Linseed oil as violin polish

Edited: September 29, 2018, 9:44 PM · My violin's varnish is new and fairly thick, and yet lacks any gloss.
I found (by applying to a small area!) that boiled linseed oil dries to a nice shine. It's a bit sticky, though, and rubs off.
Any better alternatives? French polishing how-to?

Replies (9)

September 29, 2018, 10:19 PM · Use the search box. Lots of threads already on DIY violin polishing. Not generally recommended, but that doesn't seem to stop you.

If you look common preparations like Hill Polish/Cleaner, they are emulsions. So they probably contain some kind of oil (linseed oil or turpentine), and water, and an emulsifier (probably a simple detergent). The homemade cleaning preparation that my luthier uses likewise is an emulsion. For polishing there is something called Super Nikco...

Be careful.

September 30, 2018, 1:12 AM · Linseed oil never dries and if there are any loose edges or open cracks, after contaminating them with linseed oil, they will never glue shut/closed.
I have spent a good amount of time cleaning linseed oil based substances off of the surface of instruments, but like Paul said, you don't seem to listen so go forth and shine.
Rene' Morel suggested that it took 10 years to learn how to properly French Polish. Not far from the truth.
September 30, 2018, 1:14 AM · So long as the music shines I would leave the instrument alone.
September 30, 2018, 2:58 AM · Personally I like a "satin" appearance.
September 30, 2018, 4:18 AM · "Linseed oil never dries" is not true. I hardens by oxidation. The process is normally very slow, but boiled linseed oil as the OP mentions hardens much more rapidly. It is used as surface treatment for wooden floors, furniture etc. "Boiled linseed oil" these days is most often not boiled but has chemicals added to speed up the hardening process.
I would never apply it to a violin!
It think the neck on violins is normally oiled, but would guess that tung oil is used and not linseed oil. From my experience with treating various wooden objects tung oil is what I would choose for a violin neck if I were ever to build a violin.
I would never apply it to the rest of the violin!
September 30, 2018, 7:15 AM · Linseed oil will remain liquid for a time, during which it will act like a primitive air filter, collecting dust and gunk. At some point, it will harden, incorporating the collected grime into a varnish-like coating, which can be very difficult to remove. Not recommended.
Edited: September 30, 2018, 11:09 AM · If your varnish is new, let it cure before attempting anything. Do you know if it is oil-based (my guess) or spirit-based? If you don't know it's one more reason to leave it alone! Oil-based varnish doesn't dry through exposure to air, but rather to light, and under normal conditions can take months, if not years to cure. The curing will affect sound in a significant way. Luthiers use UV light boxes to speed up the process... to a point, but it still takes quite a long time even after that to fully cure, arguably decades. You should never do anything to varnish if you don't know what it is to begin with, and chances are you don't have the slightest idea what your varnish composition really is, unless the maker told you.
Edited: September 30, 2018, 12:16 PM · I agree with Bo.
Linseed oil is one of the older paint mediums. Of course it dries, but it can take years for thick layers to dry fully.
The drying is also exothermic, and I've read that if you dip gauze into linseed oil and squeeze as much out as possible, it can get hot enough when drying to set light to the gauze. There are subtler drying oils. Walnut is possible. But I'd leave it to a luthier or an expert in woodworking.
September 30, 2018, 1:08 PM · Roger - "Oil-based varnish... can take months, if not years to cure."
Even after 10 years, the oil based varnish of my beautiful viola still is very sensible and not completely dry. When playing it for a longer time on hot days without a SR, it happened that it became sticky and almost attached to my shirt. This is the main reason why I use a piece of smooth leather to protect the varnish from temperature (and sweat) - something completely unnecessary in any other instrument I ever touched yet. Before I bought it, it sat in a suspension case for a longer time, and it had markings where the suspension touched the wood - quite a job for my luthier to polish this out. Since it's one of his own instruments he knows very well about the varnish composition and how to handle it, thank goodness...

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