his time.

What then? Wood shavings? Scrolls? Entire fiddles in the white?  His sleeve? :lol:

If we could find some genuine Stradivari butt-wipes, it might set an auction record for Stradivari artifacts.

 

48 minutes ago, Jim Bress said:

Oh crap! You figured out the secret of Strads ground.   I wonder he liked eating beets and mango skins?

Bridge blanks.  :ph34r:

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On 8/6/2019 at 7:10 PM, David Burgess said:

The real breakthrough will come from discovering what Stradivari used to wipe his butt, and where it went after that.

He probably didn't use corn cobs, or pages from a Sears catalogue, since these were mostly "new-world"  practices which came after his time.

What then? Wood shavings? Scrolls? Entire fiddles in the white?  His sleeve? :lol:

If we could find some genuine Stradivari butt-wipes, it might set an auction record for Stradivari artifacts.

Hi Dave - interesting how these threads stir the memory.

We were on a day-long slog up a river to attack some vertical rock faces when I was subjected to an attack of  Montezuma's revenge.

Initially slightly embarrassing - however after using up all my small stock of paper serviettes (far superior to toilet paper), then every one else's supply, then all the brown paper packets....I finally began making use of rounded river stones! I soon became quite skilled at recognising the superior article. Even gave thought to slipping one into my pack - infinitely re-usable! Rejected the idea on the grounds that paper was lighter and en-route rivers uncommon.

We never arrived at the base of the mountain - I was one of two leaders and the party unanimously decided not to take the risk of following me up a rock face! Possible soiled hand-holds and the like. Boy did they rub it in!

A surprisingly weakened Edi made it back to the farm where we had parked the car while his pack followed precariously balanced on top of a friend's pack.

Mmmm - the colour changed from medium brown to a brownish-yellow - maybe you have a point.

cheers edi

 

 

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3 hours ago, edi malinaric said:

We never arrived at the base of the mountain - I was one of two leaders and the party unanimously decided not to take the risk of following me up a rock face!

:lol:

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On ‎8‎/‎5‎/‎2019 at 11:03 AM, Andreas Preuss said:

For color replication I found any measuring system insufficient at least if I would aim at the typical-Andreas-Preuss-varnish-color.

I rather go by eye matching with wood samples. At least this seems to be the only way to achieve certain color results because the same varnish looks different on wood from different logs. So overall I have a weight system for the base recipe and a by eye method for the fine tuning. This applies for both, alcohol and oil varnishes.

 

On ‎8‎/‎6‎/‎2019 at 8:45 AM, Michael_Molnar said:

I never use the recipe quantities in old manuscripts. I may convert them to modern weights and adjust them to get agreement with what I see. Using their  highly inaccurate methods is noise, pure and simple.

I do not understand how using the measurement techniques of Renaissance times increases the likelihood of reproducing what we see in their varnish. The point of precise weights is control, namely the ability to reproduce what we do, not what they did. I suspect you are working with a different interpretation of the word, reproduce. Burgess and I are talking about us reproducing what we did last week. For that we need control, something the Renaissance varnish makers lacked. We want repeatability which we don't get with eyeball techniques that add noise to our methods.

 

There is a big difference between applying varnish and making varnish.

When you are applying varnish you certainly have to see what is happening and vary the protocol to achieve the desired results. What one colleague refers to as "turning crisis into opportunity".

However when making or cooking varnish repeatability is crucial. I have an early 20th century book on German varnish making which states that attempting to make varnish in batches of less than 300 gallons is futile because errors in weighing and transferring ingredients will be too significant below that point. Needless to say I don't subscribe to that but do recognize that any small batch varnish making will, at best, have subtly different results which must be  accommodated  during application. 

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3 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

 

There is a big difference between applying varnish and making varnish.

When you are applying varnish you certainly have to see what is happening and vary the protocol to achieve the desired results. What one colleague refers to as "turning crisis into opportunity".

However when making or cooking varnish repeatability is crucial. I have an early 20th century book on German varnish making which states that attempting to make varnish in batches of less than 300 gallons is futile because errors in weighing and transferring ingredients will be too significant below that point. Needless to say I don't subscribe to that but do recognize that any small batch varnish making will, at best, have subtly different results which must be  accommodated  during application. 

Funny you should raise this point. I am blending in some carbon black this minute to get a darker red. It's all by eyeball at this stage.

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On 8/6/2019 at 10:10 AM, David Burgess said:

The real breakthrough will come from discovering what Stradivari used to wipe his butt, and where it went after that.

He probably didn't use corn cobs, or pages from a Sears catalogue, since these were mostly "new-world"  practices which came after his time.

What then? Wood shavings? Scrolls? Entire fiddles in the white?  His sleeve? :lol:

If we could find some genuine Stradivari butt-wipes, it might set an auction record for Stradivari artifacts.

Very cute.  

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What's with all the hand waving?

I'm just making some very simple observations.

Concepts like, accuracy, precision, or targeting and aiming have some quirky details to them.

If the target is 'anywhere on the side of that barn', if you are able to and decide to hit a particular knot on a particular plank on the side of the barn, great!  You're still hitting the barn.  But, if you then tell the next guy that he has to hit the same knot or he's failed, that's just a lie, or -to be generous- an error.

************

I'm going to try this again.

Some simple observations that apply to basically all historical varnish recipes before about 1820. But these observations remany mostly true at least until about WWI.

 

1)  The balance of materials in these recipes is reported only very crudely.

2)  They are mostly written giving very simple proportions.  Not because the ratios are somehow precious, or magic, or sacred.  Just because the information is simple and crude.

3) Differences smaller than 100% seem not to be acknowledged.  That's how crudely the balance of materials was treated.   The proportions written for the most part are all 'equal', 'half', 'double', or 'double again'.   Very crude indeed.

4) So, many recipes just use 'equal' parts:  1::1::1    etc

Some recipes call for 'more' of some ingredients, but mostly 'more' takes the crudest form possible, being shown as 'double':    1::1::1::2::2    etc

And some recipes are so specific and precise as to resort to several levels of double.   1::1::2::4::4     etc

They easily could have specified the balance of ingredients more finely, but they didn't.  Apparently this was good enough for centuries of pharmacy, artisan, and craft varnish makers.

 

***********

Now, from those historical observations, I'm inclined to make a conjecture or two about varnish making that might be practically carried through to the small workshop today.

The first conjecture is that most of the finicky aspects of making varnish are outside the 'fine balance between quantities of the varnish ingredients'.

The varnish outcome can be significantly changed by smallish differences in cooking, and thinning, and application, and by including or excluding an ingredient, or my the condition or prep of an ingredient, or contamination in any of many ways, etc.

BUT, small incremental nudges of a particular balance between the amounts of the ingredients will produce only even smaller incremental nudges in the performance and character of the resulting varnish.

 

******

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