Violin varnishes are natural resin varnishes handmade in small open kettle runs from premium materials. The recipes and methods have deep roots in the violin making tradition and are chosen to insure the finest varnishes from the best materials.
The quality of the varnish begins with the oil. Linseed Oil,wellwashed, settled, and double filtered, is chosen for its excellent clarity. The oil is polymerized to impart both good drying properties and elasticity to the varnish film.
Single resin varnishes are made from the traditional resins of the trade: Rosin and Amber.
Rosin: A recent resin extracted from live pine trees in Europe and North America. It is harvested as a viscous liquid (crude gum) and separated from the gum spirits (turpentine) by heat and distillation. What remains after the rosin is drawn off is pure turpentine.It is also used in the raw form in the ancient method varnishes
Amber: Fossil resin primarily from the area around the Baltic Sea. It was produced by coniferous trees which grew on the land now under the Baltic Sea between 25 and 40 million years ago.
Resins are compared by hardness and age, which are indicators of the same characteristics. By comparison: Rosin is a soft (recent) resin, Amber is a hard (fossil) resin. The resins carry their physical and chemical properties to the varnish. However, each is just the sap a tree produces to protect its wounds.
The solvent is pure gum spirits ( raw, fresh turpentine) which has been purified after the separation from the rosin. Turpentine promotes the mutual solubility among itself, the linseed oil, and the resin.
The result of combining premium material, correct procedures, and the intent of the varnish-maker is a good violin varnish. Each element retains some of its original properties and loses some to the combination e.g. the index of refraction of a well made varnish is higher than that of any of its components.