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Varnish qualities- related to decay?


Rue
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2 hours ago, David Beard said:

I don't think that at all.  Certainly hype held jack up prices.

 

But there is no other western were examples from one specific time and place held dominance from their beginning to the present.

All other instruments gave way to newer models.  But these instruments remained and remain prefered by the best players.

And, they were adopted by the likes of Tartini, Corelli, Rode, Kreutzer, Viotti, et al. BEFORE the big hype developed.

No. The idea that it is just hype is itself a myth, and contrary to the facts.

As I said, romantic hype. Thanks for making my point.

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53 minutes ago, David Beard said:

So player choices = hype?

 

In case you didn't already know, player choices can be made for a multitude of reasons, from investment value, to use or ownership of an expensive instrument serving as affirmation that said player must be really good, to a player being paid or sponsored to play a particular instrument.

Gotta go now. Need to search out the latest version of Michael Jordan sneakers so I can have a little "street cred".

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24 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

In case you didn't already know, player choices can be made for a multitude of reasons, from investment value, to use or ownership of an expensive instrument serving as affirmation that said player must be really good, to a player being paid or sponsored to play a particular instrument.

Yeah but toni was a major dude tho wadnt he?

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43 minutes ago, sospiri said:

 

Some other Strads are also in very good condition and have lots of the original finish.

The Betts and the Lady Blunt for example.

Yup, le Messie and The Lady blunt was soaked in linseed oil, thats why they are left unplayed.

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Varnish degradation?

So you mean that some chemical transformation altered the substances in the varnish and therefore any attempt to reconstruct 'the stuff' is impossible?

For this kind of thought I would first see a very clear chemical equation which explains the theory behind it. So, where are the ingredients which have a risk to react to each other and under which circumstances this can happen. For this simple reason I have to dismiss this idea. 

 

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Yes. Over time. Lots of time.

We know chemical/biological changes occur over time. No one has looked into it.

We know about older wines, whisky, cheese, eggs, etc., so sometimes older is better. (Even if that "older" isn't quite 300 years in most cases).

There likely is no appreciable  effect of aged varnish on sound quality...but...you can't dismiss the possibly either...

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On 6/4/2021 at 6:18 AM, Rue said:

There's still a "secret" to the Strad varnish, right?

Nope.

If you see what chemical analysis found out over the past 30 years it is just making every step away from mysterious secrets. It literally boils down to down to earth materials. 

(In case you believe that some weird ingredients like Molybden are the secret weapon for mysterious formulas, then I would first advise to think about contaminations in an age where chemical purities could not be measured.)

What is been rarely discussed and is probably much more important in search for a 'secret' (if you want to call it like this) are the application methods and techniques. All we can say about Cremonese violin making as a whole is that anything was based on highly refined procedures starting from the construction of the mould. If we see 'varnish' on this background we MUST assume that it was a refined technique (rather than secret whatever let alone that the secret formed by its age)

I think in those terms like this: Let's assume that a chemist really nailed down the ingredients to only linseed oil and colophany (and absolutely nothing else) then this does NOT give you are varnish as such. With just those 2 ingredients you can create thousands of different varnishes depending on the 1. mixture of infgredients, 2. preparation of ingredients (cooked, not cooked, cooking time etc. etc.) 3. Application (if or not thinned down, how much thinned down, application with brush or hands) 

IMO THIS is much more important for the creation of stunning looking varnish. 

(Give a really good varnish to an apprentice and see how he/she can mess it up into something which looks really ugly!)

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I often see reference to a "protein layer." Which protein? Albumen? Collagen? Keratin? Gluten? I hope I never inherit a Stradivarius. With my luck I'm allergic to Venetian flax mold.

Tempera uses egg yolk. Gilding uses gesso, etc. I'm not sure which art technique uses library paste.

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14 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Varnish degradation?

So you mean that some chemical transformation altered the substances in the varnish and therefore any attempt to reconstruct 'the stuff' is impossible?

For this kind of thought I would first see a very clear chemical equation which explains the theory behind it. So, where are the ingredients which have a risk to react to each other and under which circumstances this can happen. For this simple reason I have to dismiss this idea. 

I would like to dismiss the idea that joints degrade and skin degrades, but even over my short lifetime (relative to an old violin) I have first-hand observation that it certainly does happen, so I don't need chemical equations to believe it.  I think that ANY organic material will undergo changes over time; how quickly it changes will depend on the material and what it is exposed to (light, heat, oxygen, etc.).  

