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Need advice on final varnish flattening/polishing


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While I also don't like a perfectly flat, mirror finish, I'm also not an advocate of a coarse, plowed field-like texture. Both looks unnatural to me and don't have much to do with the natural texture of the wood finished by an expert luthier (no sandpaper). As usual, expressing what is the acceptable degree of roughness or flatness is not easy and everyone has their own personal idea in mind. In any case, a top plate with a roughness like the one that appears in the OP photo would be a nightmare to keep clean (at least with the cleaning routine of a player, without having to resort to the luthier frequently), it would collect so much rosin dust and dirt attached to it that it would soon lose all its possible initial appeal.;)

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A violin is not supposed to have a finish like a piano, a "sunburst" guitar, a show car, or a gymnasium floor.

The sunburst guitars are one of the worst examples of faking wear and dirt accumulation, sanding toolmark features into oblivion (if they were ever there in the first place), or appealing to those who have taken too much LSD. In the violin world, there are people who are vastly better than that.

Strads and Guarneris still bring the highest prices in the world, so I would suggest looking to examples by those makers which have not been excessively corrupted.

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10 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Strads and Guarneris still bring the highest prices in the world, so I would look to examples of those makers which have not been excessively corrupted.

Right, but the uncorrupted ones are the minority and the overly polished ones are the very ones that created the players' appeal for the mirror finish. The dog chasing its own tail...

And many modern luthiers who claim that the textured finish of their violins is that of uncorrupted antique violins often have excessively rough finishes compared to preserved antique ones. Of course not directed towards you, also because I have never seen any of your recent works in real life and so I have no idea what they look like as varnish surface.:)

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13 minutes ago, Davide Sora said:

Right, but the uncorrupted ones are the minority and the overly polished ones are the very ones that created the players' appeal for the mirror finish. The dog chasing its own tail...

And many modern luthiers who claim that the textured finish of their violins is that of uncorrupted antique violins often have excessively rough finishes compared to preserved antique ones. Of course not directed towards you, also because I have never seen any of your recent works in real life and so I have no idea what they look like as varnish surface.:)

The surface texture of the viola I made, exhibited in the Trienalle collection in Cremona, is pretty representative of what I still do today. But I do leave more tool marks now, rather than trying to make them go away, because most of the experts I consulted suggested doing that.

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13 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

The surface texture of the viola I made, exhibited in the Trienalle collection in Cremona, is pretty representative of what I still do today. But I do leave more tool marks now, rather than trying to make them go away, because most of the experts I consulted suggested doing that.

That's okay and I like it, exam passed! (if memory serves me right, the museum has been closed for a long time now...:D)

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16 minutes ago, Rue said:

I prefer to see evidence of the craftsman, rather than have it all sanded away. That's what makes a 'bespoke' item desirable.

I also prefer to see the evidence of the craftsman, but if they are too evident I always think that he could have done better, or that they are only there for ostentation and are not traces of real craftsmanship, just a fiction.

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1 hour ago, Rue said:

I prefer to see evidence of the craftsman, rather than have it all sanded away. That's what makes a 'bespoke' item desirable.

I agree. My wife recently resigned from her corporate management job, focusing more now on her artsy -craftsy side. She often asks me about better hiding artifacts of her products being hand-made, since most of her experience has been with conforming to industrial production standards, and I mostly tell her not to worry about it. People who want assembly line stuff (like a guitar finished with an electric orbital sander) can buy it for one tenth what she can offer her hand-made stuff for. That's not the market she is going for.

Rue, I bet your tortoise would look a lot better if you spent some time sanding her shell smooth with an orbital sander. :D

And have you considered buying a variable speed electric goat polisher? Only $87.96. ;)

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3 hours ago, joerobson said:

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

I use rosin as an abrasive and polisher. I can get a french polish effect with oil rosin and turpentine. It can be hard on top and softer underneath and super thin. 

