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kominak

 

Posts: 135
Joined: Apr. 20 2010
 

French polish - bodying sessions 

How many bodying sessions do you usually do? How do you know there's enough build up of shellac?
From various sources (tutorials and DVDs) I gathered numbers between 3 and 12 sessions.
I've done 4 sessions so far - after 3 sessions the guitar started to look pretty good and there wasn't big difference in look between after session 3 and now (after 4 sessions).
I already used all of my first batch of shellac (2 ounces of flakes dissolved in 8 ounces of alcohol).
Just out of curiosity, how much shellac does it usually take to finish one guitar?
Thanks a lot!

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Martin Kominak
Slovakia
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 5 2011 13:54:36
 
Gimar Yestra

 

Posts: 298
Joined: Jan. 19 2011
From: The Netherlands

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to kominak

this realy depends, some types of woods take 4 sessions (or even more) just to fill the grain properly. I never realy counted the number of sessions, but its usualy takes quite a lot.

I usually do 1 session each day (no more) and it usualy takes me 2 weeks to finish a guitar, so give or take a few, i'd guess 10 to 15 sessions.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 5 2011 14:36:13
 
Andy Culpepper

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Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to kominak

wow.. I think you might be putting it on too thick. That amount of shellac will do a guitar and a half for me, with 6-8 sessions of bodying per guitar, plus the final polishing.
Is it a blanca you're finishing?

Knowing if there's enough shellac to sand level without burning through is the tricky part.. it comes with experience basically.
I've developed some tricks so that my FPs are coming out very consistent and predictable these days, and I'm pretty efficient with how much shellac I use and how long it takes me. One thing that works really well for me is to not just "paint it on" wth straight strokes during the bodying sessions. I always rub it in with circular motions throughout the process because it really helps keep things level and fill in those tiny dimples. I can use less shellac to get it to the point of sanding level that way, and it goes faster.


(this is all assuming you've already filled any porous woods)

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 5 2011 15:38:46
 
estebanana

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RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to kominak

Meh......brush it or rag it on to build the first coats, then pore fill. I can get enough on in one day to do the pore filling. Build it up heavy, let it sit for a few days to shrink then pore fill it in one day. Then sand it back and pore fill it again to get anything you missed. Done. Move on to building the surface and then finish sanding and glazing.

French polishing can be done in very personal ways. The more you do it the faster you get just by observation and trial. But I brush it on in the beginning, makes things go much faster. If you brush it on you don't waste all your time padding and then you can put the guitar up and do something else while it out gasses the solvent for a few days and hardens. Let the air do the work. I usually brush on three coats in one day, the first day, maybe an hour apart. The let it sit a few days and it's ready to pore fill. The idea behind pore filling is to have enough shellac on the guitar so that when you dissolve it with alcohol and pumice you have enough shellac to melt and push around. I came the conclusion that I did not want to waste time padding painstaking layer upon layer only to then scrub it with pumice and alcohol.

After I pore fill I let it sit after a few more days and then sand out the hardened shellac and I don't get gummy residue. You can also wet sand it with dish soap and water if you keep control over it an use very will water. You get a fine cut with the black wet and dry sand paper. Use a hard block you'll be able to get a level surface really fast. You can also use mineral oil or walnut oil as a sanding lubricant.

One of the fastest ways t learn about french polish and how much you can push it is to practice on scrap wood. Cut and prepare some 4" to 8" square flat pieces of various kinds of wood and experiment. Pad one and brush out another to the point where you can pore fill it. French polish gets treated too preciously in my opinion, the point is to get fast at doing it. See how much you can push the material and then observe the problems and limits. If you try this on scrap you learn faster because you can forget about ruining your guitar and get on with investigating the material and how it responds to different application and sanding processes.

