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PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2009 3:34 pm 
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Old Growth Brazilian
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Joined: Tue Dec 28, 2004 1:56 am
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Location: United States
About a year ago I promised to write a tutorial on how I French polish and give helpful insite on how each porcess worked and how to tell if that process was happeng correctly. At the time i had a FP job in the work schedule but unfortunatly that commission was canceled. Well time and obligations got in the way of me doing a photo/text version though I did stat the text. Not wanting to go back on my word I an going to finish out the text and post it in this thread and as soon as I can get photos i wil add them. I am keeping a word document of this but it is not finished as of yet. I am going to post what I have so far as a first installment and post weekly as I complete the text Once completed I will post a link wher the whole document can be down loaded from. So here it goes the first installment. Feel free to as questions ata any tim but lets try to stay incontex to the curent instalment.

French Polishing with Michael Payne

Introduction

First a little about my self before we get started. I grew up in my grandparents care. My grandfather was a master carpenter by more than just title. Meaning during his life he served an apprenticeship and worked as a journeyman, under the tutelage of master craftsman. Opened his own cabinet shop and put 40 plus years into his craft. During my teenage years and beyond, I worked under his supervision. This is where I learned to French polish. My methods with the exceptions of pore filling and my choice of solvent are for the most part unchanged fro what I was taught. My methods are very traditional. I hold on to some beliefs that may be controversial to some about what make for a good hard finish. Never the less my technique will provide a smooth, hard durable finish worthy of a fine instrument or piece of furnisher.

What is French polish?
French polish is a technique of applying shellac to form a single continuous amalgamation or film. The shellac is applied in steps called sessions. A session may be one process or a series of processes. To truly understand this technique, do not think in terms of coats. The term “coats” implies applying one layer over the next. In French polishing we will build one continuous amalgamated film in a series of processes preformed in a series of sessions.

Not counting pore filling; the three basic process to French polishing are; Boding, Spiriting-Off and Glazing. Here is a brief explanation of the process

Boding
Applying shellac via a muneca or pad in overlapping figure eight or circular motion; this process is much like applying wax to a car or paste shoe polish to a shoe.

Spiriting-Off
This is a straight stroke with the muneca or pad that is loaded with just residual shellac left in the pad and a few drops of solvent. This process melts high spots left from the previous boding session and removes residual lubricant oil.

Glazing
This is the application of a more diluted cut of shellac in a straight or buffing motion that adds a high gloss to the film.

The supplies needed:
There are many acceptable substitutes for some of the supplies. However I will only mention the ones I personally would use.

100% dewaxed shellac flakes or a pre mixed shellac such as Zinsser’s Bulls Eye Seal Coat 100% dewaxed shellac.

Denatured Alcohol denatured with no more than 5% methanol or 180 proof Pure Grain alcohol from a liquor store.

4-6 oz of 100% pure Walnut oil or Extra Virgin Olive oil

Many 4” x 4” well worn non-dyed Muslin or linen squares (Outer muneca or outer pad)

A couple feet of non-dyed 100% wool roving. (Inner muneca or pad)

Three 2-4 oz plastic bottles with caps (bulk shellac and oil storage)

Three eye dropper bottle with eye dropper (one for 2# shellac, one for 2# shellac and one for the lube oil. used t store shellac and oil for loading the muneca)

Small natural bristle artist brush

Available supply of 8.5 x 11 printer paper

A good med high intensity work lamp

A lint free work pad like a well worn folded linen sheet

A good bit of patients and determination.

Preparation of the finish media.
If you are making your own cuts of shellac you will need to make up two different cuts or mixes of shellac. You will need a 2# cut for sealing and boding, and a 1# cut for initial seal coat and glazing. I use Zinsser’s Seal Coat pre mix because I like the slight amber tint. It is store bought 100% wax free sealing shellac pre mixed and works very well for French polishing. Its color is a 50% blonde and 50% amber or garnet blend. It gives a nice warm vintage but not dark tint to the wood. It comes as a 2# cut straight from the can. I cut that with 25% per volume with to achieve a near 1# cut. I make up 2 oz at a time and store in the plastic 2 oz squirt bottles I mentioned in the supply list.

