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BigFryMan

varnish disaster - send help!

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Hi guys,

I'm currently working on my third violin and up until the last couple of days the ground and varnish have been progressing nicely.

I have been using my finger to apply dabs of varnish and then the fat side of my thumb to tap and even it out. I have been using Joe Robson's ground system and then greek pitch varnishes and I can't tell you how thankful I am for his knowledge and products.

Yesterday as I was putting a color coat on the back, it seemed to be getting too thick and drying too fast so that when I started to tap to even the coats, the varnish was sticking to my thumb instead of evening out. Even after wiping my thumb clean same deal. Perhaps the turps I'd added to thin the varnish was speeding up the drying?

Anyways, I tried to double down by adding more varnish to re-wet it in desperation and as I'm sure you can imagine, it just got thicker and thicker and lumpier and lumpier :( 

Now i'm not sure what to do. Should I let it dry hard and then sand back the varnish to where it was even? Or would it be possible to wipe the last two coats off evenly with gum turps? If I do wipe the coats off, will it wipe back the last 3 layers of ground also? 


The rest of the violin seems to be coming along well so i'm feeling pretty devastated to have the ground and first coats come up so well and then to have to strip the back and then try and match it all again :(

Attached some pics for reference.

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Wipe it all off if you can, do not use chemical stripper or sand it. 
If you can't get it all off then just live with it and next time get it right. 

That's honestly what I've learned about varnish, just try to get it right first time and do NOT ever strip it. 
Another thing I'd do it use a brush to apply it, you can better get a feels for how thick or thing the varnish is and you can get it more even off a brush. THEN, you can pat it down (after it has tacked off slightly - but you have to know when that is ) with the plam of your hand. You will find the scroll doesn't need patting down much and the edges of the plates do. 

Think it through and just aim to know what you're gonna do before it's too late. 
I'd also not bother with any antiquing, it almost never looks convincing. 

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32 minutes ago, ~ Ben Conover said:

Wipe it all off if you can, do not use chemical stripper or sand it. 
If you can't get it all off then just live with it and next time get it right. 

That's honestly what I've learned about varnish, just try to get it right first time and do NOT ever strip it. 
Another thing I'd do it use a brush to apply it, you can better get a feels for how thick or thing the varnish is and you can get it more even off a brush. THEN, you can pat it down (after it has tacked off slightly - but you have to know when that is ) with the plam of your hand. You will find the scroll doesn't need patting down much and the edges of the plates do. 

Think it through and just aim to know what you're gonna do before it's too late. 
I'd also not bother with any antiquing, it almost never looks convincing. 

Ben,

The varnishes BFMan is talking about are about the consistency of honey. They really can't be brushed on in the "normal" way. They can be thinned with real turpentine (not the drugstore stuff) or a mixer Joe used to sell called linox which felt like a mix of terps and oil. Also can add mineral spirits. I don't know why the back could not be stripped to the ground and then apply thinned varnish again until the back catches up to the rest. You have a long way to go and should be able to make everything come out evenly.

Word of caution I do not use Joe's ground so there may indeed be a reason not to strip but I really don't see how to fix this otherwise.

Hopefully Joe will chime in here and we'll all learn something.

By the way I use the palm of my hand and a lot of pressure to spread this stuff and only work on a small area at a time.

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18 minutes ago, Michael_Molnar said:

Send Robson a PM.

Joe's been really helpful and suggested to try and even up the patchy previous coat, but I've somehow made that worse. I've sent him another email, but he's on holiday so I thought the collective mind of maestronet may be able to help

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I hate to say it but that may be a wipe job, that last photo where its "gajorbably"  would be hard to make look right....

At this point I like to think I have Joe's stuff down pretty good, and I think the main problem is that you did not allow for enough dry time of the coat that this coat is sticking to.

the under coat can feel dry, but it created "dragging" and "over stick" and basically make it so when you are patting it out it can pull off the under coat, as it looks like in that photo

i do suggest working quicker by applying more at a time, working larger areas and patting out with the larger surface area palm vs thumbs or fingers

one must keep in mind the solvent from the coat you are applying can "eat" into or start to soften the coat underneath....the longer the wet stuff sits on dry, the softer the dry can become, so soft that you can "pull" it off as seen in your pic

May sound "nuts" but when I use his stuff for guitars when doing a back, I will dab on several brushloads , take my palm area and very quickly and very aggressively smear it onto the entire back back as quickly as possible and then immediately pat it out in the same manner, this making it so I coat the entire back and pat in out in under 1 min, therefore the fresh coat has no chance to resolvent the under coat

it took me a while to understand his stuff, I came from the world of quart cans and brushes, but once I came to understand his stuff, it really is the best...BUT it is a material that takes time to understand.

