Trade secrets: a method for cooking oil varnish by Nicolas Gilles

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A technique that relies on the senses and helps you get the right varnish for your needs, by Nicolas Gilles, luthier in Villeneuvette, France

Cooking your own oil varnish means that you have control over variables such as colour, softness, brittleness and alcohol solubility (for the purposes of doing copies). Making oil varnish is not difficult; but what is very difficult is achieving the desired result in one cooking session. Using inexpensive and easily sourced ingredients like linseed oil and colophony (the solid residue of raw pine resin – from Pinus pinaster – distillation) enables you to experiment as many times as is necessary to achieve the varnish you require.


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