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Would unpolished decks sound better?   You are logged in as Guest
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pbekkerh

 

Posts: 32
Joined: Dec. 11 2012
 

Would unpolished decks sound better? 

Builders use a lot of energy to get the amazing looking tops of handbuilt guitars, but given the emphasis builders give to the quality of the wood and the bracing of the deck and later the "freeing" of the deck by playing it, all for the sake of a better sound.
Wouldn't it be even better, for the sound, to leave the top just sanded, without any shellac or other stuff?

Has it been tried or is it just a silly idea of mine?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Dec. 26 2012 16:16:19
 
Leñador

Posts: 5237
Joined: Jun. 8 2012
From: Los Angeles

RE: Would unpolished decks sound better? (in reply to pbekkerh

I'm not a luthier but I am a carpenter and from my experiences unfinished wood has a few problems, UV beats it up MUCH faster and it reacts to climate a lot more dramatically, it's like a sponge. I would imagine you'd be much more prone to cracking. In construction we never leave exposed wood unfinished, interior or exterior and what I do is not nearly as sensitive as an instrument. They sell special finishes to make it look unfinished but we always put some sort of protection on it.
I'd love to hear additional reasons/comments from luthiers myself though.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Dec. 26 2012 16:27:08
 
jshelton5040

Posts: 1500
Joined: Jan. 17 2005
 

RE: Would unpolished decks sound better? (in reply to pbekkerh

quote:

ORIGINAL: pbekkerh

Wouldn't it be even better, for the sound, to leave the top just sanded, without any shellac or other stuff?

Has it been tried or is it just a silly idea of mine?

It's not a silly idea. One tries to allow for the damping effect of the finish so a guitar in the raw should ideally sound very brash and strident.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Dec. 26 2012 18:24:15
 
estebanana

Posts: 8324
Joined: Oct. 16 2009
 

RE: Would unpolished decks sound better? (in reply to pbekkerh

Some very famous professional guitarists have asked for luthiers to give them soundboards with a wash coat of shellac or very lightly shellac prepared tops. But as John said the finish does cut down some of the *noise* high frequency stuff that sounds brash.

Lute tops are left unfinished as proper way of building them, and sometimes they get a coat of wax or a wash of shellac. Lutes have a different kind of sound and structure, they need the noise left in, they need as little damping as possible to get the sound. The lutes cousin the oud same thing, no finish.

It is not out of the question and it has been done, but the guitar aesthetic is also against it. Unfortunately for many of us who don't like slickly finished instruments the guitar world demands high gloss. So along with that comes many coats of finish buffed to a high gloss. There's a lot of overkill in how much finish a guitar actually needs vs. how much the industry put on them.

I think classical guitars are more suited to a lighter finish if a player wants it, flamenco guitars usually need more base built up to help them survive the wear and tear. Classicals usually get babied more. But in the end really what sells guitars, at least until people really start listening, is the eye candy of the binding and the depth of the finish, so builders are kind of held hostage to that aesthetic.

There's a guitar historian, designer, player named Mark Silber who I've heard say tongue in cheek: Make the guitar with beautifully flamed or figured wood and let God make the sale.


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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Dec. 26 2012 20:42:17
 
keith

Posts: 1108
Joined: Sep. 29 2009
From: Land of Daniel Boone

RE: Would unpolished decks sound better? (in reply to pbekkerh

jose ramirez in his book, things about the guitar, wrote that he believed the finish makes a guitar sound better--at least his special finish made his guitars sound better. i guess before finish and after finish research would be in order to give some tangible data.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Dec. 27 2012 1:50:57
 
Andy Culpepper

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

RE: Would unpolished decks sound better? (in reply to pbekkerh

My answer to your question would be "no". I play all of my guitars immediately before applying finish, and you do get a very good idea of what type of sound the guitar will have, and you can still tweak it at that point. But I think the guitars always sound best after french polishing. The sound becomes subtly more clear, focused and defined.
I do think guitars need a few hours of playing to "recover" from having the finish and the golpeador put on, but once the whole thing gets used vibrating in unison it begins to mature toward its peak performance.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Dec. 30 2012 2:18:01
 
Anders Eliasson

Posts: 5780
Joined: Oct. 18 2006
 

RE: Would unpolished decks sound better? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

quote:

I do think guitars need a few hours of playing to "recover" from having the finish and the golpeador put on, but once the whole thing gets used vibrating in unison it begins to mature toward its peak performance.


I actually think they need between half a year and a year to really sound. French Polish takes a LOT of time to cure totally. Just look at how much it schrinks over a year.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Dec. 30 2012 15:41:12
 
Andy Culpepper

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

RE: Would unpolished decks sound better? (in reply to Anders Eliasson

quote:

I actually think they need between half a year and a year to really sound. French Polish takes a LOT of time to cure totally. Just look at how much it schrinks over a year.


I agree Anders, but I find the most drastic change within a few days of stringing up.

I just got an order from someone who doesn't want the guitar until a year from now. I'm actually considering building the guitar now and taking 11 months to french polish it. That's probably the time frame for getting a perfect FP

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 1 2013 13:02:04
 
Anders Eliasson

Posts: 5780
Joined: Oct. 18 2006
 

RE: Would unpolished decks sound better? (in reply to pbekkerh

Build it now, leave it to take color for 6 month, FP it and let it dry.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 1 2013 13:10:39
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