Spirit Varnish versus Oil VarnishInstruments: All other things being equal (same white violin), what effect does a spirit varnish have on tone versus an oil varnish.
From Anthony Chi
From LUIS CLAUDIO MANFIOSpirit varnishes may be good or bad, the same for oil varnish. I would not like to use an oil varnish that never dries completely on my violin, neither an spirit varnish that is too "dry". I find the final result of oil varnish better, that's why I use it and there is a trend towards oil varnish, but many makers in Italy prefer spirit varnishes.
Posted on August 2, 2008 at 01:12 PM
In my process I use an oil varnish based on a 1550 recipe in the Biblioteca Marciana, Venice, it's two parts oil, one part colophony and one part mastic. I make a paste with this varnish and pumice and burnish it into the wood, it makes quite a reflexive ground and is good for sound, I think.
The final result in terms on sound will not depend only on the varnish, but model, wood, archings, set up and the experience of the maker.
You can see pics of some of my instruments here:
From Russell HopperAll other things being equal: none
Posted on August 3, 2008 at 12:24 AM
"all things being equal" doesn't doesn't apply with violins. That's a big reason making violins is so difficult.
A properly applied varnish should have little to no effect on the white violin's sound. Conventional wisdom places way too much importance on the varnish's effect on sound.
One thing to consider is that spirit varnishes are much easier to touch-up than oil in a repair. Saying that, I prefer to varnish using oil because oil varnishes are much easier to work with on a new violin.
From Marc BettisThings to remember:
Posted on August 3, 2008 at 03:09 AM
1) As said, no two violins are identical
2) No two varnish batches are alike (most luthiers brew their own), and their can be inconsistencies within single batches of varnish for all manner of reasons
3) It is hard to find 2 luthiers who agree on just what exactly constitutes a "good" varnish. Or what one of said should do.
The above are amongst many reasons why you'll never find a "scientific" analysis on the topic--and why there is so much myth and truisms surrounding varnishes.....and why for the last 300 some odd years people have been claiming to have "found the secret of Antonio Strad."
In the worst case--it can strangle the tone, as a result of the finish being applied too thick or the layers drying to become too stiff to permit vibrations of the wood.
Oil varnishes tend to be much more difficult to brew, however they have much longer working times. (and they never really "dry") Look in a violin making book such as Johnson and Courtnall's The Art of Violin Making, their instructions for brewing a spirit varnish read like something off a box of Mac and Cheese you'd get at a supermarket.....the instructions for brewing up an oil varnish read like something out of a really classy verbose professional chef's cookbook.
From Bruce PattersonMy wife has a very good violin with oil varnish which she loves very much and my daughter has a very good violin with spirit varnish which she loves very much.
Posted on August 3, 2008 at 03:06 AM
Therefore we love both types of varnish if they are on the right fiddle!
Violinist.com Editor Laurie Niles went to Austin, Texas to cover the Menuhin Competition 2014, watching some of the world's top young violinists. Read her ongoing coverage.
Please consider supporting Violinist.com by becoming a sponsor, and reaching our dedicated community of violin professionals, students and fans!