I have done basically the same thing, and I did end up wiping it....hard as that is to accecpt, the quicker you "do it" the quicker you can more forth....

you could allow this to dry until cured {like a month or so}and try to lovingly wet sand it into an acceptable base, but thats pretty dicey....

IF....you have said that you tried to correct it and it made it worse...that is DEFINITELY TELLING ME DRY TIME IS AN ISSUE...why? 

the undercoat being fresh, will be softened as I said...the longer your coat sits on it, the more it is feeding solvent from the coat you just applied to the coat underneath...

it is somewhat "transdermal" when in an uncured state...or....solvent in base coats can evaporate into and through top coats, AND at the same time topcoats can leech in solvent into freshly drying undercoats...

THIS is why it is so important to use UV lights to dry coats, and to keep the room where coating is happening under 50% humidity if at all possible...damp air will require extended dry times...

if you would have waited an additional 3 to 5 days to do this coat, I have a feeling that it would not have done this

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13 minutes ago, jezzupe said:

I hate to say it but that may be a wipe job, that last photo where its "gajorbably"  would be hard to make look right....

At this point I like to think I have Joe's stuff down pretty good, and I think the main problem is that you did not allow for enough dry time of the coat that this coat is sticking to.

the under coat can feel dry, but it created "dragging" and "over stick" and basically make it so when you are patting it out it can pull off the under coat, as it looks like in that photo

i do suggest working quicker by applying more at a time, working larger areas and patting out with the larger surface area palm vs thumbs or fingers

one must keep in mind the solvent from the coat you are applying can "eat" into or start to soften the coat underneath....the longer the wet stuff sits on dry, the softer the dry can become, so soft that you can "pull" it off as seen in your pic

 

Jezzupe,

I’m guessing you are probably right. Unfortunately it’s sitting at home in the sun/up hardening up while I’m at work. 

It makes sense that I’d softened the coats underneath with the turps I was using to thin out the next coat. 

Do u think I’d be able to remove with turps as well? Do I have to use the really good turps to remove or can I use the standard hardware store stuff?

Arrrgghh this is such a frustrating lesson to learn not to rush the process.

I guess after I get the doomed varnish off again it will be significant work to try and match the tint of the top and sides. 

Do you think it’s worth trying to sand back the coats so I don’t lose it all?

 

 

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Ok. First remove the glop with whatever works. If it's still liquid, mineral spirits or turps will remove it. The ground  should be ok, but you will have to judge. Never use sandpaper or a scraper. That will ruin your wood surface and ground. 

Your description sounds like a very dry GP varnish that needed a lot of solvent. Don't add too much, however. Add a little and test.

My experience with Robson's Greek Pitch is that you can use Gamsol mineral spirits to dilute it. I imagine that Diamond G spirits of turpentine should work too. The trick is that you have to blend them thoroughly. Let it sit for a few hours to determine that they did mix and are not separating. 

Good luck.

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27 minutes ago, BigFryMan said:

Jezzupe,

I’m guessing you are probably right. Unfortunately it’s sitting at home in the sun/up hardening up while I’m at work. 

It makes sense that I’d softened the coats underneath with the turps I was using to thin out the next coat. 

Do u think I’d be able to remove with turps as well? Do I have to use the really good turps to remove or can I use the standard hardware store stuff?

Arrrgghh this is such a frustrating lesson to learn not to rush the process.

I guess after I get the doomed varnish off again it will be significant work to try and match the tint of the top and sides. 

Do you think it’s worth trying to sand back the coats so I don’t lose it all?

 

 

yes*****, fortunately for you this is a very easy to correct to get back to zero job...but requires a "mess area"

this is what I do....

lay down a tarp to stand on...get a quart if cheapish turpintine at a paint store {no need for fancy stuff}

then go buy a bag of TERRY based wiping cloths {NOT TSHIRT CLOTH} 

tape off the fingerboard entirely with LOW TACK blue tape

speed in this operation is somewhat important, but not critical, it relates to the amount of thinner you will end up using

standing on the tarp so you can just wipe and DROP the rags, so you can go quick...

