Guitar Finishers Recommendations

Please put your pickup/wiring discussions in the Electronics section; and put discussions about repair issues, including fixing errors in new instruments, in the Repairs section.
Post Reply
EddieLee
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed May 02, 2012 5:58 pm
Location: Milton GA

Guitar Finishers Recommendations

Post by EddieLee »

I would like to send my next guitar out to be finished. Any recommendations? Has any one use Clear Creek Guitar Finishers?

Thanks,

Eddielee
Eddielee

Michael Lewis
Posts: 1473
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:22 am
Location: Northern California USA
Contact:

Re: Guitar Finishers Recommendations

Post by Michael Lewis »

I used to send my instruments out for finish but due to occasional shortcomings in the service I just bit the bullet and went back to doing my finising. Nobody cares about your stuff like YOU do.

One very important point is to do your finish preparation as perfectly as you can whether you send your work out of do it yourself. I found once I did the prep work the spraying and rubbing was relatively easy, so I sprayed the stuff myself. Then there is oil varnish, like Epiphanes Clear Gloss Varnish, that I can brush on and get a very nice finish. With a fresh foam brush and a bit of thinner added so the varnish flows and levels life becomes much easier.

Joel Nowland
Posts: 81
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2012 6:01 pm

Re: Guitar Finishers Recommendations

Post by Joel Nowland »

Eddielee

I can't remember his name but he used to or still does work for a guitar company in Northern California, Santa Cruz Guitars, and also does guitar finishing in his own shop.

When showing at a Healdsburg festival I saw some of the guitars he finished for some builders and the work was excellent.

It takes time but if you hang in there and get your technique/process down finishing gets to be much less of a pain. I know you didn't ask this but for me one thing that made the rubbing out of the finish much less labor intensive is using dry sanding papers rather than wet sanding. Shortens the finish leveling process dramatically and produces at least the same quality.

I dry sand in two grits, 800 and then 1200 and then to the buffing wheels.

Joel

Dave Higham
Posts: 97
Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2012 3:35 am
Location: Between Bordeaux & the Atlantic. S W France

Re: Guitar Finishers Recommendations

Post by Dave Higham »

I imagine it was Addam Stark, but Eddie already knows about him.

John LaTorre
Posts: 34
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:43 pm

Re: Guitar Finishers Recommendations

Post by John LaTorre »

Michael Lewis wrote:I used to send my instruments out for finish but due to occasional shortcomings in the service I just bit the bullet and went back to doing my finising. Nobody cares about your stuff like YOU do.
True, but care as I do, I'm still not satisfied with my work. Is the guy you used to use still around? I'm in Sacramento, not that far from Grass Valley.
Then there is oil varnish, like Epiphanes Clear Gloss Varnish, that I can brush on and get a very nice finish. With a fresh foam brush and a bit of thinner added so the varnish flows and levels life becomes much easier.
I haven't heard about that. It appears to have been formulated as a boat varnish, but I dunno who else uses it for instruments. If you're finishing a guitar that way anytime in the near future, please PM me so I can come up and see your technique.
John LaTorre
Sacramento CA

Michael Lewis
Posts: 1473
Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:22 am
Location: Northern California USA
Contact:

Re: Guitar Finishers Recommendations

Post by Michael Lewis »

My finisher was Fred Campbell when he was in San Jose. He moved to the Healdsburg area and went to work for Charles Fox when the issues and time conflicts caused me to go back to doing my own finish. Fred helped me a lot showing me tips and tricks, basically made me familiar with nitro lacquer.

I am spraying Cardinal lacquer now and after a good discussion with the fellows from Cardinal I now have a better understanding how to use their product. Funny how different brands can be so different and still basically be the same thing.

I have used the Epiphanes gloss varnish for a couple mandolins and was pleasantly surprised how it went on and how good it looks. I have been told the oil varnish from Ace Hardware stores has a high phenolic content and dries very hard, but I haven't tried it yet. I used to use the Behlen's Rock Hard Tabletop Varnish but it has been reformulated and is no longer suitable.

Todd Stock
Posts: 394
Joined: Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:57 pm

Re: Guitar Finishers Recommendations

Post by Todd Stock »

Whether you find a finisher that can take care of your needs, I would suggest that you continue to invest time in developing proficiency in applying at least one of the common finishes. While pro finishers THAT DO LOTS OF GUITAR WORK can do a wonderful job of cleaning up spotty workmanship and making iffy prep work a non-issue in the final result, continuing to hone your own finishing skills will help you improve not only your construction methodologies, but encourage you to think through the entire process of construction at a deeper level. As Michael mentioned, poor prep work is very often at the root of poor outcomes in finishing, and prep work begins before the first side is bent, then kicks into high gear as the body is closed. Distancing yourself from the sort of feedback that doing your own finishes provides is a little like avoiding qualified critique of your work - it discards a valuable tool to improve your work...especially in the early stages of your education as a luthier. It might smart for a bit to have to redo a neck or body, just as having an old gray head laundry-list your latest instrument's flaws and "...ya coulda done better here..." will sting a little, but IME, worth the pain.

Might be worth the effort to find a local mentor - besides giving in-progress feedback, they can show you the 'pro' level techniques and catch fatal errors before they occur (DAMHIKT).

The second good reason to continue to a reasonable level of mastery prior to farming out your finishes (or having others carve your necks, bridges, cut & install inlays, etc. before achieving some degree of proficiency in those tasks) is that - if aiming to build instruments for anyone other than yourself - your customers expect sufficient mastery so as to repair damage or wear. Lots of pro builders hand off instruments to others for finishing, but that decision is nearly always an economic decision versus one of ability.

Like Michael, I do my own finishes because - at least in lacquer - I cannot afford to buy the level of finish that I can do myself. If I had a one-off polyester job on a short fuze, I'd be tempted to go with Joe White. In any case, avoid auto or bike customer finishers that consider guitars a sideline - one of the local builders here elected to try using the best local car/bike guy in the local area...the result made it clear to the finisher that there was far more to shooting instruments than he anticipated, and is currently provided the builder with a great test of his touch-up skills.

John LaTorre
Posts: 34
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:43 pm

Re: Guitar Finishers Recommendations

Post by John LaTorre »

Michael Lewis wrote:
I have used the Epiphanes gloss varnish for a couple mandolins and was pleasantly surprised how it went on and how good it looks. I have been told the oil varnish from Ace Hardware stores has a high phenolic content and dries very hard, but I haven't tried it yet. I used to use the Behlen's Rock Hard Tabletop Varnish but it has been reformulated and is no longer suitable.
Thanks, Michael. It looks like I've got some experimenting to do.
John LaTorre
Sacramento CA

Post Reply