Posts Tagged ‘color coats’

Finishing the Finish

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Finishing the Finish

Color Coats

When I last posted, I had only the yellow, base coats of varnish in place, so the violin looked like this:

Yellow Varnish

Yellow varnish

 

I added a rapid series of color coats; very thin, deeply-tinted varnish, and then it looked like this:

Color coat front

Color coat, front; emulating the wear patterns on the original 1715 “Titian” Stradivarius violin.

 

Color Coat, Back.

Color coat, back. Sorry for the poor quality photo…I used the zoom on my phone. Bad choice.

 

After that coat was good and dry, I continued to build the color in the areas that needed more, and trying to leave it appropriately light in the areas where the Old Master instrument had the most severe wear. I also noticed that there was a “bump”–a ridge in the spruce, near the purfling, which I had not been able to see in the clean, fresh wood, but which, under a reflective layer, became quite apparent. (Sigh...) So, I used a sharp scraper to bring the ridge down flat, and then began rebuilding the varnish layers to match the rest of the area.

Corrective

Corrective “surgery”…removed a ridge in the spruce that I had missed earlier. Rebuilding the varnish, now.

 

The back was looking pretty nice, though:

Back nearly complete.

Back nearly complete.

 

And, today, I installed the soundpost, and then applied two coats of clear varnish. Afterward, I installed the end-pin, the tuning pegs, and the fingerboard. Here it is with the clamps still in place.

End-pin, fingerboard and pegs installed

End-pin, fingerboard and pegs installed; pegs still need to be trimmed to length.

 

Endpin

Endpin couldn’t be seem in the previous photo…here it is.

 

Violin front, prior to set-up

Violin front, prior to set-up.

 

Violin back, prior to set-up.

Violin back, prior to set-up.

 

So: That’s as far as I got, today. Next time; the saddle, the nut and final set-up. This violin is nearly completed!

 

Thanks for looking.

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Finishing Sequence: Part Three

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The Final Varnishing Steps:

Color Coats Application; Shading, etc.

Choices:

There are as many individual styles for violin-family instrument finish as there are makers, it seems, but most makers still face the same sorts of decisions:

  • What kind of varnish? There are so many variants on this one that I am not even going to try…
    • The biggest division, though, is the choice between “Spirit Varnish” or “Oil Varnish.”
  • Basic color scheme: Red, Brown, Amber, or Orange? Or somewhere in between?
    • And, how do you achieve those colors? With synthetic dyes, natural pigments, or something else? Some people induce color in their varnishes by the making or cooking processes. Some add color afterward.
  • Thick or thin varnish: one can go too far in either direction.
    • Too little varnish, and it has a “dry”, thin look.
    • Too much, and it can look as though it has been dipped in marmalade, and it will deaden the sound, as well.
  • “Straight” varnish (sometimes called “Full” varnish) or “Antiqued?”
    • If Antiquing is chosen, how far will you take it?
      • Just a gentle shading, emulating minimal wear, from careful use? or
      • Real damage, carefully repaired, “distressing” the instrument, to look as though it has survived several wars and a flood?
      • Or somewhere in between?

My Choices on This Viola are as Follows:

  • Spirit Varnish
  • Golden brown, leaning toward reddish brown
  • Thick enough varnish to stop looking “dry” or “thin”…just enough to give a sense of “depth” as one looks at the grain of the wood.
  • Gentle shading on the “antiquing,” adding darker color in the “no wear” areas, and leaving the “worn” areas a little thinner. I doubt it really looks like an old violin, but it has some of the general look and charm…I hope. 🙂 I have done straight varnish a few times, and, while it looks nice, I prefer the minimal antiquing.

So…when I last posted, I showed you the viola with the first four coats of varnish:

Viola back and side with four coats of spirit varnish

Viola back and side with four coats of spirit varnish.

 

Here is the Viola with Six Coats of Varnish:

 

Viola front with six coats of spirit varnish.

Viola front with six coats of spirit varnish. You can see that some touch-up will be needed to even out the color.

 

Viola side with six coats of spirit varnish.

Viola side with six coats of spirit varnish.

 

Viola back with six coats of spirit varnish.

Viola back with six coats of spirit varnish.

 

More Color Needed! Here it is with Eight Coats:

It looks pretty good in the above photos, but the camera does some odd things to the color, and it needed a little more, yet. So, here it is with eight coats:

Viola front with eight coats of spirit varnish.

Viola front with eight coats of spirit varnish. It isn’t really this red. It is still in the brown range. I don’t know why the camera affects the color appearance this way…maybe it is the lighting.

 

Viola side with eight coats of spirit varnish.