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5 hours ago, Don Noon said:

I would like to dismiss the idea that joints degrade and skin degrades, but even over my short lifetime (relative to an old violin) I have first-hand observation that it certainly does happen, so I don't need chemical equations to believe it.  I think that ANY organic material will undergo changes over time; how quickly it changes will depend on the material and what it is exposed to (light, heat, oxygen, etc.).  

Any organic material that does not change over time is by definition immortal, and outside the arena of the Divine, I think we can agree that that is impossible.

It kind of makes me sad, because it means that in 400 years, somebody probably won’t be playing my cello…

rats…

It’ll probably be in a museum…yeah…

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27 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

I don’t recall where I first heard it, but someone said that the secret to the varnish was located in the apothecary shop down the street, where everybody bought the same stuff.

or something like that.

 

There was a perfumery in the same little square area that most of the main Cremona making families worked.

And we have inventories left over from this store.

However, everything in that inventory appears to be the normal materia of the day.

It's a little different than we're used to thinking today, but the arts, medicine, industries, cosmetics, and even cooking drew their materials from a shared 'Materia'.   

And these were mostly things in a state very closely linked to their natural sources or most basic source forms.  So, the painter, doctor, and the instrument all used mastic tears in different ways, but all used the same mastic tears, primarily from Chios.  Etc.

Artisans mostly did not buy any prepared combinations from the materia dealers, that was typical done in each workshop.

The skills of tempering were broadly shared across the arts, and generally were a first order of business for the aprentice.  Tempering didn't just mean preparing protein based paints, but generally all the mixing and combining of materia that the artisan workshop needed.

Interestingly, some old texts treat cooked oil and resin varnish as a 'materia'.  So that was at times prepared by the 'materia' dealer instead of by the artisan.   Lead white is another example. Many artisans knew how to prepare that from lead and vinger, but it also was commonly bought and treated as a materia itself.

 

No secrets in a sense.  Shared materia, shared methods.

 

But alien to modern standards.

 

 

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2 hours ago, David Beard said:

There was a perfumery in the same little square area that most of the main Cremona making families worked.

And we have inventories left over from this store.

However, everything in that inventory appears to be the normal materia of the day.

It's a little different than we're used to thinking today, but the arts, medicine, industries, cosmetics, and even cooking drew their materials from a shared 'Materia'.   

And these were mostly things in a state very closely linked to their natural sources or most basic source forms.  So, the painter, doctor, and the instrument all used mastic tears in different ways, but all used the same mastic tears, primarily from Chios.  Etc.

Artisans mostly did not buy any prepared combinations from the materia dealers, that was typical done in each workshop.

The skills of tempering were broadly shared across the arts, and generally were a first order of business for the aprentice.  Tempering didn't just mean preparing protein based paints, but generally all the mixing and combining of materia that the artisan workshop needed.

Interestingly, some old texts treat cooked oil and resin varnish as a 'materia'.  So that was at times prepared by the 'materia' dealer instead of by the artisan.   Lead white is another example. Many artisans knew how to prepare that from lead and vinger, but it also was commonly bought and treated as a materia itself.

 

No secrets in a sense.  Shared materia, shared methods.

 

But alien to modern standards.

 

 

That’s great, thank you very much for sharingThat’s great, thank you very much for sharing

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22 hours ago, Rothwein said:

I often see reference to a "protein layer." Which protein? Albumen? Collagen? Keratin? Gluten? I hope I never inherit a Stradivarius. With my luck I'm allergic to Venetian flax mold.

Tempera uses egg yolk. Gilding uses gesso, etc. I'm not sure which art technique uses library paste.

Funny you should mention proteins. I happen to be reading “A Perfect Ground: Preparatory Layers for Oil Paintings 1550-1900” by Maartje Stols-Wilcox (2017). It appears that artists were switching protein mediums to get a ground that was resistant to moisture. Reading this, I feel that Stradivari’s switching is related to this search. Although casein turned out better than hide glue, it still needed treatment with formaldehyde according to Ralph Mayer “The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques “ (1991 ed.)

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9 hours ago, Michael_Molnar said:

Funny you should mention proteins. I happen to be reading “A Perfect Ground: Preparatory Layers for Oil Paintings 1550-1900” by Maartje Stols-Wilcox (2017). It appears that artists were switching protein mediums to get a ground that was resistant to moisture. Reading this, I feel that Stradivari’s switching is related to this search. Although casein turned out better than hide glue, it still needed treatment with formaldehyde according to Ralph Mayer “The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques “ (1991 ed.)

