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Pores.... what if you like them?

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Total Posts: 22
Maybe there is something wrong with what I am doing, technically, and I think if I were to make a "for Sale" guitar I would finish properly or send it out.... but I like doing French Polish and also like to see the grain of the wood and pores.

Frank Finnochio, my teacher, feels it is just for cosmetic reasons that pores are filled and it won't hurt the guitar not to do it, and the shellac and some of the wood dust gets in the pores anyway. I know for a high gloss you need to fill them.

I just love a light French Polish and to see the real wood. I am a gentle player and trust my own guitars with that finish, just the shellac, alcohol (or I get the French Polish in the can) and a little olive oil.

I do worry a little, because no one seems to do it this there any bad effect down the line?

I have heard guitars from the same shop I have built mine in, before and after finishing, and I do hear the sound get limited somewhat. I want to keep as much sound as possible. I do about 9-10 coats over a week's time or so and then let it hang for a month.....while I long to play it!

Jul 30, 06 | 1:57 pm

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Total Posts: 113

I don't have the answer to your question, but I've also felt that seeing the 'real' wood (i.e. pores) looks nice. I'm finding myself favoring a buffed satin finish more than the deep gloss, so open pores are no real problem.

In Kincaid's book, he makes no mention of filling pores when doing an oil finish; only when using lacquer.

I suspect that it makes sense to fill the pores on the neck where hand grime might over time fill them, but everywhere else, why not!


Jul 30, 06 | 4:20 pm

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Total Posts: 21
Hi Ed...

I have used mahogony necks which aren't too porous, the shellac goes on smoothe and easy. Maybe because of a lot of coats, but it sure seals better than rosewood or walnut. My necks have also become slicker with playing.

I am pretty loose on the neck and play up, down all over, and fast...have to keep up with these Irish jigs and reels, LOL.... so am not in a death grip with that hand. I see many people who do hold it like in a vise and imagine they may grime it up and sweat etc.

I just had some musicians staying with me last week and one was upset because he wore away a spot on the neck of his Martin M-38 (nice old Martin that was!) and it was tugging at him. So I wiped it down and put some French polish (Zissner's) over it, a few coats, it really dries right away, and he was sliding all up and down that neck again.... anyway...maybe his neck was pore filled? Didn't think to look, and it's a pretty old Martin, no truss rod etc.

I like the guitars to look sort of museum quality or antique and the pores give them a richness and warmth somehow. The last one I did was an "ergonomic" model, no bindings, all rounded edges, a slope for under the right arm.... that looks old style to me well as getting rid of the underarm pinch after hours of playing. I'd do the next the same, but really want to learn the binding and router steps so may do that.... have a week to decide!

A fellow who used to work for Martin doing finishes is near the class and always comes in with his card. Most students hand the guitar over to him at the end, even though it goes away for 2-3 months. he does a great gloss or satin finish for $300. He's a real pro at it, it's all he does. As I mentioned, I have heard some of them after, and they don't ring as much as before. The ones I made ... they ring out real well, and there is no decrease with the French polish. About six months after ...with lots of intense playing, you suddenly hear it sounds different/better one day. I don't ever remember hearing that on the ...oh too I have bought with 'real' finishes on them. Surely they sound better with age, but it seems like it was more gradual or something...can't quite explain. With these two it seemed sudden, and they broke in or something! It was like a guitar sounds different sort of thing. Better.

What is an OIL finish.... or do they mean tung oil? Whatever.... I enjoy the hand rubbed finish, it's like you are really getting close to and caring for the instrument, I feel like its mother or something corny like that, LOL!! It's a real bonding experience.


Jul 30, 06 | 4:59 pm

Total Topics: 37
Total Posts: 676

Firstly, welcome to the forum! A few people do use FP commercially, mostly high end classical guitar makers. I think that it is too labor intensive for steel string makers and maybe too 'tender' of a finish from a warranty standpoint. That said, I'm going to use it on the body of the kit that I am building now, basically following the tutorial at:

I'm going to use Tru Oil (Lots of threads and info on it here) for the neck. It is really a varnish, but can be hand rubbed like tung oil. You can get it from LMI or from a shop specializing in firearms (it was made to finish wood gun stocks).

Keep us up to date with what you are doing!


