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  • Petrov 7:58AM

guitar finishes

Hi ,I am new here,but not new to guitars.I recenly bought a Johnson JGG10 petite bouche,and it sounded rather good ,but with the ultimative zziinggg missing(well,for that price).Then I noticed,while trying to see if I could mark the wood with my fingernail (to see how thick the clear varnish was ),that,boy,there is a paint on it that is THICK and ultrahard.At least there WAS that paint on it,as I decided to strip the guitar and refinish it in shellack (french polish).Now came a gruelling task,that to get the paint off.I really do not know what the makers did put on,but NO (even the most unecologic and strong )paint stripper would even make a slight ripple in that finish.So I scraped and sanded it off.Took five days.One has to be damned careful not to sand thru the veneers,that is EASY!! Well,the refinishing with shellack was a joy compared to the stripping.And what can I say about the sound ,now?The guitar sounds absolutely different,better bottom end,sweeter trebles,and it even seems lighter to me...
The only thing I can deduce from all this is that probably the thick and hard finish inhibited the natural sound.I ask myself:why do the factories put so much paint on their guitars,if they could save money and time AND have better sounding instrument to sell?? Has anyone experienced something similar? CIAO


  • ShawnShawn Valley Center, Kansas✭✭✭✭
    I did this exact thing with the Gitane I own. That poly finish is just about the worst thing to ever put on a guitar. I sanded it all off my guitar and then used a thin coating of grain filler topped with Shellac spray, which actually sprayed quite nicely. It really opened up the guitar and got rid of any "wetness" usually associated with Gitane's, and the guitar now has that most sought after "dry" sound.

    The process sure is time consuming and quite a pain, but the affect it has on the instrument is well worth the time...not to mention its a pretty inexpensive project.
  • Well,Shawn,I am happy someone made my same experience...After researching a bit it seems that those Korean/Chinese factories use this kind of finishing because it is a quick method to do away with a too long step by step finishing proccess.The horribly nasty hard stuff they seal the guitars with is thick enough to go on in one go and can be sanded flat with no worries abouth sand-thrus ,also covering wood imperfections wich would,otherwise,involve the more expensive and time consuming sanding by hand.This superchemical sealer ofcourse makes that the woods can not breathe ,as everything is truly locked-in, thus taking the all important osmosis proccess away wich ,by taking and then giving again moisture and air components ,allows the wood to stabilize (I mean also the hardening- out of the tannines found in the wood cells).As also the vibrating qualities of the woods are inhibited because of the finish,this all must be real bad for the sound of the stringed instrument.Think that on my guitar the amount of finish on the spruce top was a whooping 1/4 of the total thickness of the top!Now the top is thinner ,everything resonates nicely and thanks to the possibility given to the woods to age naturally the guitar will get better and better.
    I think that everybody should have a try at what we did,even if it is a tough job (getting the stuff off),to then discover a reborn and sparkling guitar.... Sorry for my English,huh huh!!! cheers willi
  • TomThumbsTomThumbs NebraskaNew
    Hey all,
    Interesting and frightening. Are you talking about taking the existing finish off the whole guitar, or just the top? I don't think just doing the top itself would be too daunting of a task for me, but messing with the whole body would scare me off. So I guess my question is obvious: is just doing the top enough to get a better sound, ie: getting rid of the "wetness" of a Gitane? And while we're at it, what sort of sandpaper or whatever did you use?
    Why do they call it a rest stroke......I get tired every time I try playing like that.
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Where did you get the Johnson? How much was it?

  • ShawnShawn Valley Center, Kansas✭✭✭✭
    Hi Tom,

    I can't speak for ruolomo, but I used pretty heavy sandpaper to get the top layers of poly off, and then gradually went with lighter and lighter grained sandpaper once I started to get down to bare wood. I actually sanded the top first, which still took a few days, and figured I would stop there as the sides and back really aren't as important to the sound. However, I finally decided to do the back and sides mainly for cosmetic reasons...and I'm also gearing up to refinishing the neck as well.

