ReVarnishing/Repairing (Second Time)

February 15, 2017 at 10:45 PM · Hello everybody, I'm new here and the reason why I joined this website is just because I want to solve things with my old violin of late XIX or XX century.

10 years ago when I was kid I removed the varnish with sandpaper (long story to tell the reason), then gave it to violin expert who covered it with alcohol varnish. The sound is so horrible (it was so great before) and I find the reason in varnish.

So I want to know the best way to remove the alcohol varnish and to put the best varnish type (for me it's oil varnish, but I'm not sure if it's the best) you can advice me for old violin.

Yea, that will be my second attempt, but in my country there's no violin expert (or only irresponsible ones). So here I can trust only myself again....

I just don't want to get rid off my violin (it's a gift from granny and first violin of 4/4). I feel it like part of my heart....

Thank you all for answers I will have here

Replies (20)

February 16, 2017 at 08:03 AM · How did it sound when "naked"?

February 16, 2017 at 10:08 AM · When you removed the original varnish with sandpaper you certainly removed some wood with it, that may be the reason why you find it sounds bad today.

If the first revarnishing went bad, the sencond can be even worse, varnishing a violin is not an easy thing, and doing the right job in the very first time is almost impossible.

If I were you I would look for another violin.

On the other hand, if you are interested in making violins, start studying it firs.

February 16, 2017 at 10:09 AM · And, just to remembe, NEVER REMOVE VARNISH FROM INSTRUMENTS!!!

February 16, 2017 at 10:28 AM · I didn't check how it sounds when naked) Just a foolish child experimenting on his own violin without reading even about making varnish for violin.

Nowadays of course I know that removing original varnish is the worst idea, but you know, the violin is already like dead, so I have nothing to lose.

Yesterday I read an article that better to remove the varnish using acetone, but special acetone without methylene chloride. Though I dunno if that will work with alcohol varnish. If there's somebody who's pretty sure about it, then I will buy that and at the same time still needing to know the best varnish for old violin, so that will be my first real experiment (of course will watch some videos)

February 16, 2017 at 03:18 PM · If your inherited violin has just a sentimental value, why don't you keep it in a glass case, instead of doing another round of DIY which supposedly made it worse in the first place?

February 16, 2017 at 05:38 PM · Because I still want to use it. If I fail, then I will keep it as a showpiece. I'm pretty sure that in another attempt it won't break at least :D Good thing that there's no scratch or fixed broken part at all. So, still waiting for more advices :)

February 16, 2017 at 06:09 PM · Well, how about a chemical paint stripper, with very fine wire wool? Then test the tone. If it improves, try the thinnest possible layer of varnish..

But don't tell Luis I said so, he'll never speak to me again!

February 16, 2017 at 06:09 PM ·

February 16, 2017 at 07:26 PM · I also did that when I was a about 15. I had a 3/4 size Chezchovakian violin I sanded to the wood. As I recall, it sounded better with no finish. I think I put a coat of shellac, eight coats of varnish (don't recall how I tinted the varnish), and one coat of polyurethane. I stopped playing for many years. About ten years ago, I took it to have it set up. Then more years just sitting in it's case. Last year I had the bridge re-worked and sound post adjusted. It sounds like one of those cheap imports. I hope this can be a warning to all who are considering amatuer improvements.

February 16, 2017 at 09:02 PM · T.M. thanks a lot! That's very necessary thing you told) I will consider this. And what about chemical paint stripper, let's see, I will have to check the ingredient first to be sure that it won't destroy the wood...

February 17, 2017 at 12:55 AM · The problem with any chemical paint stripper is removing it all once it has done its job. It will have soaked into the pores of the wood and may interfere with the next varnish.

February 17, 2017 at 01:13 AM · Bringing all the strippers out of the woodwork!!

February 17, 2017 at 03:11 AM · I must ask, what would possess a kid to decide to sand away the varnish on their violin?

February 17, 2017 at 03:49 AM · In my case, the violin had some sctatches. It was Summer. I had a part time job that left the afternoons free. I would work on it between baseball (playing) and dinner. I was not playing it because there was no school in the Summer back then. I was always working on something back then, wood or machine. My parents did not realize it until I was done. They had no musical background and did not say anything. When my uncle, who played the base all his life found out, he was mad: But the damage was done. Didn't you all "tinker" as kids?

February 17, 2017 at 03:53 AM · a spirit of discovery?

Have to admit that I dislike the varnish on my viola so much that I asked 2 friends who happen to be luthiers to re-varnish it. They gave me that strange look like talking with a lunatic.

Really, the varnish is like one of those of chess-boards mass produced in Eastern block during the Cold war era.... while the sound is more than one could expect from student instrument.

Now, where is that sand-paper?

February 17, 2017 at 06:52 AM · I have a habit to make everything from the basement, no matter if it's violin, model kits cut from paper (even made a ship from wood of my size :D ) so, the next target was making a violin. I thought I saw enough video on TV (that time I even didn't have any internet). So I decided to experiment first on my violin. But I didn't watch video how to remove the varnish and how to make another varnish.

But what was done is done, I will either fix it again or leave it like showpiece, coz I repeat, it's not going to break at least, so that's enough for me to try once more)

February 17, 2017 at 07:36 AM · Just hoping that somebody will write the best advice to remove the spirit (alcohol) varnish from the violin, so as for next step I will search for the best varnish to cover it with

February 17, 2017 at 10:00 AM · With my former violin, I actually took it to my luthier and asked her about re-varnish. She gave me a brief lecture of "that's a big no no". That violin looked like the top "melted", the top was even crooked. It was either very antiqued, or has seen water damage, or just had a bad top replacement. It made soft sweetest sound, if I could afford it, I would want to buy it back someday(I traded it in for credit for my current violin, and it was sold in a month or two).

A bit off topic. I shall ask this to my luthier also probably since I am seeing her next week. She often puts on clear spirit varnish on spots where the original varnish flaked off. Would anyone ever recommend doing that at home myself? Just light touch of varnish for small spots where varnish has worn/wearing off?

February 17, 2017 at 12:59 PM · I had a friend who took up violin making (as a hobby) when he was about 40 and proceeded to make violas and some cellos as well (now about 40 years later he has just completed his 101st instrument - the only one he has not sold). With some of the instruments we would go to a large church and I would play them before they were varnished. It was a great experience.

He had his own varnish "formula" and was very careful about the process. I also got to try the same instruments after the varnish had dried.

This led me to believe the secret of varnishing is to not destroy the sound of a violin "in the white."

I wish the OP had known that a long time ago.

February 17, 2017 at 04:04 PM · Really you are in the wrong place to find an answer to your question; this forum is mostly players, not makers. One luthier has already responded here with a big NO, so I would suggest you try Maestronet.com and post in The Pegbox forum. where luthiers who know their varnish hang out.

Good luck!

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