Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Repository or bank of knowledge about varnishes.


Mauricio Sartori

Recommended Posts

Now all you guys have to do is read the books.  There are a couple of interesting recipes in Mrs. Merrifield's book that point to a traditional making of oil varnish that are of historic interest.

I bet Jackson and I are the only two that have looked over the Macintosh book of varnish making in the last 50 years.  It is a book of commercial practice in varnish making at about year 1900, and I would say has no connection to the varnishes used in historic violin making, though I know that Jackson has been making varnishes from Macintosh's recipes using rosinates.  

I remember when the Brandmuir book came out; a very expensive coffee table book that was supposed to contain a lot of new and important information.  It cost what, $500?  I asked some of the proud owners on Maestronet to give a brief summary of the results--not one did it--so, I assume no one really read it.  The one person who reviewed it was Nagyvary-  what he said was very interesting--I think you can still find his review.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 100
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

7 minutes ago, Mike_Danielson said:

and I would say has no connection to the varnishes used in historic violin making, though I know that Jackson has been making varnishes from Macintosh's recipes using rosinates.  

I completely concur. Michaelman seemed to think rosinates were a plausible historical resin option for the Cremonese, and I totally disagree with his assessment. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 minutes ago, Mike_Danielson said:

I remember when the Brandmuir book came out; a very expensive coffee table book that was supposed to contain a lot of new and important information.  It cost what, $500?  I asked some of the proud owners on Maestronet to give a brief summary of the results--not one did it--so, I assume no one really read it.  The one person who reviewed it was Nagyvary-  what he said was very interesting--I think you can still find his review.

Mike, your assumption is not correct.  I know of a number of people who "really read it".  Fully understanding it all is another matter.  The material presented is complicated.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 hours ago, Mike_Danielson said:

John Harte is the real deal on varnish knowledge.  Would you care to give us the highlights of the Brandmuir book and how it relates to Echard's work?  I only have Nagyvary's review to go on.

Buy the book and see for yourself, it's expensive I suppose due to the many great photos, it's worth having for these alone. I did it. Making an accurate revision takes a long time and it's a lot of work, you can't expect people to do it, or be able to do it, it takes a lot of technical/scientific preparation, and a simple luthier is unlikely to be able.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, Davide Sora said:

Buy the book and see for yourself, it's expensive I suppose due to the many great photos, it's worth having for these alone

"Makers who find the price of the B&G tome high for their taste should consider the expenses of the underlying research, which considering the logistics, the time of the highly trained personnel, and use of instruments could be close to half a million dollars, unless the contributions were offered pro bono. In some form, the people who benefit from such research should find it fitting to pay for it."  (http://www.nagyvaryviolins.com/review_of_Stradivari_Varnish.html).

So keep in mind that you may not be paying for knowledge - you may be paying for great photos and to reimburse the authors for their time in some institution's lab, which otherwise they'd be devoting to - what - their paying job?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The research done by Brandmair and Echard is deeply informative on the classic violin varnishes...particularly on the work on the Stradivari instruments. I think the Brandmair book is worth more than she charges.

As one wades into the pool of varnish making, aimed at a violin varnish, I think it is important to keep in mind that the materials we use are unchanged over the centuries.

on we go,

Joe

Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 hours ago, John Harte said:

Mike, your assumption is not correct.  I know of a number of people who "really read it".  Fully understanding it all is another matter.  The material presented is complicated.  

Indeed, John.

Some other good books:

  • German Varnish by Bottler trans. Sabin
  • The Industrial and Artistic Technology of Paint and Varnish by Sabin
  • No.1 Manufacture of Varnishes by Neil
  • The Painter and Varnisher's Companion by Tingry
  • The Technology of Natural Resins by Mantell
  • Drying OIls, Boiled OIl, and Liquid and Solid Oil by Andes.

Now, I will say one more time, wouldn't it make sense to have this information in a pinned thread, rather than in this thread which will disappear into obscurity in a few days? All the books above above, as well as the McIntosh, Merrifield, and Eastlake volumes already mentioned, can be read for free online.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

52 minutes ago, joerobson said:

The research done by Brandmair and Echard is deeply informative on the classic violin varnishes...particularly on the work on the Stradivari instruments.

