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Michael Avagliano

Is that a violin in that box...?

June 17, 2011 at 2:08 PM

Or are you just happy to see me?

  When a violin is being varnished, the varnish needs to dry. The best thing to dry varnish with is sunlight and fresh air, which is why Stradivari had a little alcove on top of his house where (presumably) he hung the instruments to dry while continuing to work down below.

   But of course, it's not sunny every day, which does make me wonder what Strad did when it got cloudy. Whatever his solution was, I'm sure it doesn't bear any resemblance to this:


  Enter the drying booth! A modern convenience for violinmakers everywhere. It may look like an innocent cardboard shipping box, complete with UPS label on the side. But open it up, and.... surprise!


  A little aluminum foil, some blacklights (far out, dude!) and you're ready to dry some varnish. My stepson's favorite part is the computer cooling fan on the top. Since the lights have to stay on all night long, it can get hot inside the box and slow the drying process, so the fan keeps the airflow going (there's a ventilation hole in the bottom of the box) and makes sure that everything stays cool. And I mean cool -- a few of these and you have one serious 60's party! I can hear the Doors playing in the background already....

Psychedelic fiddle, dude!

  So now that there's a couple of coats of varnish on the violin, I can make some final tweaks to the color, and let the varnish just sit for a while before putting everything back together and stringing it up for real. I already know that's going to be the hardest part, having the violin sitting there, beckoning me to play it. But I'll try to be patient, and soon enough, I'll be drawing notes out of MY violin...

From Laurie Niles
Posted on June 17, 2011 at 5:00 PM

 This made me smile, I love it! Engineering, innovation, fluorescent lights, an old box and a computer fan combine in a mission to complete a violin. What could be better?

From bill platt
Posted on June 17, 2011 at 5:16 PM

Looks like a freaking insurance calamity to me.

From Michael Avagliano
Posted on June 17, 2011 at 6:53 PM

Thanks, Laurie! Some fellow makers have commended me for the most creative use of a shipping box....

And don't worry, Bill. The fan is there to keep things cool, but even without it the temperature inside the box is well below flashpoint, even for cardboard. It does get warm enough, though, to impede the drying of the varnish.

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