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Old 06-17-2005, 11:14 PM   #1
William Whitaker William Whitaker is offline
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Warning! Don't use damar as a final picture varish




I have an old 10x8" oil on panel that was badly scratched a few years ago. I finally decided to repair it. First thing was to remove the damar picture varnish. Well, I rubbed and I scrubbed the surface with mineral spirits and then turpentine. The varnish didn't budge. Then I got serious. Knowing that I could repair any damage I would inflict (after all I had done the painting -- started in 1973, finished in 1977), I attacked the surface with alcohol and then acetone. I finally got the varnish off, but in doing so, I badly skinned the painting.
In the 28 years since I'd applied the original varnish, it had really turned yellow. When I took the varnish off, the yellowing disappeared. Damar yellows pretty fast.
Unfortunately, I didn't take a shot of the painting before removing the varnish, but this is what it looked like after I'd removed the damar. The painting is skinned!
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Old 06-17-2005, 11:28 PM   #2
William Whitaker William Whitaker is offline
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In repairing the painting, I got a bit carried away and ended up changing a few things. I have no problem with that. It is my painting after all. This is the way it turned out.
I will give it a final varnish in three months. I will use Gamblin's GAMVAR as my final picture varnish. It is easy to apply, it won't turn yellow, and it can easily be removed with mineral spirits. If the painting survives the next seventy-five years or so, it will be easy to clean.
I recommend any "acrylic" picture varnish (based on acryloid B-72 resin). I even recommend mastic varnish. ANYTHING other than damar!
If you are not currently hooked on damar as an additive to your paint or as a final picture varnish, I suggest you stay away from the stuff all together.
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Old 06-18-2005, 01:44 AM   #3
Margaret Port Margaret Port is offline
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Hi Bill
Thanks for pasting this comment.

Hmm, you've given me cause for concern. In 1985 I painted a 4 foot by 3 foot portrait of a young girl sitting on the back of a yacht with the sea as a background. Of course Damar Varnish was recommended as the varnish of choice at the time and I just last week decided it looked somewhat yellowed and thought perhaps I should clean and revarnish.it.

After seeing your skinned painting, I'm thinking I will be repainting as well. What was to be a little job looks like it will be a major one.
Fortunately, I didn't like the smell of damar too much so I haven't used it on anything else.

I'm thinking I might be better off just redoing it from the beginning and taking this one to the dump..
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Old 06-18-2005, 04:08 AM   #4
Sharon Knettell Sharon Knettell is offline
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Ouch!

Gamvar is wonderful, a tad cumbersome but worth the effort. It is colorless and easy to apply. It is made by the Gamblin company, they are familiar with working in high humidity conditions. I have a painting that fogged using damar. Because of this I called them about their varnish, as I had to varnish a painting in situ at a waterfront Newport home, they said if it works in the coastal Northwest it will work anywhere. To say the least I was nervous, but so far it has performed admirably.

I just get the stuff and shake it for 24 hours.
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Old 06-18-2005, 10:09 AM   #5
Scott Bartner Scott Bartner is offline
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Sounds like the damar really took root, and so quickly. I've been using the Gamvar product hoping future cleaning of my work won't strip any of the paint off.

They ask you to agitate the solvent/resin every hour for eight hours so one option is to bring it to my mother-in-law who can agitate anyone with little effort. When she's not around I hold the Gamvar in my left hand and drink a cup of Turkish coffee. The caffeine does the rest.
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Old 06-18-2005, 10:20 AM   #6
Enzie Shahmiri Enzie Shahmiri is offline
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Scott, you made me laugh...

I wonder rather than shaking it around every hour for eight hours, could you take it to a paint shop and have them give it a spin?

If you put the jar with some padding into a 1QT container a
paint store or even the folks at Home Depot could give it a spin at a fraction of that time.
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Old 06-18-2005, 10:28 AM   #7
Debra Norton Debra Norton is offline
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Would there be problems using Damar in your medium?
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Old 06-18-2005, 10:34 AM   #8
Scott Bartner Scott Bartner is offline
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Ah Enzie, if only life were so simple. Unfortunately these synthetic resin crystals don't dissolve immediately. In fact sometimes it takes 24 hours; it's not a buy it and use it product.

Glad I made you laugh. You should see me now gessoing panels in time to "An der schonen, blauen Donau." Now that's a laugh.
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Old 06-18-2005, 10:45 AM   #9
William Whitaker William Whitaker is offline
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Dear Margaret,

You might be lucky and be able to remove the varnish without damaging the painting. If it hasn't been on too long, it might work. If we are truly growing in our art, we have a tendency to want to take ALL our old work to the dump. We are all a little crazy this way.

Gamvar:
I've found I don't have to be too diligent in the Great Gamvar Shake Up department. I pour the solvent in the crystals bottle and forget it for a day. When I come back, I find it completely dissolved. I shake it a bit then. If I can do it, it means it isn't hard to do.

Damar will yellow over time. No doubt about that. However, I suppose paint pigment would mask that completely. My gripe with damar in a paint medium is that it becomes sticky fast and is hard to manipulate. If I need an additive medium, I prefer to use oil only, or oil with a little mastic.
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Old 06-18-2005, 11:10 AM   #10
Scott Bartner Scott Bartner is offline
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Could be because I have to smuggle the stuff over the Atlantic, it acts differently. The crystals are placed in a bath salts box and the solvent I pour into a dark green bottle and label it "Gamvar For Men: Drives Female Conservators Wild."

The things I do for art.
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