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French Polish ( Article )


carl1961
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18 hours ago, carl1961 said:

here is a what looks to me as a nice article on french polish, is this also good to use for violins and violin spirit varnish restore touchup?

http://www.lmii.com/french-polish

 

"Fench polishing" has largely fallen out of fashion, at least for the better violin restorers and connoisseurs.

But I wouldn't want to say that it couldn't have value, both for protecting original vanishes, and for protecting areas where the original varnish is long-gone.

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First off, I really know nothing at all about this. 

1. Is French polishing used for bow finishes?

2. It seems to be a popular finish on high end classical guitars. The esthetic in the guitar world seems to be much different than ours. Mostly perfect mirror finishes with no texture. ( or i am wrong?)

I'm any case hello from Puerto Vallarta on the blue Pacific. Vacationing with my brother and sister and spouse quite a lovely spot.

Best.

DLB

Edited by Dwight Brown
Auto correct its the devil.
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8 minutes ago, Dwight Brown said:

I'm any case hello from Puerto Vallarta on the blue Pacific. Vacationing with my brother and sister and spouse quite a lovely spot.

Best.

DLB

Sucks to be you, huh? ;)

I'm still unpacking from Oberlin, and catching up on emails. Last "vacation" was around 10 years ago.

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3 hours ago, Dwight Brown said:

First off, I really know nothing at all about this. 

1. Is French polishing used for bow finishes?

2. It seems to be a popular finish on high end classical guitars. The esthetic in the guitar world seems to be much different than ours. Mostly perfect mirror finishes with no texture. ( or i am wrong?)

I'm any case hello from Puerto Vallarta on the blue Pacific. Vacationing with my brother and sister and spouse quite a lovely spot.

Best.

DLB

 

Modern French polishing of guitars certainly favours very flat, very high gloss finishes. There was a time when most would finish 'from the rag' but it seems increasingly as though makers are going through all the grits and then on to polishing compounds. The result is inevitable. On flat plates you have to polish until all the scratches are removed. Good for astronomical use.

The alternative is to rub down with something like 600G and then pull across in straight overlapping lines (with the pad) whilst using dilute polish. Eventually this fills in the scratches, yet leaves micro lines that scatter the light. It results in a softer looking gloss, quite deliberate looking. Still very flat though. The kind of texture that is found on violins just would not be acceptable to the great guitar buying public, it really wouldn't matter how high end or how hard you argued the case. You would be pssing in the wind. Semi gloss or even matte finishes are acceptable, providing they look evenly semi gloss or matte.

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I used both French Polish and oil finishes.  Leaving aside ease of application I prefer the softer look of oil, and you can easily  get whatever degree of shine you want within the limits of the material  I never did understand desire for the fish on a slab, grand piano look which is easily damaged.  Fashion I suppose.

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1 hour ago, Jerry Pasewicz said:

Yes, although someone really needs to point out that it is not "french polishing" in the classic sense of the word, and the French masters I worked with called it "polishing".

Thanks Jerry. Is it still normal to renew the polish on the bow once in a while?

DLB.

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Is the reason for textured finishes on violins vs flat matte or mirror personal taste, or are there practical reasons? My first thought is that rosin would rapidly destroy a mirror finish? Are there tonal considerations? Aging gracefully?

EDIT: BTW, I am not in the antiquing camp, while I appreciate the look of good antiquing, I prefer a clean new look.

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1 hour ago, FrankNichols said:

Is the reason for textured finishes on violins vs flat matte or mirror personal taste, or are there practical reasons? My first thought is that rosin would rapidly destroy a mirror finish? Are there tonal considerations? Aging gracefully?

EDIT: BTW, I am not in the antiquing camp, while I appreciate the look of good antiquing, I prefer a clean new look.

I like both sorts of finishes and I really have no idea which  like best. I have all sorts in my collection . The art of antiquing is a pursuit in it's self. I have usually asked makers to do what their artistic sense led them to do.

DLB

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3 hours ago, Dwight Brown said:

Thanks Jerry. Is it still normal to renew the polish on the bow once in a while?

DLB.

Yes it is Dwight, and I consider it a necessary part of a professional rehair.

Shouldn't you be scuba diving or drinking rum drinks on a beach instead of maestronetting?

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1 minute ago, Dwight Brown said:

It's funny with bows we would never consider a new bow with an antique finish. Go figure.

Have you seen David Samuel's now with the clear acrylic frog with gold mountings? He said it was very tough to do.

DLB

I have, and as a matter of fact my first violin and bow were also made out of clear acrylic back in '78.  It is very tough to work compared to wood.

