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Nuuska

Varnish repair or redo

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I'm in for a contemporary instrument. The woodworking part is very well done, the wood is quite beautiful, and it plays extraordinary well. Only thing is that the varnish is a little bit... too far from perfect. The varnish itself is nice, but it is applied uneven and looks like it maybe had been too thick when applied. As the price is good and the purchase will be made for myself as a secondary instrument, this is not a no-go, and you definitely need to come close to notice. Nevertheless, I'd eventually try to bring it to perfection. 

I was thinking about the wood filler method - applying water soluble wood filler, then sand the irregularities like drops and strands down while the filler protects the rest of the surface, then washing off the rest of the wood filler and polish or add a final layer of retouch varnish if necessary. I did this several times and it worked neatly on various surfaces (it is actually also used with cars where I learned about it) but only on smaller spots and not on almost a whole instrument. So I'm interested if maybe someone else will have a better idea. 

What would be your favorite approach for a job like this?

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If you didn't make it, you shouldn't revarnish it.

If you can't stand the way it looks, just pass on it and keep looking. 

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Duane, I certainly can stand the way it looks. Otherwise I would not consider a purchase. Well, if the maker would do a better varnish job, he could easily charge double price and more, so these are definitely minor issues. 

Nevertheless, I had good results with this technique in repairs of smaller spots, where the varnish had become melted. Since the wood filler protects the less prominent areas, less material is removed, and less retouching necessary. In this case, I wouldn't go for a revarnish but rather for a removal of the excess here and there. 

I expected answers like that, and it's what my common sense is telling me, but I guess I needed someone else to confirm.   ;-)  And I do admit some concerns about messing things up. Think I'll mess-up-varnish some ordinary wood planks for a test series. 

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Nice to see you here on Maestronet, Nuuska!  I've enjoyed reading your helpful and sensible posts on a couple of other forums.

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Arglebargle, mainly an instrument this time. But I have bought both in the past. I'm a tinkerer... Not claiming to do a pro level work by far, and my own "good" instruments would always go to a pro if there was more to do than the usual service and maintainance job. In this case I'll go slow anyway. And haven't decided to do anything at all. I'm rather looking for ideas, and if I learned there could be done something easily and minimally invasive (outside a complete revarnish) but needed some serious training, I'd hand it over. 

J-G, thank you for the warm welcome! I'm aware this here isn't a petting zoo, so I'm prepared for any kind of objection, and I'm willing to listen since this is part of why I'm asking, but it's good to receive something else, too. 

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15 hours ago, Nuuska said:

Duane, I certainly can stand the way it looks. Otherwise I would not consider a purchase. Well, if the maker would do a better varnish job, he could easily charge double price and more, so these are definitely minor issues. 

Nevertheless, I had good results with this technique in repairs of smaller spots, where the varnish had become melted. Since the wood filler protects the less prominent areas, less material is removed, and less retouching necessary. In this case, I wouldn't go for a revarnish but rather for a removal of the excess here and there. 

I expected answers like that, and it's what my common sense is telling me, but I guess I needed someone else to confirm.   ;-)  And I do admit some concerns about messing things up. Think I'll mess-up-varnish some ordinary wood planks for a test series. 

Could you show us pictures?

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45 minutes ago, Michael Szyper said:

Could you show us pictures

Will meet the instrument again in 1-2 weeks (both me and the current owner are out of town right now). I'll try to post pictures as soon as I'll have it. 

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Here you might get an impression of what I'm talking about. It's a bit rough work in general, but definitely a good instrument soundwise. 

IMG_20200807_100742.jpg

IMG_20200807_100615.jpg

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4 hours ago, Nuuska said:

 

IMG_20200807_100615.jpg

I'm thinking with extra figured rib wood {deep tiger stripes} it's o.k. to have some "lumpiness".  If that's just plain wood or less figured rib wood then his varnish , wood or brush is just plain dirty/gritty.

That lumpy looking varnish on the belly can enhance sound if the maker made something good from the start.  It doesn't look as well as my homemade varnish on my own wood and I'm still a novice violin maker.  

Over time,  I'd like to think the finish on your violin will just simply "die down" - that's what we call it in the paint trade.

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Arching (from what you can see), setup (fingerboard), edgework and varnish seem a bit odd to me. Varnish seems to have plenty of dirt inclusions. You might strip the whole varnish and revarnish it, but unless you are really experienced in this kind of work, it won’t improve the look IMO.

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Michael, I think you're right. There are a several oddities about it, and monetary value therefore isn't high, for sure it would be hard to resell even with perfect looking varnish. The varnish in general isn't very pleasing, rather dull and lifeless, which is a pity since the underlying wood is really beautiful. 

But regarding it from a players view and for what it is - an amateur built fiddle - it serves darn good as an instrument. From sound and playability, it's a professional instrument, even if it doesn't look like one. The fingerboard would definitely need some work. Compared to all instruments I tried and played yet it easily keeps up with anything in the €15k spheres. If I don't regard it as an investment but simply as a musical instrument for the next decades, it's the best I'll ever be able to get for what I'd pay. That's what makes me think... 

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The varnish just needs rubbing down. Jezzupe's suggestion is ok, you could alternativly use 600 waterproof paper and water, then polish it up afterwards

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Jacob, thank you for your kind advice. But how would I sand down all these bumps without too much thinning of the varni in between? (It's relatively thin on the top plate, at least.) 

