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Allan Mckay
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08/11/2005
12:11:58
Subject: Nicolas Bertholini
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I'm a guitar player so please excuse the lack of knowlede on Violins.. My 2nd youngest started playing 2 years ago... Her grandfather past a violin down to her that he played on the radio in the 50 as a child. I want to know if I should have it refinished or just leave it alone. It sounds great but the finish is worn.
Here are the specs again.

Nicolas Bertholini
Luthier de S.M. I' Emperer et de la cour de France Made in France Fecit anno 1810

Thank you for your time.


Gordon M Burns
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08/11/2005
12:30:57
RE: Nicolas Bertholini
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This maker worked in Mirecourt, France, from 1890-1926. He produced instruments of astounding mediocrity! His varnish was red-brown and very glossy. The words on the ticket 'Made in France', according to my research, place it after the end of the Great War (so post-1918, and one of the later ones).

If you intend to have it refinished, it should be entrusted to a luthier or restorer to undertake. Any work done in this area by an amateur will probably make it practically worthless. On the other hand, a decent restorer would probably bill you for just about the value of the instrument if a total refinish is required.

If you can find a restorer who will undertake the work on a 'preservation' basis, rather than a 'restoration' basis (i.e. he will probably shellac the instrument, thereby preserving what's already there, including its history, rather than revarnishing it like a new instrument) the bill will be much lower. Often, preservation is just as good as (and ofter preferred to) restoration.

Regards,
Gordon


Lyndon J Taylor
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08/11/2005
19:33:55
RE: Nicolas Bertholini
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Refinishing a violin is a last resort, taken when nothing can be done to save the original varnish, just because your violin is old and the varnish is worn does not mean you should revarnish it, its actually much more valuable to leave the original varnish alone or carefully restore or retouch it, never use shellac on top of the varnish, only the worst varnishes use shellac and shellac varnishes are hard and brittle and give a bright tinny sound, putting shellac, french polishing over good authentic varnishes is a travesty in my opinion, if your going to put a surface coat over the top use a good violin oil varnish or spirit varnish(which may have a small amount of shellac or seedlac as an ingredient) or don't do it at all. Revarnishing a violin knocks 50% off the value, for instance if you revarnish a Stradivari you knock about $500,000 of the value, just like that, accept that your violin is old and looks like that, Gordon, youre way off base here to be giving advice to refinish violins on this forum, this is a forum, thanks to Graham Welsh for the restoration , preservation, and furthering of the art of violins and violin making, revarnishing is a destructive not reconstructive form of work, if you want your violin to look shiny and new, leave it alone, sell it and buy a shiny new one there are lots of shiny new ones out there, sincerely Lyndon J Taylor violinljt@hotmail.com


Gordon M Burns
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09/11/2005
02:19:27
RE: Nicolas Bertholini
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Hi Lyndon,

As you know, there are many grades and types of shellac (I use the word generically to include seedlac and even propolis). They are not all brittle and most every spirit varnish is based on one type or another, and has been since the earliest use of spirit varnishes. It is not true to say they contain a small amount of shellac - the truth is that the main ingredient is shellac (apart from the spirit solvent that evaporates off in any case).

If you read my post again, you'll see that I use the word 'refinish' as in 'carefully restore or retouch it', not blandly revarnishing it totally, and that the work should be entrusted to a professional, commenting that any work done by an amateur would render the instrument practically worthless.

Also, I said that preservation is just as good and often preferred to restoration, which is true of many old instruments where the varnish is so deteriorated that it is practically totally absent (like a Walter H Mason violin I saw recently where probably 95% of the varnish has gone, leaving bare wood).

I'm sorry if you misunderstood my post, Lyndon. It means that I wrote it is such a way that it caused ambiguity, so I must be careful how I put things in future.

Regards,
Gordon


Allan Mckay
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09/11/2005
03:48:25
RE: Nicolas Bertholini
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I want to thank you both for the reply. It sounds like I am better just leaving it alone. To be honest, cost is not a factor for restoring it... IF it cost $2000.00 it just would not matter to me as it can not be replaced... My child has pictures of her grandfather playing it as a kid at the radio station... Cant put a value on that. But after reading your comments I will not have it redone... My only question, can I clean it ?????

Thank you again for your replies.


Gordon M Burns
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09/11/2005
04:52:30
RE: Nicolas Bertholini
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The answer to this is... yes and no.

Yes... if you are talking about merely removing surface dust/dirt, using an over-the-counter violin cleaner such that are available at most music shops. Never use alcohol, any alkaline household or furtiture cleaner or anything else for that matter that is not designated as an instrument cleaner (some products are called instrument or varnish 'revivers'). The use of cleaners intended for use on furniture are, on the whole, unsuitable for instruments.

No... if you are talking about performing a proper cleaning, involving the removal of decades of dirty rosin build-up and leaving the varnish in its best condition. This requires the extremely careful use of specialised cleaning products and should be entrusted ONLY to a professional. One wrong move and it could be curtains for the varnish.

Regards,
Gordon


Allan Mckay
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09/11/2005
09:12:49
RE: Nicolas Bertholini
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Thank you Gordon:

That is what I will do. I will head to the city and look for violin cleaner as you suggest.

Thank you again for your reply,, Great site will donate to it.

Sincerely,

Allan Mckay Canada


Gordon M Burns
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09/11/2005
11:02:45
RE: Nicolas Bertholini
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Hi again, Allan,

I am sure that Graham Welsh, the site owner, will appreciate your contribution, since it means he can keep this service running for the benefit of all wishing to tap the knowledge available here.

Kind regards,
Gordon


Lyndon J Taylor
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10/11/2005
13:26:35
RE: Nicolas Bertholini
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I just heard a top piano restorer in the US says one museum secret for cleaning dirt etc, is to use saliva, the problem is I haven't found any one that sells it, but seriously saliva is a much better solvent compared to water, just thought I'd mention it, sincerely Lyndon J TAylor


Gordon M Burns
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10/11/2005
13:36:07
RE: Nicolas Bertholini
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Hi Lyndon,

Saliva is obtainable by the gallon from www.realsalivaproducts.com but it is very expensive, at $10 per millilitre. Failing that, a good shot of sugary fruit usually does the trick :o)

Joking aside, I know a good art restorer who uses saliva (spittle, as he calls it) to remove grime from ancient works of art, and according to him, no harm whatsoever becomes the subject. So if it works on a Giotto, I guess it'll work on a Stard!

Regards,
Gordon




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