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On July 3, 2017 at 10:13 AM, FrankNichols said:

Is the reason for textured finishes on violins vs flat matte or mirror personal taste, or are there practical reasons? My first thought is that rosin would rapidly destroy a mirror finish? Are there tonal considerations? Aging gracefully?

EDIT: BTW, I am not in the antiquing camp, while I appreciate the look of good antiquing, I prefer a clean new look.

As usual I have no science to back this up but I have a gut feeling that a hard flat surface makes for a simpler clearer sound (good for guitars) while a rougher more textured surface helps with a more complex sound such as is preferred for bowed instruments

Any one who does have science on this is invited to take a whack at me. I'd be interested to know if this might be true.

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1 hour ago, nathan slobodkin said:

As usual I have no science to back this up but I have a gut feeling that a hard flat surface makes for a simpler clearer sound (good for guitars) while a rougher more textured surface helps with a more complex sound such as is preferred for bowed instruments

Any one who does have science on this is invited to take a whack at me. I'd be interested to know if this might be true.

Interesting, I know a retired Luthier that felt that roughing up the edges f-holes would increase the complexity of the sound. I always discounted that as magic, since the wave lengths of the sound are so much longer than the irregularities he would make in the f-holes. Maybe he is smart after all ?

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On 7/3/2017 at 0:43 PM, rudall said:

To what extent? To make a bow with a worn finish look like new?

Don't some bows have an oil finish?

Andrew

Cleaning and a quick polish is not enough to make a worn finish look new, but hopefully is is enough to protect the wood from the next 3 months of use. I am not looking for a bowling ball shine.

It does not make a difference if the finish is oil.  

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On 7/3/2017 at 7:26 AM, Michael.N. said:

 

Modern French polishing of guitars certainly favours very flat, very high gloss finishes. There was a time when most would finish 'from the rag' but it seems increasingly as though makers are going through all the grits and then on to polishing compounds. The result is inevitable. On flat plates you have to polish until all the scratches are removed. Good for astronomical use.

The alternative is to rub down with something like 600G and then pull across in straight overlapping lines (with the pad) whilst using dilute polish. Eventually this fills in the scratches, yet leaves micro lines that scatter the light. It results in a softer looking gloss, quite deliberate looking. Still very flat though. The kind of texture that is found on violins just would not be acceptable to the great guitar buying public, it really wouldn't matter how high end or how hard you argued the case. You would be pssing in the wind. Semi gloss or even matte finishes are acceptable, providing they look evenly semi gloss or matte.

 

I know a few guitar makers that do that...it seems so redundant to me!  If you're going to wet sand and (probably power) buff, why not just spray a fast building finish.  To me, something sanded and buffed isn't "polished."

If you use the palm of your hand and basically dry rub the fresh shellac 10 minutes after a session, those pesky pad marks usually come out.  I think the mild heat loosens up the fresh shellac, combined with the small amount of oil that lubes the operation nicely.   A guitar can usually look drop dead after one session, but it's best to apply more, as the finish will shrink for a while.

--------------------------

I'm still hooked on the Old Wood amber varnish, and that stuff polishes up great with a bit of spirit and a drop of oil on a pad.  Spirit polishing is a pretty neat way to go from pumice/tripoli to a really high sheen.  All the extra powder gets absorbed into the pad as well...so it's nice in-between coats too.

It's such a simple and quick process, and you get to really add depth and lustre, while preserving texture (after you flick the dead flies off!)

 

Back to the OP: I think if you want to get into french polishing, print out that article, get some supplies, and start practicing.  French polishing is amazing, and if teaching yourself expect spurts of "wow!" followed by "@#CX!!".  Try to be methodical.  There's lots of tips out there.  Here's a few more!!

1) think about the density of the pad's core, and how easy it is to clog up...if your pad isn't "flowing out" there is always a reason...

2) make sure your materials are what you want.  Fresh shellac, and look at what's in your spirit...some denatured alcohol brands contain diluents like acetone

3) you can't French polish something *that* long...eventually the fresh, young shellac will just pull out, rub around, and look sad something the size of a guitar back you can probably do a 20 minute session on.  After a couple days though, you really should let it dry for a few days before trying to add more.

4) get some paper and use it to blot your pad on, people say "till the pad feels like a dogs nose" but you can get a much better feel for how much your pad is flowing if you just blot it on a stack of paper and see how many deep it goes

5) try different oils.  Lots of folks (and that article I think) say all oils will work...that's true but they will feel a bit different, so try them out and see.  A dense pad like vet wrap material I think will really struggle to spirit off something very viscous like thick mineral oil.

 

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