WITH GLOVES ON , soak a rag in some turp, and begin aggressive wiping, turning and re-wetting the wipe cloth as you go, eventually it will get loaded up, DROP the wipe cloth on your tarp and immediately repeat  the same process with a fresh rag....you will go through a few rags, so you will have a small pile when done...OF SOME VERY EXPENSIVE RAGS..AHHHHHHHHHH SH324624686T....ANYWAYS

treat those rags as SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUSTIBLE WASTE and soak/submerge them in a sealed metal container ....they can burn your house down! if balled up and thrown into a garbage bag 

BE VERY CAREFUL wiping around the FF holes, do not catch a wing and rip it off....work fast but not "whippy and erratic" don't let the need for speed turn into gluing on an FF wing cause you were panicky

******BUT WAIT....

IN THE START OF THIS PROCESS JUST DESCRIBED ABOVE YOU MAY BE ABLE TO SALVAGE A LARGE PORTION OF THIS BY DOING THE FOLLOWING

YOU ARE SETTING UP AS IF YOU ARE PLANNING TO WIPE IT ALL OFF....HOWEVER....BEFORE COMMITING 100% AND GOING STRAIGHT TO RAGS...SOAK YOUR RAW HAND IN TURPINTINE, AND AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN, WIPE, WITH RAW HAND AND THINNER THE BACK....YOU MAY BE ABLE TO RESOLVENT ALL THE LAYERS, KEEP SMEARING IT, IN ESSENCE "MIXING" ALL THE EXISTING COATS, AND THEN WITH FAST ASS PALM PATTING, PAT THE ENTIRE THING OUT AND YOU MAY BE ABLE TO SAVE THE BACK......AS LONG AS YOU DON;T GET RUNS AND DRIPS GOING ONTO THE RIBS....

IF IT SEEMS TO WORK, YOU MAY NEED TO REWET YOUR HAND A COUPLE TIMES DURING THE PROCESS

 

if you do end up wiping the entire thing....after about 8 hours, a suggest one final wipe with some good turpentine, this helps give a final cleaning,,,,THEN WAIT a couple days before trying again....use your nose....do not start again until the wood looses most of the solvent smell...that smell is turp trapped in the wood cells and yes it can effect coats that will be applied.

 

 

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8 minutes ago, jezzupe said:

yes*****, fortunately for you this is a very easy to correct to get back to zero job...but requires a "mess area"

this is what I do....

lay down a tarp to stand on...get a quart if cheapish turpintine at a paint store {no need for fancy stuff}

then go buy a bag of TERRY based wiping cloths {NOT TSHIRT CLOTH} 

tape off the fingerboard entirely with LOW TACK blue tape

speed in this operation is somewhat important, but not critical, it relates to the amount of thinner you will end up using

standing on the tarp so you can just wipe and DROP the rags, so you can go quick...

WITH GLOVES ON , soak a rag in some turp, and begin aggressive wiping, turning and re-wetting the wipe cloth as you go, eventually it will get loaded up, DROP the wipe cloth on your tarp and immediately repeat  the same process with a fresh rag....you will go through a few rags, so you will have a small pile when done...OF SOME VERY EXPENSIVE RAGS..AHHHHHHHHHH SH324624686T....ANYWAYS

treat those rags as SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUSTIBLE WASTE and soak/submerge them in a sealed metal container ....they can burn your house down! if balled up and thrown into a garbage bag 

BE VERY CAREFUL wiping around the FF holes, do not catch a wing and rip it off....work fast but not "whippy and erratic" don't let the need for speed turn into gluing on an FF wing cause you were panicky

******BUT WAIT....

IN THE START OF THIS PROCESS JUST DESCRIBED ABOVE YOU MAY BE ABLE TO SALVAGE A LARGE PORTION OF THIS BY DOING THE FOLLOWING

YOU ARE SETTING UP AS IF YOU ARE PLANNING TO WIPE IT ALL OFF....HOWEVER....BEFORE COMMITING 100% AND GOING STRAIGHT TO RAGS...SOAK YOUR RAW HAND IN TURPINTINE, AND AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN, WIPE, WITH RAW HAND AND THINNER THE BACK....YOU MAY BE ABLE TO RESOLVENT ALL THE LAYERS, KEEP SMEARING IT, IN ESSENCE "MIXING" ALL THE EXISTING COATS, AND THEN WITH FAST ASS PALM PATTING, PAT THE ENTIRE THING OUT AND YOU MAY BE ABLE TO SAVE THE BACK......AS LONG AS YOU DON;T GET RUNS AND DRIPS GOING ONTO THE RIBS....

