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Violin Top and Back significant color difference


Nestor Vassiliou
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Good morning/afternoon/evening 

There is a pretty obvious color difference between the back of my violin and the sides/top. This is the first violin that I am making so at the time that I had ordered a set of tonewood from Alpine Tone Wood, to make my violin I didn't really pay much attention to the color difference between the back and the top.

As you can clearly tell from the pictures the back is quite brown compared to the sides and the top.

So I wanted to ask you, if is there any way to reduce the color difference so that when the violin is finished, this difference will be either eliminated or very mild?

Staining the top and sides or putting less brown color when varnishing the back, are the first things that come to my mind but I would like a more informed opinion on this matter.

By the way any comments on my violin that could help me for the next one will also be very much appreciated :)

Here are the pictures where you can also see the color difference:

 

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IMG_1292-min.JPG

IMG_1295-min.JPG

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You can apply a treatment to the ribs and top, such as tea/coffee, sodium nitrite or potassium permanganate (although many will violently disagree with using chemicals).  The key is to apply treatments to scraps and make sure the color behaves the way you expect.

You can balance shading by using thinner varnish on the back.  But if the back contains tints that are different than your varnish then you will still have a different color.

The most important thing is to start with well matched wood.

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lots of UV will bring them closer together. And chemicals, yes, if you want to start that education. It can be a rough one.

In the beginning, I was taught to adjust parts matching with later varnish layers, and to not worry about it so much as making another instrument, and another, and another. The knowledge to get what you want color-wise will come organically as you learn everything else

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1 hour ago, Shunyata said:

…and nice job for a first violin.  You will find that your second violin takes twice as long now that you know what you are doing.   :-)

I certainly hope not, this one already took me about a year or so at least :lol:  Thank you for the information, I have to admit tea/coffee staining seems like would help but I am a bit skeptical/worried that the surface might become blotchy. 

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1 hour ago, Christopher Jacoby said:

lots of UV will bring them closer together. And chemicals, yes, if you want to start that education. It can be a rough one.

In the beginning, I was taught to adjust parts matching with later varnish layers, and to not worry about it so much as making another instrument, and another, and another. The knowledge to get what you want color-wise will come organically as you learn everything else

I did consider using some chemicals, but the few ones that I know off (example ammonia fuming), made me understand that though they might provide the visual result you are looking for, could lead to catastrophic results in the long run, affecting negatively both the structure and the sound of the violin.

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Once fully varnished, the color differences you are noticing between the top and the back may pretty much go away. But to get a better idea, always varnish samples of your top and back and rib wood to see how they turn out, until you have established a rather foolproof system which will work reasonably well with most of the more common violinmaking woods.
Yes, doing so takes time, and delays the gratification of having "completed" an instrument, but typically takes a lot less time than stripping the finish from a violin and starting the varnishing process again from the start. And if you have used some sort of chemical colorant or penetrating stain, some of these things cannot be undone.

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5 hours ago, David Burgess said:

Once fully varnished, the color differences you are noticing between the top and the back may pretty much go away. But to get a better idea, always varnish samples of your top and back and rib wood to see how they turn out, until you have established a rather foolproof system which will work reasonably well with most of the more common violinmaking woods.
Yes, doing so takes time, and delays the gratification of having "completed" an instrument, but typically takes a lot less time than stripping the finish from a violin and starting the varnishing process again from the start. And if you have used some sort of chemical colorant or penetrating stain, some of these things cannot be undone.

Well said.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Just now, uguntde said:

Lots of UV is getting expensive in some parts of the world with rising electricity costs. But the best colouring of the wood seems to be with UV.

I know it has its detractors, and that they have their reasons. I have no beef with them. But oxidative elixirs like the ancient Roubo primer look fantastic and save you a lot of UV time

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19 hours ago, Televet said:

I think Nestor is in Greece. UV is mostly free there.:D

Indeed :lol: My violin has received the first two coats of ground varnish and is sunbathing in the balcony as we speak. However the contrast between the top and the back is still very obvious if not even more visible than before. I will probably apply a coat of brown varnish only on the top, the sides and the scroll just to make them match a little better with the back. 

I believe that the back I used is probably out of big leaf maple which usually is quite a bit darker than the European one. Hence the color difference. 

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1 hour ago, JacksonMaberry said:

At risk of being an annoyance, id like to suggest once more that it's not worth worrying about. I do think that this issue, as well as perhaps most posted about on these forums, are trivial despite the dogmatic positions maintained. 

Not at all, your opinion is very valuable. Here's a picture of how it looks after two coats of ground varnish. Hopefully it will even out a bit when I add in the colored layers...

 

IMG20221119114916.jpg

IMG20221119114909 (1).jpg

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