    I will say that just refinishing the top made the most difference sound wise, and I really think that these Gitane's are better than some people think...it's just that the incredibly thick finishes really dampen the sound.
  • Hi all of you gypsies,thank you for joining this thread!
    My Johnson is a petite bouche and comes from Manni s Musicstore,an Ebay-shop.There is a grande bouche,too.Unfortunately these guitars are no longer available now from the distributor,but some are still offered by Ebay-shops such as Manni s.Talking about cool guitars,Thomann offers a grande bouche 14 fret model called the Harley-Benton HBMC 500.Engelmann spruce top ,3-piece maple neck with contrasting rosewood stripes sandwiched in.Favino style rosette.This is 348 Euro .Looking closely at the Dell`Arte catalogue I found out that their asian Heritage model,wich is way more expensive,is absolutely the same guitar as the HBMC500,just the logo is,of course,different.These guitars sport a rather pronounced neck angle,so if you like a lower action the string pressure on the bridge will be always strong enough.On some guitars(like my Johnson) lowering the bridge means that the strings pass the bridge nearly straight from the tailpeace ,so the string pressure on the bridge is low ,but a good pressure is required to make the top vibrate as it should.Still the Johnson sounds really loud and crisp,now.
    But now:refinishing.I used paint stripper(nasty stuff,on hands,in eyes etc.).This however made nearly nothing to the paint,it just softened it a bit(and I used Italian stripper,most powerful and anti-ecologic!!)I then used a sharp knife to scrape the paint off.Raatchh raaattch a thosand times.This is a clean method,but the knife must be always sharp.In the past I made bad eperiences with the sandpaper method,altering shapes and sanding thru the veneers (the layers are THIN!!).Of course the final bit is sanding,but we talk 280-400 grit here,not coarser.A good thing is to wrap the sandpaper around one of those 3M sanding sponges to sand top and back,because by using a cork or wooden block or only your fingers you risk to alter the shape or make grooves in the wood that are only noticeable when the guitar is laquered again( because of light reflections....).I think that refinishing the whole guitar is the cleanest thing to do ,think that Lakewood now does leave the sides of their acoustics without filler,open grained,claiming that this enhances the sound.As for the laquering,best is to put on as little as possible,open grain,wich does not mean that it is not possible to buff the finish to a nice shine afterwards.Just be careful to start with 800 grit wet sandpaper to flat the new finish off ,in order not to take too much away.then polish with mirror glaze or so.
    Have fun! ruolmo
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Do you have a link for the Thomann?

  • TomThumbsTomThumbs NebraskaNew
    Why do they call it a rest stroke......I get tired every time I try playing like that.
  • crookedpinkycrookedpinky Glasgow✭✭✭✭ Alex Bishop D Hole, Manouche Moreno, Anastasio,
    Hi all

    just to confirm the previous post re the Thomann Harley Benton. It appears to be a Dell Arte Hommage with a different badge, I owned one for a while and compared it head to head with two Dell Arte Hommages belonging to the guys in the Hot Club of Glasgow - no difference apart from price. I paid £279 pounds - including shipping to me front door from Germany - the Dell Arte Hommage sells locally for £440 pounds, a big difference.

    Also, when it arrived it was packed well inside two cardboard boxes, the inner guitar shaped one had - guess what - Dell Arte printed on the outside.I sold it recently as I have too many guitars bit still see it regularly at the Hot Club meetings where it performs well in a group setting.

    One point to note is that one of the moustache ends was set at an angle and purely for cosmetic reasons I removed it and reglued it. Funnily enough I have noticed several pictures of other Dell Arte models also suffer this problem.

    On a seperate note, I have stripped the finish off an aria using Nitromors paint remover and a razor blade to shave off the gunk. This removes most of the finish and then needs sanding. Following that I gave it a light coat or two of Nitrocellulose sealer, sanding between, and then a finish of beeswax. Total changed the sound and the look of a reasonably cheap guitar into something half decent.

    Also, I am lucky enough to own a hand built guitar made by a retired toolmaker who has made 115 guitars to date, all different and only three gypsy models in that total. The finish on that is very very thin and almost feels as though it's not there. It's a 50/50 mixture of turpentine and boiled linseed oil, given about 15 coats and allowed to dry in between. I used this mixture to clean it up and two things to note - it's takes forever to dry and it stinks for a while - but what a lovely finish.

    Good luck with everything
    always learning
  • Shawn wrote:
    Hi Tom,

    I actually sanded the top first, which still took a few days, and figured I would stop there as the sides and back really aren't as important to the sound.

    From what several luthiers have told me the back is critical to good sound.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
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