Category Archives: Finishing

Some More Work on the Martin

Got a little more work done on this. To date I have fixed the back braces and the binding. Next up I have to redo the finish on the neck and repair some areas on the top plate where friction has worn the finish down to the spruce.

First I tried to blend the old finish with a new finish but it turned out poorly. So my next option was to take off all the finish and redo the neck in its entirety. Here I have taken off most of the old finish.

Then I applied some water based stain. I am using a mix of 50/50, black walnut and red mahogany. I read that this is the color strategy for most of Martins.

After the stain dried I gave it a light sanding with 600 grit paper. This knocked the raised grain down. I then applied a couple of more coats to darken it a little more.

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Well this is almost it. I actually started to do the setup the other day. I got a preliminary setup complete and even stringed it up (couldn’t wait) and played a couple of songs. But I am reeling in sweat just sitting down and it was getting on the bare wood so I decided to put that idea away, get the finish on it and then come back to setup later.

Sorry I forgot to post abut making the saddle so I will also come back to that one later.

For the finish I will go with my standard BLO/Tung/Varnish mix on the entirety and then do a nitrocellulose spray on the body. I like the feel of natural wood on a neck so the neck will be only BLO/Tung/Varnish. I will also use some pumis stone powder during the BLO/Tung/Varnish stage.

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Here is the guitar – bare bottom and strung up.

All taped up and ready to go. I already have a coat on the back, sides, and neck.

Various angles of the guitar with three coats of BLO/Tung/Varnish and rubbed in pumis stone powder. (I didn’t do a pumis stone rub on the spruce top. Only on the hardwood.)

For the nitrocellulose spray I will have to wait a bit. It will likely get done this month or early next. No hurry and I will be doing some practice spraying.

Since doing the above guitar I have come to learn about a more traditional method of finishing – French polish with natural shellac. It is truly a beautiful finish that has a high sheen, is quite durable and easily repaired in the event it needs to be done. I recommend this method over the above as it does not require expensive spray equipment, can be done on your bench-top, and the curing time is so much quicker than oil based finishes. The only caveat is it takes a little practice.

For your material setup you will need the following:
De-waxed, blonde shellac
Ethyl alcohol (99.5 percent pure)
Mineral oil
Pumus stone powder
A wad of cotton or wool wrapped in a square of cotton
A plastic squirt bottle

1. For a sealing coat dissolve 56 grams of shellac into 100ml of ethyl alcohol. This is called a 2lb cut.
2. Using your squirt bottle and pad applicator soak the pad just enough to be full but not dripping.
3. Begin to apply in circular motion over the surface you want to finish. Move around quickly but not furiously.
4. Put a dab of mineral oil on your pad every time you fill the pad with shellac. This keeps the motion smooth.
5. Let that dry for an hour or two and then sand smooth with 600 grit wet or dry paper. Use a little water if you like.
6. Next dissolve 56 grams into 200ml of ethyl alcohol. This is a 1lb cut.
7. Following the same procedure soak your pad, dab some oil and apply in circular motion.
8. With a 1lb cut you will be able to apply many coats (up to 12 or 15) in one sitting. Do the same the next day.
9. Finally do a rub out with the pumis stone powder and mineral oil.
10. Put some oil on a separate pad and some pumis stone powder and start to rub it into your cured shellac in circular motion
11. Buff it off with a clean cotton rag.


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