From Aged Wood to Fungi! What’s it all about?

The products I use in restoration are pretty specialized. From aged wood to fungi! Here’s a little insight.

Wood Matching

This can mean using wood (see picture above) that I have stored for many years that has darkened in colour and is age appropriate to the instrument I am working on. Restorers can be very protective of their wood store because matching perfectly during a restoration, when wood has to be replaced, can enable the repair to be virtually invisible. I have drawers full of the stuff!  

Poorly matched wood/grain/texture/colour is always obvious even under the finished varnishing. Sometimes it’s necessary to bake the piece of selected wood in the oven to acquire the correct age colour/dryness to the wood. A tricky business because the wood cannot be dried out so much that it becomes brittle. 


The coloured pigments I use come from all over the world. They have beautiful names like ‘Alizarin Crimson’ or ‘Zinc Yellow Deep’. The picture shows just a few.

I use them to add colour to the transparent varnish made from shellac with which I varnish your instruments.

This process is often referred to in this country as TIV (touching in varnish) or the term ‘re-touching’ is more commonly used now by international restorers.

These varnish ingredients and dyes are mixed to match the colour of the instrument and must be built up in layers, just as the maker did when they applied the original coats. By building layers the iridescent quality of the varnish is not lost.


This can be Lycopodium, a very harmful (if inhaled) fungi powdered down that I mix with animal glue to make a paste which fills tiny spaces where a piece of wood can’t be fitted.

Or it might be ‘bubbles!’ that I use with ink dyes to fill tiny little areas. These are microscopic balls of glass and work brilliantly for the refraction and reflection of light on an instrument.

There are so many more products that I use competently, including cleaners, waxes, burnishing creams, varnish fillers. All of these products can be used safely on instruments of great value and not damage them.

They have been developed for the restoration of instruments and works of Art. Years of working diligently with safe products gives me a head start on what will work on each individual instrument and job.

Sadly I’ve seen some very badly damaged instruments that have simply been over cleaned by clumsy hands, or had powerful chemicals/ingredients used on them with no knowledge or skill.  

‘Berwick, Brahms and Chips’

The Cobweb Orchestra is a friendly, open-access and multi-award winning amateur orchestra based in the North of England.

The Orchestra is hosting a ‘Berwick, Brahms and Chips’ event at the Guildhall in Berwick-upon-Tweed on Sunday 30 July. 

The event includes a pre-ordered ‘fish & chips’ lunch and then an afternoon playing 1858 Brahms’ Serenade No. 1

Email conductor Mark Edwards ( for more details if you fancy joining in! 

Calling All Violin, Viola and Cello Teachers

Are you currently teaching or plan to in the near future? If the answer is yes, why not tell me about it.

I’m often asked for recommendations by players who are wanting to improve, and there is a real shortage of good available teachers in this area.

So, please do get in touch and then I can spread the word!

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