 

if you do end up wiping the entire thing....after about 8 hours, a suggest one final wipe with some good turpentine, this helps give a final cleaning,,,,THEN WAIT a couple days before trying again....use your nose....do not start again until the wood looses most of the solvent smell...that smell is turp trapped in the wood cells and yes it can effect coats that will be applied.

 

 

Thanks Jezzupe,

Appreciate the detailed description of your process. 

I'm not sure I can get terry cloth at short notice and I'm guessing speed is of the essence here. I'll attempt to resolve it as I have nothing to lose (other than very precious varnish), but not feeling very hopeful. 

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10 minutes ago, BigFryMan said:

Thanks Jezzupe,

Appreciate the detailed description of your process. 

I'm not sure I can get terry cloth at short notice and I'm guessing speed is of the essence here. I'll attempt to resolve it as I have nothing to lose (other than very precious varnish), but not feeling very hopeful. 

YOU CAN JUST CUT UP A BATH TOWEL...I'm sure she'll understand, just like when you said you needed to borrow that pot for cooking some varnish....lol

YES, SO IT'S EITHER WIPE THE ENTIRE THING,OR try the salvage job...knowing that it may be a slightly different color, but should be ok as a base coat if you can get it to go even....so yes at this point the less uv the better....the varnish will be re solventable while it is is "untriggered" by the light....

as long as you can get just the right amount of turp on your hand and have it not drip over the edges, by working it in a verticle position, I think you may be able to save it as long as it has not been too uv'd

if you do see that when you are swirling it that it seems to be mixing up....do remember that speed is your friend and that because of that the real estate of the palm is much faster than the thumb or fingers 

and for what its worth....you can use tshrit towels, they just suck for this job, the terry pile has a slight abrasive quality to it as well as gives "load up" in the pile, it gives the varnish somewhere to go....you just end up using more time, rags and thinner in the process with inferior rags....

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I have not mastered the finger/palm application process. 

I thin Greek Pitch with Diamond G turpentine (only diamond G) to whatever consistency I want and brush with a good quality wash brush. 

That is what works for me at present. 

The time I had to strip greek pitch, I think I used alcohol, turps and maybe citri strip. 

Somewhere here on Maesteont Joe has said when it was best to use alcohol vs terps, has to do with how long since the varnish was applied. I cant remember what he posted. 

If you do decide to strip you may have to redo some of the ground steps.  

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The brushes I am using I get at my local hobby lobby craft store. 

The brushes come in different styles, ie; 

shader, liner, wash... 

the brush style that works best for me is a wash brush. 

Bear in mind I thin the greek pitch varnish with diamond g. For me, it gives me a good application control.  

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I wouldn't wipe it with anything rag like or paper towels or anything of the such. That will total it for good.

Get something like this,,,,,,,https://www.amazon.com/Libman-Hand-and-Nail-Brush/dp/B001G5O08G/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=libman+fingernail+brush&qid=1565056667&s=gateway&sr=8-1

and sprinkle some thinner on the back and proceed to loosen it back up. Don't wipe the brush on any thing or touch it with anything. just hit it flat on a large brown paper bag or such as the like and keep brushing, knock out the excess and brush,, repete,,,, add just enough thinner don't over do it, slow steady strokes, a few drops of thinner, watch carefully,, not even a challenge to fix this, nothing to fix really just spread it out in a reasonably  intelligent manner.

 go from the neck to the button,,, the neck to the button, knock out the excess and go again. as soon as it is removed to the proper amount and it is level stop.

Use a tooth brush to tidy it up using the same long strokes and it will be perfect.

As you feel the tooth brush start to grab, then you might try light fast strokes with the fingers to finish it off.

I finish them this way and after they are dry, no sanding or polishing necessary, it will get sticky but a fast lite stroke will smooth it out and polish it ready to dry.

I know that it can't be done that way and it can't possibility work but I do it all the time...

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Jezzupe is right: "then go buy a bag of TERRY based wiping cloths {NOT TSHIRT CLOTH} " T-shirt rags shed cotton fuzz balls that stick to everything.

cjankowski is right about cheese cloth. It works.

