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Thread: Why? .... Urethane? Gloss? Satin?

  1. #1
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    Question Why? .... Urethane? Gloss? Satin?

    After reading/watching Barry Mazs’ review of an Antica Ukuleleria Moderno, I wandered to the website of Italian luthier Marco Todeschini. Another of Marco’s offerings is his “Antico” model which he finishes the top with “oil” with the sides and back finished in shellac.

    That got me wondering “why certain finishes are chosen by experienced luthiers?”

    I’d be interested in builders’ input. As an ‘enthusiastic beginner’ (player) I have a preference for a natural neck and fingerboard (no gloss or satin) but for the the body and neck it would seem that appearance (enhancing the wood grain, etc.) takes precedent over function. I “claim” that observation because I see those different finishes on all species of wood tops. I conclude that if finish had an affect/effect on sound, the builder would chose the one that best promoted sound quality. :-)

    I’d be happy to read other postings on this topic. Looking back over post of the last year I didn’t find any. :-)
    Last edited by Web_Parrot; 08-23-2019 at 11:39 AM.

  2. #2
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    Oh good....a finish debate. Big can o' worms here

  3. #3

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    Ironically, it will never finish.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by TjW View Post
    Ironically, it will never finish.
    Yep....that's the un-varnished truth

  5. #5
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    Web Parrot (do you have a real name?) If you did a thorough search of this site you would have all your answers and it would save a lot of boring repetition...

  6. #6
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    Welcome to the Ukulele Underground .
    " Anything larger than a soprano is cheating "
    " I'm no luthier but ,........"

  7. #7
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    Finish has always been a contentious issue among guitar makers and guitarists, and no other aspect of this subject has had as much debate as that of neck finishes and top finishes. The further you care to delve into this you are going to find that, what one player prefers, another will detest.
    Since my interest turned to ukulele a few years ago, I have not noticed the same level of passion in similar arguments among ukulele players.

    For amateur builders, sometimes the 'best' finish is the only one that they can apply to a reasonable standard. For me this was French polished shellac for quite a few years. I experimented with just about every other wipe-on mentioned in lutherie literature (pre-internet), including many exotic home brews, and found that I didn't like any of them much, with the only exception being TruOil.

    For professional builders the criteria changes. Durability must be a priority, closely followed by appearance and less importantly, tradition. Tradition goes to the top of the queue for those building in the old style, and in particular, replica building. To my eyes, some older-style instruments, look distinctly 'odd' if carrying modern, non-traditional finishes.

    I think that the choice of body finishes is of secondary importance to top finishes (and to neck finishes for guitar). Due to my lack of skill in applying atomised finishes to a satisfactory standard, I have never progressed further than using French polished shellac for the tops of any acoustic build. This may change, as I consider the merits of a few poly finishes that are currently being tried, but are only at the experimental stage.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill1 View Post
    There is nothing wrong with discussing finishes. Asking questions is a good way to get some information..
    Finishes and finishing is a perennial chestnut in the Luthier's Lounge, and the reason is that there is no right answer. I would suggest to the OP that research should be done. I put "finishes" into the search engine and came up with 29 threads.

    However, I would take issue with the statement:

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill1 View Post
    Natural finishes like shellac and rubbed wax do not satisfy the needs of a lot of customers,
    I think there are still a lot of customers who buy shellac and oil finishes and maybe are in the majority of high end boutique ukulele buyers.

  9. #9
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    Misplaced Post Reply.
    Last edited by Web_Parrot; 08-23-2019 at 11:38 AM. Reason: Misplaced Post Reply.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by bazuku View Post
    Finish has always been a contentious issue among guitar makers and guitarists, and no other aspect of this subject has had as much debate as that of neck finishes and top finishes. The further you care to delve into this you are going to find that, what one player prefers, another will detest.
    Since my interest turned to ukulele a few years ago, I have not noticed the same level of passion in similar arguments among ukulele players.

    For amateur builders, sometimes the 'best' finish is the only one that they can apply to a reasonable standard. For me this was French polished shellac for quite a few years. I experimented with just about every other wipe-on mentioned in lutherie literature (pre-internet), including many exotic home brews, and found that I didn't like any of them much, with the only exception being TruOil.

    For professional builders the criteria changes. Durability must be a priority, closely followed by appearance and less importantly, tradition. Tradition goes to the top of the queue for those building in the old style, and in particular, replica building. To my eyes, some older-style instruments, look distinctly 'odd' if carrying modern, non-traditional finishes.

    I think that the choice of body finishes is of secondary importance to top finishes (and to neck finishes for guitar). Due to my lack of skill in applying atomised finishes to a satisfactory standard, I have never progressed further than using French polished shellac for the tops of any acoustic build. This may change, as I consider the merits of a few poly finishes that are currently being tried, but are only at the experimental stage.
    Many thanks, bazuku, for your thoughtful reply. I posted in the "Lounge" with the expectation of thoughts or technical references from experienced luthiers as opposed to players and forum trolls :-) !!!!

    I obviously "failed" in my attempts to search the forum. My search using "finish" "oil finish" "gloss v. oil" produced hundreds of unrelated replies -mostly opinions- ... My use of the "search" feature needs refining! This AM I played around with the Advanced feature and was able to get some more focused information.

    Again thanks, and if there are other builders out there who may have some thoughts, feel free to PM me with a comment or link that you've found insightful.

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