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Rubio, Madder, and varnishes

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by matt macgown, Jul 24, 2004.


  1. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    I don't want to create a lenghty thread out of this, but the question is for luthiers. I've been studying Rubio's methods for getting the glaze finishes, and associated info, and then came onto the lengthy process he described to get the madder lake. A madder lake (unlike a madder wife, or kids, such) involves isolating the alizarin dye from the madder plant, then creating a lake.

    So my question is: Why not simply use the histological stain, purified alizarin, available in histology stain catalogues (and was always part of my histo stain cabinet).It would seem to be a simple way to avoid this lengthy operation. Unless, of course, he (Rubio) was mainly emulating what the old timers had to go through to get it.

    Are there any luthiers who can comment about it? I'd like to try the process, but in contemporary context. (Lazy - I'd like to skip extracting the alizarin myself, if possible).
     
  2. Simply because synthetic alizarin has been proven to be not light fast (i.e. it fades badly) in varnishes while the madder lakes are very light fast.

    FWIW, although David Rubio, like many modern makers, spent much of his later life trying to duplicate the Cremona ground and varnishes, he was not trying to emulate the way the "old timers" did it for the sake of being authentic. The mineral ground slurry was the result of co-operation with researchers, scientists, and chemists at Cambridge University (among others). I don't think anyone would consider using an electron microscope to be "old time". David Rubio was a remarkable man who did remarkable work.
     
  3. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    Thanks. No I'm not questioning Rubios skill, etc., nor the expertise of the chemists, etc. But if I'm gonna fool with this, I'd like all the answers I can get ahead of time. I'm begnning to suspectthe alum/potash silicate may add up to aluminum silicate at present, which is what the newest of fine wood foor finishes are also using, applied in a slurry, in suspension (only a step removed frm Rubios method, actually).

    They've indicated Calcium silicate mainly, in Rubio. The alizarin is basically a histological bone stain, ie., calcium, meaning that a lot of the calcium is free to bind with it. It can be from from UV photoeffects by several of the newer varnishes, and even by a layer of thin Captains varnish. It'll be interesting to see how things go, though. Modern workers in wood finishes are clearly privey to at least some of these methods, and I'm not at all saying this is a solved or a simple matter.

    The calcium could have come from a number of sources, and I early firgured a double replacement reaction with calcium carobonate, from the old method of liming wood. I doubt it really makes any special difference where the calcium comes from as long as it ends up as the same product. We'll see.

    Scanning electron microscopy, well, it's a little old fashioned now, for most stuff. Better ways to do things, but sometimes you gotta resort to it. Of course, the Cremonese didn't have 'em. I've done a bit of mineralogocal work on them myself for various companies - 20 years ago. And of course, Rudio did this work about 20 years ago.

    (Never trust a chemist - they are a bad breed!).

    OK, thanks again. I'll keep chipping away at it, for my own benefit and curiosity.
     
  4. Is there anything you haven't done?
    Why don't you try your hand at violin or bass making? :smug:
     
  5. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    Well... I have been blessed in many ways. I set out early in life to do as much as I could possibly do, and in the process found out largely what was good at, and what I might just as well hang up! There were a few of the former, and many of the latter. Some of it just beats your butt!

    My theory on basses (and a lot else) is, there are folks who make 'em, and folks who play them. I have always been mostly the latter, but I'd really love to be able to make 'em, and go from there. That may not be in the cards (or the genes). But if you don't try, you don't find out. I've so far made a couple of decent fronts, and done quite a lot of repair work, succesfully. But hardly enough to qualify me, and life is short. I don't expect to do anything of consequence there.

    Right now I'd like to find a good glaze for bass finishing, and I'm sure there are some available, and I just haven't stumbled onto them yet. I really am not interested in how strads were done unless I need to know it for my glaze.

    It's about as simple as that. I am a simple fellow. I like it that way.
     
  6. Since the sole purpose of the glaze process (not to be confused with the mineral ground slurry method) is to add color to the instrument by adding layers of color between the layers of clear or amber varnish, I can save you a lot of trouble (no need for you to reinvent the wheel again!). Hundreds of violin makers today use artists pigment oil colors for the glaze. Harry Wake and Henry Strobel have described the process in detail in their amateur oriented violin family books. However, there is no proof that Stradivarius and the other Cremona makers ever actually used the glaze method. Most experts agree that the color is part of the varnish itself. The madder lake can be also be used to color the varnish itself. I should have added earlier that synthetic alizarin produces a red color that is more suited for fire trucks than for violins.
     