Make up at leas 6-8 outer pads 4” x 4” square from well used white muslin or linen. T-shirt material is often suggested but I find it causes unneeded ridging during boding due to its 3D stretchable weave.

I prep my inner muneca a day in advance. These are made from 100% wool roving and enough to make a tight golf ball when dry. To prepare I first set the ball of wool roving on a piece of wax paper in a bowl and saturate them with 2# cut of shellac. I then allow it to stay in the open air bowl for about 2 hours. At this point I put on nitril gloves and roll the ball in the palm of my hand over the bowl till no shellac drips from it. It should be about the size of a ping pong ball or slightly smaller at this point Then place the ball into a zip lock bag with the seal half open over night or until the ball is the consistency of soft taffy then seal the bag air tight. At this point the inner muneca is ready to use.

Once the inner pad is ready to use wrap it in one 4” x 4” outer pad bundle it tight as possible and secure it with twine or a rubber band. Keeping in mind that you will be changing the outer pad every so often so you want to be able to remove whatever you use to bind the muneca.

A little note of interest the word muneca is Italian for rag doll in reference to the pad having the appearance of rag dolls head.

Prepping the work surface

Naturally you will want your guitar body or other type of work surface to be prep sanded, pore filled, grain raised and sanded back ready to seal. If there are any colored purfling that need sealed to protect from bleeding woods this should be done first with 1# cut of shellac and a fine artist brush if during sealing any bleed over occurs it can be scraped off with a razor bland or small cabinet scraper then resealed with shellac. I in this order purfling, top and then back and sides.

The initial spit coat is applied much like body sessions will be later but a tad wetter. After any purfling has been sealed with a brush if needed, load the muneca up with 4-5 drops of 1# shellac, 3-4 drops of alcohol and 1-2 drops of lube oil the tap one time on a sheet of white printer paper. The forces the alcohol and shellac into the inner pad stating the wicking process of the residual shellac in the inner pad. Start on the top and cover evenly the top with short figure eights until the top is evenly covered with shellac be sure to reload the pad as soon as you start to feel drag. You do not want the pad to ever stop or slow down as you working. If it does it will stick causing a lumpy buildup. After the top do the back, one side then the other allow about 10 min of cure time before moving on to another surface.

This spit or seal coat is the foundation of the future body sessions. It went on wetter than the body session will and is done so that the dryer first body session have a base to melt into. The spit coat does not need to be very thick at all. It just needs to cover the entire surface area.

Boding:

First let’s start with a brief understanding of what boding is and is not.
Boding is the application of residual shellac that is semi-hard and entrapped in the inner pad on to the work surface by means of melting apportion of this residual semi-hard shellac with a fresh load of shellac and alcohol to the outer pad that is taped on a piece of paper causing a wicking process to allow the residual shellac to flow through the outer pad and on the work surface.

Boding is not the application of a wet fresh load of shellac loaded on to the outer muneca and spread around or painted on.


Tell-tale signs the muneca is properly loaded:
With this in mind there are two key tell-tale signs if one you have the muneca properly loaded and if the wicking is happening. The fist sign to look for is right after you load the muneca with a new load. This load should be 4-5 drops of 2# shellac, 3-4 drops of alcohol and 1-2 drops lube oil. Then tap the newly loaded muneca on white paper till the stain (referred to as “report” from here on in this tutorial) is spotty not solid. This is the first tell-tale sign. It ells you the muneca is loaded and prepped for boding.


