A WORD ON OUR FINISHES
While there are many finishes accepted for acoustic instruments, Bruce Weber prefers the traditional nitrocellulose lacquer and real varnish finish over the faster drying, stiff and hard catalyzed finishes. We use non-catalyzed nitrocellulose lacquer and varnish, air-dried and cured over a period of time before buffing and set-up. The advantage is that our finishes are thinner and bond well with the woods. Carved instruments move around quite a bit and these finishes allow that movement. Also, a thinner finish allows for more volume and enhances the true tone of the instrument. However, not being catalyzed, nitrocellulose lacquer and varnish will show wear and checking over time.
At Weber Fine Acoustic Instruments we take great pride in the quality of our finishes, and our varnish finish is no exception. Several years ago we made the transition from a shellac-based spirit varnish to an alkyd-based oil varnish. Oil varnishes have been the standard of quality in high-end mandolin and violin construction for generations. For years, our customers had been asking for an oil varnish option on Weber mandolins and guitars, and we listened. After countless hours of experimenting with various recipes, we are happy to offer the very best oil varnish possible. Our varnish is a proprietary blend of alkyd resins, UV inhibitors (protects that trademark Weber color from fading), and tung oil that bring out the very best in your Weber instrument.
Weber's oil varnish is not simply a product, it's a process. Many hours are spent applying, sanding, and buffing your instrument. While we do our absolute best to provide only the highest quality finish at Weber, the very nature of oil varnish lends itself to the presence of "maker's marks." For example, you might find some small surface
scratches, pinholes, or "rub-throughs" upon close inspection of your new Weber instrument. A fresh oil-varnish finish is delicate. In the initial stages of ownership, oil varnish is softer than our nitrocellulose lacquer finish. Over time the varnish will continue to cure and harden. Care must be taken in order to protect your new varnish finish. Dings, scratches, and imprints are of real concern with a new varnish finish. We certainly don't expect you to treat your new instrument like a delicate flower, but we do hope you understand that varnish is a different beast from lacquer.
We take great pride in the quality and appearance of our varnish. We go to great lengths to ensure that the varnish is kept as thin as possible. This allows the wood to flex and vibrate freely, with no hindrance to the acoustic properties of your Weber. Over time the varnish finish will lose a bit of that high-gloss shine that Weber is famous for. This is a natural occurrence with varnish, and one that should be celebrated. As your finish ages, it will begin
to take on an old-world luster and patina that are as unique as the music you make with your Weber instrument.
We understand that a varnish upgrade is a significant investment, and we do not take that investment lightly. Please rest assured that when you order a Weber mandolin or guitar with an oil-varnish finish that we are giving it the attention it deserves. A quality oil-varnish finish takes time, and we dedicate even more time, in an effort to make it as close to perfect as is humanly possible. We share your frustrations when you have to wait for your new Weber while the finish cures. We want you to have that instrument, but we also know that shipping an instrument before the finish is cured can lead to disappointment. Please be patient as we dedicate the necessary time to building you the Weber of your dreams. It will be worth the wait.
For the Weber gloss finish, approximately eight coats are sprayed on over a three day period. The finish is ultimately wet sanded to 1500 grit until the lacquer thickness is only .005, or five thoundsanths of one inch. It air cures for at least two weeks before being buffed to that high, perfect sheen for which our instruments are known.
Weber uses the same nitrocellulose lacquer for all of our satin instruments. Over time this finish rubs to a semi-gloss on the neck, where the players arm rests, on the back, and anywhere friction occurs, according to how the instrument is held by its player.
Our spirit varnish is a blend of super-blonde shellac flakes, gum mastic, and gum sanarac. It's a long laborious process, and produces the most desired and sought after instrument finish. We offer varnish buffed to a high gloss or hand-rubbed, which gives the look of a vintage satin. Because of its nature and thinness, varnish acquires a patina over time, moulding itself to the grain patterns in the wood of your instrument.
NORMAL FINISH WEAR
There are two types of instruments: those that have checks and those that will. Professional musicians' favorite instruments will look like they've been played – a lot. The only time your instrument will look pristine is when you take it home from the store. As soon as you begin playing it, and over time, your Weber will show the same signs of loving use, each scratch, ding and check adding to its history and personality.
- Instruments, especially carved instruments, will move around with climate changes, shrinking and expanding with changes in heat and humidity which can and will cause checking.
- Traveling with your instrument and jamming outside will cause wear.
- Oils from your arm and hands will gradually affect the finish. However there is a small percentage of people whose perspiration will highly react with the finish, creating a foggy, white area and/or wearing or separating the finish from the neck wood very quickly. Many players will have the neck stripped and oiled for ease of play anyway, and this is a good solution to the perspiration problem too. Wiping the "touch" areas after play will help, and if your instrument is showing signs of total finish removal you may need to cover your arm where it sits on the instrument during play.
- Insect repellants will damage your finish, causing dimpling, softening, and in extreme cases the lifting of the finish from the wood, all of which are costly to repair. Apply your bug stuff and clean your hands before you open your case or handle your instrument.
- Bare wood showing through on the outside of your instrument is not advisable as the elements will eventually start breaking down the wood and finish at these points. If these are small areas, especially on the points, a small dab of clear fingernail polish will seal these areas. However do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.
- Just as your frets will gradually wear with play, the finish will show wear. These signs of active use will give your instrument a patina that all instruments eventually show. None of these things will affect the integrity of the instrument itself – in fact, extreme play will only improve the sound and tone of your instrument.
CARING FOR THE FINISH
Never put a humidifier inside your instrument. Over-humidification will damage your finish, and eventually the instrument itself.
1. Satin Finish
The satin finish rubs to a semi-gloss over time according to how it is held by its player. To clean any fingerprints, rub the finish very lightly with a barely dampened cloth (a cotton T-shirt would do the trick), or rub very lightly with an extra-fine steel wool pad to remove dirt or stains.
*NOTE: The harder and longer you rub, the more your satin finish will buff up.
2. Gloss Finish
Many polishes may be appropriate for cleaning our gloss instruments, however you should always test an area first, and we can not guarantee the results of a particular brand. Here at the shop, we've used 3M Imperial Hand Glaze for years, which is available at your local autoparts store. When applied and removed with a clean cotton cloth, the glaze will give a new shine to the finish and remove some light pick scratching. DO NOT use canned air to blow dust from your instrument as the propellant can freeze, which will crack your finish.
3. True Spirit Varnish Finish
Our spirit varnish is our premier finish, and it can be cleaned similarly to our lacquer-finished instruments.