What’s In A Violin Oil Varnish?

What’s In A Violin Oil Varnish?

The varnish on your violin is a very visible aspect of the instrument and yet it’s something that you may not have thought a great deal about. Varnishes for violins tend to be either oil varnish, or sprit based varnish (also known as shellac) and in this post we’ll take a look at oil varnish.

Oil Varnish

One of the reasons why we still have so many great old playable violins is because the varnish on their instruments has performed its primary function well (perhaps with the help of some extra coats and restoration over time). Preserving and protecting the wood of your violin from degrading over time is a vital task that’s performed by the varnish coats. Sealing the wood and protecting it from the weather, dirt, oils, wear and tear, and bumps and scrapes is one of the secrets of the long life of a violin. Oil varnish has proven itself to be a great preserver and protector that soaks into the wood giving strength, and colour, and it contributes to the tone

Violin Oil VarnishAge Old Recipes

We know how good some old oil based varnish recipes are because some renowned violin makers have been using varnishes based on centuries old recipes. The combination of protective powers, colour and looks, and the tone aspects of their violins have all proven to be special, and the varnish they use is valued as being an important part of the individual identity of their particular violins. Oils such as linseed oil and walnut form popular bases for violin oil varnishes.


Traditional oil varnish recipes dried very slowly and it wasn’t uncommon for violins that had been varnished to be left for months before the violin could be handled.


Modern Oil Varnish

Blends of different resins and oils make up the oil varnishes that have been used over many hundreds of years. High quality modern oil varnishes use pure oils, select resins, non-toxic drying agents, and pigment pastes in oil to get the right colour match and light stability.

For more information or if you have questions about the varnish on your instrument call us on 020 7249 9398 .

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