The second tell-tale sign is displayed during boding. For an example of this next tell-tale sign, take your safety glasses off and breathe on them. Notice the water vapor from your breath appear and disappear quickly. This is water flashing off a dry surface. When we body we want to see alcohol doing the same thing as the muneca moves along the work surface. Seeing or not seeing this sign tell you really several important things. First that the wicking action is of is not happening and second if your load has too much or little shellac or alcohol. Be aware the vapor trail is a fleeting thing. I will last only a brief fraction of a second at any given point and you should be watching for it at all times. It should extend for about ½” or more” behind the muneca as it moves.

If there is no vapor trail but is a thick wet trail behind the muneca as it moves that does not disappear quickly this tell you that you have loaded the muneca with too much fresh shellac.

If you see a thin wet trail that disappears fairly quick but not instantly this tells you have loaded too much alcohol.

If there is no vapor trail and no wet surface behind the muneca then you have too little alcohol in the load.

Do not confuse wet shellac as a vapor trail. Once again the vapor tail will appear and disappear just like the fog you see when you breathe your safety glasses.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2009 5:04 pm 
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Koa
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Location: sweden
First name: Lars
Last Name: Stahl
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[clap] [clap] [:Y:] [:Y:] I AM SO HAPPY MICHAEL THAT YOUR DOING THIS. Cant wait to read and see the continuance of this tutorial.
So far I have learned alot, and seen what I so far have done wrong haha.
Thank you thank you..

Sincerely Lars.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2009 5:29 pm 
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Very nice information, could one spray the first fill coat over the purflings to prevent the dye running or should we be purists all the way. I am thinking of trying French polish on a top but Lacquer on the sides and back.

Fred

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2009 6:45 pm 
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Old Growth Brazilian
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Fred Tellier wrote:
Very nice information, could one spray the first fill coat over the purflings to prevent the dye running or should we be purists all the way. I am thinking of trying French polish on a top but Lacquer on the sides and back.

Fred


yes I have done just that by when you spray you cheat wow7-eyes


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 12:36 am 
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Michael,
Thanks for doing this. Great information.
Link

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 1:40 pm 
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Old Growth Brazilian
Old Growth Brazilian

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guys and gals here is an edited reprint of the first offering. as it will appear in the word document when completted ther are some format differaces cause by cut and past but this will have to do for now. i will be submitting the rest of the bodying chapter later this week and Spiriting-off will follow that next week.

Once again I encourage you guys and gals to ask question but as previously stated let try to keep the closely related to the current or previous submissions so that we can go back and look at these things some what in order later down the road.

French Polishing with Michael Payne

Introduction

First, a little about myself before we get started. I grew up in my grandparent’s care. My grandfather was a master carpenter by more than just title, meaning during his life he served an apprenticeship, and worked as a journeyman under the tutelage of master craftsman. He opened his own cabinet shop and put 40 plus years into his craft. During my teenage years and beyond, I worked under his supervision. This is where I learned to French polish. My methods, with the exceptions of pore filling and my choice of solvent are, for the most part, unchanged from what I was taught. My methods are very traditional. I hold on to some beliefs that may be controversial about what makes for a good hard finish. Nevertheless, my technique will provide a smooth, hard, durable finish worthy of a fine instrument or piece of furniture.

What is French polish?
French polish is a technique of applying shellac to form a single continuous amalgamation or film. The shellac is applied in steps called sessions. A session may be one process or a series of processes. To truly understand this technique, do not think in terms of coats. The term “coats” implies the application of one layer over a previous layer. In French polishing, we will build one continuous amalgamated film in a series of processes performed in a series of sessions.

Not counting pore filling, the three basic processes of French polishing are: Bodying, Spiriting-Off, and Glazing. Here is a brief explanation of each of the processes.

Bodying
Bodying is a process of applying shellac via a muneca or pad in overlapping figure eight or circular motions; this process is much like applying wax to a car or paste shoe polish to a shoe.

Spiriting-Off
Spiriting-off is a process of using a straight stroke with a muneca or pad that is loaded with only residual shellac in the pad and a few drops of solvent. This process melts high spots left from a previous bodying session and removes residual lubricant oil.