Build up a nice thick coat of brushed on shellac on scrap, let it sit three days and then sand it aggressively with 100 grit paper. Then brush it out again and let it sit and cut it down with 400 wet and dry paper. Did you scratch too deep on the first sanding? Can you see those scratches in the final finish? Ask questions like that and play with it and you'll soon learn the limits of the material and be surprised at how much you can push it and get away with it. You don't have to do your guitar that way, but it demystifies the processes.

Just some ideas for what it's worth.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 5 2011 17:22:05
 
kominak

 

Posts: 135
Joined: Apr. 20 2010
 

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to kominak

Thanks a lot for the input!
To clarify things, here's what I did so far(it's a blanca):

1. As per estebanana's recommendation I brushed on the first 2 layers of thin shellac. Then let the guitar sit for a couple of days.

2. I filled the pores of cedar (neck) and rosewood (head veneer and neck heel cap) with pumice. It went fast - I was done in 2 sessions, a day apart.

3. I sanded the whole guitar with 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper with a drop of mineral oil.

4. I did 4 bodying sessions, 2-3 days between sessions.

Bodying session went like this(combination of Milburn tutorial and Fernadez DVD):
4a.padding 1/2 of the top with circular motion for about 20 minutes (when I waited more than 2 days since last session, I needed to reload the muneca fairly often, I guess the build-up is faster if the previous coat is dry ).

4b.stiffing - I went over that 1/2 half of the top with very thin cut of shellac - long, straight passes

4c. circular padding other half of the top for 20 minutes and stiffing again

4d. circular padding 1st half of the top for another 10 minutes with a little thinner cut of shellac, then do the other half

4e. I let the guitar sit for at least a hour and then spirit off - long, firm passes with alcohol only.

The finish looks pretty good now after 4 bodying sessions - I know some of the shine is oil but if the final finish would look like this I would be very happy.

After bodying I only plan to let the guitar sit for 2 weeks and then buff it with Novus #2 plastic polish. Do I need to sand the surface prior to buffing?

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Martin Kominak
Slovakia
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 5 2011 19:24:00
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to kominak

OK I'll just give my whole process for comparison.

1. Fill neck wood - tried a million things and believe it or not Famowood Cherry/Dk. Mahogany works best. Color is perfect, does not shrink, sands easily after half an hour and done.

2. Epoxy fill back and sides if porous wood - that's a whole process I won't go into. If blanca, seal all woods that bleed color with piece of t shirt and shellac.

3. Start body sessions. 1-2 a day until usually 6 sessions. w/fan on, pad on shellac starting in straight motions and then rubbing in circular. no oil. pumice can be used at any time if you think the bridge or headplate is not going to get filled enough.

4. After enough shellac has been built up, wet-sand all surfaces of guitar with 1000 grit sandpaper, backed by a rubber block. This takes 3-4 hours but the grit is fine enough that it's not easy to burn through and you can get it down to a really thin, even layer. After this, wait a few days.

5. This is the final French polish. Make a cheesecloth muñeca, and cover it in t-shirt material. Get dropper bottles with shellac, olive oil, and alcohol. Prepare the pad with equal drops of alcohol and shellac until it is barely damp, then add one or two drops of oil. French polish in straight lines, circles, figure 8s, etc. Start out with light pressure and then press hard when the pad gets dry. Repeat a couple of times for each surface until you get a mirror shine. After this, let it dry for at least a week.

6. Polish up the entire guitar with Maguiar's #7 show car glaze on a piece of t shirt. This removes any oil residue and shines up the finish.

All this gives me a VERY light and beautiful finish which is what I want. It takes about 15 hours total.

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http://www.andyculpepper.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 5 2011 20:11:22
 
Gimar Yestra

 

Posts: 298
Joined: Jan. 19 2011
From: The Netherlands

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to kominak

aah thats why it takes more sessions for me, I dont buff it, i just polish it with alcohol/shellac until its high gloss, this takes alot of work because you dont sand the surface smooth, instead you polish untill the surface is smooth and highgloss....

there will always be some sort of texture to the finish this way, wich gives it this realy nice handrubbed look, wich I personally prefer

heres my way of doing it.

