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Need advice on final varnish flattening/polishing


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My varnishing schedule is as follows: Light sanding with 1200 grit wet and dry in between each oil varnish coat

Sealed with gelatine.  Light sanding with 1200 grit

Water based stain

primer coat by Joha

7 coats of oil based colour varnish

2 coats of oil based clear varnish  followed by 2500 and 3000 grit with polishing oil

Even though I sanded in between varnish coats the final surface is not flat on the front and you will see shiney spots and dull spots after using 3000 grit.  I have not tried sanding the back yet as the finish looks much better without sanding.

Any advice on how I might improve the finish on the front?  The more I sand, the risk of creating lighter lines along the grain.IMG20210504175713.thumb.jpg.983f63e9c3a6de9020fbabd5f1d2b705.jpgIMG20210504175649.thumb.jpg.b89577a9f1f2d23fcb1423fb39738f0f.jpg

 

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Beautiful violin. Your varnishing skills are probably a lot more experienced than mine. Having said that, this might help you. In the final step, which is where you are now, if you use pumice and a soft felt cloth you will reach down into the recessed areas and they will have the same patina as the higher areas. Then, you can repeat the process with rottenstone which will give a more polished surface. I use water with the pumice and then with the rottenstone many use oil; I have used water and oil. Sand paper is a flat surface even though it flexes. It will not reach into the lower areas without taking too much off of the higher areas. The pumice/rottenstone with a very clean felt pad reaches both layers without taking too much off of the high areas.  Joe Robson has written on this last step in The Best of Trade Secrets #1. He uses a rubbing pad made from an old t-shirt material. I believe he uses a cotton pad dipped in linseed oil for the rottenstone. He then uses a flower dusting to remove excess oil. I would recommend following his process. I am fairly new still in finishing violins and he is way on the other end of the spectrum. Nice violin.

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1 hour ago, Paul McClean said:

My varnishing schedule is as follows: Light sanding with 1200 grit wet and dry in between each oil varnish coat

Sealed with gelatine.  Light sanding with 1200 grit

Water based stain

primer coat by Joha

7 coats of oil based colour varnish

2 coats of oil based clear varnish  followed by 2500 and 3000 grit with polishing oil

Even though I sanded in between varnish coats the final surface is not flat on the front and you will see shiney spots and dull spots after using 3000 grit.  I have not tried sanding the back yet as the finish looks much better without sanding.

Any advice on how I might improve the finish on the front?  The more I sand, the risk of creating lighter lines along the grain.IMG20210504175713.thumb.jpg.983f63e9c3a6de9020fbabd5f1d2b705.jpgIMG20210504175649.thumb.jpg.b89577a9f1f2d23fcb1423fb39738f0f.jpg

 

You said you want a flat surface. Before anything else, how did you finished the surface? Scrapper or sandpaper? 

For the flat front (which is not my favorite) you have to finish with sandpaper (that needs small sand. blocks etc). It is tricky and need care (because of the wood appiarence later). Then you need to pass all the violin with a little water. Dry it. Then sand it again. So, the surface have to be completely flat. 

At this stage you will need more coats of varnish. Varnish/sanding til you find the flat. A process which is questionable. 

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1 hour ago, Greg Sigworth said:

Beautiful violin. Your varnishing skills are probably a lot more experienced than mine. Having said that, this might help you. In the final step, which is where you are now, if you use pumice and a soft felt cloth you will reach down into the recessed areas and they will have the same patina as the higher areas. Then, you can repeat the process with rottenstone which will give a more polished surface. I use water with the pumice and then with the rottenstone many use oil; I have used water and oil. Sand paper is a flat surface even though it flexes. It will not reach into the lower areas without taking too much off of the higher areas. The pumice/rottenstone with a very clean felt pad reaches both layers without taking too much off of the high areas.  Joe Robson has written on this last step in The Best of Trade Secrets #1. He uses a rubbing pad made from an old t-shirt material. I believe he uses a cotton pad dipped in linseed oil for the rottenstone. He then uses a flower dusting to remove excess oil. I would recommend following his process. I am fairly new still in finishing violins and he is way on the other end of the spectrum. Nice violin.

Thank you Greg.  I have both Pumice and Rottenstone so can give that a go and alway apply more colour/clear varnish if I go too deep.

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1 hour ago, Goran74 said:

You said you want a flat surface. Before anything else, how did you finished the surface? Scrapper or sandpaper? 

For the flat front (which is not my favorite) you have to finish with sandpaper (that needs small sand. blocks etc). It is tricky and need care (because of the wood appiarence later). Then you need to pass all the violin with a little water. Dry it. Then sand it again. So, the surface have to be completely flat. 

