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Thread: Improving the finish

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
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    Arlington, WA U.S.A.
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    305

    Default Improving the finish

    When I thought I was done I learned some things about French polish. I learned that you don't mess with it after you think you're done. The next day I masked and scraped to glue the fretboard down and the next day I masked and scraped and glued the bridge down. I now have some scuffs and some grooves where I sealed painters tape around the fretboard and bridge. I even have a fingerprint. I've tried to add some shellac into the ruts along the side of the fretboard thinking that perhaps I could build that up and then sand it back and clean it up. Not sure that's going to work. I'm thinking that this finish seems pretty soft. I see a new ding in the top and I wonder if the two weeks since I stopped finishing is enough cure time. I also have began noticing some grain or sanding patterns that I didn't see when I was done. Almost seems like I didn't sand enough, but I sanded up to 320 grit. I knew that of all aspects of building I would have the most trouble with finishing. It's almost like for people like me you should simply pay somebody to do that. But that bugs me and I would like to be able to do it if it's possible. I welcome your criticisms, as always.
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    "Why is it that you never have time to do it right the first time, but you always have time to do it right the second time??"

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    880

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChuckBarnett View Post
    When I thought I was done I learned some things about French polish. I learned that you don't mess with it after you think you're done. The next day I masked and scraped to glue the fretboard down and the next day I masked and scraped and glued the bridge down. I now have some scuffs and some grooves where I sealed painters tape around the fretboard and bridge. I even have a fingerprint. I've tried to add some shellac into the ruts along the side of the fretboard thinking that perhaps I could build that up and then sand it back and clean it up. Not sure that's going to work. I'm thinking that this finish seems pretty soft. I see a new ding in the top and I wonder if the two weeks since I stopped finishing is enough cure time. I also have began noticing some grain or sanding patterns that I didn't see when I was done. Almost seems like I didn't sand enough, but I sanded up to 320 grit. I knew that of all aspects of building I would have the most trouble with finishing. It's almost like for people like me you should simply pay somebody to do that. But that bugs me and I would like to be able to do it if it's possible. I welcome your criticisms, as always.
    Stop beating yourself up, it's your first build and there's going to be mistakes, that's how we learn. The next one will be better and you will be better for having made the mistakes and now recognising them. Life's a learning curve, enjoy the journey
    Kind Regards
    Dennis

    dpophotography@yahoo.co.nz
    Southern Cross Banjo Ukes & Ukuleles
    Proudly Hand Crafted in
    New Zealand.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Arlington, WA U.S.A.
    Posts
    305

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DPO View Post
    Stop beating yourself up, it's your first build and there's going to be mistakes, that's how we learn. The next one will be better and you will be better for having made the mistakes and now recognising them. Life's a learning curve, enjoy the journey
    Thank you for the gentle boot, Dennis! ;-) I don't think I'm actually in that bad a mood about this -just frustrated by not understanding what I am doing and why it does/does not work.

    Those few knowledgeable folks who've played the tenor say it's not at all bad. The action is pretty low and I'm learning about accuracy in intonation. I simply want squeeze all the learning I can out of this first attempt on my way to a more relaxed and far less groping second effort.

    I did things on this ukulele that I had no need (surely, no BUSINESS!) trying purely to learn. Didn't need fretboard binding, radiused top, laminated center strip on neck and back; I certainly could have skipped Beau's idea of back-tilting the saddle... Yes, and for lack of knowledge and experience, I chose any old wood for the sides and back, what I stumbled upon, quilted Maple!

    So I will learn all I can about getting the best looking finish I can understanding the process and what works well.

    And then I'll be happy, enjoy it, and move on to what's next. 😊
    "Why is it that you never have time to do it right the first time, but you always have time to do it right the second time??"

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Little River, California
    Posts
    1,927

    Default

    Yeah, like Dennis said, don't beat yourself up too much. You put all the bells and whistles on that thing and pulled it off. When we are really close to things we tend to see all the minor imperfections that nobody else really sees. A question though: Did you wet sand between coats (I use 600 grit) and do a final sandout with some super fine grits? I do my final sand out running through the grits to 3,000+ before polishing (medium, fine, then lastly "swirl remover" polish). Some people go all the way to 90,000 grit which I find is overkill.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Arlington, WA U.S.A.
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    Default

    Thanks for addressing that question. I did nothing of the sort. Followed Robbie O'Brien's simplified method. Sand to 320 Grit then start laying on shellac until you have a build up. Then polish that in with swirls. Then run the muņeca straight to straighten out the swirls. At some point after several of those cycles, spirit off the oil in the mix. He recommends doing about three of those cycles which would be about 10 coats as a minimum. Didn't say anything about a specific methodology of sanding. He did say that if you have stuff that gets into the finish you should not continue but use 1000 grit paper and clean that up. Might have to do that more than once.
    That, my good man, is the sum total of the all everything with respect to my knowledge of French polishing. Hence the question...
    "Why is it that you never have time to do it right the first time, but you always have time to do it right the second time??"

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Yakima, WA
    Posts
    1,616

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    French Polish takes a long time to cure and get hard, months. 90% of a good finish is in the prep work. With woods like maple and a closed grain, you should sand to 600 and be very critical of your work if you want a high gloss look without any blemishes. Also, shellac French polish is the most easily damaged because it is very thin, plus water. sweat and anything with alcohol damage it, but you can repair it at any time in its life span. All finishes have their plus and minuses. Choose wisely.

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