Violin Varnish, a very Splendid thing 

I wanted to write about learning the violin from the standpoint of someone who has already mastered the piano and the differences in thought and action of both the instruments this week.  But this article from the strings magazine for the week was just too interesting to hold off from sharing. 

I send my violin in every other year for a good French polish and revarnishing in certain areas like on the top right areas of the ribs close to the fingerboard where playing on the higher registers make the violin need the added TLC more frequently.  This maketh sure that every part of the violin is being well protected and so protecting the original varnish that came with the violin. 

The original process of varnishing a violin could have been as simple as boiling a pot of rosin and oil.  The experts like Amati and Stradivarius probably tried many times or even maybe just a handful of times (in those days things weren’t so complicated) to get the balance right to accomplish that brilliant shine or chatoyance which is a sparkling and multifacetaed light reflection effect needed, not affecting the sound quality. These days to recreate the same mixture according to the author of the article might actually be explosive with the different chemicals during the process of experimentation. 

The pursuit to get the right varnish that is protective enough and gives off the correct amount of aesthetic appeal can cost up to thousands of dollars (USD not rupiahs) just for the ingredients to yield a gallon of varnish. I never knew that! No wonder even modern instruments are demanding high costs, this is not factoring that they also need to have been doing this over a period of years (some take as long as 5 years), one layer at a time as they need to wait for it to dry before setting the next layers. 

It takes great skill as well to be able to check that the violin is being protected but not being over varnished such that the wood doesn’t breathe and so this affects the acoustic quality of the violin. So it is not a piece of furniture but a piece of art! Again this article reminds us violinists to treat our instruments with more care as they are unique, created with much tender care  and absolutely the one and only in the world. 

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