The second part of the Ground process is to further seal the wood and prepare the fiddle for varnish. Strobel talks at length of adjusting the color with a very light water stain, which is only necessary if the wood of the top and bottom plates differ significantly in color. The colors of my fiddle match pretty well and the sugar seal has mellowed the color to a light golden shade – perfect!

 Jessepe Goldistani’s “ground system” is comprised of four layers – Sugar Seal, Shellac, Colored Varnish and Clear Varnish. I consulted Michael Darnton’s detailed article on Varnishing that he has generously made available on the ‘net before his book is published for hints about applying shellac. It boils down to this:

Dilute the shellac with denatured alcohol at a 1:4 ratio
Brush it on in a very thin coat
Wipe off excess with a paper towel
Let dry several hours and do it again.
And again and again and again until the shellac begins to build up on the surface. The build-up will be uneven, so brush more coats onto the places where there is less shellac until the whole surface is evenly coated.
Brush on a couple more coats over the whole thing after you think it has been evenly coated, just to be sure.

Sounds easy enough, right? Actually, it was pretty easy and the results are quite pleasing. Note the high-tech tools above. I’m cheap Scotch frugal that way – a small jelly jar with a tight-fitting lid to mix and a plastic syringe to measure accurately. The brushes are cheap and proved to be just a bit too cheap – the hairs kept coming off onto the work so I found a better brush.

I also discovered that it’s very difficult to take a picture with no shine after the shellac coating. The fiddle is a little shiny, but not as much as the pictures would have you think.

The grain is nicely defined and the color is just what I was hoping for.

Front and back are a nice match for color, too.

I’m still not sure I like the way the grain reverses direction on the front halves, but there’s nothing to be done about it and anyway the fingerboard and tailpiece will hide the darker spots 😉

Now on to the varnish!