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Thread: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

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    Default Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    Just a short question. I have a pint of some nice red- brown Joha (German) spirit varnish that I bought for a project that never happened. Now I have a recently completed a mandolin and thought it might be fun to finish it with the spirit vanish.

    Usually, I use clear shellac as a sealer for spruce under stains, lacquers, or even oil varnishes like Tru-Oil. But I question whether shellac would be a good sealant to use with a sprint varnish because both the sealer and the varnish are dissolved in the same solvent -- alcohol?

    I have been reading about old school violin makers brushing on egg white or egg white whipped with white wine vinegar as the wood sealer and wondered if any others have tried that?

    Alternatively, many violin makers also used (and still use?) a solution of mastic dissolved in alcohol to seal wood. Mastic is a resin obtained from the "mastic" trees (Pistacia lentiscus). Mastic is used for many things however, including food, so it is generally expensive ($2/gm)?

    Both mastic and egg white sealants were once a common practice it the violin world so no reason it would not work as well for mandolins?

    Just curious, if you use spirit varnish how so you like to seal the wood? Second do you use the same sealer for both spruce and maple?
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    When I have built French polished finishes, I used thin shellac as the sealer. This was followed by top coats of shellac, sometimes with a bit of sandarac added to the solution.

    Shellac is a spirit varnish. Other spirit varnishes may contain gums such as mastic and sandarac in addition to shellac. There are also spirit varnishes that contain no shellac, but shellac is a common component.

    I have heard of albumen [egg white] as a sealer, but so far as I remember, it was generally used under oil varnish. If you try it under spirit varnish, I would suggest trying it on a test board first. I have never heard of vinegar used as a diluting agent for albumen. I have, on occasion, used vinegar to dissolve glue, and found that it can discolor bare wood.

    In any cases where a sealer is used over a color, the color must be allowed to dry thoroughly, and the first and second sealing coats should be applied lightly and quickly to avoid disturbing the color and allowed to dry thoroughly. Precautions must also be taken any time colors are added later.

    I'm not sure why you are hesitant to use thin shellac as a sealer under an alcohol based top coat. I have never heard that homogeneous components for sealers and top coats were unacceptable. Rather, they have been frequently used both in French polished finishes and nitrocellulose lacquer finishes.

    I have learned the hard way that successful finishing is largely dependent upon not applying too much material at one time, and to allow sufficient drying time between subsequent coats. Waiting the extra time goes against my nature, and I have to resist my inclinations to get the job done quickly.

    Whenever in doubt about either techniques or materials, work on a test board first.

    Oh-- I have heard of people having drying problems with pre-bottled spirit varnishes. The stuff can have a rather short shelf life. Make sure it is good before you use it on an instrument. You can make your own. What is known as "1704 Varnish" is easy to make, and there is also a variation on the "1704" recipe using grain alcohol, shellac flakes, sandarac, mastic, and lavender spike oil that is said to be good for mandolins. Info and a recipe for both varnishes can be found on the Lemuel Violins website under the names "1704 Varnish" and "1704N Varnish." "Seedlac" is a natural product used in the production of shellac. It can be a bit dark in color and blonde shellac flakes can be used instead. I haven't used that particular recipe, but it is on my short list of things to try. I have French polished using alcohol, shellac, and sandarac alone without the mastic and spike oil.

    CAUTION, CAUTION, Very important! If you make any varnish that requires cooking, do it outside and away from the house. Varnish making is a highly flammable process, and if the stuff catches fire, you will burn your house down!

    Check out the Lemuel website.
    Last edited by rcc56; Sep-15-2020 at 2:49am.

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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    Thanks for the many thoughtful comments!

    I think the Joha spirit varnishes are indeed some slight variation of the standard 1704 recipe. One of the reasons I like spirit over oil varnish is the point you make about preparation. No heating to 350 degrees F but merely around 80 and one can pretty safely done using a hot water bath as the heat source. But I'm a chemist by profession and have done more than my share of lab work -- including a graduate course or two on natural products -- so I'd just a soon buy my varnish thank you!

    Also what I like about the Joha varnish is you can buy them with the color already added -- better yet there are something like 9 "violin colors" to choose from so you can mix and match if you want to also. I buy mine from International Violin good folks to deal with.

    The sealing with albumin (egg white) was pretty common once I guess -- I talked on the phone with one violin maker a few years ago who still uses it. I agree the use of vinegar to dilute egg white sounds specious -- I've never done it. But in my mind I see the albumin denaturing in the 5% acetic acid? I might try it just to satisfy my curiosity!

