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It really doesn't take a lot of tools, even for guitar work. Accurate rulers, a good straightedge, a few files, and a good supply of sandpaper.
I don't know a lot about varnish myself, I prefer hand rubbed oil finishes, and I use renaissance wax as my final polish. Even for guitars, I prefer not needing a spray booth to finish my work. However, I like a very utilitarian look. Not super shiny, buffed out, and plastic looking. There is a lot of great information on YouTube, but honestly 30 bucks worth of stuff from home depot will finish several instruments, and for me it's a fun little hobby.
Rulers, straightedges, and sandpaper are not a problem. I have those. Other than a handful of needle files, though, I am lacking a good set of files.
I have a fairly good small tool collection, but it has never been a priority to really build it up. I have the basics for home, car, and computer repair, but I lost my carpentry tools ages ago. The foolish young me pawned off most of my carpentry tools during difficult times. I am still mentally kicking myself over that. Over the years and decades since, I have replaced some of those carpentry tools, but only a fraction of what I once had.
There are some woodworking tools I am sure would be handy to have for working on violins that I will still have to get.
However, your having already done a nut job on your violin makes me think that perhaps I do not have to wait too much longer to do that one. That actually should not be that hard to do, from what I have seen of how it is done. I just need the new nut and the hide glue. Both items are already on my To Get list, but not budgeted in until March (too many other things have a higher priority at the moment).
As for varnish work, now that is something I have never done. I have long, long rusted carpentry skills, but only a little painting experience, and no varnish work to recall on.
The varnish on the CVN-500 has a satin antique finish, and is not overly glossy. It looks silky smooth (except for the bumps and blotches from a bad spray job). You might even say it looks something like plastic in some pictures I have seen, but I like it. In person, the top wood grain is visible, but it is not prominent. I would rather fix the current look than remove it and start over. I agree that the utilitarian look has its place, but it is not what I want on a violin, especially one with a good flame pattern like mine has. Fortunately, the back of my violin came out better than the top.
Just wanted to chime in. We are on the exact same path it seems.
Started on a mv300 from amazon (hard to be a $45 violin). Took 3 months for it to play in and start holding tune.
Found a MV500 on ebay for $75, waiting for it to arrive. (If I like it I am going to put some of those new ocvtave strings on the mv300).
And in the meantime saving up for the FM apprentice. By the time I have the funds for that one I may be ready to take some lessons and find some others to play with.
Something I'd like to know, if any of you "crafty" sorts know it - how do you tell which kind of varnish is on their now, and how do you remove each kind?
I know of spirit varnish, oil varnish, and polyurethane. The polyurethane is generally considered a Bad Thing for acoustic instruments (probably wouldn't matter on electrics).
I suspect you use different things to take off all three, and using the wrong kind could give one massive grief. Any help would be appreciated.
I am still in the early stages of researching such issues. I may have to resort to buying a few books on the topic... which was only list of things to do anyway.
One thing I did come across in my research though is that there is a segment of purists out there that think you should never remove the varnish. I suspect they are talking about higher quality instruments though.
Apparently, if you remove the varnish, or re-varnish, you devalue the instrument by quite a bit. Only repairing an instrument that has been damage, when you do have to also fix the varnish, seems somewhat acceptable... but not even that to some.
I am of the opinion that if it is a newer, budget priced, violin, it should not matter. Do what you want to the varnish. I am sure some would even object to that as well though.
I would not want to re-varnish an antique or high quality violin though. In that case, I agree with those that think it should not be re-touched, unless it has to be fixed, and the fixing should be limited to just to the areas that need fixed.
The choice is always yours though.
As for my Cecilio CVN-500, I do want to fix its varnish blemishes. It is a budget priced violin. I do not think its value will ever be great enough to warrant too much concern over whether it had some varnish re-working done.
Well, maybe in a few hundred years, it may gain some value, and that value will be less if that varnish rework was done.
After I posted the question, I read at least one thread that claimed that anyone who said they could reliably tell whether it was spirit or oil varnish was lying. (I suspect that's for old instruments, not brand new ones.)
Whether you might ever strip off the old varnish and apply new depends on your target audience. For collectors, never. For players, does the wood need protection? If so, yes. If what it has is fine, no. Sometimes you'll have to ask your target which camp they want to live in. I'm never going to be a collector, so for me the answer is easy.
In my case, I was just trying to make a crap instrument better. I don't know what industry standards are, or how to tell one style of varnish from another. With guitars, it's easier to tell what kind of goop they glop on to make it pretty. But most of that comes with experience. To learn the things I know, I bought a lot of cheap garage sale and ebay crap and tore it apart, leveled frets, sanded off finishes, tried several new finishes, it was a long process. Also, I had personal access to a few good luthiers, which was a huge help.
If you have a violin you care about, take it to an expert.
In the end, I think it is up to the person who owns the violin to do what they want to do with it.
It is not up to others to decide, whether they like what you choose to do, or not.
Since my CVN-500 is not a high end violin, I feel it is okay to work on it, but since it is my current best violin, I do want to be careful. I will be doing the research before I do anything to it. This would be the case even if I did get a better violin, demoting the CVN-500 to spare status, though.