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Geigenbauer

Tips for final varnishing steps

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I am continuing my varnish experiments and attached is a picture of my latest attempt using rosin and cooking it for an extended amount of time (many thanks to all the people who shared their experience here on the forum). My previous experience was with amber varnish only and I am quite happy with the color I got now with rosin. I will continue to work on color/cooking time next spring - it is getting a bit cold for me out there. In this sample varnish was applied to UV exposed maple that was treated with sodium nitrite and exposed again to UV overnight. No ground was used in this sample.

I am now at the point where I would like to get to a nice final finish (while continuing to test different grounds). I have looked through my books and some links on the forum and it seems that people use different techniques. I have some micromesh (1500 – 12000 I believe) that I plan to use to level the varnish between coats, but I am not sure how best to approach the final steps.  Shellac? Wax? Mineral spirit? Anybody willing to share their thoughts/recipe and some tips? Thanks

Varnish sample Nov_2019_small.jpg

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There are so many ways and choices to make, have you spent some time looking through some old varnish threads, there is a wealth of information on here already, time  searching through this information is well spent. When you find something interesting that you can relate to, take a screen shot and save it to a varnish folder as it is impossible to remember it all in one go. Save the good threads and then go back and reread them again. This is about like going to collage,, the reason people go to collage is to be spoon fed most of the time, the info is there if one has the motivation to find it and they will be the smarter for their effort.

This is not directed at you in particular, just saying, this is a long road, unless you just want someone to tell you what to do, which I certainly want sometimes.

The variables are infinite and what one says won't work another comes along and with a slight adjustment makes it work just fine.

I have never done the same thing twice, shellac, oil,, shellac and oil combined. Turpene varnish, amber varnish, tru oil,, brushed, hand rubbed, padded, super thick, super thin, mineral ground, protein ground, resin ground, no ground, colored ground, golden ground, oil based ground, water based ground,,,,,,,,,,,,.

It's like a big candy store, it's not the ingredients that matter as much as it is learning how to handle the variable of each one and learn what the boundary's are.

 Any more questions ?

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Nice color.

One way to think about a finish coat is as a protective coat to guard against wear and fading of the underlying colored varnish.

Consider something that dries clear and hard in a thin coat and can be easily touched up and polished to a range of finishes,  satin to gloss, to give yourself a lot of flexibility. If it provides some UV protection, that is a plus.

You want a finish with a refractive index close to the colored varnish so maximize optical transparency. Although if the colored layer is very smooth, then a finish with a higher index can intensify the underlying colors.

Rosin based oil varnishes and high quality shellacs can all be formulated to fit the above requirements. Like most things violin, you need to experiment with test samples first to figure out what works for you.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Evan Smith said:

There are so many ways and choices to make, have you spent some time looking through some old varnish threads, there is a wealth of information on here already, time  searching through this information is well spent. When you find something interesting that you can relate to, take a screen shot and save it to a varnish folder as it is impossible to remember it all in one go. Save the good threads and then go back and reread them again. This is about like going to collage,, the reason people go to collage is to be spoon fed most of the time, the info is there if one has the motivation to find it and they will be the smarter for their effort.

This is not directed at you in particular, just saying, this is a long road, unless you just want someone to tell you what to do, which I certainly want sometimes.

The variables are infinite and what one says won't work another comes along and with a slight adjustment makes it work just fine.

I have never done the same thing twice, shellac, oil,, shellac and oil combined. Turpene varnish, amber varnish, tru oil,, brushed, hand rubbed, padded, super thick, super thin, mineral ground, protein ground, resin ground, no ground, colored ground, golden ground, oil based ground, water based ground,,,,,,,,,,,,.

It's like a big candy store, it's not the ingredients that matter as much as it is learning how to handle the variable of each one and learn what the boundary's are.

 Any more questions ?

Many thanks for taking the time to write an answer. I understand now that there are many options. I naively assumed that polishing would be less complex than the ground/varnish… 

However, what would you recommend in the given situation as a good starting point? I am asking only about finishing a new instrument (not cleaning/polishing an older one). I am using a linseed oil based rosin varnish (with some mastic) that seems to harden nicely under UV exposure. 

What would you expect to work well under the described circumstances? 

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At this point I rarely if never sand between coats, if I have nibs or nits or whatever someone wants to call them, I use a brass scraper, about .005 to .015 thousands of an inch. Around the ribs at the corners is a great spot to ruin by trying to get rid of a bolder by sanding. A properly shaped and sharpened scraper works for me. I push it into the debris and it cuts it cleanly out. The same for the channels. don't sand, scrape. it's more controllable and predictable. If I want to de gloss I use a cleanser made out of calcium carbonate to abrade the surface, there again it is not super aggressive and it is controllable. I use a soft bristle brush to apply it and scrub a dub until I'm happy. A soft toothbrush works great around the ribs and scroll. If I have used a water based stain or some type of calcium on the wood  for a ground I use oil  to abraid as so not to get white spots under the varnish from using moisture, If everything is oil based in the first coats and ground I will use water to lubricate the de glossing procedure as it will have no potential long term effects, or ,,,,just use the power dry then clean up the mess. If I think that I absolutely have to sand something (other than the edges themselves)I  use completely worn out 400 grit wet or dry silicon carbide paper.

