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    Friday
    Feb242012

    Craquelure, and surface finish.

    Charles Beare has made known, probably more then anybody else, the dangers in the practice of "French Polish" on vintage instruments. The application of French Polish levels, or erase, the original surface texture the varnish has acquired over many years.

    Above, is a detail of a Montagnana copy I completed last year.  Less is more when it comes to polish, and a varnish surface that is left "natural" help complete the look of this sparsely antiqued instrument.

    This schematic diagram shows a cross section of a varnished wood fragment taken from the back of cello by Pieter Rombouts, an approximate contemporary of Stradivarius working in Amsterdam.  The varnished surface appears at the top of the diagram, running away into the distance as if we were looking down at a cliff top.  The top layer of varnish is quite thin, with a smooth surface, and shows at least two distinct coats.  Below this comes a much thicker undercoat layer filled with particulate matter, labelled Particulate layer.  Below the undercoat is the wood, which shows some indication of having been treated with a preparation containing oil.   This diagram is reproduced with the generous permission of Claire Barlow and Jim Woodhouse and was first published in ‘Firm Ground’ (The Strad, March 1989 p 197)

    Fine craquelure on an original Montagnana head.

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