    The reason I am intrigued with mastic (and actually it is also dissolved in alcohol) is that it seems to be much slower dissolving than shellac and hence might form a more stable pore sealer on the spruce top board? Here is a video that I watched a couple of times and it intrigues me because all of his work seems so clean and neat. This maker uses a mastic sealer -- the discussion of sealing with mastic runs from about 1:50 - 4:15 in to the video. In the end though he uses an oil varnish. But the mastic sealing should work equally well I think for spirit varnish?

    Making spirit varnish reminds me of a story. In a late Friday afternoon day in the fall of 1964 I was the first organic chem lab of my freshman year of college. Most of us wanted to finish the lab asap so we could drive down to LaCrosee, Wisconsin (40 miles south along the Mississippi River) for the big Octoberfest. One of the experiments was to determine the boiling point of benzene. So the protocol was to heat a beaker of benzene with a hot water bath under a bulb thermometer to get the evaporation point (~80 C) -- yes exactly 40 beakers of benzene boiling out in the open on a lab bench - and someone wonders why chemists my age often get leukemia! Gotta love the 60s though! Anyway one guy was running behind and he decided to speed things up by heating his beaker of benzene over an open Bunsen burner........
    Last edited by Bernie Daniel; Sep-15-2020 at 7:56am.
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    You could usually tell someone’s major by whether they washed their hands before or after peeing. Fret not about that benzene; right now it’s averaging 1% in gasoline, and was much higher until recently. Toluene, even more. America lives in a cloud of these vapors and combustion products. The smell we mostly like is...
    Most people, if they think about it at all, assume carcinogens are gone from fuels and solvents, that asbestos is banned, that we’ve come a long way, but it isn’t true. I was surprised when I took over this little scientific instrument factory in (densely populated) Connecticut, and found that our spray paint booth could blow everything right out the window, but that we must not pour anything on the ground. I switched us to water-based enamels, but the guys didn’t like the results.
    However, I’ll bet that life expectancy of chemists has increased a whole lot since the ‘60s. Some of them don’t even do taste identification any more.

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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    You could usually tell someone’s major by whether they washed their hands before or after peeing. Fret not about that benzene; right now it’s averaging 1% in gasoline, and was much higher until recently. Toluene, even more. America lives in a cloud of these vapors and combustion products. The smell we mostly like is...
    Most people, if they think about it at all, assume carcinogens are gone from fuels and solvents, that asbestos is banned, that we’ve come a long way, but it isn’t true. I was surprised when I took over this little scientific instrument factory in (densely populated) Connecticut, and found that our spray paint booth could blow everything right out the window, but that we must not pour anything on the ground. I switched us to water-based enamels, but the guys didn’t like the results.
    However, I’ll bet that life expectancy of chemists has increased a whole lot since the ‘60s. Some of them don’t even do taste identification any more.
    Well its a little OT but I started my chemistry career in the mid-1960s at that time we (chemists) treated benzene as just another very useful lab solvent -- like you kind of suggest even the smell of benzene was not too offensive and no one worried too much if you happened to get it on your hands or worse that the lab reeked with well over 500 ppm of benzene for the entire day. Then in about 1981 we became aware of three things: the metabolism of benzene, thus the formation of "benzene oxide", and then that epidemiological analysis established that it was a pretty potent human leukemogen....for guys my age that information was two decades too late

    As the aliphatic benzene derivatives like toluene they are not nearly as toxic -- well over 90% of toluene metabolism is on the methyl side chain where it is converted to an alcohol and then conjugated to a glucuronide and excreted in the urine....
    Last edited by Bernie Daniel; Sep-15-2020 at 10:07am.
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    More discussion of egg white as a wood sealer for violin finishing. Lumberjocks Also here is where the vinegar reference came up. But now that I re-read the page I realize the vinegar and egg white was actually a photography application!
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    The varnish discussion has been going on as long as people have been making instruments. Head over to the maestronet forum if you want to be completely confused by the endless contradicting threads....

    Decades ago, I saw a few examples of traditional classical guitars in humid climates where the varnish surface was broken and the egg white sealer molded under the finish. That was the deal breaker for me.

    I know of seedlac as just the raw unprocessed shellac, hence the darker colors. The more it is refined, typically with bleach and industrial chemicals, the lighter color it gets, to the point of almost being clear or "super blonde". It also gets weaker and less durable.