1. seal with a brush, just to have a bit of shellaxc in the pores so the pumice will stick a bit better when porefilling.

2. porefilling with pumice powder and a thin mixture of shellac.

3. letting the porefilling layers dry for a while, they will often sink in after a week or so.

4. building up the shellac layers, I do this with a pad, going in circles, 8 shapes, and long strokes in every direction to smoothen the surface as much as I can.

I mix my shellac by feeling, it my pad dries out to fast I add more alcohol to the mixture.

5. polish polish polish untill it looks nice, I will use a few drops of parafin oil to help the shellac spread and keep it from sticking to much.

I atached a picture of my 2nd (out of 6) french polished guitars for the idea.



Images are resized automatically to a maximum width of 800px

Attachment (1)

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 5 2011 20:32:19
 
Gimar Yestra

 

Posts: 298
Joined: Jan. 19 2011
From: The Netherlands

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to kominak

Andy, do you buff by hand or do u use a machine??

I have handbuffed clear polyurethane finishes on electric guitars, wich... takes quite long

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 5 2011 20:35:12
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to kominak

oh I think buff was the wrong word, I just rub in the Maguiar's a bit with a piece of cloth and then wipe it off... it doesn't take any finish off or anything.
The finish is already done and shiny with my final FP step, but after a week some of the oil kinda rises to the top and gets smudgy.
Nice lookin guitar Gimar.

edit: wait Gimar, you don't sand the finish level ever? Sounds like the finish would be heavy if you just keep adding until it's level.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 5 2011 20:35:17
 
estebanana

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RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to kominak

Nice archtop Gimar. What does the top look like?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 5 2011 21:55:21
 
Gimar Yestra

 

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Joined: Jan. 19 2011
From: The Netherlands

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to kominak

less shiny because it's made of western red cedar.



EDIT: I think the guitar is about 2 years old (and pretty beaten up) in this picture, so its not like it's just been finished.

Images are resized automatically to a maximum width of 800px

Attachment (1)

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 5 2011 22:37:23
 
Gimar Yestra

 

Posts: 298
Joined: Jan. 19 2011
From: The Netherlands

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to kominak

Andy, I do sand lightly in between, also I think the way you mix the shellac and how you put it on changes the thickness.

The 1st guitar I did was putting very thick shellack in the pad and adding alcohol to thin it.
What I do nowadays is make a final mixture of alcohol and shellac, I fill the pad once for each session: 1 session for the back, 1 for top, 1 for each sides, so I fill the pad 4 times total to do the body totally, and polish until the pad is dry, so technical I only put on very little ammounts each session. I dont feel this makes for a thick finish, although I could be wrong.

I found this method on a french polish instruction DVD I bought from Gunther Dikk, though im still experimenting a bit

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 5 2011 22:44:57
 
estebanana

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RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to kominak

Nice arching. What a cool guitar. What kind of pick up is that?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 6 2011 0:25:21
 
Gimar Yestra

 

Posts: 298
Joined: Jan. 19 2011
From: The Netherlands

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to kominak

its a 50's german pickup, not sure about the brand or where its made except its german.
I found this at a vintage guitar show, and it matched the guitar so well that I bought it for 20 euros. Its sound pretty nice to, it matches the old look of the guitar.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 7 2011 10:56:25
 
JasonM

Posts: 1806
Joined: Dec. 8 2005
From: Baltimore

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to Andy Culpepper

quote:

OK I'll just give my whole process for comparison.

1. Fill neck wood - tried a million things and believe it or not Famowood Cherry/Dk. Mahogany works best. Color is perfect, does not shrink, sands easily after half an hour and done.



