There are many things that attract me to natural timber finishes. Here’s a short list:
- Quality. There’s nowhere to hide your mistakes under a natural finish. The flipside to this is that some timbers are inherently difficult to work with and minor imperfections, such as grain tearout or ‘checking’ (splitting of timber), may be visible.
- Uniqueness. Every part of every tree is a little different. In Australia this is very often the case. Eucalypts such as Vic Ash or Tas Oak readily display differences in hue (colour) or grain structure; often beautifully figured grain is revealed once the outer layer of the tree is removed.
- Feel. The feeling of a natural oil/wax finish just cannot be equalled by a synthetic finish. Add to this – 3a: smell; natural finishes such as Organoil or beeswax/canauba never fail to bring pleasure to our olfactory senses.
- Tone. There is a reason why the very best concert classical guitars use a natural finish (often ‘French’ polish). All sound is produced by vibrations, and each layer of finish dampens the timber, reducing the natural tone and resonance of the instrument. The use of natural finishes result in a very thin finish, resulting in very little dampening of the instrument timbers.
All this said, sometimes a natural finish just isn’t feasible. If your weekend job is grinding it out in a punk or extreme metal band, or your playing style is such that you require a tougher finish to protect the guitar, then a synthetic finish could be the way forward.
Until next month, take care and keep on pickin!