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Removing Rosin from the Finish

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by oldsaw, Jan 3, 2002.


  1. I didn't know whether to post this question here or in "set up". Knowing how quiet this forum is I decided to put it here.

    I am test driving a bass that has been played in a major orchestra for 6 years. It is a beautiful looking and sounding bass with a one piece flat sawn spruce top.

    The owner is, to say the least, a beligerent union member. Five years ago, the then director (management) complained that the bass section (labor) needed to clean their basses. He took the opposite action and never cleaned it. There are little nibs of rosin embeded in the top finish that I, the owner and a local luthier have attempted to remove without much success.

    Does anyone, hint hint Jeff or "all hail Bob", have any ideas for cleaning the top of this bass?

    I appreciate any input that you have on this question.

    Mark
     
  2. Isopropyl Alcohol (Propan-2-ol), used sparingly...

    - Wil
     
  3. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Any alcohol can be dangerous[unless you are talking about imbibing]. It will dissolve many varnishes. You are talking about a difficult problem that is best solved by prevention. Obviously not the case here. I would handle this in two possible ways. One, toluol[sometimes called toluene] and xylene will quickly dissolve rosin. These can usually be purchased from a good hardware store. I have never had a problem with them affecting a varnish be it oil or spirit-based. However, always test in an inconspicuous locale. The down side is that both are nasty substances[as in carcinogens] Use chemical resistant gloves and adequate ventilation. It will leave a very slight residue which is really the remnants of the dissolved rosin-it will appear a little flat. This can be buffed out with a soft t-shirt and elbow grease[not sold at the hardware store].
    Another option would probably require luthier intervention. The imbedded rosin can be removed with 800 grit wet paper[carefulof high spots on the bass,ie uneven cracks] This will leave a flat[as opposed to shiny] surface that will need to be french polished. I hope this helps.
     
  4. I heard (or read) a long time ago that a good way to remove rosin deposits was to use light oil, like 3-in-1, and VERY fine steel wool. It sounded pretty strange to me, but I tried it and it worked great and didn't damage the finish. Use quite a bit of oil to minimize the abrasion of the steel wool - you can clean up the oil when you're done with a soft cloth.

    I think I may have read this idea in a Rufus Reid book, but I'm not sure.

    BL
     
  5. One more thing -
    This oil/steel wool idea doesn't work on the bridge which is usually unfinished and will soak up the oil. I haven't come up with a good method for the bridge - I'd welcome any thoughts.

    thanks,
    BL
     
  6. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Bill- Denatured alcohol will work on the bridge if you can be careful of the varnish. I feel the need to comment on the use of oils. The introduction of any liquid to the surface of a viol instrument is problematic.There are many microscopic and not-so-microscopic openings on the wood. New hairline cracks, old fixed cracks, purfling-all will have some opening into which liquids can seep. Any oil or polish will do this and the openings in the wood become contaminated. This leads to all sorts of future problems. I always recommend never to use any oil or polish on your instrument. The chemicals I mentioned in my earlier post are very evaporative and they tend to not slurry up as the rosin is removed. This lessens the risk of contamination.
     
  7. Thanks for the replies. I think I will have the owner there when I clean it.

    Mark
     
  8. CROSS-CUT
    Great testimony to the intelligence of a union member who, for no reason other than to spite management, would willingly damage his own instrument.
    When I resumed my professional playing, I rejoined the union just out of conscience left over from the old days. But in fact, I find it utterly useless today.

    JEFF
    I'll leave the name out - The well known shop you once worked for sells a cleaning liquid which works well, smells like camphor. Any comment? I've used it only a few times.
     
  9. Don-of-HigDon,

    I've already tries that. If I kept at it for a couple weeks it might work. Speaking of that former employeer of Jeff's - The last time I was there, I saw an employee rubbing out the same Testori for two days. It must have had a union owner also.

    Mark
     
  10. Jeff,
    Thanks for the warning - yikes! Now you have me worried. What kinds of problems can this contamination you describe cause? I haven't seen any finish problems on my bass, but it's no prize in terms of finish anyway. I always assumed that a little residual oil in/on the finish would be good for the wood, but I guess that's from a carpenter's perspective, not a luthier's.

    Thanks for your advice.

    BL
     
  11. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Bill-
    Sorry, didn't see your query till my last post was up. Contamination- even fixed cracks will usually have some small openings-more so depending on the season. Purfle will as well. Oil seeps in through capillary action and deteriorates the glue joint and also makes future gluing ineffectual. Trust me on this one. I never claim to be an expert on tone but no one glues better than I.
     
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Jeff,

    this is interesting, as my luthier (whose name shall also be left out) was found scoffing at the work of the same shop last time I was having my bass worked on. Hmmm.....

    But after reading this thread, I'm a little confused: I just bought some of the cleaning/polishing compound from the aforementioned establishment, and now you're advising not to use it. I don't have any rosin on my bass, but it does accumulate some residual SPOOGE every now and then. How should I remove this, with the chemichals you mentioned? And what's "french polishing"?
     
  13. Jeff,

    The correct french term which you have delicately danced around here is that you use a tampon when applying a french polish.

    Mark
     
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Thanks for the tip. I've been afraid of applying serious elbow grease...but as long as you say it's safe, I think I can clean it up nicely. And I'm glad you recognized the word SPOOGE - I almost used the descriptive "FUM" instead, but I felt that the other was a little closer to the truth.
     
  15. First a correction - The bass has a three piece flat/quarter sawn top.

    I just tried xylene and it did not touch the little bumps. I am concerned about removing any finish so I am going to use some of that afore mentioned white polish and put the shine back on the spot that I used for a test.

    Thanks for all of your input.

    Mark
     
  16. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Mark- Sorry if I steered you wrong with the xylene. Sometimes what skinned the cat yesterday does not work today. Come to think about it, I usually go to the toluol first and can't remember when I last used xylene. Of course, that would have been more useful to you yesterday. Sorry for any inconvinence. As the whippersnappers say "my bad".
    jeff
     
  17. Yo, Jeff:
    To clarify Chris' understanding in his last post - is the cleaning agent actually/potentially harmful, or simply limited in effectiveness? It seems to take the rosin flecks off of my bass quite well. And I think I'm responsible for him buying it.
     
  18. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Don, I'm a little confused here. Chris F. was talking about elbow grease and Mark was trying xylene. Which are we referring to?
     
  19. Jeff,

    I think Don is talking about Chris using the Kolstein, there I said it, cleaner and polish. I use it every once in a while to clean rosin dust off the top of my bass. I find that it works very well for the fine dust. I also use it to clean my bow.

    The question as to the use of a polish on the finish is another discussion.

    I will try the toluene today.

    Mark
     
  20. Jeff: As in