FINISHES - FRENCH POLISH
What is the best way to clean fingerprints from a French polish top?
A clean soft cloth will generally do the job on fingerprints or general schmutz. Our set-up department uses turtle wax or most any other guitar or violin polish - a small amount on a dry cloth, rubbed by hand should do.
Two years from the date on the label - that's how long the French polish will take to finally set up, not be so soft and subject to dings and marring.
How about French polish and heat?
In really hot weather you just have to be extra careful. Over time the French polish becomes more durable, but anything over 90 degrees fahrenheit always involves risk. The worst conditions are the inside a car, where the greenhouse effect can really heat up. Even direct sunlight hitting a part of a black guitar case can really heat up that spot. The trunk can be a little better, but check the guitar after a short while to see if it's heating up. Or just carry it with you. The worst is when the finish sticks to the fur in the case. It looks TERRIBLE, but it's not really as bad as it looks. French polish is easy enough to fix when you know how, but few people really know how. When you have questions, problems or concerns - drop us a line or email. You can always send it back here for touch up.
I have a Rodriguez model with french polish and I put a big fingernail mark in it just below the soundhole. I have a lacquer touch-up kit and just wondered if I could use it.
Not a good idea. Lacquer and shellac (French polish) are two distinctly different substances, non compatible and unlike.
Is it possible to repair a small surface "nick" on the front of my Kenny Hill Munich without having to refinish the entire guitar? The length of the "nick" is | |. It's depth appears to be very slight.
The face of that guitar is French polish which I can usually fix easily. If you want to send it here, we can deal with it, but I would suggest you wait until you are reasonably sure it won't happen again. Spend a few months getting your dings over with, get it out of your system. Then think about sending it to us. There is no harm in delaying.
What's so great about French Polish?
French polish offers one huge advantage. It sounds great. It allows a hand-made instrument to realize its greatest sound potential because it is very thin and very compatible with the acoustical qualities of wood.
Read this brief Tech Note: ABOUT FRENCH POLISH.
Does the truss rod harm the sound of the instrument?
Many owners don't know they have a truss rod until they need it, and fall happily in love with the guitar in blissful ignorance. Then when they need it, they are very happy it's there. I say listen to the guitar. Does it sound good? Fine.
A back buzz happens when the string behind a fretted note is close to the same pitch as another fretted and plucked note, and it resonates sympathetically. You may need either a truss rod adjustment or a slight nut adjustment. For the nut, raising it ever so slightly with a paper shim may take care of it. Also adjusting the truss rod slightly can often eliminate a back buzz. For directions and photos on how to adjust the truss rod, read the Tech Note: TRUSS ROD ADJUSTMENT.
For directions and photos on how to adjust the truss rod, read the Tech Note: TRUSS ROD ADJUSTMENT FOR MASTER SERIES GUITARS.
Also as a player, I know of certain chords (like one of the descending chords in the first Villa-Lobos Etude) that have such stubborn back buzzes that I actually adjust my left hand fingering to dampen the back string. One more detail to watch out for.
GUITAR SET UP
At the time of shipping I normally set the string action a little higher than I personally prefer it, because some customers like it higher, and it is always easier to lower action than to raise it. Consequently, if you like it lower, you should only have to take a little bit off of the bottom of the bridge bone. You can do it yourself, or have a guitar tech do it.
The original shop action settings are these:
Saddle height 3.25mm (.130") on the sixth string, 2.75mm (.100") on the first string.
This is measured with the string pressed down at the first fret. These settings should be good for a pretty strong player. They can be lowered somewhat if you have a lighter touch.
The nut settings are done with feeler gauges above the fingerboard.
- First and second string: .052" (1.3mm)
- Third and fourth strings: .054" (1.4mm)
- Fifth and sixth strings: .056" (1.45mm)
I generally set the nut height with feeler gauges at around .054" from the fingerboard to the bottom of the string. This can vary according to the actual height of the fret. For flamenco I expect the 12th fret measurement to be around 2.5 to 3mm with the string fretted at the 1st fret. These are approximate and depend on the straightness of the neck. A little buzzing is expected as part of the flamenco sound.
WHAT STRINGS TO USE
I send the guitars out with high tension strings. The rationale for the high tension is I want to be sure the instrument can handle it. Actually the amount of extra tension in the guitar is minimal. Normal tension strings will work fine, maybe even better. I don't believe there is a direct relationship between volume and string tension.
There is a two way acting truss rod also, so any changes in the neck due to string tension can be accommodated. This can be adjusted by a guitar tech, or if you're good, by yourself. If you're going to use lower tension strings I would change them first before deciding to lower the bone or adjusting the truss rod.
We always put high tension strings on the guitar, but I don't have an opinion on whether that is the best choice. Each person finds out for themselves. I suggest trying a variety of string brands and tensions to come up with the right combination for your own technique and your own guitar.
We use D'Adarrio high tension J-46.
We are currently using Barbera classical guitar pickup
My priorities regarding pickups are these:
- It doesn't hurt the acoustic sound of my instrument.
- It sounds reasonably like a classical guitar.
- It's not too complicated to install or use.
- It is reasonably priced.
There is a limit to the volume that it will comfortably produce, but for playing solo or in small ensembles it's fine. For playing in a fully electric band it may be necessary to look for further solutions.
Pickup manufactures are all coming out with upgrades and new products all the time. They come in lots of prices, configurations and complexities. I'll have to leave it up to you.
In my workshop I work hard to make a beautiful sound come out of a wooden instrument, and I'm going to be hard to please with an electronic guitar sound. I personally now use the Barbera.