Burst and French Polish?

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Burst and French Polish?

Postby Randolph Rhett » Fri Jun 08, 2018 11:46 am

Is it possible to do a burst AND French Polish a guitar?

I tried (on scrap, of course) by first bodying up with shellac and then spraying the die in just alcohol. It made a runny mess. Then I tried wiping on the die, again a mess. Finally I sprayed the die in very diluted shellac. The pattern was fine and it looked great until... I came back with a rubber to actually polish it. Of course the die got pushed around making a mess.

I’m sure I’m missing something obvious, so what’s the trick?

Thanks.
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Re: Burst and French Polish?

Postby Christ Kacoyannakis » Fri Jun 08, 2018 12:09 pm

Tom Bills talked about this in one of his recently monthly webinars for The Luthier's Edge. Tom switched to French polish many years ago. He said he can get a sort of very subtle burst effect by using a darker shellac in the French polish bodying process over several coats, all around the edge. However, it is subtle, and never going to be that burst you think about when we say "sunburst finish" that is achieved with a spray gun. You might try contacting him. He is very open and sharing with his knowledge.
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Re: Burst and French Polish?

Postby Brian Evans » Fri Jun 08, 2018 12:16 pm

Can you spray several coats of 1# shellac over the burst layer, when you get that to your liking, and then polish the outer layer? Or does french polishing necessarily involve all layers? If so, you might do a burst stain directly on the wood before you start to polish or apply any shellac. The question in my mind is the alcohol in the shellac reactivating the stain, even after drying.
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Re: Burst and French Polish?

Postby Joshua Levin-Epstein » Fri Jun 08, 2018 1:04 pm

There was an article in Guitar Player in the '80s about a mandolin maker doing a hand rubbed sunburst. As I recall, he did it backwards, doing the dark first and then the center. I also recall they had a picture the size of a postage stamp showing the work...

Looking for that article just now, I came upon this: http://fraulini.blogspot.com/2012/07/ha ... burst.html

There is a video that makes it look easy. Just like laying a floor in 1/2 hour on "This Old House".
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Re: Burst and French Polish?

Postby Bob Francis » Fri Jun 08, 2018 3:46 pm

Joshua Levin-Epstein wrote:There was an article in Guitar Player in the '80s about a mandolin maker doing a hand rubbed sunburst. As I recall, he did it backwards, doing the dark first and then the center. I also recall they had a picture the size of a postage stamp showing the work...

Looking for that article just now, I came upon this: http://fraulini.blogspot.com/2012/07/ha ... burst.html

There is a video that makes it look easy. Just like laying a floor in 1/2 hour on "This Old House".

It was also in Fine Woodworking.
The guy was James Condino a luthier in NC. He posts a lot in the Upright section of talk bass.
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Re: Burst and French Polish?

Postby Steve Sawyer » Fri Jun 08, 2018 3:52 pm

Randolph - Just pulled out an issue of American Lutherie (Number 125/Spring 2016) and re-read the write-up of James Condino's demonstration of doing a hand-rubbed sunburst using water-based dyes on raw wood. Toward the end of the article, it becomes clear that he's French-polishing after applying the color:

One of the nice things about padding a water-based color is if you get a chip in your finish later, the shellac may chip but the color's still going to stay there and the touchup is pretty easy...My experience has been that whenever I use an dalcohol-based color and then use an alcohol-based French polish over it, as soon as I start to swirl around it's going to grab and pull out some color...The water-based color never runs under shellac
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Re: Burst and French Polish?

Postby Joshua Levin-Epstein » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:06 am

James Condino is a wizard.
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Re: Burst and French Polish?

Postby Randolph Rhett » Sun Jun 10, 2018 12:46 am

Thanks to all. The answer seems to be to dye the raw wood, not tint the finish. A shame, as I’ve had only mediocre results with dyeing the wood. I’ve never tried spraying shellac, although I assume it would effectively seal a sprayed tint. I’ll experiment, and in the meantime this next one on my bench gets a sprayed lacquer finish.
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Re: Burst and French Polish?

Postby Alan Carruth » Sun Jun 10, 2018 6:06 pm

When working by hand you can also wipe finish back to make a burst. Paint it on with a brush, and then some solvent on a rag and wipe back the edge to soften it. You have to use lots of thin coats to get a reasonably deep color, and it takes time, but it can work. I will say I've only used this with oil varnish, not shellac.
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Re: Burst and French Polish?

Postby Rodger Knox » Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:43 pm

The key to French polish over a sunburst is using a water based stain/dye/tint on bare wood. Mr. Condino hand rubs the colors to make the burst, but you can also spray the colors. I've done it both ways, spraying the colors with an airbrush was easier for me. James IS a wizard, and he's very open to sharing his magic. He's frequently published in both GAL and ASIA.
A man hears what he wants to hear, and disreguards the rest. Paul Simon
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Re: Burst and French Polish?

Postby Alan Carruth » Fri Jun 15, 2018 3:42 pm

I'm of the school that doesn't like the look you get with dye on bare wood. The curl pops because the end grain absorbs so much color, but that 'nails' the pattern: its as if it was just painted on. With a clear coat under the color to seal the wood you see the real chatoyance of the grain; the reflective areas move as the wood moves. The color contrast is not as intense, but it's far more beautiful IMO.

Shading on violins is often done using transparent 'lakes' pigments. Lakes are made by precipitating alumina in a dye solution. Some of the dye is incorporated in the colorless and transparent aluminum oxide particles, which protects the normally fugitive colors from degrading, and makes them permanent. These can either be added to the finish, or applied as a glaze. In the latter case, you'd apply a thin film of the pigment in an oil medium onto the surface and allow it to dry before putting on the next coat of varnish, either spirit or oil. Makers will often simply use artist's oil paint right out of the tube, rubbing it in with the heel of the hand. Some of the 'earth' pigments can also be acceptably transparent in an oil based varnish, but I'm not sure about shellac.
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