Saturday, January 2, 2010

French Polish tests

I have Crohn's Disease, which makes it pretty much impossible for me to work with toxins like denatured alcohol or nitrocellulose lacquer. The non-toxicity of French Polish is a big factor in my wanting to work with it. But besides all that, I'm really drawn to the art of it, as well as the results. It doesn't hinder the sound of an instrument like lacquer can, and is very easy to repair. It looks great, and a french polished neck feels great to play.

I'm strictly avoiding hardware store chemicals. Here's what I'm using to dissolve my shellac flakes:

It's illegal to buy or sell 190 proof alcohol in the state of Michigan. I picked up this bottle in Louisville during our Christmas trip. Don't get me started on how stupid our laws are! When poison is added to alcohol, you can buy it much cheaper. Why is that? It's ridiculous. Heck, didn't those prohibitionists realize that a few swigs really brings out the shine?

Before attempting French Polish on the instrument, I'll conduct some tests on offcuts from the back, as well as a piece of Honduran Mahogany scrap that looks a lot like the wood of the neck of this guitar.

I bought garnet shellac flakes from, but soon after, discovered that my local Woodcraft store carried blonde shellac flakes for about half of what I paid to Rockler.

Blonde shellac flakes:

Garnet shellac flakes:

After sealing my test pieces it looks like the African mahogany from the body sealed with garnet shellac will pretty closely match the Honduran mahogany of the neck sealed with blonde shellac.

Left to right: African mahogany sealed with blonde shellac, Honduran mahogany sealed with blonde shellac, African mahogany sealed with garnet shellac.

Here's a little thrift store salt shaker I'm using for a pumice applicator.

After working on these test pieces, I'm planning on French Polishing my Esquire, as a secondary test, before working on this guitar. A few years ago, I put together this Esquire using various pieces.

The body was unfinished, and I just sprayed it with a few coats of satin nitro from a spray can. I didn't seal the wood, or fill the pores, or anything. I didn't much care about a professional finish. Now that I'm more interested in these things, it will be fun to get the Esquire looking much nicer. It might even inspire me to play it more.

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