A Varnisher’s Toolbox, the Basics of Varnishing a Violin - Tools and Materials

UNH Course: A Varnisher’s Toolbox, the Basics of Varnishing a Violin​ - Tools and Materials
Instructor: Michael Anthony Daddona


*A note from the instructor on the online course:

Hello everyone, 

  I thought I'd send out a note regarding what we may expect as we attempt to conduct this course remotely. 

  First off, I need to make a few additions to the materials list. In the past, I have supplied the main varnishes and some other materials in an effort to keep consistency among the class. The different drying rates and ways that various materials interact can potentially be detrimental to the flow and success of the class. Obviously, I won't be able to share materials with you this year due to the circumstances. It is my hope that everyone get the listed varnish so that we can cut down on extraneous material related issues. I will be using it as well. I will list the additional items and sources below.

  I would also like to address work space requirements. The materials we will be using are traditional but may pose some challenges being used in your living space. You should consider working where you have access to good natural light and ventilation. Some materials may give off fumes that could be irritating in small, unventilated spaces. The use of a respirator is highly recommended. 

  Also, we will be working with traditional oil varnish which needs ultraviolet light (sunlight) to cure. So be sure to have a well protected place outdoors where it can be hung for a few hours at a time. Hanging in a window, although not ideal, may be fine if you are careful to not let the violin get too hot.

  These are extraordinary times.  I plan to give you my best effort under what are admittedly less than ideal conditions so that we may all succeed and come a little closer to understanding the fascinating subject of violin varnishing.

Thank you,

Michael Daddona 


Additional Materials for Online Workshop:

-Respirator mask- hardware store or equivalent 

-Oil Varnish- International Violin product #1010c. Joha oil varnish. Total of 4, 2oz bottles. 2 of which need to be 'Clear'. Choose other colors to your liking, or if you wish to use tube colors/lake pigments get all four 'Clear'.

-Potassium nitrite- Wood Finishing Enterprises. 1oz of material.

-Ammonia-grocery or hardware store

-Gamsol-art supply. 16 oz bottle

-Distilled water-grocery store. 1 gallon

-few small graduated measuring cups

Tools and Materials:

Students should be aware that varnish supplies can be quite expensive. A basic sealer and varnish will be supplied in order to keep cohesion among the group. If any student has some experience and wishes to bring more expensive violins or perhaps one they have made, that is great. But those students with limited experience or are new should not feel they have to have the finest of materials to begin with. The same holds for choosing pigments. I've made some recommendations for basic colors, but, again, students should feel free to make choices based on experience. Choose pigments you like, but it is important that they are 'transparent'. There will be trial and error, hopefully not too much error, in learning to varnish a violin. I hope to make it as fun and affordable as possible.