Glossing Your Satin Finish (at your own risk)

Started by whiskeyjack, August 12, 2006, 01:12:26 AM

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Better information regarding wood finishing and glossing of satin finishes is available from the following people and their respective websites: 
Peter Cree
Tom Young

Disclaimer: Glossing is not recommended on new guitars with a satin finish because it voids the warranty on the factory finish and may call into question other warranty issues by the manufacturer as well.  Anyone who uses the following procedure or any part of this thread agrees to do so at their own risk with no risk or liability shared by the Larrivee Guitar Forum staff or the Larrivee Guitar Company.

This procedure is not a recommendation.  It is a chronicle of what one forum member did to his 1998 Martin 000-15S.[/b]


The following comment is a May 2007 post by Peter Cree from another thread regarding glossing:
QuoteThe Martin 000-15s has a nitro matte finish and the larri has a uv poly.  The uv poly is much easier to do and is hard enough to give a pretty good gloss.  Call it semi -gloss.  but its glossier that that.

The pic of the 000-15s is perfect to describe how skipping a step will not give the desired results.    Look closely at it and you'll see the lumpiness of the finish.  Thats from skipping the flattening step of using either steel wool (0000) or wet-dry with soapy lubricant.  That flattens the finish enough to polish it.  Yes , with a rubbing compound and not a polish.

There are no "coats" here.  Nothing remains on the surface to create gloss.  You are polishing using rubbing compound.  And no you don't need professional equipment to do this.  You don't need wheels or buffing machinery.

On larri's , all you need to do is mow down the particulate with wool or wet-dry and polish with Meguires no 2.  thats it.  By hand.  they'll come out great.

Anyway, here's what I did:


Please read through this in its entirety.  Don't be in a hurry with this process. There are several ways to Gloss a factory satin finish.  Here's mine:

The materials you'll need are Meguiar's Scratch-X and Meguiar's Deep Crystal Paint Cleaner Step 1.  You can also use Step 2 Deep Crystal Polish to finish the process but this is a polish not an abrasive.  I think you'll find that the Paint Cleaner Step 1 will provide a wonderful gloss without adding the polish.  I believe that polish designed for a lacquer automotive finish will alter the tone of your guitar, which is a poly- or a nitro- finish.

You will need a padded surface of some kind (old towels on the kitchen table worked for me).  You will also need a couple of old cotton T-shirts for applying, rubbing and wiping off excess abrasive:  6 X 6 squares of T-shirt worked well for me.

Fold and dampen a 6x6 piece of T-shirt and put a small amount of Scratch-X on it.  Rub the material onto a small area (4" X 4") in the direction of the wood grain.   You can apply the same amount of pressure used to wax your car.   Rub for about 45 seconds or so, let dry and use a clean piece of T-shirt to wipe the dried Scratch-X off.  This stuff dries quickly.  You'll see the shine start to show through after the second cycle of rubbing/drying/wiping.   Alter the amount of Scratch-X, rubbing time and pressure according to the progress you see in glossing.  Then do an adjacent area, etc. until the whole guitar is done.  This takes patience and more than a little faith – it's going to look really, really ugly at first.  You will wonder if you've screwed up by attempting this.  Persevere!!  It's gotta' look awful before it looks pretty.

Ideally, you want to be consistent so that the entire finish has the same degree of treatment.  This is impossible unless you've hired a luthier to do it with a buffing wheel and various compounds!   It's one of those variables that you really can't measure.  Just try to be consistent from place to place. The only barometer you have is the degree of shine.  Eye-ball it and call it good!   There's plenty of finish on the guitar.  Concerns about rubbing through the finish are mostly bogus.  You've gotta REALLY be rubbing for prolonged periods of time to do that with Scratch-X.  Sandpaper, steel wool and commercial buffers will rub through a LOT quicker than Scratch-X.  Don't use those unless you know exactly what you're doing.

***THIS IS IMPORTANT "  Do NOT allow Meguiar's products to pool on the guitar:  don't squirt it on and leave it there.  There are chemicals in this product that will soften and discolor the finish of your guitar if you leave globs of it on too long.  Remember, this stuff was designed for use on hard, lacquer automotive finishes not the relatively soft polyurethane family of products on wood. . . .rub it on, let it dry and rub it off.***

Do the entire back and sides this way. You can also put a light coating on the neck as well, although your natural oils will gloss the neck up over time as you play. You will miss spots, and there will be spots that you will need to go over again. Moving the glossed surface at angles to sunlight or ambient light will help you identify these.  Also, the bridge, pick guard and onboard electronics areas are awkward.   These areas will be most time consuming.  I'd recommend removing the pick guard and replacing it later.  If you're doing the headstock, remove the tuners.   Remove side-mounted electronics if you can.  That leaves the bridge – expect a little bit of satin shadow around the bridge.  You won't be able to treat the area right up to the edges of the bridge as well as you did the rest of the guitar.   It's just something that happens when you do this by hand.

Scratch-X by itself provides a relatively nice semi-gloss.  But take the time and apply the Paint Cleaner Step #1 (a milder abrasive), using the same technique. This will deepen the shine to the point where you can see your reflection fairly clearly.   This step will go a lot quicker.  I treated larger areas to help even out the shine over the entire guitar.  If you see a spot or two that was missed with Scratch-X, go back and re-apply on that spot.