    I've been using varnish & shellac variations for about 25 years and have studied the process with some of the finest mandolin, guitar, & violin builders in the world. I've mixed the 1704 formula cold and had mediocre results- soft and very slow curing for almost a year. A UV lamp will help tremendously, but it has its own issues.

    When it is cooked you get a very different finish. Many of the traditional violin formula seekers cooked the varnish to get a particular color. As it degrades, it will go from blonde all the way through the spectrum. Just before the whole thing either burns or blows up, it creates an amazing crimson red color- the mythical red violin. BUT....what many folks overlook is that along with the color, there is a change in the material. I'm no chemist, but my understanding is that there is a cross linking or polymerization between the shellac, sandarac, and mastic. The result is that it tends to cure out faster and produces a much harder and more durable finish.

    Buy yourself a big old thrift store pressure cooker and you can be a lot more at ease cooking everything. Also try to keep the temperatures low to moderate; not like that guy on youtube who uses a giant six foot long handle and makes it a charred burnt mess at about 700 degrees F over a massive gas burner.

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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    The varnish discussion has been going on as long as people have been making instruments. Head over to the maestronet forum if you want to be completely confused by the endless contradicting threads....

    Decades ago, I saw a few examples of traditional classical guitars in humid climates where the varnish surface was broken and the egg white sealer molded under the finish. That was the deal breaker for me.

    I know of seedlac as just the raw unprocessed shellac, hence the darker colors. The more it is refined, typically with bleach and industrial chemicals, the lighter color it gets, to the point of almost being clear or "super blonde". It also gets weaker and less durable.

    I've been using varnish & shellac variations for about 25 years and have studied the process with some of the finest mandolin, guitar, & violin builders in the world. I've mixed the 1704 formula cold and had mediocre results- soft and very slow curing for almost a year. A UV lamp will help tremendously, but it has its own issues.

    When it is cooked you get a very different finish. Many of the traditional violin formula seekers cooked the varnish to get a particular color. As it degrades, it will go from blonde all the way through the spectrum. Just before the whole thing either burns or blows up, it creates an amazing crimson red color- the mythical red violin. BUT....what many folks overlook is that along with the color, there is a change in the material. I'm no chemist, but my understanding is that there is a cross linking or polymerization between the shellac, sandarac, and mastic. The result is that it tends to cure out faster and produces a much harder and more durable finish.

    Buy yourself a big old thrift store pressure cooker and you can be a lot more at ease cooking everything. Also try to keep the temperatures low to moderate; not like that guy on youtube who uses a giant six foot long handle and makes it a charred burnt mess at about 700 degrees F over a massive gas burner.
    Thanks for the background information --good to have because just reading about this stuff you tend to think that you've kiind of lost your mind -- there are so many blatant contradictions in all the versions of how to do things. Even the terminology is confusing.

    I believe that the Joha varnish that I will be using is a variation of the basic 1704 spirit varnish -- something like what is in this video with seedlac, sandarac, elemi. lavender oil dissolved in absolute ethanol. Kind of like the varnish described in this video -- made by the "nashville luthier". BTW anyone know who this person narrating the video is? If so please PM me I'd like to talk to him. Nice thing about spirit varnish is ethanol boils at around 173 F (78 C) as I recall and so you can just use a hot water bath to cook the varnish -- not much danger really.

    I agree making a spirit varnish is not for the faint of heart although with nearly a half-centruy of experience in a chemistry laboratory -- including working with some temperamental and potentially explosive compounds back in grad school days -- it does not seem too intimidating to me really? I done a few things with significantly higher "pucker factor" in the lab. Certainly no more dangerous then deep-frying your Thanksgiving turkey! I like your idea of using a pressure cooker - - it should make it easier and faster too? Never tried cooking an oil-based solution in one though?
    Bernie
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    Yeah donít cook oil varnish in a covered pot unless youíre looking to make mandolin shaped fly paper.

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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    We could have a whole thread on redneck turkey frying mishaps!

    I believe the "Nasheville Luthier" video is Dustin, who owns Williams Fine Violins. He knows his stuff. He is one of the people who coordinate, teach, and run the Oberlin summer workshops. I've been to a couple of his sessions. He builds very nice violins and is well known in the restoration world. That is not the video I spoke of.

