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Forum topic by biscuit52 posted 07-22-2015 03:17 PM 618 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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biscuit52

1 post in 500 days


07-22-2015 03:17 PM

Topic tags/keywords: instrument resurfacing question

Hi I was given an old violin that has marks and scratches on them. It seems that the person who owned it didn’t appreciate it. I want to strip the shellac off, smooth the surface and resurface it with shellac. What can I use to strip off the finish and how can I sand it and resurface it without affecting the violin’s sound? Biscuit 52


7 replies so far

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AZWoody

693 posts in 684 days


#1 posted 07-22-2015 03:24 PM

I’ve never built an instrument but I have had a couple violins built for me.

When I’ve been to the shops, they used finger planes and scrapers for finishing the surface. I don’t recall them sanding the top.
Any sanding that was done I believe was just on the neck and to clean up the scroll.

View mahdee's profile

mahdee

3547 posts in 1228 days


#2 posted 07-22-2015 05:02 PM

I was given a violin passed down for a few generation from an Italian family. After carefully disassembling it and sanding off the shellac and stain, I refinished it with shellac. The maple back/neck was so beautiful that I just couldn’t help but to take it back to the owner and return it to him. He is in his 90’s and every time I see his kids, they tell me the old man still plays the instrument and comments about the beauty of it.

-- earthartandfoods.com

View Texcaster's profile

Texcaster

1138 posts in 1134 days


#3 posted 07-22-2015 05:05 PM

Alcohol or turpentine will soften and remove most old polishes. Be careful, most folks want the original finish undisturbed. How about a photo?

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

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Texcaster

1138 posts in 1134 days


#4 posted 07-22-2015 07:09 PM

This is a basket case I bought at auction. The polish has alligatored, the only reason I’ll strip and repolish this one. The polish on the lower back has been stripped with metho spirits. Sandpaper won’t be used anywhere, only steel wool.

A lively tune, just for fun

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

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Kazooman

623 posts in 1412 days


#5 posted 07-22-2015 07:18 PM



Hi I was given an old violin that has marks and scratches on them. It seems that the person who owned it didn t appreciate it. I want to strip the shellac off, smooth the surface and resurface it with shellac. What can I use to strip off the finish and how can I sand it and resurface it without affecting the violin s sound? Biscuit 52

- biscuit52

I’m no expert, but I don’t think violins are finished with shellac. They are more likely done with an oil-based or nitrocellulose varnish. I would suggest some Internet searching before you dive into your project.

View dhazelton's profile

dhazelton

2322 posts in 1757 days


#6 posted 07-22-2015 11:32 PM

I’d check into how old it is before you strip it. Might be valuable with the original finish.

View Luthierman's profile

Luthierman

157 posts in 547 days


#7 posted 07-23-2015 01:24 AM

Most of the time violins are finished with a type of varnish, not shellac. Kind of a big difference. An old friend of mine was a luthier of violins before he passed away, and he taught me how to make violin varnish. It was almost entirely turpentine. A very slow evaporative process of cooking, or boiling the stuff ends up in time being a very nice finish. A little dangerous to make though. You know, fire and flammable liquids and whatnot.

Now, as already mentioned before, more often than not the original finish is worth quite a bit more than if it were to be refinished. Take this as an example; I have a 1908 gibson arch top guitar that was refinished way back in the 50s. Because of that, it is worth less than half of what it would be otherwise. In the violin world, this can be even greater as those instruments can get astronomically expensive. So, do some research on it before going all finish crazy on it.

edit to add: you will absolutely change the sound by changing the finish. People sometimes don’t realize that finish will play a role in the way and instrument sounds. There is a big difference between a french polished finish and a sprayed nitro-celluose finish. You will also introduce surrounding environment to the wood, which can change it too seeing how it has been sealed for how long?.

-- Jesse, West Lafayette, Indiana

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