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Spirit varnish and brushes


flo
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Hi!

I'm trying to learn how to do spirit varnishes (for repairs and touchup, I don't build instruments) and I've been told to let my brushes dry "hard" after I cleaned them in alcool, so that the bristles always keep their pointy tip. When used after that, I only have to "wake" the brush in alcool again and it's ready to go.

However, I've only read here people carefully cleaning their brushes, first in alcool, then with soap, then with plain water, then dried/left to dry. Is it a bad practice to let it dry with alcool?

Also, I'm currently only using fine synthetic brushes as I can't invest in expensive sable hair yet. What are the main drawback with synthetic brush, apart for durability?

Thanks,
Flo.

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I also never wash my sable brushes, both for retouching and for varnishing. I simply rinse them in alcohol after use and let them harden after making sure the bristles are properly shaped. It works perfectly, in my opinion better than washing them continuously.

Just remember to soak them in alcohol before use, if they are in daily use it will take just a few minutes but if they have not been used for some time (very hardened) it may take longer.

 

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16 hours ago, Davide Sora said:

I also never wash my sable brushes, both for retouching and for varnishing. I simply rinse them in alcohol after use and let them harden after making sure the bristles are properly shaped. It works perfectly, in my opinion better than washing them continuously.

Just remember to soak them in alcohol before use, if they are in daily use it will take just a few minutes but if they have not been used for some time (very hardened) it may take longer.

 

Thank you, so I’m not doing wrong to my brushes!

Any takes on synthetic brushes? Is it possible to make a good job with a good quality one?

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1 hour ago, flo said:

Thank you, so I’m not doing wrong to my brushes!

Any takes on synthetic brushes? Is it possible to make a good job with a good quality one?

For alcohol varnishes I am better off with those of sable, I think they are superior because it seems to me that they allow a more precise application of the varnish, for both varnishing and retouching, but I have not insisted much on looking for synthetic alternatives. Synthetic ones are surely better for oil varnishes, because their hair are usually stiffer and less fragile.

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19 hours ago, Davide Sora said:

For alcohol varnishes I am better off with those of sable, I think they are superior because it seems to me that they allow a more precise application of the varnish, for both varnishing and retouching, but I have not insisted much on looking for synthetic alternatives. Synthetic ones are surely better for oil varnishes, because their hair are usually stiffer and less fragile.

Does it mean that it’s easier to lay a varnish layer without leaving a brush mark? I read that they also store more Liquide allowing more passes before recharging with varnish.

7 hours ago, Shunyata said:

I use squirrel hair brushes, but have never heard of sable.  Seems like the fur would be similar.  Any thoughts?

I only know they are supposed to be the top of the line. But there a different grades of sable: kolinski, pure gold are two I remember. Not sure how they rank or if it really matters.

And there are some concerns about how these animals are mistreated, aren’t there?

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15 hours ago, Shunyata said:

I use squirrel hair brushes, but have never heard of sable.  Seems like the fur would be similar.  Any thoughts?

I used the Vayo (squirrel) brushes when I started because they are much cheaper, and they were the most used (it was in the 1980s). Then, following the advice of more advanced colleagues, I invested in the sable (Martora Kolinsky). Compared to the squirrel, the hair is more rigid despite being equally fine (perhaps finer), and allows a decidedly superior brushstroke control. The squirrel, although very usable, is too soft and flexible and does not allow great control of the tip for light and precise brush strokes.

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9 hours ago, flo said:

Does it mean that it’s easier to lay a varnish layer without leaving a brush mark? I read that they also store more Liquide allowing more passes before recharging with varnish.

I only know they are supposed to be the top of the line. But there a different grades of sable: kolinski, pure gold are two I remember. Not sure how they rank or if it really matters.

And there are some concerns about how these animals are mistreated, aren’t there?

it is easier to apply a layer of varnish because the greater stiffness of the hair allows greater control of the brush (see the previous post) but the brush marks are inevitable with alcohol varnishes and also remain with sable brushes, just a bit less marked. I don't know about the varnish charge capacity of the brush, but in my opinion it depends more on the amount (number) of hair than on the type of hair.

Regarding the quality of the sable hair I have taken the ones that at that time were supposed to be the best (Kolinsky), but I have never tried other types. Usually, when there is a substantial difference in price between two sable brushes this depends more on the differences in the quantity of hair (some are slimmer to contain the cost) and in the quality of the hair fixing (very important to avoid the annoying loss of hairs during varnishing), rather than differences in the quality of the hair.

Regarding the possible mistreatment of animals during breeding, the same goes for all the other animal components that are used in violin making, such as animal glue, gut strings, parts in bone/ivory, resins of animal origin, leather straps, etc.

If you have Vegan customers it's best if you start looking for synthetic brushes, their manufacturing technology has made a lot of progress and I think you can find something that can be used as an alternative to animal hair. Then, ask your customers what they think about the environmental impact of the industry for producing the synthetic polymer needed to make the plastic hair of the brush. There is no way out.