At this stage you will need more coats of varnish. Varnish/sanding til you find the flat. A process which is questionable. 

Thanks Goran.  I scraped the surface and added a little water to raise the grain followed by sanding but I think I could have sanded more to obtain a better starting surface.  I'm think the suggestion by Greg above will work better than the wet and dry sandpaper but also expect I may need another coat of varnish first.

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1 minute ago, Paul McClean said:

Thanks Goran.  I scraped the surface and added a little water to raise the grain followed by sanding but I think I could have sanded more to obtain a better starting surface.  I'm think the suggestion by Greg above will work better than the wet and dry sandpaper but also expect I may need another coat of varnish first.

You have already a nice varnish. 

For polishing:

You have to choose on what you like

- >Matt (abrasive component+oil) 

Semi gloss (with wax as ingredient/ carnauba+beeswax) 

Gloss (French polish) 

Also you can try mixed types

(abrasive, oil, water, wax , emulsifier together) 

 

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3 hours ago, Paul McClean said:

Even though I sanded in between varnish coats the final surface is not flat on the front and you will see shiney spots and dull spots after using 3000 grit.  I have not tried sanding the back yet as the finish looks much better without sanding.

 

Why do you desire a smooth and flat surface on the top? Have you been taking advice from the wrong people?

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17 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

 

Why do you desire a smooth and flat surface on the top? Have you been taking advice from the wrong people?

I have seen many instruments that have sanded top/ flat from modern makers with great reputation (and much greater prices) in Cremona and here in Europe generally. The instruments look very nice. 

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1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

From which modern makers with "great reputations"?

So, you like to see names and judge the term "great reputation". 

This is not on my intentions, it is off topic and I have nothing to prove to you. (except my respect that you already have it). 

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Nice violin. Although there may be some makers who prefer a truly flat and shiny surface most do not. It's pretty hard to judge from photos but the texture you have looks quite nice and I would finish with powdered abrasive as already described. It sounds like you already have put on a fairly substantial amount of varnish and you may have tonal issues if you try adding enough to level without accenting the hard grain.

If you really do want a flat untextured surface on your next violin you should start with a surface which has been smoothed several times after raising the grain and then again after a clear ground.

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5 hours ago, Bill Yacey said:

If you want to remove the sheen on an uneven surface, make a pumice and oil paste, applied with a soft bristle tooth brush.

I agree that a brush is much better at getting into the grain lines than a cloth.  I mostly use a medium stiff brush rather bigger than a tooth brush!

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Paul, do  you know how to french polish? If so, you could use that to bring the gloss of the sanded raised portions, up to that of the recessed portions of the top, and up to that of the back. I agree with your inclination to leave the back alone, and not sand it.

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9 hours ago, David Burgess said:

From which modern makers with "great reputations"?

 

8 hours ago, Goran74 said:

So, you like to see names and judge the term "great reputation".

Sure. You made a questionable claim with the potential to influence other people's choices, so I'm wondering what you have to back it up.

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5 hours ago, Mark Caudle said:

I agree that a brush is much better at getting into the grain lines than a cloth.  I mostly use a medium stiff brush rather bigger than a tooth brush!

A kiwi shoe shine applicator was recommended to me some time back. 100% horse hair. I'd call the stiffness on the soft side of medium, but tightly packed bristles so they hold together. I forget who gave me the recommendation. Possibly Joe R., but maybe not. 

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1 hour ago, Jim Bress said:

A kiwi shoe shine applicator was recommended to me some time back. 100% horse hair. I'd call the stiffness on the soft side of medium, but tightly packed bristles so they hold together. I forget who gave me the recommendation. Possibly Joe R., but maybe not. 

Thank you. That's a good idea and I will try something similar next time!

 

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Just my opinion, but we are working with wood, aren't we? So any varnish which looks like a polished car has to me a sort of metal-work-taste. And just besides, factory work has always a flat varnish.

I really get an adrenaline boost when I see a varnish which emphazises the wood structure underneath. (Not talking of antique finish here). I vividly remember the moment when I first saw a violin by @David Burgess as a young maker. I was literally blown away. On the top you could see every single grain of the wood and the back showed the waves of the flames on the surface absolutely nicely. So this didn't come from the varnish alone but a very delicate wood finish as well.