I use alcohol and paper towels. This works for my very lean varnishes.

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Thanks for all the advise and help guys (and also Joe who emailed me also). This is a painful reminder that you cannot rush these things.

Jezzupe you said:
"IF....you have said that you tried to correct it and it made it worse...that is DEFINITELY TELLING ME DRY TIME IS AN ISSUE...why?"

I think that's the one of the most valuable lessons for me to learn here. How long do you typically leave this varnish in the sun/uv cabinet for? I had presumed that if the varnish went kinda rubbery hard (no longer leaves a fingerprint) then it must be good to go. Obviously this is not that case.

Anyways,
 

Here's the result:
IMG_6216.thumb.JPG.4c36614e92b4b8883e943b1a4dcb4298.JPGIMG_6220.thumb.JPG.4f8cb3bddb5a3421c34e5369d9794735.JPGIMG_6218.thumb.JPG.0e30c73ba12851edf42f2ef9641a898c.JPG
Thankfully it seems like I managed to NOT strip the sides also and top also which is a big win.

Most of the ground coat remains it seems, but Joe suggested putting his number #5 balsam coat on which I will do. Now I can learn my lesson in patience and wait for the solvents to evaporate. At least the scroll, top and sides will keep drying <_<

I haven't even played this guy yet and I'm ready to move onto number #4! 

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Ya you can work with that...and yes Joe is right, imagine that :lol:....go to bgv5

a good trick to know about Joes stuff is the nose thing....if you can still smell solvents it's still a little early, if you start to smell more pine than turp, then you are good to go....

from Joes point of view as a maker it is impossible for him to know all the parameters you are doing....and so I would say that everyone has created their own "environment" and they are not all the same nor optimum....so based on this it is always best to play it safe with dry times

I'm glad you were able to salvage the ribs and front...

and for what it's worth....if you want practice quick applications using the fast load and smear method without wasting varnish....nutty as it sounds, you can coat a board with some shellac, and let it dry completely, and then you can use thick maple syrup as "pretend varnish" ....you dip your brush, apply dabs onto the wood , then you can practice smearing and patting the syrup as it acts very similar to varnish....you can then wash your hands wash off as well as the board,let it dry a bit, and then do it again....in less than half a bottle of Mrs butterworths you'll become and expert at applying fast even coats.....

 

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46 minutes ago, jezzupe said:

Ya you can work with that...and yes Joe is right, imagine that :lol:....go to bgv5

a good trick to know about Joes stuff is the nose thing....if you can still smell solvents it's still a little early, if you start to smell more pine than turp, then you are good to go....

from Joes point of view as a maker it is impossible for him to know all the parameters you are doing....and so I would say that everyone has created their own "environment" and they are not all the same nor optimum....so based on this it is always best to play it safe with dry times

I'm glad you were able to salvage the ribs and front...

and for what it's worth....if you want practice quick applications using the fast load and smear method without wasting varnish....nutty as it sounds, you can coat a board with some shellac, and let it dry completely, and then you can use thick maple syrup as "pretend varnish" ....you dip your brush, apply dabs onto the wood , then you can practice smearing and patting the syrup as it acts very similar to varnish....you can then wash your hands wash off as well as the board,let it dry a bit, and then do it again....in less than half a bottle of Mrs butterworths you'll become and expert at applying fast even coats.....

 

Jezzupe you are always full of good advise and maple syrup insanity! Thanks for that, I know you meant it seriously, but I needed a good laugh :P

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1 hour ago, jezzupe said:

and for what it's worth....if you want practice quick applications using the fast load and smear method without wasting varnish....nutty as it sounds, you can coat a board with some shellac, and let it dry completely, and then you can use thick maple syrup as "pretend varnish" ....

 

Sounds more sappy than nutty.  :ph34r:

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I have no experience with joes system, but I have always stripped instruments with acetone, in my experience the ground layer ends up better after rubbing everything off and leaving only what has been absorbed by the wood. 

My ground is definitely a separate thing to the varnish I apply on top of it, I have use nitromorse (heavy duty Nasty paint stripper) and stripped my instruments, and again I feel the ground was actually better than the first time round! 

 

Stripping the the first few instruments is all part of the learning process and you shouldn’t be afraid to do so as long as you figure out what works for you. 

8 hours ago, ~ Ben Conover said:

do NOT ever strip it. 

Why???? Ask @Jose Catoira he’s the self professed stripping king!

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