Julian Cossmann Cooke

Spirit Varnish for the Convinced and the Curious

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This will be where we discuss specifically spirit varnish materials, techniques, recipes and other aspects.  Jeff is going to pin this discussion so spirit varnish threads can be consolidated for easy access.


A number of folks on Facebook and Instagram have expressed interest in participating and I will be letting them know that MN will be hosting so they can join the conversation.

 

I have to say, I was not expecting the level of interest generated by the initial post.  Perhaps this opportunity to share information in a safe place was necessary to bring us all out of the shadows.  :lol:

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6 hours ago, Julian Cossmann Cooke said:

............the Convinced and the Curious

Oh goody!  Sounds like a great title for a soap opera.  :lol:

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So... I'll start with a couple of real [violin] neophyte questions;

Is "traditional" Shellac FP used by anyone [past/present] for finishing a fiddle? I'm referring to just shellac, in any of its color grades [buttonlac to clear], dissolved in alcohol, no additives?

What ground would be most appropriate?

Do most apply spirit varnish by FP [with a fad/mucea] or by brushing?

 

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33 minutes ago, Michael Jennings said:

So... I'll start with a couple of real [violin] neophyte questions;

Is "traditional" Shellac FP used by anyone [past/present] for finishing a fiddle? I'm referring to just shellac, in any of its color grades [buttonlac to clear], dissolved in alcohol, no additives?

What ground would be most appropriate?

Do most apply spirit varnish by FP [with a fad/mucea] or by brushing?

 

My ignorance is showing (what's new?) but what is FP.  I only use blonde dewaxed shellac as a filler.  My grounds vary right now as I experiment, between propolis alcohol tincture, fustic, and salt petre.  In the wings: aloe ferrox.

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I guess FP means french polish? 

Davide Sora has an interesting version of spirit varnish,  including an alcohol soluble version of linseed oil.  So it's sort of a cross between an oil varnish and a spirit varnish.   I'd like to try it sometime.   

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41 minutes ago, Julian Cossmann Cooke said:

My ignorance is showing (what's new?) but what is FP.  I only use blonde dewaxed shellac as a filler.  My grounds vary right now as I experiment, between propolis alcohol tincture, fustic, and salt petre.  In the wings: aloe ferrox.

Yep, I was referring to French Polish, which is actually the term for the application process, not necessarily the medium.

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4 hours ago, Julian Cossmann Cooke said:

My ignorance is showing (what's new?) but what is FP.  I only use blonde dewaxed shellac as a filler.  My grounds vary right now as I experiment, between propolis alcohol tincture, fustic, and salt petre.  In the wings: aloe ferrox.

Do you size the wood before applying the ground?  About saltpetre, do you get color when you brush it on, or there is a chemical reaction to take place? 

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I don't size the wood unless you count the thin shellac as sizing.  I do think it is difficult to apply a ground without the end grain on the top creating a splotchy appearance.  The shellac takes care of that. 

The salt petre does darken the wood slightly which is why I tan the fiddle before.  Then I tan it again after applying the salt petre and allowing the instrument to dry overnight.  Depending on how dark I want things to get, I may repeat this sequence one or two more times.  The color is relatively subtle.

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On 9/4/2019 at 9:08 AM, Julian Cossmann Cooke said:

My ignorance is showing (what's new?) but what is FP.  I only use blonde dewaxed shellac as a filler.  My grounds vary right now as I experiment, between propolis alcohol tincture, fustic, and salt petre.  In the wings: aloe ferrox.

 Face Plant?

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9 hours ago, Michael Jennings said:

So... I'll start with a couple of real [violin] neophyte questions;

Is "traditional" Shellac FP used by anyone [past/present] for finishing a fiddle? I'm referring to just shellac, in any of its color grades [buttonlac to clear], dissolved in alcohol, no additives?

What ground would be most appropriate?

Do most apply spirit varnish by FP [with a fad/mucea] or by brushing?

 

Not precisely what you’re asking, but this might get the ball rolling. I finish my necks with 1 pound cut of stick lack (ever clear for the ETOH) with a just damp linen rag rubbed on hard. Dry to touch immediately after. I know that’s not a FP technique. It is shinier than matt but not glossy. The film is mostly in the wood with not enough surface layer to cause suction and make the left hand stick. 