So I suppose a few questions would be (for you, Mr. Mayberry, and Mr. Voigt):

1) Did you change your varnish formulas as a consequence of information contained in the book (even if said information was published elsewhere by the authors)?

2) Did it cause you to change your (recommended or private) method of application?

3) If you did either, is your new formula or application more Strad-like in any discernible way from your prior formula?

I tried to pose these questions in such a manner that you don't have to give any details away, and if you don't want to answer that's ok.  However, a 'yes' to 1) or 2), particularly if coupled with a 'yes' to 3), may justify the expense on technical grounds alone.  Sorry for the pun...done pouting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

50 minutes ago, Dr. Mark said:

So I suppose a few questions would be (for you, Mr. Mayberry, and Mr. Voigt):

1) Did you change your varnish formulas as a consequence of information contained in the book (even if said information was published elsewhere by the authors)?

YES

2) Did it cause you to change your (recommended or private) method of application?

YES

 

50 minutes ago, Dr. Mark said:

3) If you did either, is your new formula or application more Strad-like in any discernible way from your prior formula?

YES

I tried to pose these questions in such a manner that you don't have to give any details away, and if you don't want to answer that's ok.  However, a 'yes' to 1) or 2), particularly if coupled with a 'yes' to 3), may justify the expense on technical grounds alone.  Sorry for the pun...done pouting.

on we go,

Joe

Link to comment
Share on other sites

39 minutes ago, Dr. Mark said:

Mayberry

It's Maberry, rather. Easy mistake, and maybe even an autocorrect thing, but Maberry is my name and I would prefer to be called what I am. 

 

40 minutes ago, Dr. Mark said:

1) Did you change your varnish formulas as a consequence of information contained in the book (even if said information was published elsewhere by the authors)?

I did not - I have always pursued rosinates knowing that they aren't germane to the Cremona tradition. While I have an academical interest in the possible historical materials and methods of old Cremona, it ends there. My practical preferences are for very different, more modern varnishes. 

 

43 minutes ago, Dr. Mark said:

2) Did it cause you to change your (recommended or private) method of application?

No, my private (and recommended, for they're the same) application methods are based entirely on what has worked best for my personal aesthetic aims, using the primer, ground, and varnishes that I developed for my own preferences. 

45 minutes ago, Dr. Mark said:

3) If you did either, is your new formula or application more Strad-like in any discernible way from your prior formula?

Not as far as I know, but that probably isn't surprising given my answers to 1 and 2. Pursuing the look/feel of old Cremona has never been one of my goals as a violin maker or a varnish maker. I am interested in the old ways in a scholarly sense, but my new making is concerned entirely with producing instruments that represent what I like. It's selfish, perhaps, but that's my prerogative as an artisan.

47 minutes ago, Dr. Mark said:

Sorry for the pun...done pouting

 Never apologize for a pun! I love them, no matter how "good" or "bad".

48 minutes ago, Dr. Mark said:

tried to pose these questions in such a manner that you don't have to give any details away

I appreciate your consideration here, however I have published my methodology for anyone to read, in The Scroll (available through VSA membership). 

Now, all of this said, I think the Brandmair book is top flight and worth the price of admission for a serious student of Cremona (strad especially) varnish. It doesn't really inform my work, as I said, but that has everything to do with my being something of a heretic. More traditionally minded makers would absolutely find themselves changing their approach after reading. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Dr. Mark said:

So I suppose a few questions would be (for you, Mr. Mayberry, and Mr. Voigt):

 

Thanks for including me in such august company but I don't make violins or violin varnish (OK, some very occasional dabbling in the latter). I make varnishes for furniture and tools, for my own use, and I give some away to friends--no sales. With all that said, I'd buy the BG book if it weren't so danged expensive!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

23 hours ago, Mike_Danielson said:

John Harte is the real deal on varnish knowledge.  Would you care to give us the highlights of the Brandmuir book and how it relates to Echard's work?  I only have Nagyvary's review to go on.