    I watched a few more you tube videos and one comment summed most of them up:

    ".....refreshing to see a video on cooking varnish safely as opposed to all the other vids here on cooking meth and crack dangerously in a trailer.....".....

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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    The varnish discussion has been going on as long as people have been making instruments. Head over to the maestronet forum if you want to be completely confused by the endless contradicting threads....

    Decades ago, I saw a few examples of traditional classical guitars in humid climates where the varnish surface was broken and the egg white sealer molded under the finish. That was the deal breaker for me.

    I know of seedlac as just the raw unprocessed shellac, hence the darker colors. The more it is refined, typically with bleach and industrial chemicals, the lighter color it gets, to the point of almost being clear or "super blonde". It also gets weaker and less durable.

    I've been using varnish & shellac variations for about 25 years and have studied the process with some of the finest mandolin, guitar, & violin builders in the world. I've mixed the 1704 formula cold and had mediocre results- soft and very slow curing for almost a year. A UV lamp will help tremendously, but it has its own issues.

    When it is cooked you get a very different finish. Many of the traditional violin formula seekers cooked the varnish to get a particular color. As it degrades, it will go from blonde all the way through the spectrum. Just before the whole thing either burns or blows up, it creates an amazing crimson red color- the mythical red violin. BUT....what many folks overlook is that along with the color, there is a change in the material. I'm no chemist, but my understanding is that there is a cross linking or polymerization between the shellac, sandarac, and mastic. The result is that it tends to cure out faster and produces a much harder and more durable finish.

    Buy yourself a big old thrift store pressure cooker and you can be a lot more at ease cooking everything. Also try to keep the temperatures low to moderate; not like that guy on youtube who uses a giant six foot long handle and makes it a charred burnt mess at about 700 degrees F over a massive gas burner.
    James,
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. From your experience, would the "1704N" recipe and preparation process given on violins.ca be a good starting point? In another thread you mentioned also including frankincense and propolis in your spirit varnish. If you don't mind me asking, what properties do those resins add to your varnish?
    Lastly, is the pressure cooker for containing the varnish and reducing likelihood of starting a fire is reduced? Or do you cook it at higher pressure to keep the alcohol from boiling? Possibly both?

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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    That link is an excellent starting point.

    Unprocessed fresh raw Frankincense is one of the most intoxicating smells on the planet. That and propolis are two of about 100+ traditional Italian violin varnish additives. My family village of Condino is a bicycle ride form Cremona where we've been woodworkers & mandolin players for generations. To say that we've been making varnish for centuries in the old tradition would be a modest understatement; we don't just use that tradition, we are part of it.

    I add the Frankincense and propolis when I run out of "eye of newt and toadstool" after chanting unintelligible garble in an ancient neolithic tounge during the November full moon...

    I learned to use a pressure cooker under subtle amounts of heat decades ago when I was working expeditions in the Himalaya where the elevation is such that under normal conditions water will boil at a temperature well below where the boiling kills giardia, amoebic dysentery, and a host of other intestinal wee beasties. My days of Yeti stories and forbidden glaciers have long since turned into an old man's exaggerated memories but the old pressure cooker is still at work keeping secret formulas & myself from blowing up in a giant mushroom cloud the woodshop!
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    One more addition in regards to ingredients.

    I believe the shellacshack.com has the best prices on raw shellac in the country.

    Mastic, or Chios pearls, if genuine, come from a small Greek island in the Aegean sea. You can pay enormous prices for them from the violin supply shops. I've been told that it is a closed supply chain and that only something like 23 people are allowed harvesting permits. One of those folks sells the raw "tears" on ebay direct from the source for about $8 per half pound.

    A similar fellow from Algeria sells raw Frankincense for under $20 per pound. I'd guess that most of the larger varnish supply sellers buy from the same fellow and then mark it up like it is made from gold. As well, there are some local sandarac sellers.

    I usually get it here quicker than my purchases from LMII on the other side of the country, but occasionally it gets delayed. I can only imagine how worked up the customs and Homeland Security guys get when kilo sized packages of unknown funky chalk yellow blobs with handwritten notes from Algeria wrapped in brown paper bags are sent via the postal system! Like when I would get pulled over in Mexico by the police and then spend hours trying to explain in my best gringo Spanish that it is bunny hide glue for repairing my mandolin- "NO NO NO senior- no esta mano del Diablo...esta pegamento de conejo para mi mandolino!!!!!"

