Magic marker stains on soundboard
My granddaughter seems interested in the violin, and I would like to give her an old Wurlitzer 3/4 left behind by my father. Unfortunately, another child had scribbled on the soundboard with what looks like a magic marker. I would like to clean it up, and would appreciate any suggestions you might have to remove the stain without affecting the varnish.
Take it to a luthier and ask their advice. It may cost more than the violin is worth, if it is even possible.
On the plus side, it clearly identifies the violin!
magic marker's solvent (the stuff that kids love to sniff to get high) probably has sunk into that varnish. If it's a worthwhile violin you should probably take it to a luthier to see what he/she says. It may be best to leave it alone.
You can try licking a soft rag and rubbing the marker away with the dampened part. If that doesn't work then you have to find some solvent that will selectively dissolve the ink and not the varnish. Or sand and polish the varnish. Both are risky business.
Please don't sand anything!
Depending on how old your granddaughter is, the 3/4 violin might be too big for her, anyway.
Depending on the solvent in the marker, the dye may have gone all the way through the varnish into the wood. You need to have this assessed by someone whose life's work it is to fix violins. The only thing I would try on my own is the slightly dampened rag. If the markers were of the type intended for small children, sometimes these are "washable" or water-soluble inks. But that does NOT mean they can't embed themselves in the varnish. Solubility in water does not exclude solubility in other substances. As for finding a solvent that will dissolve the ink but not the varnish, water is really your only hope, and even then it's not guaranteed that your varnish will not be damaged by water. Heifetz may have used "good old-fashioned spit" to clean the rosin off of his priceless antique violin, but one reason why Strads and Amatis still gleam is because those guys were a lot better at making and applying varnish than a lot of your modern Chinese factories. Ol' Stradivari knew where to cut corners: On corners meant to be cut.
Is it possible that some polishes may remove it?
Magic Marker ink is usually most soluble in polar solvents like alcohol, but so is varnish. Removing one will remove the other. Maybe, just maybe, the ink will be more soluble in a non polar solvent like mineral sprits which should not harm the varnish.
Hill polish is (as far as I can surmise) made of water, turpentine (not too different from mineral spirits, chemically), and an emulsifier (detergent). In addition there might be some wax or other material designed to leave a sheen on the varnish surface after polishing. I do not know, either, whether it contains an abrasive (such as super nikco). Hill polish is generally fairly benign but (1) that's not guaranteed to be true and (2) If you use that stuff every week you are going to damage your violin. Luthiers have reported, in this forum, that when they clean violins often they're mostly cleaning off the crap that the violinist put on there trying to do the job themselves using off-the-shelf products like Hill Polish.
I have my great grandfather's fiddle that my grandmother tried to paint 110 years ago. It's hardly noticeable today. Time works wonders.
How old is your granddaughter?
Thanks very much for responding. I had actually tried several of your suggestions before I wrote. I tried spit, water, turpentine and, being a painter, turpenoid, which I use to clean brushes. Nothing worked, so I am willing to accept that the magic marker stains will be permanent. Wurlitzer made good violins back in the day, and this one is certified "hand crafted," with a nice deep sound for its size, but my granddaughter is only 6, so I know 3/4 is a size too large, but that's all I have to offer her at the moment. If she likes it (and I think she will), I'm hoping she'll grow into it and work her way up. I handed her my full-size, and although at first she could only hold it by the body, her eyes lit up when she started bowing it (with a fairly straight bow for a first-timer). She's tall for her age, and was close to fingering mine, so I'm hoping the 3/4 might work out.
I haven't yet explicitly recommended Hill's and haven't used it yet either, but I see people get hot under the collar about it.
If I were given a Strad I would probably take it to the police.
Skip -- it's not age that determines what size is correct for a young violinist. You should have your granddaughter sized properly either by a competent violin teacher or someone in a music store that specializes in violins. If she tries playing on a violin which is too big for her she can injure herself which can take months or years to heal from. Don't risk it! Your 3/4 may be the right size or it may not be but only an expert can know for certain. Youngsters often don't "grow into" violins that are too large -- they often hurt themselves by trying to stretch further than their young hands and arms and wrists can manage and rather than growing into an instrument that is too large they stop playing because it hurts and they never start up again. Don't risk it!
Dried linseed oil is flexible, but you may not be aware that some pigments reduce its flexibility and others increase it, if you did want to paint a VSO/cheap violin for fun. Umbers are best in that respect, but they'd be a bit too drab. I can't remember any others. You'll have to read Ralph Mayer for that one. Otoh, if you wanted to varnish a violin with linseed oil, you could add a small amount of raw umber and it wouldn't be noticed, especially as the umbers are transparent.
I would bet money on a 3/4 violin being at least 2 sizes (if not more) too big. In my experience most 6 year olds need a 1/8th, smaller kids a 1/10th, and those on the taller side a 1/4. I have never sized a 6 year old who needed a 1/2 much less a 3/4 (my youngest students currently on 3/4 are 9 and I don’t even size quite as conservatively as many of my Suzuki teacher colleagues).
It’s lovely that your granddaughter is so excited to play the violin, but please please please get her correctly sized. And then she can grow into the 3/4 violin when she’s big enough. Start her on something small and correct, avoid injury.
Understood. I am looking into renting her the proper size, and getting online lessons for now, but will definitely hold on to the 3/4 until she's ready for that. Thanks again for all of your input. Skip
My luthier thinks Hill can't do any harm, as a rule (of course that's just one person's opinion). He says it's best to get it professionally cleaned. He warns against some spirit-based products, and that's ambiguous, as synthetic turps is known as "white spirit" in the UK, whereas some people mean ethanol when they say spirit. Otoh, I can believe white spirit is hazardous and can conveniently be classed with the alcohols as substances to avoid. Safest is to use pure gum turpentine or nothing.
I agree with Ben David, the more so since Skip says he is a painter: just touch it up! I started at 5 years old on a 3/4 but I was tall.
I assume the magic marker ink is black, so I'm not sure how it can be touched up. Must Google magic marker.