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16 hours ago, uncle duke said:

I'm thinking with extra figured rib wood {deep tiger stripes} it's o.k. to have some "lumpiness".  If that's just plain wood or less figured rib wood then his varnish , wood or brush is just plain dirty/gritty.

That lumpy looking varnish on the belly can enhance sound if the maker made something good from the start.  It doesn't look as well as my homemade varnish on my own wood and I'm still a novice violin maker.  

Over time,  I'd like to think the finish on your violin will just simply "die down" - that's what we call it in the paint trade.

uncle duke, you mean it's not "dirt" that got into the varnish but just the varnish itself? And it will be leveling by itself over time? How long would you expect this process to take? (The instrument is about 12-18 months old now.) 

In fact, it's nicely figured wood, but since the varnish is rather dull the figures aren't highlighted. It looks a bit like liquid cream fudge... 

Maybe I got you wrong, but how could the lumps in the varnish enhance sound? 

 

Edited by Nuuska
One more question

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1 hour ago, Nuuska said:

Michael, I think you're right. There are a several oddities about it, and monetary value therefore isn't high, for sure it would be hard to resell even with perfect looking varnish. The varnish in general isn't very pleasing, rather dull and lifeless, which is a pity since the underlying wood is really beautiful. 

But regarding it from a players view and for what it is - an amateur built fiddle - it serves darn good as an instrument. From sound and playability, it's a professional instrument, even if it doesn't look like one. The fingerboard would definitely need some work. Compared to all instruments I tried and played yet it easily keeps up with anything in the €15k spheres. If I don't regard it as an investment but simply as a musical instrument for the next decades, it's the best I'll ever be able to get for what I'd pay. That's what makes me think... 

If you can afford it easily, then it should be the way to go. In this case I would absolutely second the advise of Jacob Saunders. Just out of curiosity, what price range this instrument would be?

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3 hours ago, Nuuska said:

uncle duke, you mean it's not "dirt" that got into the varnish but just the varnish itself? And it will be leveling by itself over time? How long would you exp this process to take? (The instrument is about 12-18 months old now.) 

In fact, it's nicely figured wood, but since the varnish is rather dull the figures aren't highlighted. It looks a bit like liquid cream fudge... 

Upon closer view to the rib you presented it appears those are solvent "nibs" weather from the brush or the varnish "jar" I can't tell from here.  It's unblended ingredient.    It doesn't appear to be dirt.  Dirt in a varnish could be for example undisolved resin, asphaltum particles, lime, etc. that made it through the filter and sometimes sugar crystals, like I use, can be present.  Some don't use a filter for cleaning up newly made varnish.  

Your maker may of made a faster drying varnish and just getting it onto wood was first priority.  

I didn't mention leveling.  Dying down is just everything ingredient wise drying out, evaporating and sheen adjustment afterwards.  Timewise I've never really paid attention after a few months of stringing up to dying down effects..

It's possible the varnish on the belly is acceptable for most.  Me, I was taught to make things look better but I'll add I didn't learn varnish application from the violin trade.  

 

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4 hours ago, Michael Szyper said:

If you can afford it easily, then it should be the way to go. In this case I would absolutely second the advise of Jacob Saunders. Just out of curiosity, what price range this instrument would be?

It's around €5k, so thanks to my daytime job it isn't a big stretch. Still some substantial money, but I don't have to break the bank. 

In this range I've found plenty of handsome looking instruments with boring or hollow sound or other severe tonal issues. In this case it's a bit vice versa. But the more I play it, the more I like it. It's a viola, BTW - not easy to find something really fancy for that money. It's definitely easier with violins! 

And it isn't intended as my main instrument (although it definitely plays well enough to serve as such, but I already own a pretty fine viola), but shall be stored at another place where I happen to be quite regularly and don't want to bring an instrument every time, especially because the car will be parked in the freezing cold or hot summer sun for hours during occasional stops. I will have to perform on it from time to time, though. For this purpose, it's the ideal bang for the buck. But if I could improve it's visual appearance so that I could love it a bit more even from that aspect, it would be nice and highly appreciated. (Not that I'd expect this to maximize its financial value.) 

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On 8/7/2020 at 4:33 PM, jacobsaunders said:

The varnish just needs rubbing down. Jezzupe's suggestion is ok, you could alternativly use 600 waterproof paper and water, then polish it up afterwards

Jacob, since this still is some substantial money and I wouldn't mess it up any further. What would this kind of job cost (+/-) if done professionally? It doesn't sound like major surgery, but a bit time consuming... I'm about 180km from your workshop, if I figured it out correctly ;-)

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10 hours ago, Nuuska said:

Jacob, since this still is some substantial money and I wouldn't mess it up any further. What would this kind of job cost (+/-) if done professionally? It doesn't sound like major surgery, but a bit time consuming... I'm about 180km from your workshop, if I figured it out correctly ;-)

You only supply 2 detail pictures that one may form an impression. My impression is that I would not want to get involved, should it represent “substantial money”

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The fingerboard looks unusually thin, and (it may just be the perspective) it looks as if it has a string height issue. So possibly you need a neck reset and a new fingerboard. I'd pass on this one.

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