Mike, I can assure you that there are people here who know far more than I do.

As you have noted, Nagyvary's review is very interesting.  He presents a reasonable overview of what is included and makes some comments that I do agree with.  However there are comments that I neither understand nor agree with.  Some of what he includes towards the end has, in my opinion, lessened what this review could have been.

A little more information can be found here: https://www.cremonatools.com/stradivari-varnish-brandmair-greiner.html and here: https://www.janroehrmann.de/violin-books-stradivari-varnish

Brandmair and Echard consider similar material detail with the exception of Brandmair addressing what appears to be  stain presence within upper wood structure.  There are some apparent differences in what they found.  However background context is an important consideration when assessing how significant these differences might be.

Mike, maybe you could start a thread or threads considering specific detail from specific studies. That may be a better means of generating useful comment and discussion from those interested in such things.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It would be very beneficial to read Nagyvary's review--one of the things he casts doubt on is the extremely low ratio of oil to rosin that B&G find--he thinks the analytical technique is not capable of making this conclusion.   This is an important observation because a number of varnish makers have been influenced by the B&G work.  This is an area that Nagyvary is knowledgeable on--I would take very seriously what he says.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 minutes ago, Mike_Danielson said:

It would be very beneficial to read Nagyvary's review--one of the things he casts doubt on is the extremely low ratio of oil to rosin that B&G find--he thinks the analytical technique is not capable of making this conclusion.   This is an important observation because a number of varnish makers have been influenced by the B&G work.  This is an area that Nagyvary is knowledgeable on--I would take very seriously what he says.

 

I will agree on this much, that I also doubt the very lean formulations that have been in vogue. We know that drying oil films (and their varnishes) change over time in a way that effects solubility, plasticity, and other factors. Were the varnishes of old so short, I would be willing to bet they'd be in an even worse state today than they are. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

23 hours ago, Mike_Danielson said:

It would be very beneficial to read Nagyvary's review--one of the things he casts doubt on is the extremely low ratio of oil to rosin that B&G find--he thinks the analytical technique is not capable of making this conclusion.   This is an important observation because a number of varnish makers have been influenced by the B&G work.  This is an area that Nagyvary is knowledgeable on--I would take very seriously what he says.

Detail justifying what B&G came up with will be included somewhere in the book.  Nagyvary mentions that the "conclusion appears to be supported only by FTIR spectra".  I have the impression that their short oil conclusion may have at least in part been influenced by Greiner's work regarding wear characteristics, e.g, chipping effects etc., but may be wrong in thinking this.  There is a recipe that Greiner provides that involves a low ratio with the resin being cooked for a relatively long period at something like 120ºC..  I have tried this and have a jar of the varnish somewhere along with dried samples.

There is other material that considers violin varnish oil to resin ratios.  If you want to delve further you could consider various Echard publications and those of his students Celine Daher and Sophie Tirat.  Members of the Averdi Lab group have also published material related to this topic.  Raymond White also briefly touches on this topic in at least one of his 1984 Strad magazine articles.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 5/27/2023 at 7:28 PM, Mike_Danielson said:

It would be very beneficial to read Nagyvary's review--one of the things he casts doubt on is the extremely low ratio of oil to rosin that B&G find--he thinks the analytical technique is not capable of making this conclusion.   This is an important observation because a number of varnish makers have been influenced by the B&G work.  This is an area that Nagyvary is knowledgeable on--I would take very seriously what he says.

 

This is one of the reasons it’s good to read it and make your own conclusions.  My recollection (I don’t have the book in front of me, but have spent many, many hours looking over the technical essays and discussing them with others) is the conclusion that the varnish is resin heavy came from observing the mechanical properties of several varnishes made by Greiner and him deciding lean gave the results he thought were closest.  I don’t use a very lean varnish, but would say I’m fairly influenced by both Brandmair’s analysis and by Echard.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.



×
×
  • Create New...