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On 6/29/2021 at 10:51 AM, flo said:

Thank you, so I’m not doing wrong to my brushes!

Any takes on synthetic brushes? Is it possible to make a good job with a good quality one?

I only tried synthetic brushes with spirit varnish many years ago, and back then they were definitely inferior. However, production technology has made great strides and probably today good alternatives to natural hair can be found, but I suspect that they will always be in the high price range.

The problem is that when I buy a brush, if it works well it lasts for many many years and there is no reason to look for an alternative. Then when you've gotten used to that brush you won't want to change it anymore. So I haven't tried practically anything compared to the quality synthetic brush offer that exists today.

 

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Do what Davide does, or you can rig a jar so the brushes stay suspended in alc so they always stay wet, perfectly shaped and always ready to go with no "pre soaking" in order to use, just take them from the jar, give them a "Bob Ross" spanking , on some scrap, and they are ready to go. You need to change the soaking solution every year or so*, only do this with natural bristle , this has other benefits in that you will reduce the amount of solvent usage and thus waste, personal exposure as well as "environmental footprint". This is particularly a good method for many other solvent based finishes where larger amounts of nasty chemical would normally be needed to be used to keep application tools clean.

*if you "do it right" take some wooden objects like your bench top or stools, storage cabinet, tool handles etc.  that you can take your soak solution, which now is loaded with shellac and brush it on/or dip those, that way you don't waste anything and it does not need to get "thrown away" 

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27 minutes ago, jezzupe said:

Do what Davide does, or you can rig a jar so the brushes stay suspended in alc so they always stay wet, perfectly shaped and always ready to go with no "pre soaking" in order to use, just take them from the jar, give them a "Bob Ross" spanking , on some scrap, and they are ready to go. You need to change the soaking solution every year or so*, only do this with natural bristle , this has other benefits in that you will reduce the amount of solvent usage and thus waste, personal exposure as well as "environmental footprint". This is particularly a good method for many other solvent based finishes where larger amounts of nasty chemical would normally be needed to be used to keep application tools clean.

*if you "do it right" take some wooden objects like your bench top or stools, storage cabinet, tool handles etc.  that you can take your soak solution, which now is loaded with shellac and brush it on/or dip those, that way you don't waste anything and it does not need to get "thrown away" 

I second that:)

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4 hours ago, Davide Sora said:

Regarding the possible mistreatment of animals during breeding, the same goes for all the other animal components that are used in violin making, such as animal glue, gut strings, parts in bone/ivory, resins of animal origin, leather straps, etc.

If you have Vegan customers it's best if you start looking for synthetic brushes, their manufacturing technology has made a lot of progress and I think you can find something that can be used as an alternative to animal hair. Then, ask your customers what they think about the environmental impact of the industry for producing the synthetic polymer needed to make the plastic hair of the brush. There is no way out.

Yes, I'm not looking for controversy and I'm aware that anything is done has an environmental cost. Same debate with overly chopping down trees although we might collectively need a big paradigm shit.

3 hours ago, jezzupe said:

Do what Davide does, or you can rig a jar so the brushes stay suspended in alc so they always stay wet, perfectly shaped and always ready to go with no "pre soaking" in order to use, just take them from the jar, give them a "Bob Ross" spanking , on some scrap, and they are ready to go. You need to change the soaking solution every year or so*, only do this with natural bristle , this has other benefits in that you will reduce the amount of solvent usage and thus waste, personal exposure as well as "environmental footprint". This is particularly a good method for many other solvent based finishes where larger amounts of nasty chemical would normally be needed to be used to keep application tools clean.

*if you "do it right" take some wooden objects like your bench top or stools, storage cabinet, tool handles etc.  that you can take your soak solution, which now is loaded with shellac and brush it on/or dip those, that way you don't waste anything and it does not need to get "thrown away" 

I tried to leave a brush suspended in alcool, through a cork closing the jar, but it melted the handle finish so I stopped doing this. Do you leave the jar open? If so, doesn't the alcool evaporates too quickly? Do you refill it?

I wonder what would a cheap demo violin look like with a year old infused varnish :) 

Anyways, thanks all for the advices. I'll stick with my synthetic brushes until I level up and can afford/justify the extra cost of the sable brushes I craving for!

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7 hours ago, flo said:

Yes......we might collectively need a big paradigm shit.

It's happening.  You can see the results all over the internet.  :ph34r:  :lol:

Sorry, but this was truly too inspired a slip of the keys to ignore.  Welcome to MN.  :)

Oh, and my compliments to the sharp-eyed mod who approved the post.  :D ;)

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21 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

I'm sure your English is much better than my facility with whatever is your language.  Where are you from?

I’m from France!

By the way, I don’t know if such thing has been done/organized on MN, but it would be great if people from MN in France could meet for teaching/discussing/helping purposes. As much information I can find online, nothing compares to learning/being corrected personally.

Luthiers in my region have always been reluctant to help, which I can understand of course, and restauration/touchup teaching is pretty rare.

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