For the second time in a year, my local luthier mentioned an old style guitar finish called a "French Polish." He described it as an older style finish that was more common before the modern finishes became popular. He's of the mind that this was a better finish in general for all guitars because it produced better tone. He thinks it fell out of favor because it was labor intensive to apply and maintain, and it's not as pretty.
Anyone ever heard of this?
Great finish, still used in very high end furniture and I know of one violin luthier that has done some French polished instruments.
It's a process that uses shellac then finishes with paste wax .....lots and lots and lots of rubbing..but not too hard or you go through and have to rework an area.
The theory is that it allows the wood to breathe better, and that has an impact on the tone. Tone is of course a subjective thing, so I can't say everyone would prefer it.
It looks beautiful and natural, but it doesn't offer the protection of modern finishes. That might be OK if you like a guitar to show its age and character. Some people prefer to have a 30-year old guitar look like new.
So, there are pros and cons. Personally, I prefer it.
There would be very little damping of sound due to finish and it is not easy to get an even coating....takes skill.
French Polish .
Its over rated.
Actually easy to repair, but it needs repair often.
Selmer used 2 coats of nitro and then over polished .
Its a method.
People have been spraying finish for at about 100 years now. At least since the 20's . Some folks spray the same stuff they might polish with . Others with harder finish.
Don't get engaged with the Polish vs. Nitro business. A more durable finish is preferable.
Cheap fiddles are sprayed with solvent based finish . Better fiddles have an oil varnish. Some folks over polish their oil finish to add luster.
These days some excellent builders even use poly.
You design with the finish in mind.
I have owned a few French polished guitars including a 1961 Ramirez 1A flamenca blanca. The French polish on my Ramirez was not at all fragile.
I prefer other finishes for the "feel" and I find no tonal difference detectable.
The French polish on my Ramirez was in fact French polish.
Ramirez' catalized, plasticized finishes came on board in late 1963.
I know for a fact that it was French polish..
a. Because of the way it was ordered and purchased and documented..
I was the second owner with all the documentation including the written request from the first owner with all the details.. He a doctor in Carmel Calif.
b. Finish retouched by Carlos Francisca Vega.. a known authority on Spanish classical guitars, author on same, a known authority on Ramirez history and their guitars and personal friend of the family
c. A later repair and refinish of the French polish on the top in 1989 by a SF Bay Area luthier guitar tech of some notoriety. The top was damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake.
The guitar was actually constructed by Contreras when he was Ramirez' shop foreman.. 2 years only.
The guitar was in fact French polished.. absolutely evident by look and feel , history and verification by professional makers.
I have one advantage in the "debate" , I owned the Ramirez and had it in hand. 650 (652 with compensation) scale, with friction pegs, euro spruce over cypress, cedar neck.
I know a French polished guitar from "other". Of the 100 plus guitars I have owned, perhaps five were French polished, every one Spanish made. I have built and french polished guitars ( and other wooden items as a professional furniture maker and reproductionist for 25 years)