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More French Polishing

Whenever you smooth down a freshly polished surface, always use your glass paper very lightly...

The French Polisher's Hand Book, 1910

I've been very busy lately pore filling two guitars, which gets to be a pain in the ass, pore filling is my least favorite part of finishing. It seems like no matter how hard I try to get the pores completely filled with wood dust and shellac, that when I get ready to start padding shellac I discover spots that aren't completely filled. I go ahead and pad down some shellac, wait for it to harden then go at those spots with a pad loaded with shellac and pumice then sand with Micro Mesh when the shellac is hard.


I pore fill with a combination of shellac and wood dust, East Indian rosewood dust for this guitar.



It makes a goopy mess that I sand back to (almost) bare wood with 400 grit sand paper. Lots of elbow grease and heart ache.

I know the old recipes for French polish use tallow or tinted whiting for pore filling, but for some reason in the traditional world of classical guitar building one is suppose to use pumice and shellac.



These last several years I thought I was getting good at the Art of French Polishing, that is, nice and shiny surfaces. My guitars look good, but this last month I used a suggestion from a guitar maker in Germany and added purified Manila copal, 10% by weight, to a two pound cut of shellac. Wow! Talk about shiny! The above photo shows the shellac after just two sessions! Granted, this work was done on top of previous shellac, but the build up and shine was just incredible!


This is different guitar, but this shows you how quickly the shellac/copal builds up, this is the first session!

The recipe is a two pound cut of Kusmi buttonlac with 10% Manila copal and 5% gum sandarac. The next recipe I want to try is the same but with 5% gum mastic, which is a recipe from The French Polisher's Hand Book.



Two ponderosa pines that I walk by twice a day...

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