Glazing
Glazing is a process of applying a more diluted cut of shellac in a straight or buffing motion that adds a high gloss to the film.

The supplies needed:
There are many acceptable substitutes for some of the supplies. However, I will only mention the ones I personally would use.

• 100% dewaxed shellac flakes or pre-mixed shellac - such as Zinsser’s Bulls Eye Seal Coat 100% dewaxed shellac.

• Denatured Alcohol - denatured with no more than 5% methanol or 180-proof Pure Grain alcohol from a liquor store.

• 4-6 oz of 100% pure Walnut oil or Extra Virgin Olive oil.

• Many 4” x 4” well worn non-dyed Muslin or linen squares (for the outer muneca or outer pad).

• A couple feet of non-dyed 100% wool roving (for the inner muneca or pad).

• Three 2-4 oz plastic bottles with caps (for bulk shellac and oil storage).

• Three eye dropper bottle with eyedropper (one for 2# shellac, one for 1# shellac and one for the lubricant oil, each used to store shellac or oil for loading the muneca).

• Small natural bristle artist brush.

• A supply of 8.5 x 11 printer paper.

• A good medium- to high-intensity work lamp.

• A lint-free work pad, like a well worn folded linen sheet.

• A good bit of patience and determination.

Preparation of the finish media.
If you are making your own cuts of shellac you will need to make up two different cuts or mixes of shellac. You will need a 2# cut for sealing and bodying, and a 1# cut for initial seal coat and glazing. I use Zinsser’s Seal Coat pre-mix because I like the slight amber tint. It is store-bought 100% wax free sealing shellac premixed, and works very well for French polishing. Its color is a 50% blonde and 50% amber or garnet blend. It gives a nice warm vintage but not dark tint to the wood. It comes as a 2# cut straight from the can. I cut that with 25% per volume with alcohol to achieve a near 1# cut. I make up 2 oz. at a time and store it in the plastic 2-4 oz. squirt bottles mentioned in the supply list.

Make up at least 6, 4” x 4” outer pads from well-used white muslin or linen. Others often suggest T-shirt material, but I find it causes ridges during bodying due to its 3-D stretchable weave.

I prepare my inner munecas a day in advance. These are made from 100% wool roving and I use enough material to make tight golf ball sized pads when dry. To prepare them I first set balls of wool roving on a piece of wax paper in a bowl and saturate them with 2# cut of shellac. I then allow them to stay in the open-air bowl for about 2 hours. At this point, I put on nitril gloves and roll each ball in the palm of my hand over the bowl until no shellac drips from it. Each should be about the size of a ping-pong ball or slightly smaller at this point. Then I place each ball into a zip lock bag with the seal half open overnight or until the balls are the consistency of soft taffy, then seal the bag airtight. At this point, the inner munecas are ready to use.

Once an inner pad is ready to use, wrap it in one 4” x 4” outer pad, bundle it tight as possible and secure it with twine or a rubber band. Keep in mind that you will be changing the outer pad every so often, so you want to be able to remove whatever you use to bind the inner muneca.

A little note of interest: the word muneca is Italian for rag doll in reference to the pad having the appearance of rag doll’s head.

Prepping the work surface
Naturally you will want your guitar body or other type of work surface to be prep sanded, pore filled, grain raised and sanded back, ready to seal. If there is any colored purfling that needs to be sealed to protect from bleeding woods, this should be done first with a 1# cut of shellac and a fine artist brush. If any bleed over occurs during sealing, it can be scraped off with a razor blade or a small cabinet scraper, then resealed with shellac. I seal in this order: purfling, top, and then back and sides.