Viola side with eight coats of spirit varnish.

 

Viola back with eight coats of spirit varnish.

Viola back with eight coats of spirit varnish. Still some more work needed.

 

Final Sanding before Final Coat of Varnish

A careful rubdown with very fine, worn abrasives precedes the final coat of varnish, so that brush-marks, irregularities of any other sort, and rough areas can be reduced as much as possible.

Rubbed smooth, and ready for a final coat of yellow varnish.

Rubbed smooth, and ready for a final coat of yellow varnish.

By the way, that tiny brown dot in the middle of the lower front plate is a tiny knot in the spruce. It is in the wood, not the varnish. It doesn’t hurt a thing, and adds a bit of character, I think. (Real Spruce wood! It had branches originally! 🙂 ) I regularly use wood with “character.” Several of my early instruments have ribs with a pattern of tiny “pin-knots” in them. Those ribs were all cut from the same billet, and doled out one instrument at a time. I still have a few from that billet, and will use them eventually, as I really like them. Here is the side and back:

 

Side of viola, ready for final varnish coat.

Side of viola, ready for final varnish coat.

 

back of viola ready for final coat of varnish

On this side it is easy to see the dull, freshly sanded surface.

 

Here is the Final Look Before Adding the Fittings:

This is the final coat of yellow varnish…very thin…to achieve the look I wanted. There will still be a final rubdown and polishing, later on, but this is the last of the varnishing.

viola front with final coat of varnish

Front of 14-inch viola with ninth and final coat of varnish.

 

viola side with final coat of varnish

Side with final coat of varnish.

 

viola back with final coat of varnish

Back of 14-inch viola with ninth (final) coat of varnish.

 

What is left to do?

I will add the saddle and end-pin next, then re-install the fingerboard, fit the nut and tuning pegs, re-touch whatever damage is done to the varnish in the above-mentioned work, then set up the viola, with sound-post, bridge, tailpiece and strings. I’ll add the chin-rest when everything else is in its final state, and, as a very last step, seal and polish the “handle” portion of the neck.

Thanks for looking.

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Finishing Sequence Part Two

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Part Two: Beginning Varnish.

Sealer

When we last posted, I had just applied the sealer coat, and it was pretty fresh, still.

Back with freshly applied sealer

Back with freshly applied sealer.

 

The sealer does lighten a little bit as the turpentine evaporates…and, of course, the smell changes a lot. I happen to like the smell of turpentine, but it is pretty overpowering when the sealer is still fresh. Once the sealer was dry, I took a few more photos, then did some varnishing. I think you can see the difference, here:

Dry Sealer

Dry sealer on the front plate.

Dry sealer on the front plate.

 

dry sealer, side view

…and the side view…

 

dry sealer, back view

…and the back.

 

Beginning Varnish

But then I began the varnish. I usually try to lay down a golden base-color, and then add whatever other color I am working toward. I have ranged all over the board, trying different colors, but usually I end up in the browns or red-browns. I tried a really red violin with a student who demanded it, and he was thrilled with it…I was not. 🙂

So here is the viola after two coats of yellow-gold varnish.

fist two coats of yellow varnish

This is the first two coats… Not a lot of change, initially. Varnish takes a while to build up a good film.

 

Side view with two coats of yellow-gold varnish.

Side view with two coats of yellow-gold varnish.

 

viola with two coats of varnish

Back of viola with two coats of yellow-gold varnish.

 

I let it dry for a few days (partly because I had a great deal of other responsibilities that week), and then sanded it gently with worn 400-grit abrasive, rubbed it clean with a dry rag, and added another two coats of varnish:

Subsequent Base Coats

 

Viola with four coats of yellow-gold varnish.

Viola front and side, with four coats of yellow-gold varnish.

 

Viola back with four coats of yellow-gold varnish.

Viola side and back with four coats of yellow-gold varnish.

 

The appearance changed a lot more dramatically with those coats, didn’t it? The colors are getting richer, and the finish is much more glossy. I used the flash on these last two photos, so, to stay consistent, I will try to use it (and the same background) on all the remaining photos of the varnish.

Color Varnish and (Maybe) Antiquing

The next step will be to decide just how far down the “antiquing trail” I want to go, this time. I will unquestionably do at least a little…but I really like the look it is developing right now, so I want to be careful to not lose it. (The neck stain and seal is the very last thing to go on, just in case anyone is wondering. I will explain that later.)

At the very least, I will begin adding some red-brown varnish, to darken things up a little. I will most likely do at least a gentle shading toward “antiqued,” but I am leaning toward minimalism this time. Nothing drastic.

We’ll see. 🙂

Thanks for looking.

 

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