Darnton Violins Blog

My Observations (Large and Small) About Violin Making and Restoration

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varnish texture 1944 violin

More Varnish Texture

This one’s interesting mainly because of its lack of great age: it’s from 1944, made in Hamburg, Germany; not a time and place you see many violins from. Usually I would associate this type of mud-crack surface with a soft varnish that’s been overcoated with something much harder (violating the painter’s fat over lean rule), where expansion and contraction of…

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Experimenting with Ground Coats

I started a series of tests this week, something I’ve always meant to do. I have a lot of scraps of wood with various things painted on them, but never have gone about it in an orderly fashion. Yesterday, I took a bunch of cheap bridges, scraped one side of each, and started putting a different ground coat on each…

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Checking Top Arch

Arching, Revealed

Over the last few years I’ve been messing with a contractor’s laser level to show violin arching more clearly. It’s a variation of the maker’s idea of using a ruler and light to cast a shadow on the arch while shaping it, as pictured above, and initially I used a series of photos, and then went to movies for the same…

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Carletti Labels

Genuzio Carletti, in Italy, had a working relationship with Joseph Settin in New York. Carletti made instruments, and Settin set them up and sold them. The two labels above were found glued one on top of the other (the earlier dated one hidden under the newer). It appears that Settin wanted some way to indicate the collaboration, and wasn’t sure…

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Modern Texture

A friend of mine brought in one of his older violins the other day. He uses a variation of my varnish that’s a bit more complex. His violin, which is around 15 years old and well-used, has acquired a really nice texture to it. It’s the most extreme on the ribs under the tailpiece, where it’s exposed to constant heat…

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A bit irrelevant to violins, but I got a few of the best tools that I use in my violin making from my great-uncle. He was a wagon maker in his father’s factory around the turn of 1900, and this is the type of thing he made: This is the outside courtyard of his factory, in Toledo … They had…

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Nitric Toast

This violin is not even 100 years old, even though it looks 300. It came to me with several open cracks on the top, and as soon as I glued one, the stress of closing that gap opened up another. The toasty-brown color and the smell show that the wood was treated with nitric acid to darken it, and the…

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An Original Neck

Here’s an interesting one. It’s rare to see pre-modern violins with their original necks instead of grafted modern ones. Usually an old neck is modernized by unmounting it from the rib (they’re glued on the outside and nailed from the inside for security), adding some on the bottom, and resetting the neck in the modern, stronger, way, inset into the…

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