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I can continue the application of shellac until I have a rather thick layer:
This is how the surface looks after about an hour of continuous application. There's a serious amount of new finish on this instrument.
Here, let me gouge out an area so you can see how thick it is:
Don't worry, I'll fix it. I just couldn't think of any better way to show the progress. Besides, this spot will be completely covered by the tailpiece.
At this point I have enough finish on the surface. It's a special application, by the way. Unlike spray and brush techniques, French polishing actually presses the shellac down into the divots, dings, cracks and scratches of the old surface. This is a great help in leveling out an old finish!
I'll put the instrument away for about a week to dry thoroughly, and scuff sand again (this time with finer grits) and repeat the process until I'm satisfied that I've filled the imperfections appropriately.
On some instruments, the approach is to do the very least possible to shine them up, on others the requirements may include filling every possible spot and making them look as new.
On my last application, I'll use the technique known as "spiriting off." Here the idea is to use only alcohol on the pad, lubricate the surface with a tiny drop of oil, and carefully wipe in the same manner. This has the effect of softening the surface very slightly and polishing out the high spots of the previous pad rubbing streaks and marks.
At the very end, I'll drop the pad altogether, and rub very fast with increasing pressure using only the palm of my hand:
By hand rubbing, I'm burnishing the slightly soft shellac. I can really work up a sweat doing this job!
Just look at that shine:
Well, that's the French polishing technique boiled down to the fewest words I could manage. If you'd like some good instruction that will really get you going, I recommend the fine video by Ron Fernandez. It's available through L.M.I.
The next page has a little "movie" that illustrates the evaporating "comet tail" behind my pad as I rub on a coat of finish.
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