Later I saw the work of Christoph Gotting. I knew that he was (and presumably still is) a complete varnish nerd. He showed at a violin makers convention in Germany one of his latest instruments. It was a copy of a Venetian instrument, but varnished like new without antique finish. His varnish had a sort of orange peel surface and really looked like fresh from the workshop of a Venetian maker 300 years ago.

Then, in comparison, if I look on the perfectly flat varnish of a  Kantuscher, who certainly is one of the greatest german masters in the 20th century, it gives me a rather the impression of Japanese lacquer or a computerized design. It has to me a cold feel because this kind of varnish ignores the wood underneath. (But I have to admit that it matches really perfectly his overall calculated approach.)

 

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I could be out to lunch...with a relatively small sample size to draw from :rolleyes:

...but I have the impression that those who are really keen on the violin as an object in itself prefer a finish that showcases the wood, while those not particularly interested (often times those new to violins) prefer the ultra smooth "mirror" finish.

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To get a uniform sheen, glossy, satin or whatever, you have two basic approaches:

1. Make sure the surface is "flat", i.e., no high/low spots. For this with sanding between varnish layers, you have to apply a sufficient varnish thickness so that when you sand, the entire surface will eventually become uniformly "flat" and the sheen from the sanding becomes consistent sheen everywhere. For your violin top, your surface has high/low spots and that causes the inconsistent sheen.

If you try to make a surface "flat" by successive applications and sanding of colored varnish, it typically results in patterns of inconsistent color. So it is easier to apply this coats of of colored varnish with little to no sanding until the desired color density is achieved, and fill in the low areas with successive applications and sanding of clear varnish. 

Colored, spirit varnishes have their own application challenge because successive applications will partially melt previous layers in an inconsistent fashion and cause patterns of color variation.

2. Use a varnish that has high leveling properties and will dry to a uniform sheen, so no sanding needed for the last coat. This can be done with a final, very thin coat of oil or spirit varnishes. It is easier to apply an oil varnish to get this effect. There are various instructional videos on how to apply a final, protective coat of spirit varnish, even if your main varnish is oil.

 

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1 hour ago, Rue said:

...keen on the violin as an object in itself prefer a finish that showcases the wood, while those not particularly interested (often times those new to violins) prefer the ultra smooth "mirror" finish.

The two effects, showcasing the wood and a smooth finish, do not have to be mutually exclusive. Varnish layers of high clarity and carefully selected indexes of refraction can highlight grain structure and natural wood color variation in a spectacular way.

If by "showcases the wood" you mean highlight a corduroy effect of differing winter and summer grain heights and various oversized pore structures, I would suggest that these types of effects require a type of "unnatural" processing of the wood, either by scrapping, sanding or grain raising, to achieve. So it is not like one method is preserving some natural property of the wood and the other is not.

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Yes, of course.  I was just trying to be economical (and polite) with my total word count.

I can see the appeal of the ultrasmooth mirror image too, it's kinda 'wow'.  And then I see all the fingerprints and the moment losses it's impact...^_^

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On 5/4/2021 at 1:21 PM, Paul McClean said:

My varnishing schedule is as follows: Light sanding with 1200 grit wet and dry in between each oil varnish coat

Sealed with gelatine.  Light sanding with 1200 grit

Water based stain

primer coat by Joha

7 coats of oil based colour varnish

2 coats of oil based clear varnish  followed by 2500 and 3000 grit with polishing oil

Even though I sanded in between varnish coats the final surface is not flat on the front and you will see shiney spots and dull spots after using 3000 grit.  I have not tried sanding the back yet as the finish looks much better without sanding.

Any advice on how I might improve the finish on the front?  The more I sand, the risk of creating lighter lines along the grain.IMG20210504175713.thumb.jpg.983f63e9c3a6de9020fbabd5f1d2b705.jpgIMG20210504175649.thumb.jpg.b89577a9f1f2d23fcb1423fb39738f0f.jpg

 

Texture is one of the few variables we are in charge of when varnishing.   From a smooth polished surface to a mass of grain and tool mark details you as a maker must recognize from the beginning the effect you desire at the end.  This choice is both artistic and personal.   Once chosen use tools and materials that support your choice.  Scrapers, horsetail and polishing powders lead to degrees of wood and varnish texture.   Sandpaper or anything that has a backer works towards a flatter surface.  Personally I am avoiding all common abrasive tools to get what I want.

Next time start out with a vision of the finished surface.  If it us to be smooth then, as Nate suggested, wet the surface and sand carefully from 1000 to 3000 grits...don't skip grits in-between.  

On this instrument I would do one further clear coat and the use 3000 and oil with the grain.  Followed by an oil/alcohol polishing.

on we go,

Joe

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