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Tag Archives: varnish

Among the treasure trove of information and tips and tricks at Frank Ford’s website Frets.com there’s a description of how to turn a single-edge razor blade into a miniature cabinet scraper for repairs of guitar finishes. Click here to read it.
 

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I thought that this was a really clever idea and immediately ordered a box of blades to try it out. Ford says that he draws the edge of the blade across a round piece of hard steel such as a screwdriver shank to create a fine hook just as one might finish a full size cabinet scraper.

I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t make it work. Maybe it was my technique or perhaps the steel of the blade had hardened during the sharpening process but despite repeated trials all I could produce was a ragged edge that scraped less well than a blade straight from the box.

 

The solution was first to grind off the bevelled edge of the blade;

 

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then to make the blade edge straight and square on a diamond stone;

 

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and finally to turn a hook with a burnisher in the usual way.

 

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These little scrapers work extremely well if you need to remove polish or varnish and they’re easy to re-sharpen.

 

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The cello that I’ve been writing about over the past few months isn’t far off completion. I always string instruments up before varnishing to be sure that they sound as they should. If adjustments are necessary and the top needs to come off, it seems better to do it before any colour or varnish is applied. This one was played by several decent cellists and I’m glad to say they had no complaints about the sound – a good response across the strings, although there’s a rather fierce wolf between F and F# on the G string and, to a lesser extent, on the D string too. It may prove necessary to fit a wolf note suppressor but I’ll defer judgement on that until it has been strung up again after varnishing. One of the cellists however, was helpfully critical about the shape of the neck – he thought that I had left it a touch too wide. So I reshaped it before starting to varnish.

Here’s the instrument strung up in the white:

And here are a couple of photographs after a few coats of varnish.

Back in May, I wrote about making a baroque violin, a loose copy of the Charles IX violin of 1564 by Andrea Amati, now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. After it was completed, and while still in the white, it went off for a short trial by the violinist who had commissioned it and, having been approved, came back to be varnished. Varnishing is now finished and the fiddle has been set up again just in time for its new owner, Pamela Rosenfeld, to play it in the Buxtehude festival in Cornwall later this month.

Below are a few photographs of the completed instrument.

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The varnish on the baroque cello eventually got hard enough to let me string up the instrument again and send it off to its new owner, Patrick Gale, who lives in Cornwall. Patrick is best known as a novelist but he’s a keen and talented musician too and I hope he will be pleased with cello and the sound it makes. He tells me that he taking part in a series of programmes on amateur music-making that will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 later this year. Unfortunately, although he mentions this cello on the programme, he doesn’t get to play it.

Before parting with the cello, I took a few photographs. There are 3 below and more in Gallery.

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I’ve made a start on the varnishing, aiming at a warm honey colour for the finished instrument and trying to bring out the figure of the maple to its best advantage. At this time of year in England, there isn’t much sunlight and unless you have access to a drying cabinet, which I don’t, it’s necessary to leave a long time between coats. Still, it seems to be going fairly well, even if fairly slowly. The photographs below were taken outside on a rare sunny day. (Click on a thumbnail for a more detailed view.)

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