Insect gum dissolved in denatured alcohol to realize the greatest sound potential of a flamenco guitar
The French polish finishing process of a flamenco guitar takes about 1 weeks to complete. During 16 up to 18 sessions, each interrupted for drying and hardening reasons, about 100 thin shellac layers are applied by hand with a cotton pad until a high gloss is achieved. The name ‘French polishing’ comes from a French cabinet maker who developed this technique around 1820. Since this is a very time consuming and final step in making a flamenco guitar, it is also quite expensive. Unfortunately, more and more, the expensive labor cost of French polish is replaced by more economical synthetic, hard cellulose spray or lacquer, making new flamenco guitars as affordable as possible in factories. Although modern techniques have enabled luthiers to apply lacquer properly and just as thin as French polish, the truly outstanding flamenco guitar makers, located in small workshops building entirely by hand, still have the experience to apply finish to woods by hand with a cotton pad, the so called French polish.
French polishing is a way of applying shellac finish by hand, rubbed on with a small cloth pad and should be considered as applying polish. The term polishing only refers to the intensive rubbing in order to apply shellac smoothly and perfectly. Most handmade flamenco guitar makers as well as classical and flamenco guitarists agree that the acoustic properties of French polish are far superior to that of any other finish. French polish allows a handmade flamenco guitar to realize its greatest sound potential because. The shellac of French polish is a non synthetic, natural product. Since shellac bonds perfectly to wood it is very compatible with the acoustic properties of woods. Since shellac is applied only a few hundredths of a millimeter thick, the muting properties are less than these of stiffer synthetic finishes, improving the sound projection capabilities and enhancing the tone richness of a real flamenco guitar.
Besides the hard work and dedication required to apply French polish, the only disadvantage of French polish is that it is less durable and quite delicate, it scratches easily, and does not tolerate heat well. Exposures to moderately high temperatures will soften and damage the French polish finish. Also perspiration can dull the French polish finish. Such circumstances can cause the finish to deteriorate. So, in time, the flamenco guitar may need to be refinished. The good thing though about French polish is that scratches can be repaired easily by applying new coats over the existing ones. Even if the finish has dulled, the old finish can be refreshed and reconditioned at any time simply with a new layer of French polish. Even though lacquer finished flamenco guitars are more durable, it is very difficult to match the old finish and to repair them.