Buffing the Finish

So after allowing the lacquer to cure for 3 weeks (cough...2 months...cough...lazy...) I finally got back into the lutherie mindset and buffed out the finish. For this step you really need a motorized buffer--you just can't do it as well by hand. Fortunately my co-worker who originally got me into guitar making happened to have one, so I went over to his place to spend a few hours bringing out the shine in the finish.

Essentially, after sanding and leveling the finish as best as you can with progressively finer grits (320, 400, 600, 1200...etc) you used a motorized buffing wheel with 3 different grits of polishing compound to bring the hardened lacquer to a final smooth gloss.

Good lighting is essential at this step. You'll also be able to see now the area where you didn't quite level the finish as well, failed to remove bigger sand paper scratches, etc.

I didn't get too many pictures of this stage--I was a little preoccupied. It's been said in many other online posts that a buffing wheel is an extremely good guitar launcher, and they're not kidding. Although a firm grip is all that seems to be needed, I started to get comfortable holding it and then got close to the top cutout where the neck tenon fits in and the wheel "caught" that edge and nearly tore the guitar out of my hands--definitely a wake up call. Otherwise, the whole process was fairly straight forward and uneventful, except for the time when I guess I was collecting a whole bunch of static electricity from buffing, touched the base of the motor housing, and got a sweet static shock that more startled me than anything---that was the second time I almost had the guitar ripped from my hands.

End result? Actually I'm really pleased with the final product. The finish is extremely clear, smooth, scratch free and super glossy--It really makes the grain stand out nicely. The only thing I would do differently next time is to spend a little more time leveling the finish prior to buffing. While it's convincingly level and smooth, very close examining of the finish at certain angles under light show some streaking that must be a result of having brushed it on rather than sprayed--but it's really subtle and probably only noticeable to me. I still have to clean it with a polish to remove the dust and compound residue.

Next, on the fitting the next...