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Borax treatment?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Damon Rondeau, Dec 9, 2003.

  1. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    What do our esteemed luthiers know and care to say about treating bass tops with borax? I believe we're talking about soaking in a solution here, n'est-ce pas?

    The matter came up on The Other List when discussing Stradivarius violins. Thomas Martin piped up and said he does all his basses this way and was taught this at Cremona.

    I'm curious to know more.
  2. Borax is one of those things that seems to pop up periodically in the violin world. Joseph Nagyvary, a biochemist who periodically announces that he has discovered the "secret" proclaimed in a 2001 magazine that borax was an insecticide known to have existed in Cremona in the 18th century and proclaimed that Cremona makers soaked their wood in borax to prevent worm damage. And according to Nagyvary, this treatment was responsible for the sound of the great masters. The response from the violin community has been far from total agreement although there are indeed makers who use borax in their ground treatment prior to varnishing. Researchers using an electron microscope did not find borax as a major ingredient in the ground of samples taken from repaired Classic Cremona instruments.

    The most commonly used grounds today include a potassium silicate and mineral coating (see www.rubioviolins.com), hide glue, egg white mixtures, pumice in adhesive (e.g., shellac), thinned varnish or shellac, and a range of proprietary treatments.

    My mentor used borax to make seedlac (shellac) soluble in water and then applied this water soluble "varnish" as a ground and to color the wood prior to varnishing. I've tried this method, but I met with limited success and currently use other grounds.
  3. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Thank you very much, Bob. Informative as always!
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