You'll remember that in my last post I explained that the neck and body had to be assembled before I could complete the purfling because of the latter's delicacy. I knew these would create a problem in finishing because the guitar body, varnished with oil varnish, would share a joint with the neck that would be sprayed with black lacquer. I decided to proceed in the following manner even though the two finishes are incompatible.
I find that oil varnish dries slowly on ebony, rosewood and other exotics so I seal these a with several coats of shellac.
To prepare the varnish I filter it through fine cheese cloth and add 5% thinner. Using a 1 inch wide natural bristle water color brush I cover a quarter of the back at a time using strokes across the direction of the grain and then brush out with the grain. In the photo you'll see that I masked the neck heel. Since black lacquer will be sprayed right to the edge of the varnished side rib I made sure the mask was accurate and firm.
I varnished the soundboard of the guitar separately from the back and sides and the neck simply for the reason that I find it less cumbersome in handling the instrument. While three coats of varnish were necessary to cover the back and sides I think that is too much finish on the top. Some makers would criticize me for varnishing my tops in the first place but soundboards need protection and I believe this can be achieved without inhibiting the response of the top. I thin the varnish a little more than 5% with solvent. This allows the varnish to penetrate the soft porous spruce enough that it doesn't lie on the surface. It also makes it easier to brush around the bridge and embedded frets.
Pat Bianculli's original 1823 Lacôte is a beautiful, lovely sounding guitar. I enjoyed every minute that I spent building the replica.