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Please recommend some pigments for oil varnishes


Wood Butcher
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I know it is the fashion now, to cook the resin(s) for a million hours :lol:, in order to obtain colour, and retain the transparency. My current living arrangements prevent me from being able to safely do a long cook, so I have a varnish, which although looking dark in a jar, has very little colour at all when spread thinly.

I would be grateful if any of the experienced makers, would point me in the direction of some pigments (preferably yellows, browns, oranges, reds), which are suitable for oil varnishes, and have decent light-fastness. I have used madder many times previously, but it is fugitive, and has a limited range of shades.

I have seen there are some transparent iron oxides, but understand there is a lot of concern around the use of iron, and what may happen to it in the future. I have never personally seen it go bad, this is only based upon what I have read. Are iron oxides worth considering, or best left alone?

While artist tube pigments, are essentially paint, are there any which can be used without becoming opaque?

My thanks to you in advance.

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I was under the impression, that in oil varnish, dyes (or at least some type of dye, aniline?) can fade so greatly, that they almost disappear completely. My belief is that something in the varnish is reacting with the dye, rather than fading due to light exposure. Is this correct?

My concern with using purely dyes, is that the varnish could lack body and richness, leading to it looking like cheap factory finishes.

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I'm gonna experiment with Winsor and Newton Artists' Oil Colors for tinting Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil;

Alizarin, Indian Yellow, Burnt Sienna.

I also have some Rembrandt Asphaltum. 

I'm toying with the idea of using Vinegaroon (iron dissolved in white vinegar), which I use for coloring maple gunstocks, but worry about coloring Spruce with it.

 

488421555_Flintlock20.jpg

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In the amounts required to color a varnish, even pigments not listed as transparent will be transparent IF their tinting strength is strong enough. Alizarin Crimson is one traditional color that works, for instance. Pthalo Blue can provide a strong darkening/anti-red influence in tiny quantities where its opacity is unimportant. Synthetic Indian Yellow commonly used, but it isn't very transparent so you need to go easy with it, but reasonable amounts work fine. Always buy the best paints since the cheaper ones contain a lot of fillers that reduce the tinting strength.

If you want to experiment there are other colors that work.

Additionally there's the effect of time with oil varnishes which change their refractive index and color over time. In the 90s I was dissatisfied with the transparency and color of some of my varnishes, but when I see them now they have cleared up quite a bit and also appear a bit darker and richer than they did then with a stronger yellow/gold component that they didn't originally have.

Oil varnish tends to get warmer with time and I have seen odd effects where people added what was probably a clear undercoat over a yellow ground and now the violins have two different yellow undercoats and it looks terrible, so these days I don't try to make a golden ground, counting on it happening over time. . . . which it does.

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16 hours ago, Wood Butcher said:

I was under the impression, that in oil varnish, dyes (or at least some type of dye, aniline?) can fade so greatly, that they almost disappear completely. My belief is that something in the varnish is reacting with the dye, rather than fading due to light exposure. Is this correct?

My concern with using purely dyes, is that the varnish could lack body and richness, leading to it looking like cheap factory finishes.

These three are my favorite pigments. When mixed with these varnishes I can control the intensity and need only two or three coats of color on top of the ground color. And finally a clear coat on top.

IMG_2006.thumb.JPG.06e388f4836270935b6ddac097f41bec.JPG

IMG_2010.thumb.JPG.6b9afa13601136dacd94f0c82bbfb09b.JPG

Others have recommended these but I have yet to experiment with them.

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For me madder and cochineal lakes work when mixed with the varnishes mentioned. This is just two coats...

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39 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

I have seen odd effects where people added what was probably a clear undercoat over a yellow ground and now the violins have two different yellow undercoats and it looks terrible, so these days I don't try to make a golden ground, counting on it happening over time. . . . which it does.

Musing; 

How about tinting Zinsser Dewaxed Shellac Seal Coat with a little yellow Fiebings Leather Dye thinned with 195 proof Alcohol as a ground coat?  - by adding the dye to alcohol, letting it settle then using a Pipette to draw colored alcohol off the top to avoid polluting the shellac with particulates?

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17 hours ago, Wood Butcher said:

I know it is the fashion now, to cook the resin(s) for a million hours :lol:, in order to obtain colour, and retain the transparency. My current living arrangements prevent me from being able to safely do a long cook, so I have a varnish, which although looking dark in a jar, has very little colour at all when spread thinly.

I've done several long cooks and never achieved a nice red color. When spread thin and a red pigment was mixed in it always turned way too orange, naturally.

