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Fake maple flaming?


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#1 polkat

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Posted 19 July 2007 - 12:11 AM

I've seen a number of cheaper violins that appeared to have nice flaming of the ribs and back. Yet, when taken apart, the back of these woods were quite plain, with no visable flaming at all. I imagine this was quite common in cheap instruments in the past, but some of it is quite convincing....from a distance.
I was wondering of anyone knows how this was done? Paint? Stains? Chemicals? Any ideas?

#2 fiddlecollector

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Posted 19 July 2007 - 04:27 AM

Michael Ange Garini violins are usually like this.I have seen a few 18th century violins with it also, i suppose its done like other fake antiquing effects like graining which was popular in Victorian times.It usually involved iron oxide stains.Probably put on directly to the wood and then varnished as usual.Im just guessing that violinmakers used a similar process.
Some of it looks quite realistic but others like Garinis are just too wide and perfect ,with not much variation.

#3 martina hawe

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Posted 19 July 2007 - 06:23 AM

I came across a cello once, it had a nicely figured back but
looking inside it was plain. Having a closer look you could
 see that it was a sandwiched back, one thin layer of figured
maple veneer glued onto plywood.

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#4 COB3

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Posted 19 July 2007 - 07:34 AM

The ones I have seen, I thought were paint-- but I s'pose they could have been stain-- looked as if they had been airbrushed on. Quite convincing, until you rock them to and fro in the light and see that the flame is dead-- it does not flicker and change under the light the way real curly grained wood seems to do.
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#5 Jack Rushing

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Posted 19 July 2007 - 06:00 PM

I have an almost new " Wurzburg violin ". The back is a beautiful flamed maple, but the rib flames are painted on, and a
sloppy job it was. Maybe they ran out of flamed rib material.

#6 polkat

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Posted 19 July 2007 - 09:02 PM

Interesting! I've used iron oxide solutions in the past to 'bring out' the flame in slightly flamed maple. Works, but doesn't bring out the radiance as COB3 already mentioned. I was once told that to create flame in cheaper plain maple fiddles, one can paint on the flame with a concentrated black tea solution, which enhances (adds to) the natural tannin in the painted areas, then pop it out with iron oxide. I've never tried this.

I also read last night about flaming wood with...flame! Using the fire of a candle to burn marks into the wood, but it seems one would have minimum control with this method. I suppose this topic is of little interest here, as most of us prefer to work with nicely figured wood. But it's been done, and it's always fun to experiment.

#7 Ratcliffiddles

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 05:30 PM

Some Collin Mezin Junior have, not so much "fake" flame, but "enhanced" whereby coloured varnish was applied above the darker flame making it more pronounced. pretty unsubtle, I'd say, and unnecessary as the wood is very nice in the first place! I had a one piece back CM fils cello in the workshop recently, rather garish for my liking.
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#8 Michael Richwine

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 06:16 PM

I made a substantial part of my living doing faux wood graining for a number of years. One of my specialties was making the maple bench and lyre match the ribbon mahogany on Steinway pianos that were refinished and refurbished by a colleague. When customers pay $60,00 and up to have a piano rebuilt, they want it to look right.

Tiger or fiddleback maple is really pretty easy to do. I've seen a number of techniques on stringed instruments, but basically you use a glaze (sort of a thick-bodied stain, in this case) applied with a special brush to simulate the desired figure, then use a badger hair brush to soften and blend the glaze til it looks right. Then a clear sealer, perhaps some more glaze to soften and antique, and topcoats. Others appear to have been wrapped with string, glaze sprayed on, string removed, glazed brushed out, and topcoated.

If you want to learn more, there are lots of good books on faux finishing, either at home improvement stores or at your library. Pierre Finkelstein's book is the best have seen.
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#9 COB3

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 06:33 PM

No matter how good a fake flame is, it is not alive, in the sense that as you rock the wood in the light, REAL flame seems to move, change shape and position. Fake flame, no matter how artistically applied, can't do that. Even heavily "enhanced" flame is limited, but it will move a little.
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#10 pbelin

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 06:44 PM

I have seen instruments with fake flames that I am sure where "in the wood", perhaps painted on the bare wood with dichromate or nitric acid or something like that.Then the flame doesn' t move the right way, but it still moves with the light, which makes it look very realistic at the first glance. On one particular cheap chinese violin it was so well done that I didn' t notice it was fake untill the fitting up was done. In mirecourt they used to have templates and airbrushes, some are also pretty good I find. It just gets too obvious when the varnish on the neck wears off.

#11 Michael Richwine

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 06:57 PM

Any figure made with a glaze will not show chatoyance, and that's the giveaway. Still I have done the work for a long time, and know what to look for, and I still see some that fool me until I take a close look at them.

The shimmer or chatoyance of fiddleback maple comes from the orientation of the fibers in the wood, and can't be duplicated with stains or chemicals, but a good craftsman can come pretty close, and fool all but a careful observer.. It's really pretty easy, once you get the knack of it..

Templates and spray guns or airbrushes canbe used to apply the glaze, but it's definitely not the best way. The trick is still in how you soften and brush out the glaze. It's just that a sprayed-on application is harder to brush out and make look good than a hand-applied glaze.
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#12 COB3

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 07:08 PM

Having been burned on this one, I have learned to hold the instrument in the light and rock it gently from end to end, and watch for the movement in the flame.

Before now, I had never heard the name "chatoyance", and I would assume the name is somehow related to a cat's-eye, like the stone, "tiger-eye" which has the same shimmering reflective quality. Must be a French derivation....

All that being said-- while some are hard to detect-- as you have said, it is in the changing angle of the grain itself, and cannot really be duplicated. So I check, hopefully every time.

Once-burned, they say, twice shy. Besides, rocking violins in the light is pleasant to do, since it induces the "flickering" of the flames...so the seller doesn't have to know that I am checking for a fake, unless I have already detected it.

You are right, some are quite artistic. But I'll bet (or at least hope) I don't get fooled again.
Chet Bishop
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