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Protection for violin varnish

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A customer of mine plays 16 two-hour high-energy stage shows every single week. His costume jacket is abrasive and has worn the varnish badly on the lower part of the back of his fiddle.  He also is physically very active when he plays, so I'd like to protect some other areas of the violin. He really likes the instrument, and based on past patterns, will probably play this one until it becomes unrepairable. The last one lasted over 30 years until it succumbed to a back-stage accident, and it wasn't easy getting him set up with a new one. I remember reading several years ago about Perlman having a clear protective film on his Strad, but can't remember what was used.  Can anybody recommend a protective, reversible (removable) film that I could use to preserve the varnish and wood on the worst wear points on his violin?

It's one of those rare instruments that works well plugged in on stage, close-miced in a studio, or played into a fixed mic on an open stage, a veritable unicorn in the fiddle biz, and while I'm pretty proud of it and have good backup instruments, I don't look forward to dialing in a permanent replacement any time soon. High level performers in any style often get pretty attached to their instruments, and some don't like to change.

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As I recall, this was a piece of clear packaging tape applied to the side, near the neck.

Since this is on the back, I do not recall a fix for this using tape.  Does he want some restoration of the varnish or just protection?  That will determine what to do next.

Here is a simple idea for just the finish:  use an air brush to spray shellac over the area.  Now here is the trick--put the instrument in the UV box and subject it to overnight UV treatment.  This will set the shellac.  Repeat as needed to get adequate build.  Shellac hardens under UV and gains wear resistance.  Can be repeated indefinitely.

Your choice as what type of shellac to use, but for maximum wear resistance, use dewaxed.

Mike D

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13 hours ago, HoGo said:

This is on a decade-old Krutz 800 - 850 level violin that had a well-seasoned varnish on it. I picked it up used a few years ago, selected it from my inventory because it came closest to suiting his sound, then tweaked the sound and setup to suit him as best I could last summer. He wore through the varnish in just a few months, and was quickly down to bare wood. I am used to maintaining instruments for active professionals, and do regular color touchups and clear coat maintenance, but this player puts an extraordinary amount of physical wear on his instrument. 

The link to Triangle Strings is most helpful, I think I'll digest their recommendations thoroughly, do the usual touchup, force dry, let it settle and harden well, then apply a film over it and maintain that film regularly. Thanks for the advice.

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Any chance you could interest your client in trying one of the flat shoulder rests? Here's one:


There are others. I don't have any experience with them -- I don't use a shoulder rest, but I basically only wear ancient t- or sweat shirts, so the instrument is only rubbing against soft cotton.


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The leather is not a bad option. I'll discuss that with him.

Most of my full-time pro players play anywhere from 6 to 16 two-hour shows per week, plus rehearsals, recording sessions, side gigs and practice, so they put a lot of wear on an instrument. I maintain them regularly. Plus, a stage environment can be brutal on instruments. Not as bad as road shows, but there are a lot of people moving around, doing different things, and each person has their own agenda.

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I think the leather could work fairly well if applied carefully and with an adhesive that could be easily reversed, although it would be very noticeable. As for myself, I’d gravitate more toward a clear film like contact paper that can be applied and removed easily and won’t distract the eye. I’ve put a lot of them on for players who wear down varnish. 

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