An initial spit coat is applied much as body sessions will be later, but a tad wetter. After any purfling has been sealed with a brush if needed, load the muneca up with 4-5 drops of 1# shellac, 3-4 drops of alcohol and 1-2 drops of lube oil. Then tap one time on a sheet of white printer paper. This forces the alcohol and shellac into the inner pad and starts the wicking process of the residual shellac in the inner pad. Start on the top and cover the top evenly with short figure eights until the top is evenly covered with shellac. Be sure to reload the pad as soon as you start to feel drag. You do not want the pad to ever stop or slow down as you are working. If it does, it will stick, causing a lumpy buildup. After the top, do the back, one side, and then the other, allowing about 10 minutes of cure time before moving on to another surface.

This spit or seal coat is the foundation of the future body sessions. It goes on wetter than the body session will, and is done so that the drier, first body session has a base to melt into. The spit coat does not need to be very thick at all. It just needs to cover the entire surface area.

Bodying:

First let’s start with a brief understanding of what bodying is and is not.

Bodying is the application of residual shellac on the work surface that is semi-hard and shellac entrapped in the inner pad onto the surface by means of melting a portion of this residual semi-hard shellac with a fresh load of shellac and alcohol migrated to the outer pad by tapping the pad on a piece of paper, causing a wicking process to allow the residual shellac in the inner pad to flow through the outer pad and onto the work surface.

Bodying is not the application of a wet fresh load of shellac loaded onto the outer muneca and spread around or painted on.

Telltale signs that the muneca is properly loaded:
With this in mind there are two key telltale signs that indicate if you have the muneca properly loaded and if wicking is happening properly. The first sign to look for is right after you load the muneca with a new load. This load should be 4-5 drops of 2# shellac, 3-4 drops of alcohol, and 1-2 drops lube oil. Then tap the newly loaded muneca on white paper until the stain (referred to as “report” from here on in this tutorial) is spotty and not solid. This is the first telltale sign. It tells you that the muneca is loaded and prepped for bodying.

The second telltale sign is displayed during bodying. For an example of this next telltale sign, take your safety glasses off and breathe on them. Notice the water vapor from your breath appear and disappear quickly. This is water flashing off a dry surface. When we body, we want to see alcohol doing the same thing, as the muneca moves along the work surface. Seeing (or not seeing) this sign really tells you several important things. First, it tells you whether the wicking action is (or is not happening) and second, whether your load has too much or too little shellac or alcohol. Be aware that the vapor trail is a fleeting thing. It will last only a brief fraction of a second at any given point, and you should be watching for it at all times. It should extend for about ½” or more behind the muneca as it moves.

If there is no vapor trail but a thick wet trail behind the muneca as it moves that does not disappear quickly, this tells you that you have loaded the muneca with too much fresh shellac.

If you see a thin wet trail that disappears fairly quickly. but not instantly, this tells you that you have loaded the pad with too much alcohol.

If there is no vapor trail and no wet surface behind the muneca then you have too little alcohol in the load.

Do not confuse wet shellac as a vapor trail. Once again the vapor trail will appear and disappear just like the fog you see when you breathe on your safety glasses.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 2:48 pm 
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Mahogany
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Joined: Fri Sep 19, 2008 10:59 pm
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Location: San Diego CA
Michael Dale Payne wrote:
guys and gals here is an edited reprint of the first offering. as it will appear in the word document when completted ther are some format differaces cause by cut and past but this will have to do for now. i will be submitting the rest of the bodying chapter later this week and Spiriting-off will follow that next week.


This is perfect timing for me. I'm just wrapping up my first guitar (classical hauser style) and I wanted to use FP for the finish on this as I don't have a sprayer (and I hesitate to use a rattle can after all this work). I'm about 2 more weeks of work away from starting the finishing process, so I could not ask for better timing.

Thanks Michael! [clap] [:Y:]


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 1:51 pm 
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Old Growth Brazilian
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Location: United States
(non edited installment #2)

Bodying: The process
Before we go into how to do the body process I would like to discuss first how the inner muneca works for us when boding. Recalling the inner muneca prep that I gave earlier, understanding why and how the inner muneca works will greatly aid you in noticing how well your body session is going and help you reason out many difficulties you may face when boding.