The end result will be a lovely, deep reflection of wood grain that is usually hidden by satin finish.  You might also see factory orbital sandpaper grit marks or grit marks directly across the grain.  These are just "character marks":  the imperfect touch of the human hand before the finish was applied.  Satin guitars are cheaper to make because less time goes into wood preparation and painting.  Satin finishes are cheaper to purchase and are applied quicker. 

Glossing causes no harm to your guitar.  It does, however, void the warranty on the factory finish.  If you screw it up, it's your problem.  Glossing has been thought to alter the tone of guitars but the claim is made infrequently by obsessive/compulsive guitar weenies.  Ain't likely.

Some folks go one step further and use Meguiar's polish and wax.   I don't like 'em.   I think the best way to maintain the shine after glossing is with Gibson guitar polish.  Good stuff.

NOTE:  I was concerned that I might rub through the finish due to all the hype about it on several forums.   Having finished glossing my guitar, I cannot see how anyone could accidentally rub through the finish unless they spent a LOT of time rubbing the same spot with Scratch X.  These products are not that abrasive and very little finish is removed.  I could understand the threat of removing too much finish with sandpaper, steel wool or a buffing wheel with buffing compound.  But I found hand-applied Meguiar's products very user friendly but they do have an odor to them.

Larrivee OM-03R-12 string + IMix external
Martin 000-15S + IMix internal
Martin OM-16GTE + Fishman Matrix
Gretch 5120
Fender Squires - Tele & Strat

whiskeyjack:  Perisoreus canadensis.  aka, gray jay, whiskey jay, whiskeyjack or timber jay.   A small, friendly bird of the northern coniferous forest.

Thanks whiskey! You got some really great results.

I have had pretty good success using 2500 grit sandpaper (light and slow) and bowling alley wax. I felt the bare wood needed some type of protection from sweat, oil, and grit. The bowling alley wax doesn't seem to effect the tone.

Which ever method you use be careful and don't over do it! :WNK>

2004 Larrivee Parlor BW
2003 Larrivee L-03 BW
2002 Larrivee D-03 BW x 2

I like it, this is very informative and objective view of the process.
Larrivee LSV-05
Larrivee LV-09FM
Larrivee CS-30
Yamaha Chronos LL-16
Yamaha Pacifica 112J
Martin LX-1
Fender American Stratocaster Delux
Fender Mexican Stratocaster
Fender Mexican Telecaster
Rivera Sedon

Thank ya, Calvin.  I like it too.

QuoteWhich ever method you use be careful and don't over do it!

This comment should be well taken by anyone who attempts this.

And it probably should be mentioned again that there are risks associated with glossing.  Those of us who've done this accepted the risks and just did it.  The photos may prompt people to give it a shot but we're not promoting this; we're not saying that everybody who has a guitar with satin finish should immediately buy some Meguiar's products and start rubbing. 

There are two things I would not do with regard to glossing:
1) I would not gloss a new satin guitar and,
2) I would not gloss a vintage guitar.

I have not heard any horror stories, nor have I seen pictures of any ruined guitars due to glossing.  If anyone has photos or a story about ruined guitars due to glossing please post them or send them to me and I'll post them.

Here's a link to the most recent revival of the glossing topic:
Larrivee OM-03R-12 string + IMix external
Martin 000-15S + IMix internal
Martin OM-16GTE + Fishman Matrix
Gretch 5120
Fender Squires - Tele & Strat

whiskeyjack:  Perisoreus canadensis.  aka, gray jay, whiskey jay, whiskeyjack or timber jay.   A small, friendly bird of the northern coniferous forest.

It should be noted, Meguiar's now states Scratch X contains silicone which can hinder the process of refinishing should the guitar ever need it.

All the more reason to follow Peter Cree's recipe for glossing.   :thumb
Larrivee OM-03R-12 string + IMix external
Martin 000-15S + IMix internal
Martin OM-16GTE + Fishman Matrix
Gretch 5120
Fender Squires - Tele & Strat

whiskeyjack:  Perisoreus canadensis.  aka, gray jay, whiskey jay, whiskeyjack or timber jay.   A small, friendly bird of the northern coniferous forest.

I picked up an old Crafter MD50 on Friday.  It's a Satin finish dread.  I bought it to use for learning experience.  My first experiment was to polish it using Whiskey Jacks instructions.  I'm not quite finished by the guitar's looking pretty good already.

I polished about 1/4 of the top at a time.  The same for the back.  It worked well and I think that longer strokes gives a more even finish just like they do when you're painting the woodwork in your house. 

None of the local stores carried the Meguiar's Deep Crystal Paint Cleaner.  I used Meguiar's polishing compound instead.  It worked well & it's cheap too.

I applied quite a bit of pressure because I wasn't worried about ruining the guitar.  I agree that it would be very difficult to rub through the finish with these products and reasonable caution. 

Turtle wax makes some compounds without silicone.  When I finish the Crafter, I plan to try the Turtle Wax on the top of a Taylor Big Baby.

Peter Cree has updated this information on best method for buffing out (glossing) a satin finish guitar. [found here]

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