New Making

2003 Viola for Linda Ghidossi-DeLuca– Back

The old Cremonese masters used an oil-based varnish on their instruments, and spectral analysis by numerous sources has for the most part revealed the basic nature and composition of these varnishes. There is still speculation in the field as to the nature of the "ground" first used by the old masters on the bare wood before the application of the varnish. However, the general consensus is that the Cremonese masters had their own varnishes made for them down the street at the apothecary shop. While each varnish probably had its own subtle differences, the basic formula remained the same. This explains the Cremonese look and its wear pattern: the oil varnish was common and shared.

A good varnish system (ground prep, ground, varnish) should protect the instrument, add to its visual beauty, and enhance its acoustical properties. To create a varnish system that consistently meets all three of these goals is extremely difficult. Once perfected, a violin maker's varnish system often becomes a closely guarded secret, for it is perhaps the one thing other than tone itself that is most difficult for others to copy, and is therefore a definitive signature of that maker's work.

My varnish process is very much like those used three centuries ago and includes the ground preparation, the ground, and my own oil-based varnish. I apply it the old-fashioned way, with a brush, and I color it by adding transparent pigment lakes just as the old masters did. Grounded in tradition, my varnish system is the result of years of work and experimentation; it is unique.

Although I believe that each of my instruments should live a life of its own and that its life should and will be reflected in its unique wear pattern, I do "antique" my work upon request. I recognize that the stigma attached to new instruments can make it difficult for some players to gain peer acceptance in a professional setting. If requested I can "wear" an instrument to reflect varying degrees of use. When I antique an instrument it is a highly individualized process performed in close collaboration with the first owner.

I also love to more highly individualize my work with gold and/or copper leaf lettering on the ribs. This too is something discussed with each first owner.


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