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Looking for thoughts (an probably rants) on "refinishing" options...


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Seeking advice on finishing (refinishing)...

I am pretty sure the sight of this violin will hurt people’s souls.

The story is that there was a US-based entertainer (think Jack Benny crossed with Victor Borge) who used this violin in his act.  He unfortunately painted his violin in 3 coats of non-latex paint (light green, dark green and yellow, if it matters). 

After 2 weeks and many hours of painstaking, and as gingerly as possible, paint removal with bio-friendly and advertised as “gentle” strippers – this is the result.

I am looking for ideas and advice on techniques and products to attempt to resurrect the look that this lovely old German (?) lady deserves.

All rants and constructive ideas welcomed.

(Also, I am in MN new member probationary status so can only make a couple of posts per day before I am shut off for 24 hours.)












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32 minutes ago, duane88 said:

it was more valuable as a cultural artifact of Jack Benny and his show...

I'm thinkin' that the Jack Benny thing was a metaphor for a stage prop. Jack Benny actually used his Strad on stage, at least some times. He was a frequent customer of ours at the Weisshaar shop, and if he owned any junk, we never saw it.

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37 minutes ago, gaseff said:

I figured....

What would be the issues with treating like a newly built violin and finishing it.

First, you have to do the crack repairs and try to make them look like they were not there in the first place.  Then, those peg holes may need bushings installed and drilled/reamed for new pegs.

Then, you see those dark patches and circular sanding marks?  With those still on the wood you can't say an unvarnished new violin appearance.  But if you can get the wood repairs done you can still put something on there for a finish and have a violin but it won't be worth any money afterwards and may very well sound sort of ho hum for a violin tone.     

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Get some Zinsser Amber Shellac and dilute it 1 part denatured alcohol to 1 part shellac by volume. Let it sit overnight in a capped glass jar so most of the wax settles to the bottom.

If you want to add a teensy more color to the finish, there are alcohol-based dyes from manufacturers like TransTint. A fraction of a drop is all you need. Reddish-brown tint is good for hiding the scars of paint removal in your case.

With a soft brush flow it on fast and thin. Let it dry, about an hour, frequently less. You can try a second coat but shellacs can dissolve previous coats and anything with dye added to it can become streaky.

If you get overlap lines, thoroughly dried shellc sands nicely with 800 to 1500 grit sand paper and a light touch.

If you do not add dye then the amber color will come across more consistently until the coat gets a bit too thick, then you can get visible melt marks unless you learn how to use a french polishing technique.

Another option is any general-purpose spar varnish. Easy to apply and get a smooth coat, but all the wood coloration damage due to stripping will show thru the light orange-brown tint of the varnish.

Really not worth spending much time or money refinishing.



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On 2/18/2022 at 2:49 PM, avandesande said:

Is it possible to lightly go over the violin with a scraper to remove the sanding marks?

Yes, but be careful.  You don't want to thin or reshape the plates.


At this point you can't do it any more harm.  I'd pull it apart, fix the assorted cracks, do whatever it takes to get the dark discoloration out of the back plate joint without thinning/altering the plate, glue back together, and then refinish with whatever method/varnish you feel works for you.

If you can't get the dark discoloration out of the joint, then I'd go with as dark of a varnish as possible to hide it.  This will hide the other figuring of the wood, so you'll have to make that decision based on which of the 2 is more important to you.

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On 2/20/2022 at 11:08 AM, gaseff said:

Thank you for ideas.  Appreciated.

You can tint shellac with the colors from TransTint.  You can also tint oil varnish with artist oil paints.  Some finishes are acrylic based, if the one you use is like this you can tint with artist acrylic paints instead of oil paints.


Why not go wild and choose a purple tint for the varnish?  Or green?  Can't hurt and it might make you famous.  Or not.

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19 minutes ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:


Would you care to elaborate ?  I just ask because there is a whole range of Shellac, hard, soft thick,  thin  with additional resins , gums …. And many very fine instruments with any number of combinations. 

 oil type varnishes also come  in a wide variety  of mixes and when “improperly” applied can have a lot of effect on tone as well .it’s hard to really believe one is categorically bad and another good .So I guess what I am asking is what sort of difference or down side do you see in what sort of recipe? 
 I have only used Oil varnish for primary finish and once in a while some shellack mixes over the top for antiquing and touch ups . My decision to use oil has more to do some sort of historical attachment to classical Cremona than tonal concerns. 

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