Roman Clarkson

Varnishing – A hanging trio in the white

A few violins in the white are ready for varnishing. Things are getting serious. I love the look of future instruments just waiting to be played.

Right now the scariest time for me in the violin making process is varnishing. It’s a mix of alchemy and experience. The first is elusive and there are more options for formulas and off the shelf solutions with no clear guidance. The second can only be obtained by someone with a particular alchemy or oneself practicing the application of the varnish.

I have tried varnishing two to three violins at once and doing each one as they are finished. I still can’t tell which I like better. The nice thing about doing one at a time is I only make small batches at time. So, little varnish is wasted and I can review my process each time I make it. Doing more than one at a time let’s me settle into the varnishing routine so I feel more in tune with the process.

I still haven’t decided which I prefer. I’ve done both and neither feel that amazing. Varnishing is tough either way. It’s the last thing one does before setup and it’s a major component in selecting a violin. I have to be aware that people “listen with their eyes” even though the violin may sound great. The violin community is driven by the old and is weary of the new. I still find it hard to believe that something new made to look old drives the market. It is what it is.

I have to be frank with violinists who are interested in my violins and violas. I don’t make instruments to look old, I make them to get old with you. So, rather than abuse and distress a new violin, I’d rather you let your kids have a stab at it and let it age naturally.