is extremely labor-intensive and requires considerable mastery, modern lacquer finishes are often favored by contemporary makers, but often result in thicker finishes at the expense of resonant tone production.
Durability of the Finish
French-polished shellac is hard and crystalline; it holds up well to normal handling and use, and presents no problem if average care is given. Because the finish is thin, it is less resistant than modern, sprayed lacquer finishes to hard blows from nails, picks, belt buckles, and wandering music stands. Since shellac is soluble in alcohol and alkaline solutions, shellac finishes can be marred by exposure to alcoholic beverages, high heat, and occasionally, certain peopleís perspiration.
A few simple precautions will keep your finish and guitar looking great.
∑ Keep your guitar in the case when not in use.
∑ Be mindful of music stands, audio equipment, furniture, belt buckles, and alcoholic drinks.
∑ Never leave your guitar in the car even on a slightly warm day, knowing that the car will heat up.
Take it inside with you and look cool. Your guitarís finish, wood, and glue will all thank you.
∑ If you sweat a lot, wear a long-sleeved shirt or place a cloth between you and the guitar.
∑ Don't be bashful about mentioning the above to those who will most certainly want to play your guitar.
Every now and then, wipe the guitarís surfaces with a soft, partially damp bath or hand towel, and then wipe off the water with a dry portion of the towel until the finish shines. The shellac finish is resistant to water, so if you see smudges accumulating, this procedure can be done as often as every time you play. Before wiping, check to see that the towel is clean and free of particles that could scratch the finish.
Touch-up and Refinishing
The great news for French-polished guitars is that they are easily made to look brand new with a few sessions of polishing. Even with the worst case, the original finish can be completely removed simply by dissolving with alcohol, and applying new finish. Lacquer finishes, on the other hand, are permanent, and refinishing requires removing the original finish with paint remover and/or sanding--not an enviable task.
Words of Encouragement
Above all, donít let this special finish hold you back. Play your guitar with all the joy, energy, and enthusiasm for which it was built. Scratches and dings will happen on any instrument no matter what the finish, so play your instrument to its full potential and enjoy all that it has to offer.
Care of Your French-Polished Shellac Finish
Overview of the French Polish Method
French polishing is an old and traditional method for applying finish to wood. In guitars, particularly fine classical guitars, the technique is used to apply a thin, hard layer of clear shellac that results in superior sound and imparts unparalleled beauty and depth to woods. Ground shellac flakes (a natural secretion purified from the lac insect) are dissolved in ethyl alcohol. Small amounts of the solution, along with olive oil lubricant, are applied to a small cotton and wool pad, which is rubbed by hand in pressured, circular motions onto the wood surface. With each pass of the pad, a micro-thin layer of shellac is left behind as the alcohol evaporates and the new shellac amalgamates with the previous layer. Thousands of passes of the pad over a period of at least two weeks are required to build a finish of suitable thickness. Since the technique