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Violin cleaners and polish


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#1 lupe0824

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 11:25 PM

I recently received a Shar music Catalog. I came across a violin
cleaner and polish. Are these any good to clean a very old violins?
 Also, they have a string cleaner. Is it recommendable?

#2 Woodland

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 11:28 PM

There are too many different formulations of polish available today and it's almost impossible to predict what's safe to use on your particular instrument. I'd take it to your local professional for any cleaning beyond dusting it off with a soft hankercheif.

#3 FutureConcertmaster

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Posted 28 August 2006 - 12:22 AM

Yah the luthier is also able to french polish it very nicely.
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#4 Marijan

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Posted 28 August 2006 - 03:40 PM

Picassos "Ladies of Avignon" when restoration take place was
cleaned with (I hope this is corect term) human spittle (slaver?)
and cotton sticks. All dirt and grease, was removed using that, as
scientist claim, perfect cleaner, which will quite  easily
dissolve the layers of tenths or hundreds years old filth, without
disturbing sensitive structure or composition of the varnish layer
. It is suppose to contain much lees moisture than anything you can
use instead. I saw that in a tv show "Secret live of masterpiece"
or something like that. Actually, some time ago I cleaned
1932`s Blaž Demšar`s (Slovenian master luthier) violin
my daughter is playing, using only spittle and soft cloth, and
polishing was performed by dry cloth only. I did not dare to use
anything else. It worked extremely well.



Marijan

#5 MANFIO

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Posted 28 August 2006 - 03:48 PM

The best polish is that one the player NEVER USES... It can penetrate in cracks, open seams (making there much more difficult to reglue or repair) damage the varnish, etc. Just a soft rag must be used to clean the violin.

French polishing old instruments is considered a crime today by many experts too.

#6 Marijan

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Posted 29 August 2006 - 03:34 AM

Yes, it would be nice if kids would always wash their hands before
taking the violin, and clean the violin with cloth after.
Cleaning sometimes is necessary, polishing not if care is taken
along.



Marijan

#7 Mike_Danielson

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Posted 29 August 2006 - 06:32 PM

Here is a recipe that I have used for years--it is mild and has never damaged any finish in my experience. It comes from H. S. Wake's "A Luthiers Scrap Book." It is inexpensive to make and keeps a long time.

2 oz rubbing oil or mineral oil
2 oz raw linseed oil
4 oz alcohol (I use ethanol)
4 oz water

Shake before use. Place on cloth and rub onto the surface. This stuff works on instruments and bows.

As is always true, test the cleaner first on a small, unimportant area of the instrument, first. This stuff does not work very well on old rosin that has caked for years. Zylene works on that problem but always be careful.

#8 Magnus Nedregard

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 06:43 AM

To actually clean delicate old varnish I use spit on cotton wool. Withe Spirit is also pretty safe for professional cleaning. Also a product called vulpex-soap used for paint-cleaning in museums is very good. Some people use Calgon. These things clean, they don't make things shiny, you have to achieve that afterwards if you want it.

#9 DutchViolins

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 07:20 AM

Sometimes car wax or car cleaner can be used but only for the very hard synthetic varnishes normally applied by the violin factories. Here the top layer is in most cases a nitrocellulose compound. It gives a very glossy result.

Be aware: don't use this stuff on oil or spirit varnish because the emulsion contains silicon!
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#10 Craig Tucker

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 07:31 AM

This is a great question.
From the point of view of a small shop it is like this.

You know, I have to side with Manfio on this one. The best polish is no polish...

Often, I find that a slight education on the joys of distress and an explanation about how many people pay for the process, can be used in place of a cleaning/polishing/touch up. Wipe you violin off with a clean dry cotton cloth after using it and keep it in its case.


Still, I get requests for cleaning, polishing, even revarnishing, continually.


I have to admit - on newer student grade, or just simply low grade instruments, where's the harm?
As long as you know not to harm a violin that has some intrinsic historical worth associated with the original finish - or as long as you know the difference between damaging something of value and cleaning something that doesn't have any value other than the current purchase price as a learning tool - then go ahead and go for it.

Other than plain water, which works well for many things - or water with a couple drops of dishwashing detergent - I have found that careful use of some of the newer water/citrus based cleaners work well for removing stubborn dirt also.
Stubborn, 50 year old caked on rosin often cannot be removed with anything less than Xylol, but really, be careful with the Xylol. (Mike, is Xylol the same as Zylene? do you know?) It HAS to be used outdoors and with gloves. Even then don't breath in the fumes and I believe that it is absorbed readily through the skin. Plus, if you have to use Xylol, then consider if you're really not doing harm to the history and look of the instrument.

It is my contention that Xylol is most likely used more commonly in old bow restoration than is generally admitted. I believe that in many applications it is actually a bit safer than mechanically removing gummy old stubborn rosin. Since I'm not a professional restorer, take this assumption with a huge grain of salt.

There can't be that much profit in a polishing/cleaning job to warrent feeling like you HAVE to do it, if you have some reservations about it.
Often, I will simply educate the customer about such things, and then if they insist on getting a polishing especially if they essentially want a french polish, I send them to a specific person/shop in Albuquerque.
I will send them there for a revarnishing in any case, because it is a job I will not do short of fire or flood damage.
Usually, after they find out that they could buy a new violin for less, they decide not to do it.

