Finishes

  

Finishes are more important than you might think.  Some factories will never produce great guitars whilst they persist with their current finishing schedules.  No matter how good the woodwork, the guitars are “killed” by the finish that is applied.  A particular culprit in factory guitars is polyester, a high density material with a very high damping coefficient.  Many first-time builders use oil based finishes, with similar consequences.  Low mass, low damping finishes must be used to reap the possibilities of the best design and construction methods.  It also helps if the finish is durable and non-toxic.  Nitrocellulose lacquer can produce great results, but it’s hardly non-toxic.  Shellac (French polish) can produce great results, but in standard form it’s hardly durable.  My innovation has been to bring together two technologies; hardened shellac, a chemistry which cross links shellac to give it a toughness approaching polyurethane finishes, developed in Australia by Robert Rae and an application chemistry developed in the USA by Brian Burns and the late Dr. Roger O'Neill.  The application process that I use I developed myself.  This makes a French polish finish reasonably economical to apply (in terms of the time taken, which is normally prohibitive) and non-toxic.  The benefit to the player is one of the most beautiful finishes available, which is also durable and as acoustically transparent as finishes get, without a prohibitive cost.  The soundboards of most of the guitars I build, both steel string and classical, are French polished with hard shellac.

  

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