The key was to find a good transparent red varnish. There are a few varnish makers producing these. A nice red varnish mixed with red pigments helps lay down an intense layer of color.

I never liked the look of varnish mixed with tube paints. I find lakes look better and are more transparent. I also prefer pigments in dry form rather than in the tube.

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14 hours ago, Rico Suave said:

Musing; 

How about tinting Zinsser Dewaxed Shellac Seal Coat with a little yellow Fiebings Leather Dye thinned with 195 proof Alcohol as a ground coat?  - by adding the dye to alcohol, letting it settle then using a Pipette to draw colored alcohol off the top to avoid polluting the shellac with particulates?

If it's dye your after I would recommend this kit. The dyes are excellent and can be mixed into many shades.

https://www.woodessence.com/Dyes-Pigments/ColorFX-Dye-Concentrates/ColorFX-Dye-Wood-Tone-Kits

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1 hour ago, Michael Darnton said:

@Advocatus Diaboli

Assuming you mean transparent not translucent? Translucent is not much to brag about...

I think we’re talking about the same thing.  I try and avoid using the word transparent since my understanding is that no varnish is completely transparent, only translucent.  I’ll clarify that the pigmentation doesn’t add any opacity to the varnish I’m using. 

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My test of a "transparent" color would be to see what it looks like in a jar.  If it's transparent, it looks black (even transparent yellow, if it's intense enough).  Look at jars of various dyes, and it's really hard to tell what color they are.  The light goes in... but it doesn't hit any particles to reflect it back out.

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The quality in madder and cochineal pigments in every aspect can vary so greatly that it is difficult to me to make general statements about them. Made in the right way, imo they can’t be surpassed in transparency, color quality and are lightest enough. I don’t want a car varnish on my violins. It has to age in a charming way. Some sort of mild fading is part of it. 

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11 hours ago, Rico Suave said:

 

 

488421555_Flintlock20.jpg

That's a nice looking stock. I like the carvings.

  Seems like a lot of long rifle builders like to put a lot of stain on the maple and kill the chatoyance of the maple. 

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16 hours ago, charliemaine said:

These three are my favorite pigments. When mixed with these varnishes I can control the intensity and need only two or three coats of color on top of the ground color. And finally a clear coat on top.

IMG_2006.thumb.JPG.06e388f4836270935b6ddac097f41bec.JPG

IMG_2010.thumb.JPG.6b9afa13601136dacd94f0c82bbfb09b.JPG

Others have recommended these but I have yet to experiment with them.

IMG_2002.thumb.JPG.d1e8133cca3cc0a2fb8382eafebe0ef0.JPG

For me madder and cochineal lakes work when mixed with the varnishes mentioned. This is just two coats...

IMG_2007.thumb.jpg.9bcea7c8e088c539b0744dccc63a4aa9.jpg

 

 

 

IMG_2009.thumb.JPG.8395b47e1b174d4c492dcc648dc0ce0c.JPG

Looks great, E!

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WB,

I know it may seem lame, but I know several good living makers who use some of the inexpensive Joha color extracts and to good effect.

However, my favorite living maker uses pigments only, mostly ones he makes himself. https://www.jordanhessviolins.com/instrument-gallery

Rosinate varnishes are also an option, if you're looking for intense color and transparency. 

If you want to make your own pigments, Jo Kirby's articles and books are incredibly helpful. It's also pretty fun! I have an article on pigment making brewing for The Strad. 

Mike Molnar has done a lot of posting on modern pigments. As I recall, his favorites for lightfastness and transparency are the cinquasia red gold and the Perylene maroon. They have the benefit of being very inexpensive too. 

End of the day, lots of pretty good options, and I hope you'll find one that works well for you and that you enjoy. 

Cheers!

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18 hours ago, Advocatus Diaboli said:

I think we’re talking about the same thing.  I try and avoid using the word transparent since my understanding is that no varnish is completely transparent, only translucent.  I’ll clarify that the pigmentation doesn’t add any opacity to the varnish I’m using. 

 

12 hours ago, Michael Szyper said:

The quality in madder and cochineal pigments in every aspect can vary so greatly that it is difficult to me to make general statements about them. Made in the right way, imo they can’t be surpassed in transparency, color quality and are lightest enough. I don’t want a car varnish on my violins. It has to age in a charming way. Some sort of mild fading is part of it. 

Agree with both. Too much transparency lacks body, some pigmentation and fading is a good thing.

Third color coat.

It has enough transparency to allow the color to change and shift with different angles of light.

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