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  • Writer's pictureHannes Karpaty

Karpati's techniques and tips for a beautiful classic varnish


In the world of violin building, craftsmanship and attention to detail are most important. Among the many talented craftsmen, one name shines brightly: Karpati, a master violin maker known for his classical Italian-style instruments and unique lacquer techniques.

In this article, we will delve into Karpati's fascinating varnishing process, and find out just what makes Karpati's instruments stand out and achieve their charming appearance and resonance.

Mixing the varnish

Karpati begins by choosing the finest natural materials, including resins such as amber, copper or mastic, known for their tonal and protective properties.

These resins are dissolved in a carefully selected solvent, often a mixture of alcohol and oil, to create a liquid varnish.

To achieve the desired color and depth, Karpati pours in a pigment from natural sources and carefully mixes them into the lacquer mixture. This step allows him to bring out the warm, golden hues reminiscent of the classic Italian instruments.


When the lacquer mixture is prepared, Karpati skilfully applies it to the wooden surface of the violin. Using a brush or brush, he carefully covers the instrument in thin, transparent layers.

This technique allows the natural grain of the wood to shine through, making the instrument more appealing. One of Karpati's secrets to bringing out better sound characteristics in his instruments is to apply extremely thin layers of varnish but instead more of the color mixture.

This means that the vibration of the wood is not suffocated by a thick varnish. The instrument thus resonates better, at the same time that the varnish gets the same nice color but shows the wood's own appearance more.

After each layer of varnish is applied, Karpati patiently allows it to dry and harden before continuing with the next layer.

This process ensures an even and smooth finish, allowing the lacquer to protect the wood while improving its resonance.

Antique treatment

To complete the painting process, Karpati may choose to apply additional treatments.

This can, for example, be an antique treatment.

To begin antique processing, Karpati carefully selects suitable tools. These can include small knives, scrapers, brushes designed to mimic the wear and tear of previous centuries.

Karpati can also use special tools like this bottom a horse kit.

With a little creativity, he sets out to replicate the natural aging and patina characteristic of older violins.

Karpati's first step is to detail the wood surface.

Using the knives and scrapers, he carefully carves delicate lines, imitates wear patterns and creates small marks that mimic aging and wear.

These meticulous details give the violin the feel of an older classical Italian violin.

To further enhance the antique feel, Karpati can carefully add stains or dyes to specific areas. These additional treatments help create depth, emphasize the details.

After patience and deep focus

The end result of Karpati's varnishing process is a masterpiece that truly recalls the classical Italian violin tradition but with its own unique character.

The varnish not only protects the wood, but also adds depth, warmth and an unmistakable aesthetic charm to the instrument.

Karpati's devotion to the art of lacquering, coupled with his expertise in classical Italian violin building, allows him to create instruments that resonate with both visual and auditory beauty.

Each violin that Karpati varnishes becomes a testament to his craftsmanship and a timeless work of art, ready to inspire musicians for generations to come.

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