Making Varnish

May 2018
Varnish Making is one of those jobs which doesn’t come around too often, but noticing my supply steadily diminish over the winter, I decided to make another batch as soon as the weather got better. By the last week of May everything was ready to go, the weather dry, the oil washed, and help in place. The actual making of the varnish is quite quick, but with high temperatures and volatile substances, I like to have someone capable to assist when necessary and to take careful notes.
This time my friend and colleague, Helen Michetschläger came for the day, along with two violin making students from the collage at Newark who were there to witness the process. Luckily the day was dry and warm but without any wind, and this time I took an extra step to minimise the fumes by using an old vacuum cleaner with its filters removed to suck away most of it –  a successful, if a slightly Heath Robinson solution! We made two batches, one of my usual recipe in the morning, then another batch in the afternoon using a different resin as an experiment. On this occasion, I don’t think it has worked, but that is the nature of experimentation. As well as the photos, we also filmed the process, which I will be able to use as part of a talk I have been asked to give to Newark violin making students later in the year. When I was at college varnish making was scarcely taught, and it was before the excellent research of recent years had been done, so it is nice to help give today’s students a better start than I had.