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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    Thanks! Yeah I found out that mastic is expensive!!! An individual on Amazon sells "Tears of Chios" 100 gm for $38 -- I guess that works out to $150/lb!! I think part of the problems is some people like to chew it for medicinal purposes? I bought some sandarac from International Violin.
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    That link is an excellent starting point.

    Unprocessed fresh raw Frankincense is one of the most intoxicating smells on the planet. That and propolis are two of about 100+ traditional Italian violin varnish additives. My family village of Condino is a bicycle ride form Cremona where we've been woodworkers & mandolin players for generations. To say that we've been making varnish for centuries in the old tradition would be a modest understatement; we don't just use that tradition, we are part of it.

    I add the Frankincense and propolis when I run out of "eye of newt and toadstool" after chanting unintelligible garble in an ancient neolithic tounge during the November full moon...

    I learned to use a pressure cooker under subtle amounts of heat decades ago when I was working expeditions in the Himalaya where the elevation is such that under normal conditions water will boil at a temperature well below where the boiling kills giardia, amoebic dysentery, and a host of other intestinal wee beasties. My days of Yeti stories and forbidden glaciers have long since turned into an old man's exaggerated memories but the old pressure cooker is still at work keeping secret formulas & myself from blowing up in a giant mushroom cloud the woodshop!
    Very cool story and history. You must belong to a very small group who has played a mandolin in the Himalayas!
    I actually considered buying some Fankincense just because of the Christmas carol "We three kings". I've wondered about that since the late 1940s!
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    That link is an excellent starting point.

    Unprocessed fresh raw Frankincense is one of the most intoxicating smells on the planet. That and propolis are two of about 100+ traditional Italian violin varnish additives. My family village of Condino is a bicycle ride form Cremona where we've been woodworkers & mandolin players for generations. To say that we've been making varnish for centuries in the old tradition would be a modest understatement; we don't just use that tradition, we are part of it.

    I add the Frankincense and propolis when I run out of "eye of newt and toadstool" after chanting unintelligible garble in an ancient neolithic tounge during the November full moon...

    I learned to use a pressure cooker under subtle amounts of heat decades ago when I was working expeditions in the Himalaya where the elevation is such that under normal conditions water will boil at a temperature well below where the boiling kills giardia, amoebic dysentery, and a host of other intestinal wee beasties. My days of Yeti stories and forbidden glaciers have long since turned into an old man's exaggerated memories but the old pressure cooker is still at work keeping secret formulas & myself from blowing up in a giant mushroom cloud the woodshop!
    James,
    So amazing that your family has such deep ties back to the origins of a lot of instrument building innovations and traditions. Thank you for confirming the 1704N is an excellent starting point. I'll likely purchase their kit of dry goods to cook up, since my needed volume will be rather small. I know buying by the pound is cheaper, but at this point I don't know if I'll build more than one. Although, maybe I could start an eBay store with my left overs...
    Awesome mountaineering shots with the mandolin on board! Especially the one at sunrise. Which route did you do on Mt. Adams? I've only climbed Adams from the south (via Lunch Counter) but didn't see any bergschrund walls like that! Beautiful.

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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    Adams Glacier on the north face of the mtn. If you expand the photo below on the right, you can see the route with our footprints and switchbacks through the right side of the glacier.

    That was a few years ago. We originally headed in to do a route on the west side that I had guided many times in the mid 1990s and was a lot of fun. When we got around into position, the entire glacier had melted away. Things are changing fast on those big mountains we used to think were going to last forever. We went around to the North where the Adams glacier was strutting its summer glory. The conditions were perfect and I was a little bummed that I brought my mandolin instead of my snowboard, BUT.....we had a full band in our climbing team so we actually spent two days and nights on the summit playing every song we ever knew. It was a little confusing for some of the other people who summited that weekend to crest over the top of the mountain to find a full band jamming and pretty good hypoxia party going down....offline I'll tell you the uncensored version.

    It is a beautiful route and pretty much empty of any other people, unlike the much more popular approach from the south. I love that area- it is one of the gems of the Pacific northwest tucked in between Mt Rainier and Mt Hood.

    A correction for Bernie: I never brought my mandolin to the Himalaya. I was a lot younger back then, so I carried my best dreadnought with me up to the Everest basecamp a couple of times with a loooonnnnng permit. I spent almost 50 days on the way in going very slow and getting to know the land and locals and gradually acclimatizing. When there is an honest chance that it may be your last gig, bring the big guitar and play it loud busking through the lower villiages and jungle for two months, even playing a couple of gigs with the locals in a place where we were about 150 miles from the nearest electricity. WAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYY more fun than the next year when I returned with no guitar & my soon to be ex-girlfriend. I'm pretty sure it has changed tremendously since those days, like most of the world.....

