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Neil Ertz/Marciana varnish

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Having done some research into the topic, I would like to try to make some of this varnish. I would be very interested to hear from anybody who makes/has made this varnish.

i found a great thread with postings by Mr Ertz (RIP) with general ideas as to cooking the varnish and tips.

However, I have not been able to find a list of definitive proportions of each ingredient, or any detailed information on the cooking process.

i would be very grateful if anybody would be kind enough to share this information. 


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Hi! The recipe is on the Biblioteca Marciana (library), Venice, in a manuscript:

"Item Vernice che si distende come olio et seccha presto et è molto lustrante et bella et pare uno specchio di vetro et per stare alla cosa et sopra liuti et simile cose è mirabile;" ma nel testo, queste "simile cose" sono descritte come manufatti in legno, ferro, carta, cuoio e opere dipinte:

"Togli per una misura: una libra d'olio di linseme, et quocilo come si fà in una pignatta invetriata netta, poi vi metti su mesa libbra di pece greca chiara et bella et polverizzata et mesta quando la metti, tanto che si incorpori bene a fuoco dolce, poi vi metti su mezza libra di mastice macinato, et quando lo metti perché ei rigonfia leverai però la pignata da fuoco et mettilo su a poco a poco mestando et incorporando bene, poi torna la pignata al fuoco et mesta tanto che si solva ogni cosa bene, poi mettivi quanto una noce di allume di roccha arso pesto et mesta che si solva et incorpori bene poi lievala dal fuoco et colala per peza lina vecchia et serbala, et per legname, et per ferro et per carta et corame et per ogni dipintura et lavoro farà un opera bellissima et per stare alla aqua, et quando ti pare soda stempera con olio di lino come si fa etc. ".

Claire (who speaks Italian too) offered this translation, that I find good (Tradutore, traditore!):

"put a pound of linseed oil in a glass vessel, then half a pound of good greek pitch (clear, attractive, and pulverized). Mix on a gentle (?sweet) heat. Add a half pound of minced mastic. It will swell up so remove the vessel from the fire and mix until every thing is dissolved well. Then add the walnut-size amount of ground burnt alum and mix until it is all incorporated, then filter through a piece of old linen."

So, in weight,  two parts oil,  one part greek pitch, one part mastic, plus the alum.

I use this varnish in my ground.

If you make a search "making marciana varnish" you will find more info, mainly about pre cooking the resins prior to make the varnish.

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if you can track down a copy of Gary Bease's book at a local library or university it will help. He also published a Strad article. However the most useful reading will be the varnish chapter in Roger Hargrave's Bass book. (Downloadable from his site)

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