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Varnish Damage: How can I prevent further damage/fix it myself


Amberviolin
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Hello! Three months ago, I bought a violin from a contemporary violin maker in New York. Combine South Texas heat with daily five hour practice sessions and you get sweaty palms! Somehow, in that short time frame, that led to the varnish on the shoulder of my violin break down rather quickly. How can I prevent further damage and will I be able to repair it myself? I would rather not take the violin to the luthier at this time because the pandemic in Texas is quite bad right now...

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I would understand if you don't feel this way about it, but personally, I rejoice when I see wear like this on my own violins. It shows that the varnish is nice and soft, and that real use is creating natural wear. Your violin looks like it has a good ground underneath the varnish, and that should protect the wood from sweat and contact, so if it were my violin, I'd just let it wear and wouldn't worry about it. 

If you brought it to a luthier, he could put a plastic film on it, or over-polish/varnish the area, but those actions only make sense to me if the wood were exposed and subject to damage. As far as things you could do yourself at home, I really can't think of anything that would be effective and not damaging to what looks like a nice oil-based varnish.

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11 minutes ago, Michael Appleman said:

I would understand if you don't feel this way about it, but personally, I rejoice when I see wear like this on my own violins. It shows that the varnish is nice and soft, and that real use is creating natural wear. Your violin looks like it has a good ground underneath the varnish, and that should protect the wood from sweat and contact, so if it were my violin, I'd just let it wear and wouldn't worry about it. 

If you brought it to a luthier, he could put a plastic film on it, or over-polish/varnish the area, but those actions only make sense to me if the wood were exposed and subject to damage. As far as things you could do yourself at home, I really can't think of anything that would be effective and not damaging to what looks like a nice oil-based varnish.

Thank you for your input Michael! 

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It is common and normal for varnish on violins to become worn and degraded by hand/wrist contact in this area.  Covering the treble upper bout rib with transparent tape to protect the varnish is standard.  Often a piece of clear, self-adhesive shelf liner is used.  You could probably put it on yourself.  You should not try to repair the varnish yourself or remove the tape after you have put it on.

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21 hours ago, Dwight Brown said:

I live in south Texas as well. I’m pretty much with Michael on this. It should be a pretty simple job to get the right clear protective tape put on if you want to. If you can let me know about where you are I can find somebody who could help you out. I’m in Del Rio.

DLB

Hello @Dwight Brown ! Unfortunately, I live quite aways from Del Rio near the Brownsville area. Would you happen to know any luthiers that are closer? I would greatly appreciate this because it would be nice not to drive so far for a good luthier.

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That is somewhat fast wear, as I tend to have more damaging sweat and can not recall seeing that much movement before in three months time on an established maker instrument.

To be fair, your photo is not quite a before and after, so the assumption is that you've had the most impact on the rib area.

As to Maestro Molnar's point, prevention is likely prudent. You have your eye on the area so that is good. I would also check the effects on the edge of top. 

Hope you are taking short breaks during those five hour sessions. I would look for possible wear in other areas of the instrument just to stay on top of things. 

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Just the kind of wear that I delight in seeing on a violin, it means that the maker is at least making an attempt at using something that resembles a traditional varnish, rather than a modern bulletproof one.

I'm with Brad, that a piece of clear Contac paper (plastic shelf liner) going about down to mid-bout is the usual way to deal with this. And to reinforce: if you try to take it off yourself, even immediately when you think it's not going on straight, you WIILL be sorry! One way to deal with putting it on is to leave the backing on while trimming to fit, then cut about 5 mm of backing off at the end that goes against the neck. Put the whole tape down so it lnes up well, then last, press down that 5mm. Alignment assured, lift the tape back up, still attached at the neck, and peel the backing  off underneath down  from the neck while attaching the tape, slowly in a nice smooth movement as the adhesive is revealed.

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@GoPractice Thank you! I am in love with my instrument! And to your previous post, because my violin was made in 2018 it may have been the previous owner who has done some of the wear. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of when I first got the violin so I can't say for certain. @Michael Darnton and @Brad Dorsey I have heard of violins having clear tape in the area but I will probably wait for a luthier to do the procedure. I quite don't trust myself haha.

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I live in North Texas, and I have a Caron cello. When I took it to the maker, after a couple years, for maintenance, I told him I was a bit disappointed at the wear in fourth position. He was not the least bit nonplussed, told me I had sweaty hands, said the wear was entirely normal, and put a sheet of contact paper on the spot. He put another sheet on the opposite side of the neck, just for good measure. He did touch up the varnish on the edge a little bit, but that was kind of futile. I make a point of wiping down my cello every time I put it up because apparently I have sweaty hands… Who knew?

Why not contact the maker directly and ask him if there’s any need to send him the Violin in person and let him go over it. It’s certainly the off-season right now, and you don’t have to go in person. And a soothing word from the guy who made the violin would be appreciated.

BTW, South Texas is enormous. My immediate thought was humid and miserable Houston but then I realized there’s another 500 miles or so of Texas that is farther south, Ha ha ha.

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On 6/20/2020 at 8:47 AM, Amberviolin said:

Hello @Dwight Brown ! Unfortunately, I live quite aways from Del Rio near the Brownsville area. Would you happen to know any luthiers that are closer? I would greatly appreciate this because it would be nice not to drive so far for a good luthier.

I know someone in Austin and in San Antonio but that is still a bit of a drive . I can ask my Austin friend.

DLB

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On 6/20/2020 at 11:25 AM, Michael_Molnar said:

I am not an expert about repair work which is an art form in my opinion. However, try a little prevention that does no harm. I would wipe down the bout in question with a damp towel to mop up acidic, salty sweat. Then, wipe again with a clean dry towel.

 

 

Good prudent advice from Mr. Molnar. I would only add: the damp towel wipe down would benefit from being dampened with distilled water as opposed to ordinary tap or well-water which could contain other damaging minerals and/or chemicals.

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