Terry McKenna is a long time friend and client. He had stopped by to pick up a lute repair that I had finished for him. The terz, strung up but unvarnished, was lying on my bench begging to be played. Terry gigs, records, teaches, lectures, tours and has fun playing an eclectic variety of early string instruments. He would have taken it on the spot, but I needed to varnish it.
The back and sides are two different types of maple. The sides are a hard North American maple while the back is a less dense European maple. I wanted to argument the tone of the guitar with a little extra snap or a kind of percussive quality. I thought using hard maple for both the back and sides would result in a brittle tone but using the harder maple for the sides only would be about right.
This created a problem for varnishing. The European maple back was nearly white while the sides ribs were considerably darker. I used several applications of a chicory tea stain to darken the back before I applied any finish. Then I French polished the back and sides with blond shellac.
I put the guitar aside for several weeks to allow the shellac to harden and then I rubbed it out with fine pumice followed rottenstone using mineral oil as a lubricate.
Even though the back and sides are two different species of maple the curl figures compliment one another.
The soundboard is finished with multiple applications of tung oil allowing each to dry thoroughly and then rubbed out with a lamb's wool pad. It is important to be sure the previous coat of oil is dry before a further application of oil. If it isn't, uncured oil will migrate to the surface over time and result in a permanently tacky finish.
The bridge was sprayed with black lacquer before I glued it to the soundboard. The saddle is a length of T-fret, the same size as I used for the frets.
The neck is finished with black French polish. I add a small amount of lamp black to my usual shellac and alcohol mix and apply it with a small polishing pad. It is important to round off the edges of the peg head sufficiently before beginning the polishing procedure. Otherwise, the polish will not build up leaving bare wood visible .
It is necessary to use a brush to apply polish right into the angle of the heel joint. I use a brush that is shaped to a chisel edge to build up a layer of polish. Alternating with a polishing pad blends the colour onto the brushed area.
I'm just finishing the polishing of a Panormo model guitar. I last reported on this instrument on 10/10/15 and continuing this story will be the subject of a post or two in the near future.
All photographs by the author