B43E0C4D-BAC3-48F0-B712-2048E099DFFC.thumb.jpeg.67e8d8f611ed2bd8f03286b5ccaea3bb.jpeg

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Jim, I'd say that is "close enough" to FP technique for gubmint work, especially on the small irregular surface of a fiddle neck.

On all the fretted instruments I've built Ive finished the necks with a hand rubbed London Oil gunstock finish as much for the playing feel as the looks and protective factors.

The bodies of the instruments I've made have bellies finished with FP Shellac [ also use Everclear (only way it'll hurt you is if you pour it down yer neck)]. Backs and ribs/sides are either FP or oil varnish or a combination depending on wood species.

I swear that I'm actually going to try building a fiddle soon.

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37 minutes ago, Christopher Jacoby said:

I like the look of that, Jim!

Jules, what do you use to get the poop n pee bubblin to get to saltpetre?

I just let it sit with dirt and ash added.  Takes at least a couple of weeks, more for more color.

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23 hours ago, Jim Bress said:

Is "traditional" Shellac FP used by anyone [past/present] for finishing a fiddle? I'm referring to just shellac, in any of its color grades [buttonlac to clear], dissolved in alcohol, no additives?

What ground would be most appropriate?

Yes, I still use FP for repairs, it just takes to much time to do an entire instrument with that method. The use of rottenstone in between applications tends to fill and bridge the pits (popped air bubbles) when the FP is applied.

As for a ground, there are some different choices that I have used;

1. Vernice Bianca with one change in the recipe. Instead of Honey, use molasses. This produces a richer and darker color that is still transparent enough to allow the flaming to show through.

2. Pore filler from International Violin. Gives a good ground but reduces the flexibility of the plate when dried. Normally take 2 - 3 applications to seal the plates.

3. For student instruments Bullseye Shellac. Applied with a spray gun and cut 50 - 50 with Behkol. Dries in 15 min and ready for sanding and re-coating. This also gives an amber color.

After one of the grounds are used, the color coats can be applied, topped off with clear coats. Sanding to 3000 grit between coats is recommended. Cutting the varnish with Behkol 50/50 gives good results and is easy to touch up or refinish when needed.

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I'm going to try that neck finish, @Jim Bress

 

Looks really nice!

 

 As for varnishing the corpus, I don't use spirit varnish, really, but I thin oil varnish down so damn thin it approaches a spirit style. I add diamond G turpentine until almost water thin, about 7-1, then brush on fast. Takes about 16 coats total to build the color and film thickness (super dang thin) i'm looking for.

Edited by JacksonMaberry
Edited for clarity

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34 minutes ago, JacksonMaberry said:

I'm going to try that neck finish, @Jim Bress

 

Looks really nice!

I don't use spirit varnish, really, but I thin oil varnish down so damn thin it approaches a spirit style. I add diamond G turpentine until almost water thin, about 7-1, then brush on fast. Takes about 16 coats total to build the color and film thickness (super dang thin) i'm looking for.

I think that should work the same. I put a spot of burnt umber from a tube on a cloth first and rub it on and off hard to add some color and flame contrast first. Pretty much the same way I showed you how I apply a mineral ground. I’ve done a neck that way as well, but I think that shellac looks better on the neck. 

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55 minutes ago, Jim Bress said:

I think that should work the same. I put a spot of burnt umber from a tube on a cloth first and rub it on and off hard to add some color and flame contrast first. Pretty much the same way I showed you how I apply a mineral ground. I’ve done a neck that way as well, but I think that shellac looks better on the neck. 

I wasn't as clear as I should have been - my post above was, after my comment on your badass neck, about my general technique for varnishing. For necks specifically, I have been applying heavily oxidized linseed oil, sort of a honey color and consistency, and then buffing it off almost immediately, before curing in UV. I don't think the results are very good and I have discontinued the practice. 

I've been playing with the technique you shared, and I will keep it in mind when I do the neck necks. I'll apply the appropriate amount of Elijah Craig to ensure a consistent result. 

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7 hours ago, JacksonMaberry said:

I've been playing with the technique you shared, and I will keep it in mind when I do the neck necks. I'll apply the appropriate amount of Elijah Craig to ensure a consistent result. 

;)

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