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Thread: Spirit Varnish Help

  1. #1

    Default Spirit Varnish Help

    Hey all,

    I've been using spirit varnish to finish my instruments and have had fair to good results. But I was wondering, what substance can be used to thin spirit varnish? Also, is there a way to make spirit varnish more flexible and movable? (so as to be able to fix a mistake right away?). Also, any technique for applying spirit varnish would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish Help

    Alcohol will thin spirit varnish. Some use pure grain alcohol but denatured will work just fine. Spirit varnish has a learning curve to it and it takes great skill to use it effectively because of the quick drying time. I have had much better luck with oil varnish. Longer working time and just easier to flow on with a brush. Classic thinner for oil varnish is turpentine but I had better results with mineral spirits. Much longer curing time. With both types though the drying time is one thing fully cured is something else. If you discover a boo boo you will just make it worse trying to correct it. Best thing is to wait until it's hard enough to rub out then cover the mistake with the next coat. The trick with either type is to make sure its hard enough. If you press with your thumb and it leaves a print it's too soft to rub out.

    It is imperative with either type that you use the highest quality natural hair brush. I use sable. Apply a thin coat with the grain in one direction only. If you go back and forth you will be disappointed. Work quickly especially with spirit. If there's a mistake you will just have to suck it up let it dry and rub it out later to get rid of it. You can apply a good number of coats and still end up with a thin varnish. You should still be able to see grain lines in your top when finished. You have to rub out between each coat because varnish coats are mechanically linked. That is they don't melt into each other like lacquer. I use micro mesh 1500 or 1800 between coats and 2400 thru the finest grit you have (6000 or 8000) for the final coat. You will want all of your coats to be colored except the last two or three which should be clear. Hope this helps.
    Don

    2016 Weber Custom Bitterroot F
    2011 Weber Bitterroot A
    1974 Martin Style A
    Fender Octave Mandolin c.2004-2008

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Spirit Varnish Help

    Don, some spirit varnishes do melt into each other.
    Bill Snyder

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  6. #4
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish Help

    I stand corrected Bill thank you. I would imagine since I've had time to think about it that it would be those varnishes with a large shellac component?

    I mostly do oil and I know those coats don't meld.
    Don

    2016 Weber Custom Bitterroot F
    2011 Weber Bitterroot A
    1974 Martin Style A
    Fender Octave Mandolin c.2004-2008

  7. #5

    Default Re: Spirit Varnish Help

    Yes Don. Those spirit varnishes that are primarily shellac melt into each other very well.
    Bill Snyder

  8. #6
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish Help

    I highly suggest studying the violin literature, making your own, and then really learning spirit varnish and alcohol polishing. Have to get the pattern down. For example, on violins, I used to be able to load the brush and do the pegbox side and a pass around the side of the scroll in one stroke. used to be able is operative - have to have the chops.

    Look up 1704 varnish, decent to start with.

    Has to be pretty fresh - I need to do a batch myself!
    Stephen Perry
    www.giannaviolins.com - Primarily violin family
    mandovoodoo.com - Acoustic blueprinting
    South Side Chicagoland

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  10. #7

    Default Re: Spirit Varnish Help

    @Multidon: Thanks so much for all the advice! I'll try all of those tips and make the little adjustments that I need as I go along. Each person's varnishing process is probably at least a little different from the next.

    @Stephen: Which books did you feel had the best varnishing information? Also, where is the best place to buy the 1704 varnish? Lastly, is the 1704 varnish spirit or oil?

    Thanks guys!

  11. #8
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish Help

    1704 = sort of classic spirit varnish.

    https://www.violins.ca/varnish/violi...h_recipes.html

    Make it yourself and you'll know what you have. I bought spirit varnish once and was highly disappointed. Can add various things to modify. I will add mastic cuz I like it. And some benzoin, if it available.

    I've used a mix of colors in spirit, from pernambuco tinture through various dyes.

    In oil, I've used commercial stuff from International Violin and Howard Core. Have used various dyes and also done glazing. I think an oil glaze would be cool on a mandolin, now that I think of it.
    Stephen Perry
    www.giannaviolins.com - Primarily violin family
    mandovoodoo.com - Acoustic blueprinting
    South Side Chicagoland

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