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Varnish, how do you like it to be


Peter K-G

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I like a varnish that is fragile and will wear like an old Cremonese. Something that dries fast enough for flies not to stick to it but has a levelling quality that will sink into wood pores and show texture. Mine is quite fast drying contains walnut oil and is yellow in a thin coat and orange after a few more then red at about 10 coats. Each coat must bind to the former totally homogeneously without need for sanding etc. Attached are a couple of pics of my normal varnish next to a Strad I will be copying and these should look authentic under UV inspection. I am always conscious that my ingredient supply might cease and after 43 years of experimentation I could get the look I want in daylight at least with multiple products. Not to be cocky tho'....Sometimes one's favourite varnish that worked last time can change in storage so always do test sample before throwing it on all that hard work we did!!!!!

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Melvin that looks very good.  I know with all the time invested you can't go into much detail but can you say some general things about your finish?     Do you use lake pigments or just highly cooked rosin?   Is the yellowish ground something different from the varnish or just the varnish in a thin layer?  Do you pretreat the wood with a stain of some kind?  

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On 12/11/2022 at 9:38 PM, MikeC said:

Melvin that looks very good.  I know with all the time invested you can't go into much detail but can you say some general things about your finish?     Do you use lake pigments or just highly cooked rosin?   Is the yellowish ground something different from the varnish or just the varnish in a thin layer?  Do you pretreat the wood with a stain of some kind?  

Hi Mike. I try to use historically verifiable ingredients that look correct under UV inspection. I generally don't use pigments or lakes. My colour comes from carefully cooking ingredients. If I would use pigments it would be a very small amount to tint rather than colour. I pre treat the wood to get an aged colour but I suspect the great old guys went with white wood which they sealed or sized  and then stained gold after which applying some fast drying clear coats and then some fast drying color coats judging by the lack of attached flies and the look inside the F holes of prime untouched examples

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1 hour ago, Melvin Goldsmith said:

Hi Mike. I try to use historically verifiable ingredients that look correct under UV inspection. I generally don't use pigments or lakes. My colour comes from carefully cooking ingredients. If I would use pigments it would be a very small amount to tint rather than colour. I pre treat the wood to get an aged colour but I suspect the great old guys went with white wood which they sealed or sized  and then stained gold after which applying some fast drying clear coats and then some fast drying color coats judging by the lack of attached flies and the look inside the F holes of prime untouched examples

Hi Melvin, thanks for the comments.  Can you explain any more about the F holes? What look are you referring to there?  The most pristine example I've seen is the Chardon, pictures only not in person, there is no varnish on the edges of the F holes.   Well used instruments on the other hand seem quite dark on the edges, perhaps old rosin residue?  

Regarding staining gold, some seem to have it while other not so much but I like that look.   

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20 hours ago, Melvin Goldsmith said:

Hi Mike. I try to use historically verifiable ingredients that look correct under UV inspection. I generally don't use pigments or lakes. My colour comes from carefully cooking ingredients. If I would use pigments it would be a very small amount to tint rather than colour. I pre treat the wood to get an aged colour but I suspect the great old guys went with white wood which they sealed or sized  and then stained gold after which applying some fast drying clear coats and then some fast drying color coats judging by the lack of attached flies and the look inside the F holes of prime untouched examples

Hi Mike Sorry not to be more specific re 'inside the F holes'. I was referring to the varnish runs we see on pristine old Cremonese on the inside of the belly where varnish has flowed in through the F holes during varnishing and that would indicate to me a quite fluid varnish

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Hi Melvin, I know what you're referring to I've seen a picture of the inside of a Del Gesu that shows that run down the inside.  I agree with a thin varnish and multiple coats vs. a thick coat padded on.  That's the direction I'm planning to go with mine.  Same with the ground coat, even water thin I don't think it will soak in too much.   

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I just kind of make the varnish an put it on the violin. I don't fuss. With some skill you can make just about anything work. As long as the woodwork is great and it's prepared well, anything you slap over it should look nice, barring anything extreme. 

 

But I'm not a varnish guru, and I haven't been experimenting for decades so I'm sure my outlook will change. 

I use the Hargrave recipe. I'm gonna cook a new batch that's more resin heavy next for better antiquing agreeability. Probably a 4-1 resin-to-oil. If you use just the ingredients from the double bass blog, you'll get a nice varnish, but it'll darken considerably in the jar after a few months, due to the acidity in the colophony. I would suggest that anyone making this recipe to neutralize the batch at some point, and to perhaps use a more resin heavy ratio. 

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