Hill Violin Cleaner/Polish

July 9, 2007 at 12:09 AM · Hello guys:

I have noticed some rosin built up under the strings on my violin. Is there an effective and safe cleaner/polish I can use at home?

Lot of people recommended Hill but I heard that it actaully leaves a build-up on the varnish?

Thanks for your help

Replies (21)

July 9, 2007 at 02:50 AM · The Hill polish is the worst thing you can use. It is turning the built up resin in a kind of varnish making it transparent. The problem is that the best solvant is alcohol, but alcohol dissolves the varnish underneath as well. Usually the best thing to do is to clean the violin of colophany dust after each use with a dry cloth. For thicker built ups it is rather advisable to bring it to a professional luthier. If you bought the violin in his shop he might do the procedure for a low service charge.

July 10, 2007 at 01:58 PM · Exactly Andreas! I used the Hill polish on my previous violin,a Johannes Cuypers.It literally took the varnish right off down to the bare wood.I may as well have used pure alcohol...I take my present violin to a good repair man twice a year for a proper clean.Worth every penny..

July 10, 2007 at 09:56 PM · Taking it to the luthier was what I would've done if I still live in Vancouver... Any suggestions for luthiers in Scotland or in London?

July 10, 2007 at 11:44 PM · The other comments surprise me. I've used the Hill cleaner for many years and never had a problem with it on any violin.

July 11, 2007 at 01:06 AM · The tops in the worls, allegedly, is Beare in London.

July 11, 2007 at 02:36 AM · Frederick: I was told that different varnishes react differently to the Hill polish.You just have to try it in a small inconspicuous area first and see what happens.

July 11, 2007 at 05:37 AM · "colophany dust"?

Do we really need to know your medical problems?

July 11, 2007 at 01:11 PM · I used to always be overindulgent with the polish to the point of obsession.Now I find out that the more "goop" you put on your violin the more rosin will adhere to it.You end up with layers and layers of polish mixed with old rosin....again its worth going to a luthier twice a year..get it done right the first time....

July 13, 2007 at 07:35 PM · Just an addendum here...I had my violin cleaned by Quentin Playfair in Toronto three years ago.He explained that he uses a powerful cleaner that actually melts the first few microns of thickness of the varnish.While its in this state he then re arranges this layer and "sops up" the dirt that was present.He then lets it dry and buffs it.My violin was two shades lighter in colour after his clean up and rosin would not stick so easily to the surface.I find it amusing that there are living makers who try to emulate the "dirty" look on their new instruments while Im trying to get rid of it......

July 13, 2007 at 08:08 PM · How does it know to stop dissolving after a few microns? It must be smart stuff!

July 13, 2007 at 08:42 PM · This post raises the question of how much rosin you are using. You should not use very much rosin at all. If you are getting a buildup under the strings, you may well be using too much.

July 13, 2007 at 09:41 PM · Jim: I guess I'll reword that.The cleaner melts the uppermost layer of the clearcoat varnish.Quentin knows from experience when to start the"sopping up" phase of the cleaning.

Tom: If you are practising and performing for 4 to 5 hours a day you will get rosin build up and you need to have rosin on your bow.A necessary evil.

July 15, 2007 at 01:07 AM · Peter--It sounds like you're describing a French polish-they were quite in vogue 30 years ago. Nowadays it seems everyone thinks the dirt on the fiddle is valuable patina, I guess they're suffering from an overdose of Antiques Roadshow.

July 15, 2007 at 01:30 AM · Your so right Jay! I just take the middle road and have the fiddle cleaned once(maybe twice at the most)per year.It therefore looks old but not "grimy".

Im ignorant about French polishing.I was told by Quentin that he just cleaned the fiddle.It didn't have that "Simonized" sheen when I got it back.What exactly is French polishing?

July 16, 2007 at 11:57 AM · Hi all:

Thanks for all the posting here. I guess safest thing will be to take my violin to Guivier's in London for a clean up then. I have tried contacting Beare but they actaully will not repair any instruments that's not sold by them.

July 24, 2007 at 04:03 AM · Tampering with the finish of your violin is serious business. A professional luthier with probably try to mechanically remove buildup before resorting to solvents.

Remember that nothing lasts forever, and that it’s okay for your violin to show signs of use, even if it's a concert instrument. An instrument = your favorite pair of comfortable pants.

As for the issue of rosin on strings:

The best advice that has been given - clean your instrument with a dry cloth after each time you play. I even go so far as to pinch and pull the cleaning cloth over each string.

Most posted issues concerning a bad E string probably stem from a lack of regular maintenance, resulting in rosin buildup or rust.

I've found that an orange (organic) based cleaner seems to work the best on strings. It is a strong cleaner, but relatively safe for your instrument (much safer than strong alcohol based products).

July 24, 2007 at 03:35 AM · I guess I'll try my hand at explaining what French Polishing is. Keep in mind that I repair antique furniture, and have only recently started repairing instruments.

French Polishing is a very basic method of finishing wood with shellac. Most modern instruments use thick plastic clear coats to create shine appeal, but the result is a deadened instrument (might as well make the entire instrument out of plastic).

Shellac finishes are easily damaged, and also easily repaired. In my opinion, it is ideal for most instruments... it dries quickly, creates a crisp crystalline structure that allows an instrument to sound clearly, and also lets an instrument breathe.

French polishing is simply how the shellac is finished. Usually repeated thin coats of shellac are applied to an instrument... lightly abraded and cleaned between application (everyone has their own technique).

The final finishing (the actual French Polishing part) of the shellac is done with a wadded up ball of cloth, evenly dampened with a form of alcohol. The cloth is moved quickly over the shellacked surface (without touching the surface - ideally). The solvent fumes whisk over the shellac, effectively melting the shellac, allowing it to flow evenly into itself to create a mirror shine. While some people are quite skilled at this process, I generally find that some further polishing is required with a fine finish polishing compound.

July 24, 2007 at 01:48 PM ·

July 24, 2007 at 02:03 PM · I've actually been advised to avoid cleaners and polishes as they are known to wear down the varnish. Instead, I've made it a habit to have two dry cloths to use after I've finished playing: one to wipe the strings down to remove the excess rosin, and a second cloth to wipe down the strings up on the fingerboard (to remove natural skin oils). Be consistant with their use too, cause using the rosin'd rag on your fingerboard will make things a bit sticky. I suppose you can also use a third rag to buff the body of the violin too if your fingerprints are really annoying you, haha.

I've been doing this since I began back in November and haven't had a problem with rosin buildup at all. But then again, it is much easier to keep something clean when you pick things up as you go along. ;)

February 27, 2011 at 05:41 PM ·

I have read that many cleaners polishes are bad but here's my deal. Friday night in the coda to the first movement of Beethoven 9 a blob of RED GLOOP fell in my viola from the shell. Looked like transmission fluid. I waited till the singers walked in at break between second and third movement then got a hankie from someone and whiped it off but it did leave a stain,,so, is it better to leave it alone or get some kind of cleaner or cleaner/polish to go over the spot???

February 27, 2011 at 06:59 PM ·

Take your instrument to a luthier, this is the best thing to do, I think.


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