Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My French Polishing Technique Has Taken On An English Air...

French polish can, of course, be perfectly successful as a finish.

Charles H. Hayward, Staining and Polishing, 1946


I am always tweaking my French polishing technique.

After working six-seven months out of the year as a historic preservation carpenter, I pretty much have to re-learn how to French polish when I get back into my shop. It is something I have to keep working at all the time.

I have and do experiment with techniques espoused by different authors on the subject, I still think that Ron Fernandez's video on French polish is one of the best, but often times what works for one person doesn't work for me.

Here are a few things that have worked for me:

Pumice, alcohol and a little bit of shellac make a great filler. Coating the wood first with egg white makes the filler a little bit harder. I no longer use any "synthetic" wood filler.

Olive oil works best for me, I haven't had much success with mineral oil.

Patience is the best ingredient for a successful finish.


I recently changed how I make my pad (muneca, tampon, rubber, whatever you want to call it).

I make the way the great Charles H. Hayward describes it in his book, Staining and Polishing.

This is the English air that I mentioned in the title of this post.

The nice thing about a pad that is shaped like a mouse, it is easier to get shellac onto the surfaces where the guitar neck joins the body.

Hayward's book is a treasury of finishing techniques, I think everyone should take a look at it.

It reminds me of Paul Hasluck's book on wood finishing, Hayward's writing style, however, is much more matter-of-fact and easier to read.

If you are interested in learning how to French polish, I suggest that you read what books you can and view what videos you can find.

Then get yourself to your work bench and do it.

And remember, there is no miracle varnish/shellac/polyurethane/et cetera finish that can be applied and completed in one day.

If you do know of such a miracle finish and looks as good as shellac, please, let me know!

Monday, February 22, 2016

On the Bench: Miguel Rodriguez Style Guitar, Western Red Cedar and Indian Rosewood

As one of the supremely expressive musical voices of humanity, the classic guitar continues to fascinate and persuade.

Graham Wade, A Concise History of the Classic Guitar, 2001



Today, I will finish the back bindings on this guitar.



It has a hand split, near master grade Western red cedar top with "wild grown" East Indian rosewood back and sides.

The handcrafted rosette is a close copy of a rosette used by Francisco Simplicio, Ignacio Fleta and several master guitar makers in Barcelona, Spain.



In his article on Rodriguez flamenco guitars, Ron Fernandez states that he remembers that the guitars he saw in the Rodriquez shop in the 1960's were braced with five "fan" braces, two diagonal "cut off" braces, two main transverse braces and diagonal sound hole reinforcements that are inlet into the heel block. There was no bridge patch. To read the full article click here.

This statement intrigued me, because the famous Rodriguez guitars of the 1970's and 1980's tended to have one diagonal transverse bar and a bridge patch. Click here to see a plan of a Miguel Rodriguez, Jr. guitar.

This is the second guitar that I have made using the 1960's style of Rodriguez bracing, the other guitar made with the bracing is currently being French polished. Both guitars, when you tap the tops, sound like loud drums.

This guitar is one of several that I am making to take to the Guitar Foundation of America International Convention and Competition in Denver, Colorado, June 2-0-25, 2016. I am one of the vendors.

I have a ton of work to do!

Remember: Hand tools rule the school!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Pore Filling with Aqua Coat Wood Grain Filler

The main purpose of a filler is that of filling the pores of the timber in order to save polishing costs, both material and time.

Charles H. Hayward, Staining and Polishing, 1959


I purchased a tub of Aqua Coat Wood Pore Filler last year with the idea of using it to fill wood pores instead of the traditional shellac and pumice treatment.

I tried it on some East Indian rosewood and was a little shocked at how much rosewood color the paste picked up and I was afraid that that color would bleed into the maple bindings so I abandoned the Aqua Coat.

Yesterday, I decided to try the wood filler again on a guitar that has Claro walnut back and sides.

I applied it according to the directions that a well known guitar maker posted in a short video on how to use the Aqua Coat and the results were terrible, the paste really didn't stay in the pores.

"No wonder so many people trash this product in the woodworking forums," I thought to myself. "but this stuff has got to work otherwise the company wouldn't make it!"

So, I decided to read the directions on the tub.

The instructions state to apply the filler and "inspect to see if the grain is completely filled, then scrape or squeegee to remove excess."

Oh, my!


I globbed on the filler until the pores were filled...



...then I used a razor scraper to remove the excess, the scraper levels out the filler and leaves it in the pores, which is where it is supposed to be!

If I had paid attention to the directions instead of listening to someone else's advice, three coats of the filler would have been enough to do the job. I ended up putting on about six coats on the back, but just three coats on the sides. I may put on one more coat to fill in the tiny pin holes, or I may not.

Another thing I did was to sand the filler down with 220 grit garnet paper, not 320 grit as recommended by Aqua Coat.

I want the shellac on the wood, not the filler. After the 220 I followed up with a 3M maroon scrub pad and made sure that I was getting wood dust not filler dust on the pad.

Very little, if any filler was pulled up during the sanding process.

One selling point of this product is I can fill the pores, hang up the guitar and work on something else for an hour while the filler dries.

I know many people want a product that all you have to do is to wipe it on and off and you have a perfect finish.

The best way to achieve a perfect finish is to take your time and work at it.

Ebony Classical Guitar Bindings, New Neck for a Lacote Style Guitar

  There is still one guitar in the shop for repair, with the other repairs out the door I have some extra time to catch up on other work, li...