Book Review: Violin Varnish - Notes and Articles from the Workshop of Koen Padding

Like many people in the violin making world, I was shocked and saddened to learn of the untimely death of varnish maker Koen Padding in 2012.  During my apprenticeship at Alf Studios and after opening my own workshop, I used products and varnishes from Padding's Magister varnish system for my instruments.  His sudden death, and the subsequent revelation that he had not memorialized the recipes and methods for his varnishes, left a void in the market for the many violin makers who relied on the products that he made.

After Padding's death, Helen Michetschläger set out to compile Padding's notes and articles in a book.   Michetschläger has been a professional violin maker for over thirty years, was a student with Padding at the Newark School of Violin Making in the 1970s, and was a regular user of Magister products.  

The resulting book, Violin Varnish - Notes and Articles from the Workshop of Koen Padding, was published in 2015.  I am proud to be one of the pre-publication subscribers who sponsored the publication of this important book.

Although the book does not provide a recipe or instructions to recreate the Magister varnishes and products, it does provide a compilation of Padding's research and writing on classical Italian varnishes, a compilation of written material relating to the Magister varnish system, a full list of the contents of the Magister varnish workshop at the time of Padding's death, recently ordered items from materials supply companies to Magister, a scientific analysis of a number of Magister products, and a list of varnish-related books that were owned by Padding.

Master varnish maker Joe Robson, from whom I had the privilege of learning varnish techniques during a week long workshop in Concord, MA, reviewed the book for the Strad Magazine as follows:

"When you first pick up this book there is a sense of substance: it has heavy covers, beautiful photographs and good paper. This is a book intended to survive through many readings. The impression carries over into the research and re-assembly of the work of Koen Padding... Helen Michetschläger's book will be an essential text on the subject of violin varnish."

This book is available for purchase at and is very reasonably priced (especially in the expensive world of violin-related books) at £40 plus £8.50 shipping.