  7. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    Thanks again. Well - obviously I'm curious enough to keep my eyes and ears open. Thje most recent slurry method I've seen is on the new, ultra - wood laminated flooring, where they apply the aluminum silicate as a suspension, then go through some other processes that sound a lot like violin making methods. This is supposed to be the flooring of the future, according to some builders.


    I am very skeptical about some things. The dye- staining technologies used in those times appear to me something very Indian or Chinese, and the initial "pore filling" sounds suspiciously like an old boat builders art. It's not inconcievable that the techniques employed by violin makers were not variates of methods already in use for centuries, and who knows, maybe thousands of years before them.

    I instinctively look to ancient (I mean ancient) frame and hide boat builders, and later wood boat builders, and oriental dyers. We'll see. But you know - it's not hard to see where Nagyvary can come up with some of his ideas, either. Some of them, off the wall as they may seem, might have some merit. Although, I have no intention of mixing anything with pee in the near future.

    Any way - keep on truckin'.
     
  8. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    OK, here's what's gonna happen, re: Strad methodology. One day, perhaps a thousand or 2 years from now, someone on the janitorial staff will be prowing the basement of the Vatican, and stumble onto mid to late Ming vase, top sealed and covered with the dust of ages. He will accidentally open same (top fell off as he moved it) and out fell a series of scrolls. He wasn't sure what they said, so sought out a friend , who sought out another friend, and finally they all found a dealer in antiquities. He found a friend to translate it, and Lo! It was the Stradivari Scrolls. And from that point on, it became a traditinal story, like the dead sea scrolls.

    That's how I sees it. There are no secrets. And everything that ever was done, was, is, or will become known. The tricky part is - stuff that hasn't been done yet. I figure the Strad stuff is really a done deal, and I may as well not doodle with it. Not that I am in a postion to, anyway.
     
  9. Let's see if I've got this right. You've never even seen a Strad up close. You haven't read any of the many excellent books on Stradivarius. You have not read any of the excellent books on the subject of violin varnishes. You've read many of the old CAS journals, but you don't remember anything that they said. You've never made an instrument. But...you are prepared to declare the work of the many serious researchers invalid because you think you've thought of a better way. Oh yes, and you think Nagyvary may be right. Does that about cover it?

    It's great that you have ideas. However, I'm getting very tired of these discussions that go absolutely nowhere (except your past occupations) and you choose to ignore what is already well known about the subjects. Perhaps others will wish to continue these discussions, but for me - I'm out of here.
     
  10. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
     
  11. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    Oops, Surely no intent to offend.

    But mark my words: the manuscripts, notes, recipes, books or whatever will show up. Maybe sooner than either of us think. In fact - that's my guess.

    Over and out.
     
  12. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Okay, you two. Whattya say, a duel with soundpost setters?

    Anyway, back to Matt's question about madder lake: Kremer Pigments sells an alizarin madder lake in thickened linseed which works quite well in my experience. Jury's out about lightfastness. I think I detect some minor fading in my recent varnish work. But the color is nice.
     
  13. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    Aha. Thanks very much. I'll look into it. And - You are using the madder lake on basses. Bass bow duel. Anyway, way I got it figured - Strad and I made about an equal number of basses.

    My kids and I are reasonably serious so far about setting up a bass shop here (a few miles out of Chatty Town), catering to school students, smaller basses, with a few in stock. Might be able to cover this without digging any real deep holes for (myself). Might be my retirement "job." Nothing big time - (hopefully).
     
  14. Hey Arnold - There is no way that I'm going to have a soundpost setter dual with a guy who uses a small car "jack handle" or a flat 15 inch pry bar and a long barbeque fork to set a soundpost.

    (Besides Gerard and I have made peace.) ;)
     
  15. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    Thought you were "outa here". Shoot. Tire jacks ywould be fine, too.
     
  16. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    In the realm of musical instruments, the double bass is probably the only one that could be made equally well with a chain saw. I've got a tailpiece about carved out that I took out of a chunk of chestnut oak on the firewood pile with a go - devil, and it still looks pretty much like a tail piece, so far.

    But folks in KC may not know "go - devil," I reckon, since they probably don't cut their own firewood.