Posts Tagged ‘shellac’

Violins and French Polish

January 2, 2015
Cupboard after French Polish.

Cupboard after French Polish.

A good violin player knows his/her instrument better than he does his or her toothbrush. So does the French polisher. It seems a ridiculous statement, but let’s examine it. Of course, the latter does not necessarily play a musical instrument but applies art just the same as the former. There are more details than just intimate knowledge of their toothbrushes that are similar.

The violin produces sound by vibrations caused by the bow made of horsehair striking or moving across strings suspended above a wooden soundbox. We all know that. However, the sound produced by horsehair strung across the bow needs a certain ingredient called ‘rosin’. This gives a certain resistance when striking across the strings of the instrument. You would be hard pushed to get a sound out without first having ‘rosined’ the bow’s hairs. Note the verb ‘to rosin’! Rosin is a solid substance mainly obtained from the resin of pine trees. I am fairly sure that a musician, especially a good one, knows how to direct his wishes onto the instrument just as much as being obedient to the instrument after sound has been produced. As always, a give and take in the kitchen of any creative act.

It seems odd that despite the violin being such a great and popular instrument, most of the great 19th and 20th composers have written just one violin concerto for this instrument. e.g, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, Chaikovski, Dvorak, Elgar, Sibelius, Bartok. ( From Wiki)

Personally, I think Sibelius violin concerto the greatest piece of music ever written. I know it is a bit heavy and like most of his work, steeped in all things Finnish. You can indeed see the frozen sixty thousand lakes skirted by birch and spruce laden with snow. The melancholic and endless winter nights, but also the warm springs and loganberry filled summers, the simple and all artful that is Finland.

Here it is:

Let’s now go to the French Polisher and his art. I rattled on of resin for the bows of violins and other similar instruments. The French Polisher also uses a kind or resin called shellac. It also comes from trees but is actually produced by a beetle which deposits its excrement onto trees. Typically it is only the female beetle that does this. I don’t know why, perhaps it is supposed to lure the male. I would not be surprised seeing how many females stop at nothing to get a mate, even if it means the poor old male gets stuck on the resin and cark it. Anyway, this resin deposited on trees by the female lac bug in India, Thailand and China produces the major ingredient for shellac. Shellac when mixed with spirits is mainly used for French Polishes and food glazes.

Like a good violin player giving direction and responding to the instrument so does the French polisher direct and respond to his pad soaked in shellac. The shellac gives it the sheen but applying it makes for a certain drag or resistance like the rosin on the violin’s bow. It is an art of getting a ‘feel’ of just enough pressure on the timber surface, enough drag to leave behind the desired honey coloured sheen. Not enough or too much pressure and it fails to glorify. Applied too fast or too slow and it will not happen either, at best giving a mediocre result. It does need a bit more than experience to obtain a feel for this form of art. I suppose it is like that with all things creative.

A feeling and expressing it, giving it form.

I am not sure about the reference to toothbrushes. I am no Violin player, but can do a bit of French Polish.

Restoring old furniture to former glory.(Grand-kids)

December 28, 2014
Old Cupboard and round table

Old Cupboard and round table

It is the only way. Do something useful and Christmas will soon be over. We all know that all norm explodes and insanity becomes king during Christmas. Did you see that footage of demented shoppers on boxing day? Twisted faces gripped in shopping frenzy. They camp overnight in sleeping bags in front of David Jones. On Boxing day they buy what they don’t need and don’t even want. The magic of the advertisers now have voodooed the world’s population in ‘shopping means saving’. Everything you buy is ‘saving’. ‘Save’ here, the poster tells us. We carry bags full of goods home and are now even richer than before.

The grandkids are staying with us for a second time but tablets are locked away in my sock drawer. It has come to that now. My socks are behind lock and key. I have Norwegian socks and someone in this family ( I won’t mention names) has taken to wearing them without shoes and tramped around the tiled floor and even outside in the garden. Can you believe this AND with Norwegian socks?

With an hour of tablet withdrawal suffering and some twitching button fingers, the boys soon were on their way to activity. One started reading a 600 Michael Grant page book. The other started building a real working V8 engine toy, given as a Christmas present. . We had the Lamb Raan on Christmas day. It was given it’s well earned standing ovation.

Now that things are settling back to normal ( That’s if Ms ‘normal’ ever lives here) I decided to finally heed Helvi’s frequent requests to finish stripping the remnants of paint from an old farm cupboard that we had lugged from Holland together with an old table and lots of kitchen thatched chairs, all of which came from the (approximately) 1780’s Saxon farm that we had bought during our stay there between 1973-76. The cupboard was painted by us while living in Holland. It was fashionable to go and hand paint old farm furniture and give it a ‘Scandinavian’ look. Strictly speaking Finland is not Scandinavia, but so what? It was close enough. Anyway, we were foolish, young, passionate and great home makers. Our kids were young and learnt Dutch within a few months. I can still see them riding their little bikes to primary school a couple of kilometres away… And now, and now… We are having their kids over with Internet tablets.

The grandkids. Sometimes I wonder, if the future will make another one of those monumental great medical discoveries whereby grandkids will be born first, completely bypassing children. They, our grandchildren are immensely mature and so easy. Full of innovation and wisdom. Questioning and yet guileless and pertinent. It wasn’t like that when their parents were young, or perhaps they were and we were the nervous inexperienced parents. Or, is it the ‘other’ parent that brought in the more restive, innovative gene? Who knows and does it now matter?

Today I took out the stripper bought four years ago and stripped the last bit of dark blue from the cupboard. Tomorrow I’ll get some shellac and French polish the whole thing. I used to French polish doors and architraves many years ago when French Polishers were as rare as a Stradivarius and just as expensive. ( I made a good earner)

With the old round table near the cupboard we decided some time ago that it was too dark for the small space that it lives in. It casts a gloomy spell over the rest of the room. It imposed itself as too dominant and was used to be looked at in a larger farm type room with open fire or a piano with a Rachmaninov score nearby.

I painted the top of the table a stark white and it cheers up the whole of that area.

And that is how the Christmas period has passed, yet again. A miracle. It is over.