Varnishing a instrument is a skill and art form in and of itself. There are people that spend their entire lives researching old recipes dedicating their time in understanding and trying to replicate the ways of old. From spirit to oil there are many numerous factors that give each recipe its definition and character.
I use a oil varnish that has several layers of ground coats that seal the wood respectively so the color coats essentially ride on top and harden over time. With no ground coats the instrument does not resonate properly and the wood takes on a blotchy appearance.
Depending on what is desired, there are several different applications that can be performed to give different visual and acoustical nuances.
The ground coat consists of a 2% collagen solution suspended in water which covers the entire instrument. Three to four different coats of minerals in a oil solution which enhance the acoustics and visual appeal are than applied. The instrument is then ready for the color varnish.
The color varnish is spread with the fingertips covering the instrument. Sometimes ten layers is applied in very thin amounts being dried in a UV light box between each coat. Varnishing a instrument this way can take weeks but the end result is very pleasing.
The varnish I use not only gives great visual appeal regarding depth and texture but also aids the instrument with its voice. Instruments typically take several years to mature but even from the beginning they resonate and project producing a beautiful tone.
To the right are several examples of completed instruments produced from within the shop, the last being a newer varnish that I have been using as of late.