Anyone who owns a valuable old violin already knows not to do such a thing (as any of the above), and doesn't usually ask.

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#11 Michael Darnton

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 08:49 AM

The bottom line on all of this is that players should never add oils (which soak into the wood, through the varnish, and that eliminates most commercial polishes and Mike's, also) or resins (which they normally wouldn't) nor use any harsh solvents. What shops can get away with in a controlled situation for specific restoration problems is a different issue.

These days french polish is considered vandalism, and many shops use Renaissance Wax, or something similar, and there's no reason players shouldn't use this, either, if they want. As gets repeately pointed out above, there's nothing wrong with a little water, which is a safe solvent that can work wonders.

http://www.restorationproduct.com/renwaxinfo.html
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#12 Magnus Nedregard

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 09:25 AM

What is Xylol? I don't think we have that here. But Xylene and Acetone is used a lot and even in combination. But they should be used with great care and never by a player of course.

Another useful thing that works well in some cases is alchol mixed with castor oil. The castor oil mixes perfectly in and slows down and takes the bite out of the alcohol, depending on the ratio.

#13 muddycreek

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 09:27 AM

I usually recommend to my customers that they don't use cleaners or polishes either, just wipe off the violin and strings with a soft cloth. But, I have had a few customers who insist and then I recommend Preservation Polish from Stewart McDonald. I have had good results with it and it contains no silicone. Here is the link.
http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Ac...eservation_Polish.html

#14 Brad Dorsey

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 09:43 AM

"is Xylol the same as Zylene?"

Yes.

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#15 MANFIO

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 09:49 AM

I think that such costumers must be convinced to stop using it, the idea of the violin as a brightfull and shining object (patent leather) must be fought, I think.

I remember Jeffrey posted here a violin with a polish damage, I think we all have seen that one day. A "polishing damage" photo gallery would be a good idea to convince some customers, I think.

#16 Fellow

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 11:29 AM

Hi,

I use " Fiddle brite" by William Lewis to clean my violins. I don't clean them
very often. Many times a soft rag wiping it clean will do just fine, no polish nor cleaner used.

However, what works for me may not work for you. If you use cleaner,the rule is simple. If your violin has any bare wood spot, don't use anything on it until the spot has been
covered by varnish touch-up (protected). If your instrument is a valuable old
instrument,which has an ulgy thirty spots, it is better off to take it to a shop about $30.
Why take any chance?

#17 Mike_Danielson

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 11:54 AM

I need to work on my spelling. It should be "xylene" rather than "zylene" and is the same as zylol.

Let's face it--instruments get dirty with stubborn stuff that is not easy to remove with water and careful rubbing. For you purists, remember that you are wearing the varnish out by rubbing with an abrasive (the dirt).

Then you have to go to step two because water did not work well enough--you can use the mild stuff I mention in which the contents are clearly defined (Wake's recipe) or you can purchase some stuff and not know what is in it. As always, you have to use common (or is it uncommon) sense. I would keep it away from bare areas but often the bare wood really has the ground in it which provides some protection. I would fix open cracks before using polish containing oil--you really do not want oil to get into those locations.

#18 Fellow

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 12:01 PM

Hi

"Xylene" is a strong chemical. I use it to clean rosin on the strings.
I am not sure if it works well on varnish.

Once I was in a situation that I bought an old instrument of which the bridge
area had 2 by 2 inches, ugly thirty old rosin un-even spots needed to be cleaned out
smoothed out. I just took it the my local shop. Problem solved for $30.

#19 Skreechee

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 12:11 PM

I also find the proprietory violin cleaners strip some varnishes. I don't touch them anymore. Also, I have found that oil based cleaners stifle the volume of a violin.

However, whilst learning varnishing, I am finding that I cannot get a sheen to the top layer of clear. I try and get an even surface to the maple parts but they are never to my liking so I end up rubbing very lightly with very fine wet sandpaper. The trouble with this is it leaves the areas dull and when I come to try and get a sheen back to them using a concoction similar to Mikes, it fades within a day or two. I am wondering if this Renaissance Wax would work to keep the sheen on it? I don't want it shiny but just a dullish sheen.

#20 Mike_Danielson

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Posted 31 August 2006 - 05:31 PM

I always finish up a new violin with a few coats of french polish. At the final stages, I rub it down with 1200 grit using flax seed oil as the lubricant, and then it gets the french polish to cover the fine scratches and give it the soft, beautiful shine. It is so simple.

I notice that some members are saying that shellac has a problem with aging--that it gets hard and brittle with time. I am going to look into that. I have found no references to this. I just looked through Leslie Carlye's book, "The Artist's Assistant" and found no such problem mentioned. She covers oil painting in the years 1800-1900 within Britain--this is a very expensive book (I borrowed it). She is a conservator and would be interested in this shellac problem. There is a nice section on megilp in her book (pps 101-106) with mention that as early as year 1822, problems were noted with this varnish. Megilp is a concoction of mastic resin, a drying oil, and a drier--there are many megilp recipes in which these components are varied (pps 391-402). A common megilp variation is called gumtion and consists of mastic resin, linseed oil, and sugar of lead.




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