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VIOLIN VARNISH
   Much has been written on the subject of Violin Varnish as concerns the violin. Theories abound but nothing definitive has ever emerged.As this is the present situation .Violin makers are left to their own preparations or available commercial varnishes for application  I will not get into a debate over different methods and  concoctions utilized by others as this is not of my concern.                                                                                             
  I approached the subject knowing that the varnish whatever the composition,providing an oil base whether a commercial or turpentine with natural ingredients, could not improve the tonal qualities of a violin but surely could impair the inherent  resonance, if applied improperly.
  If the varnish migrates into the plate fibers the instrument is doomed.How then does one ensure this will not occur?Seal the plates prior to applying the finish.If there is a secrete to the old masters finishes it is in this sealing agent.
 Fifteen years ago I contemplated what this material might be and from conclusions drawn from researching old books on the subject I arrived at the solution by which all my violins have since been successfully sealed.
  I will elaborate ,I came across a reference which was actually expressed as a fallacy.Put in this respect"to think some actually believed they used Bee glue". I`d never heard of this substance but my initial thought was, well the purfling where it comes to a point on the inner boots of the violin is called a bee sting ,from antiquity.Also the sound of a bee hive comes quite close to the buzz of the played violin. I investigated this substance. Properly called Propolis .Bees collect it from spruce trees.They gather it by attaching it to their legs and upon returning to the hive other bees remove the substance and completely cover the entire inner hive with it.Why? The propolis is a natural anti biotic used even today in some cancer treatments.When one thinks a moment you must realize the importance the bees  place on this material.A bee hive is primarily an incubator .What more fitting  way to ensure no bacteria enters the hive.Old violins rarely show deterioration from decay.
  Not one to jump to conclusions I contacted a local bee keeper who was quite amiable in giving me a quantity of the substance ,for to him the stuff was a nuisance as it stuck the hive box sections,sticking them together making it quite difficult to separate these panels.He had no commercial interest in the propolis.
 Further studies indicated that the Italians where and still are avid bee keepers.
 Contemporary theories of ancient methods of preparing the wood for violins including placing them in organic ponds because of bacteria found when old violins were examined under powerful microscopes or volcanic silicates imbedded in the varnish can also be explained by just what propolis does, kills bacteria ,which remains in the substance .The fact that spruce trees produce the sticky substance whenever a branch breaks  to protect the wound ,it is not hard to believe air born volcanic ash from this volcanic region would easily embed itself in the propolis.
 Propolis is crystallized when rendered properly which will transmit vibrations unimpeded.This is ideal as a sealent.It is also excellent in bonding to a turpentine based varnish as turpentine comes from the same tree,thereby having inherent compatibility.
 One should always remember the time these old instruments were made 1550-1650.The science of the day was alchemy, the study of natural sciences.