 

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2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

A violin is not supposed to have a finish like a piano, a "sunburst" guitar, a show car, or a gymnasium floor.

The sunburst guitars are one of the worst examples of faking wear and dirt accumulation, sanding toolmark features into oblivion (if they were ever there in the first place), or appealing to those who have taken too much LSD. In the violin world, there are people who are vastly better than that.

Strads and Guarneris still bring the highest prices in the world, so I would suggest looking to examples by those makers which have not been excessively corrupted.

By "excessively corrupted" do you mean french polished? 

2 hours ago, Davide Sora said:

Right, but the uncorrupted ones are the minority and the overly polished ones are the very ones that created the players' appeal for the mirror finish. The dog chasing its own tail...

And many modern luthiers who claim that the textured finish of their violins is that of uncorrupted antique violins often have excessively rough finishes compared to preserved antique ones. Of course not directed towards you, also because I have never seen any of your recent works in real life and so I have no idea what they look like as varnish surface.:)

I wonder if the Cremonese Masters were using simple glazes influenced by Venetian painters, with a little polishing on top?

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1 hour ago, Peter K-G said:

On new violins, polishing is not to make it shine.

It's to take away too shiny/glossy look.

How shiny/glossy is too shiny/glossy?

What refractive index is right? Wrong? 

What did them Cremonensisians do?

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7 minutes ago, sospiri said:

How shiny/glossy is too shiny/glossy?

Quick search through my documentation, not the best image but

It's a moving image example of a too shiny/glossy

Newly varnished and not polished (no sanding/polishing between coats either)

Shared album – Peter Grankulla - Google Photos

It would look like glass surface in a concert hall spotlight

 

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Refractive index of a varnish affects the clarity of detail of the wood, and the color intensity.

A wood surface has a certain level of "roughness" that disperses the reflected light. This obscures details of grain structure and coloring. If the initial coat of varnish reasonably matches the refractive index of the wood, this "roughness" is essentially smoothed and the dispersion of the reflected light is greatly reduced. Fine grain patterns and color variations become visible.

Once the wood surface is primed with a varnish that  matches the refractive index, and that varnish itself is reasonably smooth so light is not being dispersed from its surface, one can consider a top coat with a higher refractive index. This tends to intensify the reflected light and colors for technical reasons that would require too much explanation to include here.

For surfaces meant to be handled, like violins, the higher refractive index finishes tend not to wear well, so are usually reserved for museum pieces and paintings.

One can get a mirror finish with any varnish that can be highly polished, even ones with refractive indexes that are significantly different from the wood.

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10 minutes ago, ctanzio said:

One can get a mirror finish with any varnish that can be highly polished, even ones with refractive indexes that are significantly different from the wood.

Except, the further the RI gets away from wood, the more the finish looks like polished paint.

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23 minutes ago, nathan slobodkin said:

Does smooth or textured surface affect sound?

How could it, provided the varnish isn't so thick as to muffle the sound - at which point the texture wouldn't matter.

Isn't the sound coming from the inside?

Speaking of which...has anyone done an experiment with interior finishes?  And I mean a 'real' experiment (*channeling George*), an unfinished interior versus a lightly varnished interior vesrus a heavily varnished interior...

...just for the record of course! ^_^

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1 hour ago, Rue said:

How could it, provided the varnish isn't so thick as to muffle the sound - at which point the texture wouldn't matter.

Isn't the sound coming from the inside?

Speaking of which...has anyone done an experiment with interior finishes?  And I mean a 'real' experiment (*channeling George*), an unfinished interior versus a lightly varnished interior vesrus a heavily varnished interior...

...just for the record of course! 
 


No. Pretty sure the sound does not come only from the inside. As far as I know sound is periodic fluctuation in air pressure and vibration of the plates pushes on the air on both sides of the plate. I hope some of the more scientific people here may chime in on this but my question is whether air coming off the outside of the plate will act differently if being moved by a smooth or textured surface. I am guessing texture would impart some complexity to the sound.

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