Searching the vaults to find out how many passes or coats folks do in a session.
This was many moons ago, but do you still use this wood filler? I just ordered some, but the saw dust and shellac fill method also seems very easy to do as another option.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 23 2019 23:58:37
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to JasonM

quote:

Searching the vaults to find out how many passes or coats folks do in a session.
This was many moons ago, but do you still use this wood filler? I just ordered some, but the saw dust and shellac fill method also seems very easy to do as another option.


Nope. I just use shellac now.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 24 2019 0:02:52
 
JasonM

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From: Baltimore

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Thanks Andy!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 24 2019 13:45:07
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to kominak

I also don't use Meguiars anymore. Proper spiriting off is all you need to get a good shine, but for some reason it's one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 25 2019 0:17:15
 
JasonM

Posts: 1806
Joined: Dec. 8 2005
From: Baltimore

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Uh oh, if you say it’s difficult I believe it!

Do you have any tips for getting a nice golden color in flamed maple? I’ve tried a full spectrum of shellac flavors and even sun tanning the wood to various levels. It’s sort of coming out a “honey” pink or hide glue looking color after a couple coats. Not my taste. I’d just be happy if it came out looking like the maple in the above picture.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 25 2019 14:19:37
 
Stephen Eden

 

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From: UK

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to kominak

I just use shellac aswell these days.

Depending on how you do it the spirit sessions should only take a few minutes per guitar or you are working it to much. I tend to do one or two spirit sessions leave it for a day then buff it out with super Nikco.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 26 2019 9:46:32
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to Stephen Eden

quote:

Depending on how you do it the spirit sessions should only take a few minutes per guitar or you are working it to much. I tend to do one or two spirit sessions leave it for a day then buff it out with super Nikco.


I've learned over the years that FP is really a different experience for everybody. For me it can really be a pain to remove all the oil from the finish. It involves pressing quite hard with an alcohol-only muñeca, and changing the cover a lot so you're not just moving the oil around. But maybe I should go back to trying some kind of polishing compound...
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 26 2019 16:42:27
 
Stephen Eden

 

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From: UK

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to kominak

Hmm I can't comment too much on this as I don't use oil in my finishing. It always erked me that the guitar could seep oil for a week or two after using it. perhaps all you need is more time to let the oil seep out?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 27 2019 20:16:59
 
JasonM

Posts: 1806
Joined: Dec. 8 2005
From: Baltimore

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to Stephen Eden

When you guys say you use shellac for neck pore filling are you using pumice or saw dust?

Im going to try walnut oil. That way at least it’s a drying oil if anyone remains.

Finally found a solution to my maple color. A little sun tan and super Platina shellac.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 28 2019 22:20:27
 
Andy Culpepper

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Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to Stephen Eden

quote:

Hmm I can't comment too much on this as I don't use oil in my finishing. It always erked me that the guitar could seep oil for a week or two after using it. perhaps all you need is more time to let the oil seep out?


I only use oil in the last two fine polishing sessions, so it pretty much just sits on the surface. I'm guessing you do the final polishing differently than I do, because in my method the oil is essential to prevent the pad from sticking.

quote:

When you guys say you use shellac for neck pore filling are you using pumice or saw dust?

Im going to try walnut oil. That way at least it’s a drying oil if anyone remains.

Finally found a solution to my maple color. A little sun tan and super Platina shellac.


The way I do my bodying basically leaves the pores filled enough with shellac only. After I get a decent enough build (4-5 sessions), I do the last 3-4 sessions making lots of tight circles with the muñeca, which naturally drives the shellac into the pores.

I would actually caution against drying oils for French polishing based on my personal experience. They don't really "dry", or evaporate like water or alcohol do, they sort of just harden and become sticky. Potentially even more of a headache to clean off.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 28 2019 23:05:02
 
JasonM

Posts: 1806
Joined: Dec. 8 2005
From: Baltimore

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Interesting. Didn’t know you could force shellac into the pores like that. Good point about the drying oil getting sticky. The guy I saw using it was actually stiffing and removing oil after each session. Maybe that was his reason for doing that. So much variety with polishing.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 29 2019 2:07:46
 
Ruphus

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RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to Andy Culpepper

quote:

ORIGINAL: Andy Culpepper



I would actually caution against drying oils for French polishing based on my personal experience. They don't really "dry", or evaporate like water or alcohol do, they sort of just harden and become sticky. Potentially even more of a headache to clean off.