The inner muneca is a reservoir of shellac. It is this shellac that is the main stay of the shellac being laid down during boding. Each new load to the muneca you add during boding does two things. First and foremost a new load melts residual shellac in the inner muneca and primes the muneca to allow the meted residual shellac to wick through the outer pad and on to the surface. The shellac that is wicked is of a higher viscosity than the 2# cut that you add when you add a new load. This is because it has evaporated a good percentage of the solvent carrier. As you add a new load to the face of the pad, the new shellac and alcohol are absorbed into the inner pad soften the residual shellac in the inner pad and therefore the shellac being applied is a viscosity some where between the semi-dry shellac in the inner pad and the fresh 2# cut that you added.

Now for boding. The application method is a figure eight motion. The pressure applied should be moderate. Press to hard and you stop the wicking motion. Applied too lightly you don’t really amalgamate the new shellac into the previously applied shellac. your figure eights motions should be fairly small and consistent. You should over lap by half the figure eight as you go. I start at the end and center of a surface and work towards the other end moving outward half a figure eight width once I reach the other end and work my way back to the previous end. When I get to the edges I pay particular attention there because that is the area you are most likely to miss good coverage. You want to build or apply each boding session as consist over the entire surface as humanly possible.

Some things to note

After applying a new load to your muneca, tap it on white paper till the report is spotty. This insures the new load has been mixed with the inner muneca’s residual and starts the wicking action. Do this every time you add a load to the muneca.

If you no longer see the vapor trail it is time to reload

For best results I highly recommend tht after you finish each body session on each surface. You allow the new session to cure 10 min. then spirit-off and allow it to cure another 10 min. doing so will remove the lube oil from the last session, knock down and melt in any ridging and swirl marks left by the bodying process and thereby aid you in build your film level as you go next week we will delve into the how’s and why’s of Spiriting-Off.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 11:20 am 
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Cocobolo
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Joined: Thu Oct 11, 2007 11:38 am
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Thanks for sharing your experience Michael.

One question - why do you use oil during your initial spit coat? I could see that on furniture, it wouldn't make a difference, but if oil penetrates and occupies the wood pores of the soundboard, could this not be detrimental to tone?


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PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 8:08 am 
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Michael...Are you still planning to add the "Spiriting Off" section?

TIA

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http://www.DonohueGuitars.com


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PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2009 3:24 pm 
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Haven't seen Michael about for the last week or so. When was he doing the thing for Robbie?

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PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2009 3:52 pm 
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WaddyThomson wrote:
Haven't seen Michael about for the last week or so. When was he doing the thing for Robbie?



May 23 and 24 are the dates Michael will be at Red Rocks. He is actually on a business trip right now where he has limited access to the internet. I have spoken to him a couple of times but I'm not quite sure when he gets back. We sure do miss him around here though :D

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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 7:28 am 
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Bump

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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2009 5:15 pm 
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We're going to have to speak with Michael's employer! This is unacceptable! :D

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 4:57 pm 
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On french polishing, I do this to all the guitars I build and when boding I do all circles and then a straight line through the circle to cross out any circle lines left, this works wonderfully.
I red an article about french polishing that stated high humidity would keep the polish from drying as quickly or as hard as it should. The person who wrote this was wrong. I live close to Galveston and in the summer the humidity is very high all the time, I have not had any problems with the polish drying the way it should and the finish looks like it was sprayed. I do the fp out side in my shedd early in the morning as I do not have a/c the closer the time gets to 12pm the hotter it gets. After I do the bodying I hang the guitar up in the shedd out of the sun and let that days finish dry. I wait three days after doing an area of the guitar such as the back and back of neck, sides and tuner area then the top by it self. The guitar stays in the shedd till the bodying and final polishing is done.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 3:53 pm 
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Old Growth Brazilian
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Quys i am back in country but right now. However I just don't have the time to finish the tutorial. work is a killer


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