Don Noon

Durable, sweat-proof varnish or polish

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I have never had this problem with my own instruments, probably because I only log a few hours per year in actually playing.  But for ones that actually see significant use, my usual rosin/oil varnish takes a punishing at the usual places.  Like this one that has seen a few months of semi-professional use:

201013.JPG.aff6e4f24ca5725a9a40acbbbf5bdfe7.JPG

First: what is the best way to cear off this gunk?  I presume it's some dried emulsion of varnish, sweat, and skin grease.

I know there are plastic protectors that can be applied, but as an alternative, what sweat-resistant coating or varnish would be best here?  It is not a historical treasure, so modern non-reversible treatments would be just fine

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Please God, don't strike me dead! Carefully used Formby's Furniture Refinished will take that off. A modern oil based spar varnish might be an option for a coating.

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I wear the varnish right off there within a month or two of professional playing, and then sweat starts attacking the wood, so I use the plastic protector films, and have never had a problem with them. No one can see them, and I don't really notice them either. There is still a bit of deterioration on the top and bottom edge of the tape, but it saves most of the varnish. I am told they are easily removable when cleaning and touch up work is needed. I admit I didn't like the idea of plastic on my viola at first, but in practice it's a non-issue.

Due I suppose to Covid supply issues, the maker who set up a viola I purchased recently didn't have the tape or plastic film available, and although we have been off work for the most part since late January, I have already significantly damaged the rib varnish. I keep waiting for Covid to simmer down a bit before I go back to the luthier to get the varnish repaired and the tape installed...

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It it is a gummy thing, it will be removed when you try to clean or polish it...  skin chemistry changes a lot...  I would use the plastic tape too.

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For sealing the varnish once cleaned, have you considered Chinese cashew varnish, or its chemical relative, Japanese urushi lacquer?  They're toxic until cured, but inoffensive and nearly invulnerable afterwards.  While applying, they thin with pure pine turpentine.  :)

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I think I would start with oil paint thinner which is similar to diesel fuel.  Q-tip application.  I suspect you will lose some of the varnish since it has reacted with the sweat.

This problem is the reason why you want to use a particulate ground--it provides a wear-resistant layer since the particulates are hard as a rock.  I know that there is a lot of confusion about whether a particulate ground exists, but it would be useful for this situation.

You can reapply your varnish or use violadamore's ideal of applying urushi varnish--perhaps after applying coats of your varnish to restore the color.  It would make sense to then apply a  plastic , clear tape.  But there is always the danger that the adhesive will also react with the varnish.


Another idea is the clean the mung off and then french polish it or use your airbrush  to spray shellac to get a fast build-up.

Mike D

 

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1 hour ago, Mike_Danielson said:

This problem is the reason why you want to use a particulate ground--it provides a wear-resistant layer since the particulates are hard as a rock.  I know that there is a lot of confusion about whether a particulate ground exists, but it would be useful for this situation.

egg white is the toughest stuff I've run across so far for wood.

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8 hours ago, Don Noon said:

I have never had this problem with my own instruments, probably because I only log a few hours per year in actually playing.  But for ones that actually see significant use, my usual rosin/oil varnish takes a punishing at the usual places.  Like this one that has seen a few months of semi-professional use:

201013.JPG.aff6e4f24ca5725a9a40acbbbf5bdfe7.JPG

First: what is the best way to cear off this gunk?  I presume it's some dried emulsion of varnish, sweat, and skin grease.

I know there are plastic protectors that can be applied, but as an alternative, what sweat-resistant coating or varnish would be best here?  It is not a historical treasure, so modern non-reversible treatments would be just fine

Uh oh. That looks like what can happen with original Cremonese varnish. :)

Have you experimented to see if that will soften/emulsify and come off with water? Once it's off, it might look OK without some colored varnish retouching, or it might not.

Shellac is a pretty good barrier coating. Plastic film is more durable for a high wear area like that.

 

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11 minutes ago, joerobson said:

#1 solution (pardon the varnish maker's joke) is Amber Varnish.

#2 solution is Shellac

on we go,

Joe

Other solutions are available. Just saying.

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3 hours ago, David Burgess said:

Have you experimented to see if that will soften/emulsify and come off with water?

Not yet.  I thought I'd let folks with some experience chime in before doing anything.

1 hour ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Plastic tape films, as David suggested, are really the best solution for this. 

if you haven't done this before I can give you some instructions and points how to do it.

I haven't used plastic films before, and this would be a good place to post tips on what to use, where to get it, and how to apply it.

39 minutes ago, joerobson said:

#1 solution (pardon the varnish maker's joke) is Amber Varnish.

What about a short-oil copal varnish?

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23 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

Not yet.  I thought I'd let folks with some experience chime in before doing anything.

I haven't used plastic films before, and this would be a good place to post tips on what to use, where to get it, and how to apply it.

What about a short-oil copal varnish?

Here is what I made last year on one of my own instruments. If I get 20minutes tomorrow I might make a short video clip to explain how to do it.

i won't go in detail how to dot ouch up. My own approach is somehow to go step by step from the outside to the inside but I am sure other restorers do it differently. 