That might finally explain why one of my guitars with FP always develops sticky gunk at the neck.

Used to think it to be remains of exhibition visitors, but after years and diverse cleaning procedures, this can not have been the actual cause.
-

Don´t know whether this one could be making sense in terms of oils capability of penetrating materials, but ...

In the seventies I picked up a little bottle in a music store that said "guitar polishing solution" or something to that extend.

Rubbed my best guitar with it, which I suppose to have been coated with nitro finish. Thinking such could only be doing good.

That stuff had a definite effect however in that it dulled the instruments sound. And it took quite a long while to recover.

I would had not thought so, but apparently certain liquids manage to pass finishes and soak into the wood.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 29 2019 10:18:56
 
Stephen Eden

 

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From: UK

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to kominak

quote:

I only use oil in the last two fine polishing sessions, so it pretty much just sits on the surface. I'm guessing you do the final polishing differently than I do, because in my method the oil is essential to prevent the pad from sticking.


We all do things differently! I cut back with 2500 making sure everything is as level as can be. Then spirit with a relatively dry pad. I only use straight passes along the grain and cover it twice. just enough to make sure the finish has been melted. I am not looking for a high gloss at this point. Then let it dry and hit it with Super Nicko a very fine burnishing. All done Nice and shiny with little to no cloth marks and definitely no swirl marks.

I do something similar to Andy. I use neat shellac for the neck for as long as possible, again using tight circles to push it into the pores. Once it has filled I use very light coats to build up. No Pumice needed.

I do use pumice on rosewood back and sides though!

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 29 2019 12:07:30
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to Stephen Eden

quote:

We all do things differently! I cut back with 2500 making sure everything is as level as can be. Then spirit with a relatively dry pad. I only use straight passes along the grain and cover it twice. just enough to make sure the finish has been melted. I am not looking for a high gloss at this point. Then let it dry and hit it with Super Nicko a very fine burnishing. All done Nice and shiny with little to no cloth marks and definitely no swirl marks.


Interesting. I level with 1000 grit so it takes some thinned out shellac after that point to fill in the sanding scratches, hence the oil. I may give your method a try!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 30 2019 16:25:53
 
Tom Blackshear

 

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RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to Andy Culpepper

I have used organic walnut oil as a friction reducer for french polish and quick build up of the finish. It will actually dry and become a part of the finish, which requires regular olive oil to apply the finishing coats to a fine shine.

I've finished guitars in 8 hours before but I like to get the base coat good and dry to use polishing compound to see your face in it. This takes about 30 days from start to finish.

Years ago I talked with Gernot Wagner concerning how he applied french polish, and at the time, he told me he couldn't spend more than 8 days to do the finishing process.

This caused some additional drying time after the work, which naturally caused some shrinkage into the wood pores. However, years ago, I was referred by Cindy Burton to do a finish repair on one of Gernot's guitars, and there was enough finish coats that all I had to do was smooth the surface and compound out the old finish; worked very well.

The customer was extremely happy with the appearance, cost was slight, and Gernot was relieved quite satisfactorily.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 30 2019 17:21:57
 
Tom Blackshear

 

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RE: French polish - bodying sessions (in reply to Stephen Eden

quote:

All done Nice and shiny with little to no cloth marks and definitely no swirl marks.


This brings back memories of when I was selling guitars to GSI in California.

Years ago Tim Miklaucic told me to back off a little with the fine shellac surface as it looked too much like Formica. He liked to see a little hand done style; not so perfect that it appeared to be a mechanical type finish.

I wonder if his taste has changed since then.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 3 2019 8:24:45
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