    A better view of the Adams Glacier route from the approach:
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    Last edited by j. condino; Sep-19-2020 at 3:16am.

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  26. #18
    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    Awesome! And everyone probably thought that you just made and repaired bases! Who knew!!
    Bernie
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    Well after reading lots of stories about making spirit varnish like this one I decided to try my hand at it. First I made a spirit varnish sealer -- basically a varnish with no added color. I'll put a layer of two of this down to seal the wood. I modeled my sealer off a recipe that was presented by a violin maker from Cremona:

    500 mL of absolute ethanol
    100 gm Shellac (light yellow,dewaxed) from International Violin
    50 gm Sandarac (International Violin)
    30 gm Mastic (Amazon supplier, confectionery grade)

    Warmed the solution to about 60 C on a water bath and it went smoothly into solution. Nice to be doing a little chemistry again. I will post a picture of the varnish (in a 1 quart jar) tomorrow after I have a chance to filter it through gauze to remove the insoluble materials. It is a nice golden brown -- looks like honey but less viscous -- still it is a little thicker than I wanted and I'll probably add some additional alcohol after I try it out on some scrap wood.
    Bernie
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  28. #20
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    That's a very high proportion of sandarac and mastic. Let us know how it works out.

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  30. #21
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    Most traditional recipes call for the ratio approx. 90 seedlac : 10 mastic : 10 sandarac

    Adding the heat made a nice supersaturated solution; I doubt it would dissolve as well cold. 60degrees C / approx. 140 F is a nice low temperature to work with. At those temps, you could use your hide glue pot with a double boiler system so there is no direct heat.

    Even if you get the mixtures off a bit, the basic idea is that the sandarac will harden thing substantially compared to just cold dissolved shellac. Too much and it can get a little brittle, to the point of being chalky. Plenty of people have used straight sandarac. It is slow to cure, but once it finally does, you can put it on an electric buffer and polish away like an old nitro finish.

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  32. #22
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    Yup I think you are both right!! Probably a little too much sandarac and mastic.

    As a result the varnish is slightly cloudy even after filtering. It looks much like a colloidal suspension to me? After sitting over night (and cooling I can see a small clear section forming at the top. That tells me that if I was back in the biochem lab that I would put it in the old Sorvall centrifuge and put about 15,000 g on it -- that would drive all suspended solids to the bottom in 20 - 30 minutes.

    All that said it appears to make an awesome sealer. I tried painting a bit on spruce and maple scarps last night -- it dries very quickly and it works beautifully to seal the wood. And it seems to be a very "tough" layer too?

    After filtering I split it into a couple of 250 mL aliquots -- one will be sealed up and stored in the dark and the other serve as my working sealer.

    Also posted a pic of the filtrate -- looks of needles from the Sandarac as well some white gooey material -- from the same source I think.
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    Last edited by Bernie Daniel; Sep-24-2020 at 2:10pm.
    Bernie
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  33. #23
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    After a whole bunch of discussion with various kin I made 1704 using seedlac, 10% each of sandakan and mastic. I boiled it three times on a hot plate, ie heat till boiling, turn off and let it cool, repeat. It comes out much more durable than normal shellac. The wax in the seedlac keeps it flexible and the golden colour is to die for. Some even use a french polishing technique!

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  35. #24
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by sebastiaan56 View Post
    After a whole bunch of discussion with various kin I made 1704 using seedlac, 10% each of sandakan and mastic. I boiled it three times on a hot plate, ie heat till boiling, turn off and let it cool, repeat. It comes out much more durable than normal shellac. The wax in the seedlac keeps it flexible and the golden colour is to die for. Some even use a french polishing technique!
    How do you generally apply spirit varnish -- brush or spray on?
    Bernie
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    Due to current budgetary restrictions the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off -- sorry about the inconvenience.

  36. #25
    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spirit Varnish for a mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie Daniel View Post
    "After filtering I split it into a couple of 250 mL aliquots -- one will be sealed up and stored in the dark and the other serve as my working sealer.
    Store it in a back corner of the fridge. Slows down all reactions and gives time for fine precipitates to drop.
    Steve

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