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    Note to the varnish makers

    I spent the last weeks of June at the NBSS where I tried Magister varnish along Robson's, I was teaching antiquing techniques, and this provided me with an excuse to compare these two varnishes.  This is not a technical report but just how I feel about these products and how they fit my varnish style.  
    I was impressed by the Magister product being much thicker then the Robson's Dark Amber I came to love, and allowing me to use my antiquing technique to best effect.
    I came home and ordered several products from the Magister line, so that I would have time to try them on my own and test the througly.  This is what I ordered: Doratura Brescian Brown, Doratura Marrone, Vernice Liquida Comune, Linea Cremonese clear.  To me, these almost Italian names are annoying as they carry little literal meaning.
    I found the Doratura Marrone the most useful.  The Magister line has beautiful rich and natural colors.
    You may be interested in knowing how the two Robson-Magister compare.  I always liked Robson's varnishes and used them, I admit to have a bias because I know them better.   I believe Robson's products are better then Magister, however, Magister varnishes have two qualities I appreciate a lot.  The layers cohesiveness is great.  When I sand to imitate wear down to one, two or three coats, there is no division between each coat.  On the contrary when I sand the Robson's Dark Rosin/Amber varnish I can see the layers division.  
    When it comes to colors Magister's are warm and natural to my eye, but Robsons are more transparent.  I found Magister's varnish hard to French polish to a high gloss, maybe it is a good thing as I am not a fan of a glossy wet finish but it is something to keep in mind.  I would like to get these two varnish makers to talk to one another and tell us what makes their varnishes different.
    Magister gets the thickness - high viscosity, Robson not, a minus there.  This possibly due to the fact that Robson is trying to get a varnish that is ready to be applied out of the jar.  I still have a few cans (this type of packaging was much better then the glass/screw top jar) The Robson dark amber from the "tin can" time was thicker and dried faster, it would chip in a more traditional way (see Guarneri Plauden) the new (June 2011) Robson dark amber is softer and dries slowly.  While drying time can be changed with a few drops of Cobalt dryer, the varnish remains gummy and soft.
    I have a bias for the Robson varnish and I feel it is a better product.  Tried and true.  I am frustrated by the lack of consistency in Robson's varnish as newer varnishes are different, softer (different recipe? You bet).
    Question to all the varnish makers... Why don't you list the ingredients?  
    Violin makers don't make varnish, not because they don't know how, but because it is messy, it it takes time and a particular set up.  
    Please list the ingredients, list what makes your varnish different from others and keep the product consistent.  
    After trying Magister line, Robson and a local Boston varnish maker I am going back to cook my own.  
    Varnish making is not about fancy recipes it is about the best ingredients cooked and treated right. 
    I am excited at the completeness of Magister and Robson's line of products.  I will start testing Old Wood product as soon as I receive them and promise you a report.  
    Thank you for reading and let me know how your thoughts.



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    Reader Comments (1)

    If I were the owner of the violin, I would have whatever dirt and rosin on the top cleaned off...gently, then sealed carefully, not allowing the oil part of the French polish method get into the wood.
    Looks mean almost nothing....but it is imperative that the wood be sealed to keep dirt and grime from destroying the wood and the sound!
    Someone owning the violin and wishing to sell it probably would want varnish/color restored. This is a mistake, because the sound could very well go away.
    Btw, I am currently writing a custom essay concerning varnishing so this article was a great help for me!

    November 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary Sorenson

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