For the plastic cover you need 

wide clear tape

paper which doesn't stick to clear tape 

a sharp knife

a ruler

cotton tips

(Hopefully more tomorrow)

------------------

basically all varnishes have the disadvantage that they need to dry entirely. I knew a shop which used varnish for wooden ship bodies. 

 

image.jpeg

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5 hours ago, David Burgess said:

Have you experimented to see if that will soften/emulsify and come off with water?

Tried it... and yeah, it softened to where it could be rubbed off.  Kinda like dead skin on your feet after a shower.

I don't think it would need retouching, as there is still some ground and varnish in the wood... and it's torrefied maple, and won't get very white anyway.  I just need to protect it from what is apparently a very sweaty player.

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44 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

Tried it... and yeah, it softened to where it could be rubbed off.  Kinda like dead skin on your feet after a shower.

Ewe! :lol: But I will presume that it left a hard break line between the fully varnished and unvarnished areas, a lot like we see on the better-preserved old Cremonese instruments (those which have not yet been sanded or polished or retouched to death).

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55 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Ewe! :lol: But I will presume that it left a hard break line between the fully varnished and unvarnished areas, a lot like we see on the better-preserved old Cremonese instruments (those which have not yet been sanded or polished or retouched to death).

It looks like this now... aaah, the golden glow of torrefied maple:).  I don't think it needs any real retouching, as it looks (and is) naturally antiqued now, and not supposed to be straight shiny new.

201014.JPG.e6f129937073cc2eb0b106c7dcd57ca4.JPG

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Gentle rubbing with a soft quality eraser,  as well as a linen cloth with a few drops of water for lubrication should work well to clear the sticky grey, black varnish gunge.
The question I'd ask the client is  if the varnish wear is causing problems whilst playing, handling, i,e.really sticky, or just a visual 'problem'. As has been pointed out earlier, it's not unlike some quality varnishes. It will wear down naturally over time anyway, and then you may wish to protect the rib wood. Though depending on the varnish ground layer, sweat penetration might affect the rib prior that. By the looks of your last picture you have done a good job already!
The conundrum with non antiqued instruments and the natural wear through playing is real. It's useful to perhaps show the client some semi modern instruments  (in illustrations if not first hand) with a soft varnish wear pattern, to show how an instrument might 'develop' over the coming years.
And remember: One makers faulty varnish might be a dealers Venetian masterpiece ;-)

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Geez...just apply a couple of light coats of water-based poly to that sweat-cursed area...no one will notice, problem solved. :mellow:

Hey? What's happening? Hell is freezing over you say? :huh:

Uh-oh...

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7 hours ago, Don Noon said:

It looks like this now... aaah, the golden glow of torrefied maple:).  I don't think it needs any real retouching, as it looks (and is) naturally antiqued now, and not supposed to be straight shiny new.

201014.JPG.e6f129937073cc2eb0b106c7dcd57ca4.JPG

I've found that D'lemonine works wonderfully for this kind of cleaning. I haven't come across a varnish that it reacts with adversely yet. It works fast and smells nice. 

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How do we know that it is safe to use a clear film that is self-adhesive to the varnish?  What if it reacts with the varnish and lifts the varnish?  Has anyone run any tests on this?  I think it is prudent to be very careful.

It looks like Don has lost the varnish down to the ground.  This is an opportunity to practice some restoration techniques.  

Does this varnish contain any of the cooked iron rosinate that was a recent conversation on this site?

Mike D

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1 hour ago, scordatura said:

You might try this Don. It has been used by shops on upper bout and also on bow handles. https://www.amazon.com/Tact-Brand-Covering-Self-Adhesive-Semi-Transparent/dp/B00D8GBO2G

2 minutes ago, Mike_Danielson said:

How do we know that it is safe to use a clear film that is self-adhesive to the varnish?  What if it reacts with the varnish and lifts the varnish?  Has anyone run any tests on this?

Certainly there are a lot of high-end instruments with plastic protection on this area, and it would seem well-tested and safe... for whatever is being used by the high-end shops.  I'd like to hear from those who know.what is being used.

The violin for this topic didn't come in for any of this... he wanted a higher bridge.  It's antiqued, so there's no real need to restore anything.  I'd just like to protect it from further damage.  The degradation shown is from ~7 months of use, so I can't imagine what would happen over several years. Much less 300 years.

 

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I'll bet that the wear patterns on many old Cremonese instruments happened early in their lives. Not that that might solve your problem.

I'm also convinced that much of the wear at this spot happens when resting and  sitting with your hand on the instrument, not necessarily from playing, so its a habit that can be changed (look at many of the players in this photo, esp on the right)

sun sym.jpg

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42 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

Certainly there are a lot of high-end instruments with plastic protection on this area, and it would seem well-tested and safe... for whatever is being used by the high-end shops.  I'd like to hear from those who know.what is being used.

The violin for this topic didn't come in for any of this... he wanted a higher bridge.  It's antiqued, so there's no real need to restore anything.  I'd just like to protect it from further damage.  The degradation shown is from ~7 months of use, so I can't imagine what would happen over several years. Much less 300 years.

 

It was confirmed by the people at Bein and Fushi. Also Erwin Hertel (worked at Wurlitzer with Sacconi) used the product. If the varnish is well cured it will come off with a little warming and some patience. The problem is protecting the edge of the top and back. The contact vinyl really only goes on the rib. I have it on my expensive bows.

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