Jul 30, 06 | 5:55 pm
Robbie O'Brien

Total Topics: 38
Total Posts: 110
Filling the pores is a matter of personal preference. Under a high gloss finish it becomes necessary in order to get the most shine from the surface as possible. Even there though I don't mind some pores showing through. It allows the finish to be perceived as extremely thin allowing you to see that there is wood under the finish. There are many finish options that are highly attractive that do not need to have the pores filled beforehand.

Jul 30, 06 | 6:23 pm

Total Topics: 6
Total Posts: 21
Thanks Jim,Robbie,Ed....

I was mildly worried leaving pores could encourage cracks down the line, that maybe a heavy duty finish and pore filling would maybe keep things more stable. If, as Frank says, it doesn't matter, I'll keep doing FP and letting the pores show for myself....but true from a warranty standpoint, who needs the buyer running back for every little ding.

These guitars are like a new car.... the dings and wear spots hurt the first time. I let someone play my first one at a session and though he was a fingerstyle player, he dug his nails in under the soundhole. I sanded the top and refinished it.... now... well I wear that spot a bit myself, so will get clear pickguards, though I hate the idea.

I actually find FP easy and relaxing, and was totally amazed I could do it myself and do a nice job. I have pore filler and tried it on scrap and didn't really care for it.

I am also afraid to try something that's not as reversible as FP. Shall keep reading here and try to ket brave!


Jul 31, 06 | 4:32 am

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Total Posts: 67
I really really really want to find a finish that is easy to apply by hand, creates a toughness and some protection in the wood, without compromising tone!!

As for pore filling, I still don't know. I am leaning heavily towards pore filling, for I want to experience as much as possible with my first build, for I do not konw when I am going to build again, if ever (expensive work!!)

Anyone used Tung Oil?

Or Danish Oil?

Jul 31, 06 | 12:49 pm

Total Topics: 37
Total Posts: 676
Robbie probably needs to chime in here, but my research (remembering that I am no expert) indicates that Tung Oil and Danish Oil soak into the wood too deeply and can affect tone, especially on the top. I have heard of people sealing with shellac and then applying Tung Oil.

As an apartment dweller, I am not in a position to spray and I just can't come to grips with brushing KTM9. My decision is to go with Tru Oil over a shellac seal for the neck and then do a traditional French Polish on the body. I've been practicing the FP on some scrap veneer and like Iris, I'm finding it to be a very enjoyable meditative experience, not at all the drudgery that I thought that it might be. My work is non-commercial, so hours invested isn't a critical thing.

Jul 31, 06 | 2:30 pm

Total Topics: 6
Total Posts: 21
I have had the offer by Ed Foley to spray finish a guitar for me, but said I'd have to buff/polish it or whatever.,.... then cautioned if I go too hard it would burn through or wear through, forget what term he used. Well, he scared me back to my FP.

BTW...I play Irish pubs and have had beer spilled on the FP, and club soda too thus far, and it didn't bother anything. I was of course mortified, esp. since I did it myself! I sure was worried! It was not a lot of beer, but was a major amount of club soda. Beads right up and wipes off.

Jul 31, 06 | 5:40 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Kathy -- look into TruOil. It is a gunstock finish and is used frequently on guitars, can be applied by hand, and is not highly toxic. The website for it is

I used it on my first kit, and it worked very nicely.

Aug 01, 06 | 7:26 am
Robbie O'Brien

Total Topics: 38
Total Posts: 110
I have heard that lutes used to be finished with oil. Lute tops are extremely thin and seem to not be affected by the oil. I haven't done alot of research in this area however. If you are in doubt, just apply a seal coat of shellac and then finish with oil.

Aug 01, 06 | 6:54 pm
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
Just be careful what you use for polishing --- some of the stuff out there turns white, this junk gets into the open pores and makes a hard to remove mess.

Ken -------- Kenneth Michael Guitars

Aug 05, 06 | 10:06 am

Total Topics: 6
Total Posts: 21 true..on guitar, I used Meguiars an it at the end without the pores filled and it turned WHITE.... We got it out with some alcohol pretty easily and rubbed more french polish on. It was hard to see, only if you looked at it in the light a certain way, but it sure was annoying! No more car polish in pores!

Aug 05, 06 | 1:52 pm

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