Eric's New Cello - Varnishing the Cello

Each picture is numbered.  The comments from David also have numbers to indicate to which picture they refer.
Click on each picture to get a bigger image.

In this section the bare wood will be treated and sealed and then several coats of oil vanish will be applied over a several-day period of time.

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12/21/2000 - (1 thru 4) Great care is given throughout the making of the cello to protect the grain of the wood from any contamination, say with glue, for example, which will seal the wood and create an unsightly light blotch where it will effectively prevent the even acceptance of intended sealer or wood coloring agent. The wood surface is left as the sharp edge of the scraper leaves it and is kept scrupulously clean. This virginal and pristine surface now awaits a big change.

Before beginning, I take the fingerboard off to allow varnish application underneath it and put a temporary protector on the neck in its place . The first step in the varnishing process is a combination of coloring the wood and sealing the grain to prevent it from becoming stained by the intensely pigmented varnish. These images show the very earliest start of the varnishing.

Though the changes of varnish color and hue will change subtly, and may be inadequately represented by differences in lighting conditions and the the limitations of this camera, I will nevertheless try to give you every stage along the way.



12/22/2000 - (Pictures 5 thru 9) Day two in the sealer application, which I do with a cloth. Funny, the cello starts out darker on the first coats and then seems to become lighter as the sealer advances. When it seems that the spruce top is well sealed and protected, but just barely, from color varnish breaching the seal, then the surface will also be somewhat smooth, shiny and reflective. At that point in the next day or two, I will be ready to apply a heavily pigmented color topcoat of varnish.


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12/26/2000 - Fotos today (10 - 14) show two days past since my last transmission of pix. This is pretty advanced in the process of varnish application. I may put one more coat on or may find this to look as I had hoped for by daylight. These foto images show on my monitor as more orange and less of the brown involved, as I see in person. In person, the cello now has a rich, fiery warm caramel orange brown, if that isn't too flowery for a description. The varnish is very close to finished now.


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12/29/2000 -  (15 & 16) Two shots of the cello before its very final coat of varnish. Of course, if I determine after today's coat of varnish and keep determining that I need "just one more coat", I will keep submitting this message over and over.

These pictures were made on a cloudy daytime. They still don't fully show the warmth of the color in person. Ah, well, there are limits to this camera, as well the detail of the top grain which fairly sizzles in clarity but does not really show much here,... more like pudding.

Here's to getting the varnish to oil mix just right, not getting any dust or lint in it for the "final" coat.

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12/31/2000 - The varnish on the cello is finished as of today. The last three images for the "Varnishing" section (17 thru 19) show the finished varnish, with the disclaimer that it is natural diminished overcast late afternoon light for which the camera overachieves its compensation leaving the cello looking now much redder and without its depth of rich brown. Can you tell? No, well me neither except I have the original to look at. The coat I applied last night went on quite well once I got the mix right. It flowed out well and the surface has a very bright luster offering a clear view into the grain of the wood.

Though the cello is technically not officially finished until the strings are on and it is ready to play, I'm now disregarding that fact and instead claiming those are mere fittings and now that the varnish is complete, thus the basic cello is "done" in the year 2000.   Happy New Year.

This page was last updated 01 April, 2001 02:49 PM
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