I apply the varnish with a regular synthetic varnish brush then continue brushing and spreading with a stiff brush,,, toothbrush,,, fingernail brush or the like and continue until the varnish feels like it is starting to dry, at that point you can use the hand to rapidly smooth and polish the surface a bit,,or not. You will learn not to stop with the hand during that process as you will have to be sold with the violin, or for ever put up with people asking why you always carry that violin around,, was it your grand mothers or something?

if done properly it will have no brush marks and be smooth and will dry to the wood retaining all the detail that we love so much to see. Then more color coats will have something interesting to creep into.

I use micro mesh for necks,

stiff brush for scrolls,

ketchup for burgers

and butter for rolls.

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1 hour ago, ctanzio said:

Nice color.

One way to think about a finish coat is as a protective coat to guard against wear and fading of the underlying colored varnish.

Consider something that dries clear and hard in a thin coat and can be easily touched up and polished to a range of finishes,  satin to gloss, to give yourself a lot of flexibility. If it provides some UV protection, that is a plus.

You want a finish with a refractive index close to the colored varnish so maximize optical transparency. Although if the colored layer is very smooth, then a finish with a higher index can intensify the underlying colors.

Rosin based oil varnishes and high quality shellacs can all be formulated to fit the above requirements. Like most things violin, you need to experiment with test samples first to figure out what works for you.

 

 

 

This is definitely worth saving and thinking about,,

1 hour ago, Urban Luthier said:

Nice colour on the sample above! The varnishing chapter in Hargrave's bass book talks about his french polishing technique. 

For my part i'm developing a workflow that allows me to leave the final surface unpolished with a little bit of texture

894062950_violavarnish.thumb.jpg.0faa6de2952945b8f6a6f59955c6392f.jpg

as is this!

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2 hours ago, Evan Smith said:

At this point I rarely if never sand between coats, if I have nibs or nits or whatever someone wants to call them, I use a brass scraper, about .005 to .015 thousands of an inch. Around the ribs at the corners is a great spot to ruin by trying to get rid of a bolder by sanding. A properly shaped and sharpened scraper works for me. I push it into the debris and it cuts it cleanly out. The same for the channels. don't sand, scrape. it's more controllable and predictable. If I want to de gloss I use a cleanser made out of calcium carbonate to abrade the surface, there again it is not super aggressive and it is controllable. I use a soft bristle brush to apply it and scrub a dub until I'm happy. A soft toothbrush works great around the ribs and scroll. If I have used a water based stain or some type of calcium on the wood  for a ground I use oil  to abraid as so not to get white spots under the varnish from using moisture, If everything is oil based in the first coats and ground I will use water to lubricate the de glossing procedure as it will have no potential long term effects, or ,,,,just use the power dry then clean up the mess. If I think that I absolutely have to sand something (other than the edges themselves)I  use completely worn out 400 grit wet or dry silicon carbide paper.

I apply the varnish with a regular synthetic varnish brush then continue brushing and spreading with a stiff brush,,, toothbrush,,, fingernail brush or the like and continue until the varnish feels like it is starting to dry, at that point you can use the hand to rapidly smooth and polish the surface a bit,,or not. You will learn not to stop with the hand during that process as you will have to be sold with the violin, or for ever put up with people asking why you always carry that violin around,, was it your grand mothers or something?

if done properly it will have no brush marks and be smooth and will dry to the wood retaining all the detail that we love so much to see. Then more color coats will have something interesting to creep into.

I use micro mesh for necks,

stiff brush for scrolls,

ketchup for burgers

and butter for rolls.

Again many thanks for taking the time to put all of this together. Much appreciated! This gives me a lot to think about and try out!

Will try to find some thin brass online.

BTW: I agree on the ketchup. Not sure about the butter...

Many thanks also to ctanzio for the advice. I will cook some non-colored rosin varnish next spring and try this for as thin top coat.

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Using oil varnish directly on wood can lead to more added weight and damping than most makers might want to avoid, but since the question was a bout getting a smooth finish...

I would try thickening the varnish with fumed silica or pumice, to a toothpaste consistency, and rub it on to fill the "pores" (vessels, actually), keeping the layer as thin as possible.  Perhaps one thin coat of straight varnish after that.

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1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

Using oil varnish directly on wood can lead to more added weight and dampin

Thank you Don and apologies for not being clear enough. The picture is a test piece and I am planning to use a ground on the instrument once it is ready. Right now I am trying thick rosin oil (Kremer) and David Sora's mastic in alcohol recipe on both maple and spruce under the same varnish. So far the rosin oil looks most promising. I know there are a lot more options of course. I will do a more comprehensive test at a later point.

My question was about the final step of smoothing the varnish and getting to a shine.The varnish itself is colored and therefore I am not sure how best to approach this step: Make a similar (rosin based) un-colored varnish and apply this as the last coat(s) for polishing? Use French polish instead (I have never tried that)? Polish using tripoIi in oil or use a commercially available polishing product? I already got a lot of good tips to try but appreciate any additional ideas. Thanks

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Like Evan, I do no sanding or leveling between coats. There will be some sanding after all the varnish has been applied, but not over the entire instrument, only in spots where I need to get rid of "nits".

