View Full Version : Antiquing a Varnish Finish....
I'd like to know some tricks for getting a varnish to wear in that elegant way, other than playing the hell out of it for 75 years...
I love the look of a well-figured maple under a crackled varnish on an old F4...
Any tips on how to achieve this right off the bench?
I've heard that various coats of varnish with various drying times might be effective?
Egg whites as a base coat?
Heating and freezing the mando?
For paint I have used a heat gun and some stripper, but not together. There are some additives you can buy at paint store for creating crackled finishes. I don't know how they would work with varnish. Also, try a faux finish book available at most home centers.
I did an antiquing job for a fellow a few years ago and Freezing is what we did. Froze the instrument for three hours then thawed it out at room temperature. Crackled like crazy. Saw it not long ago it looked terrible. I would not suggest it as a viable process. Kenc
I have pondered the idea of opening a distresseing service for mando's. My sweat can pretty much eat up the varnish. I have also heard of the freezing method and the Egg Whites method. I think it would be one cool job to take a new mando and distress it and make money at it!
One of the things "they" tell you not to do when finishing is use "hard over soft". The reason is to avoid crazing. If, on the other hand, it is crazing you want, then it may be time to ignore that advice!
The old Gibsons were basically shellac. If you apply shellac, or any hard finish over a softer finish like an oil varnish, it will craze and look old in short order.
I can't give you much specific advice beyond that, but I'd recomend a book I once read called...Understanding Wood Finishing. I can't remember the author or publisher, but I bet someone will come to my rescue and supply that information.
I wonder if you could elaborate on how the instrument looked terrible, and if you were to try freezing again, what you would do differently. I have been considering intentionally #weatherchecking a mandolin. Last year I had a varnished instrument that weatherchecked from dealer mishandling, and the checking was very fine, and actually made the instrument look "old". I've seen an "egg white job" , and the checking was very wide, and looked un-natural to me.
Bruce- most tasteful crackle Ive seen was one of John Harrisons fiddle antiquing jobs at the tucson vmaai, he told me he had lightly brushed eggwhite onto not quite dry colorcoat varnish, the eggwhite dried and shrank quickly, then washed off the egg after the varnish was dry, continuing with clearcoats, giving an 200 yr old look rather than a freezedried bunch of cracks like 60's gibson archtops. any good info in the vsa journal?
There was an older gent who use to live close to me who made fiddle's.His finishes were really crackled up.He said to get that look he had used pickling lime over smooth but soft varnish and said he would go over it a few times with a bee smoker.Even though they were crackled up real well you could'nt feel the lines on the surface.
My dad said he had used a similar method on his dulcimers but didnt use any smoke.I never got to see either one apply these crackled finishes.I guess i really should have paid more attention to my elders:as both have passed away.
I believe you played my Wiens last year at Wintergrass. I'll look you you up this year and show you what has happened due to my playing it 6 days a week on the ferry commute. I had a guy at Maltby ask me if it was 50 yrs old. The best looking stuff I've seen has always come from the mid-west . I'm no expert but I think the humidity of the cold part of the "treatment" has alot to do with it.
Just a hunch, but the protien of the egg white and of hide glue shrinking as they dry should work. The trick is to find how thick the finish should be so it will check, and how thick the protien should be. The thinner the finish is the smaller the check would be. Hide glue is used to produce 'glue chipped glass' surface, so you know it really shrinks as it dries. Time to practice on scrap.
I like the idea of washing it off after the checking is done. Too many folks talk about using egg white or hide glue as a base coat. I have seen violins with hide glue base coats that have been subjected to high humidity, and the finish would flake off as they dried out. Not a good thing.