What does the formaldehyde do to the protein in the hide glue you are using to hold the violin together?

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22 hours ago, Don Noon said:

I would like to dismiss the idea that joints degrade and skin degrades, but even over my short lifetime (relative to an old violin) I have first-hand observation that it certainly does happen, so I don't need chemical equations to believe it.  I think that ANY organic material will undergo changes over time; how quickly it changes will depend on the material and what it is exposed to (light, heat, oxygen, etc.).  

Seems to depend on what materials we look at.

5000 year old bees wax from egyptian tombs reportedly didn't change at all.

But well, we look on varnish and in particular on Cremonese varnish.

Another argument against degradation is that the Cremonese varnish must have degraded pretty rapidly at the beginning which caused those wear patterns within less than 100 years. (Somehow we know this from old copies) It became very brittle within relatively short time and whatever has caused this, it is questionable that further degradation would change very much. 

Presumably because of this effect violin makers tried to protect the Cremonese varnish from degradation with a protective polish layer. 

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

In any case I think it is much more reasonable to think of degradation in the 'substance parts' or the wooden parts. Any degradation in the wood which can in one or another way influence the mechanical action of an instrument must have much more effect than a thin layer of varnish (and polish). 

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There are obviously some aspects of aging in these finishes.

Linseed oil particularly is known to continue changing and cross linking on a very long timescale.  And obviously, these finishes have physical been worn and mechanically damaged, dirtied, etc.

But also, the art materials of the time weren't generally innovative.  Many materials had been in continuous artisan use since Roman times and even earlier.  And texts show an awareness of the long term behavior of their materials, and a priority to make objects to last very long times.

Things like earth colors, carbon blacks, chalk, and fatty binders are so stable thay we have surviving cave paintings.

The many forms of 'the old making started off like a modern instrument, and then became glorious through time and aging' are really absurd.

These instrument have of course aged.  But they also started out from day one as glorious.

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Mostly glorious, but yes, glorious. Some del Gesùs couldn't be finished in time, so he used scrolls his dad left. Omobono did final fitting and varnish on Papa's near completes, etc.

 

Edited by Rothwein
added "scrolls"
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On 6/3/2021 at 12:01 PM, Rue said:

Reading the varnish threads, I was just thinking some more :ph34r:.

They say "we" can't recreate Strad's varnish...blah blah blah..secret ingredient...blah blah blah...

But!

What if the "secret" is related to a chemical reaction (or whatever reaction), in the form of decay (or degradation, if you prefer), over time?

 

We can create varnishes very like those used in the 16-17th centuries and we do. The secret ingredient is, as you suggest, time. This has in part to do with the solubility characteristics of linseed oil, which is not a fixed phenomenon.

It's well understood that cured linseed oil films are insoluble in nearly all solvents of practice, polar and non-polar. This is attested to a great degree in articles pertaining to art preservation. However most of this literature is tethered to laboratory conditions and rarely deals with films older than a year. 

In oil varnish, early solubility characteristics mirror that of the resin component, e.g. rosin, which is known to be readily soluble in ethanol. In cooking an oil varnish, cross-linking between the abietic acid and linseed oil affects the solubility of the whole product. Oil varnishes which have not fully cured (a process that takes considerable time) remain susceptible to a number of solvents, most especially polar ones.

When the film has cured, the solubility characteristics of the oil become dominant; as oxidation and polymerization of the film approaches the apex of it's solid, insoluble phase.

Importantly, the process of oxidation of the oil is ongoing in perpetuity, and as byproducts of autooxidation and fragments of the polymer chains formed by degradation at unsaturated centers continue to develop.

Over time, because of the above, linseed oil films and oil varnish films that contain linseed oil will again become soluble in alcohol.

 

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6 hours ago, David Beard said:

These instrument have of course aged.  But they also started out from day one as glorious.

And you are certain of this, how?  If you know exactly how they looked when new, tell us how they sounded then, too.

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16 hours ago, Bruce Carlson said:

What does the formaldehyde do to the protein in the hide glue you are using to hold the violin together?

Degrades it which is why I wouldn’t use it. It is also carcinogenic.  But Mayer wasn’t talking about glue. It was about casein sizing.

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