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Caring for a French Polished Guitar

Most luthiers would say that French Polish is acoustically the best finish to apply to a quality guitar. It looks good. It sounds great. It can last a long time. But how do you look after it?

  1. French Polished surfaces are sensitive. You must take special care to protect them from sweat, damp and fingernail scratches. This applies most especially when the guitar is new as the finish takes a long time to “cure”. 
  2. Play with a cloth between your right forearm (or left if you are left-handed) and the body of the guitar if you play with short-sleeves.
  3. When you finish playing, always wipe the guitar down with a soft, clean cloth. If you are playing a long session, then take a break and wipe down every 30 minutes or so. 
  4. Never wipe or clean a French Polished surface with a wet cloth, with solvents, or with polishes; do not even use any of the cleaning agents and compounds specially sold for guitars – these are not intended for French Polished instruments.
  5. To protect from scratches, use a product like the Kling-On Guitar Products Classical Guitar Top Protector CL-3P-C – even then please note that this is recommended only for guitars whose finish is more than 6 months old.
  6. The good news is that French Polished surfaces can be restored and repaired – often more easily than factory finished surfaces. You should consult an expert although some experts say this is a do-it-yourself job for the guitarist (see Bob and Orville Milburn’s wonderfully detailed articles on the subject of French Polished guitars). 
  7. If you feel confident in your own experience and knowledge, then you can clean a French Polished surface with a very lightly dampened but otherwise clean soft cloth. A guitar maker I know advises wetting the cloth, then wringing it out as hard as you possibly can so that the absolute minimum of water is left in it. If in any doubt at all please do not try cleaning with a damp cloth at all and instead get professional advice and help. 

For more information on French Polishing you might like to consult the following