There is no clear coat on top. Just french polishing after the spot sanding, (although I suppose one could say that the french polishing applies a very minor layer of clearcoat.)

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2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

Like Evan, I do no sanding or leveling between coats. There will be some sanding after all the varnish has been applied, but not over the entire instrument, only in spots where I need to get rid of "nits".

There is no clear coat on top. Just french polishing after the spot sanding, (although I suppose one could say that the french polishing applies a very minor layer of clearcoat.)

Thank you David. I will definitely try that. Ordered some shellac from Kremer yesterday...

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21 hours ago, Geigenbauer said:

I am now at the point where I would like to get to a nice final finish.

Varnish sample Nov_2019_small.jpg

Looks nice.

For an oil varnish I would be careful with French polish. If the varnish is not absolutely dry it can create pretty large cracks. 

I use usually only a very old polish rag and spray some alcohol on it (no polish) to smoothen the surface of oil varnish. If there are bigger bumps somewhere #1000 water proof paper works best for me. 

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14 hours ago, Don Noon said:

Using oil varnish directly on wood can lead to more added weight and damping than most makers might want to avoid, but since the question was a bout getting a smooth finish...

I wonder if you can measure the weight difference.

Concerning the damping I always wonder if this has anything to do with varnish penetration into the wood or not rather just the varnish properties itself. Despite its negative image I prefer a varnish which gets hard and is not elastic. All the varnishes which are somehow like rubber after drying seem to dampen the sound more than harder types. 

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9 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

I use usually only a very old polish rag and spray some alcohol on it (no polish) to smoothen the surface of oil varnish. If there are bigger bumps somewhere #1000 water proof paper works best for me. 

Thank you Andreas for the reply. I will give that a try.

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Just now, Geigenbauer said:

Thank you Andreas for the reply. I will give that a try.

It's really important to use a very old rug. It needs some 'feeling' to get the right pressure a couple speed. (New rugs stick to the surface more easily and can make a mess.)

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On ‎11‎/‎15‎/‎2019 at 4:18 PM, Evan Smith said:

There are so many ways and choices to make, have you spent some time looking through some old varnish threads, there is a wealth of information on here already, time  searching through this information is well spent. When you find something interesting that you can relate to, take a screen shot and save it to a varnish folder as it is impossible to remember it all in one go. Save the good threads and then go back and reread them again. This is about like going to collage,, the reason people go to collage is to be spoon fed most of the time, the info is there if one has the motivation to find it and they will be the smarter for their effort.

This is not directed at you in particular, just saying, this is a long road, unless you just want someone to tell you what to do, which I certainly want sometimes.

The variables are infinite and what one says won't work another comes along and with a slight adjustment makes it work just fine.

I have never done the same thing twice, shellac, oil,, shellac and oil combined. Turpene varnish, amber varnish, tru oil,, brushed, hand rubbed, padded, super thick, super thin, mineral ground, protein ground, resin ground, no ground, colored ground, golden ground, oil based ground, water based ground,,,,,,,,,,,,.

It's like a big candy store, it's not the ingredients that matter as much as it is learning how to handle the variable of each one and learn what the boundary's are.

 Any more questions ?

Hi Evan, luv. I know I would like to ask you for advice but, I would rather not. I know how to finish a violin as well as start, middle and er nd but I am not sure yet that you would stick your neck out and put examples are your crafting of a violin and it's varnishing up. I am a woman and have. So here goes. As long as ppl put a colourless varnish to give depth to the underlying wood figure, and the carving is not bloated by coloured varnishing and, that the micro millimetres of layers, give everything depth and translucency within the under layers, then your eyes are deceived until someone goes and slaps some French polish, or rubs out the chanteuse of seeing coloured layers as a homogeneous depth, well, basically if everyone wants to know what to put on top of their coloured layers, just plainly speaking with respect, if you want a piano, then rub out the final layer and use button polish. If not, use oil based yellow Damar based oil varnish. Don't rub it out. Leave it to dry slowly with plenty of air. Apply with a varnish sponge. It keeps your important wood finishing skills intact and if you don't mind, stop slagging off me and women. Okay? I will post a photo of my finish in detail just to prove that I am worthwhile maybe listening to without being attacked. I actually make violins you know luv. X

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5 hours ago, morgana said:

Hi Evan, luv. I know I would like to ask you for advice but, I would rather not. I know how to finish a violin as well as start, middle and er nd but I am not sure yet that you would stick your neck out and put examples are your crafting of a violin and it's varnishing up. I am a woman and have. ... if you don't mind, stop slagging off me and women. Okay? I will post a photo of my finish in detail just to prove that I am worthwhile maybe listening to without being attacked. I actually make violins you know luv. X

What are you talking about?

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Morgana luv, many of us are highly acquainted with the high talent and experience levels of various women in our trade.

If you have somehow failed to realize that, how did that come about?

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