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Wood Finishes

Finishes for ukuleles - Satin, Gloss, Varnish. Each finish is different.

Satin finish has a soft, matte appearance that some customers prefer for a more "natural" look. This is a nitrocellulose lacquer finish. As the satin finish can be easier to apply, it is more often seen with the lower priced instruments. Most of the vintage ukuleles from years gone by had a satin finish.... simply because the modern high-gloss automotive type finishes were not invented yet.

Modern Gloss finish have a beautiful, high sheen, mirror glow that which greatly enhances the color and grain patterns of the woods. And these finishes are tough also. The labor required for application and buffing of the gloss finish is more expensive than satin finishes. We think we see a trend in more or our customers preferring the gloss finish.

Both lacquer finishes produce excellent tone and volume in the ukulele.

Varnish or "French Polish" is the oldest method of final finishing in the history of woodworking. Natural resins are combined with spirit solvents and hand applied and polished to produce an extremely thin and protective finish. The acoustic properties of a varnish finish, enabling the wood to freely vibrate, are excellent. Visually a varnish finish is not "perfect" in appearance. Pretty hand-rubbed varnish finishes are more frequently found in violins and acoustic guitars.

Quite simply French polish is a finish made of a resin dissolved in alcohol, and applied to the wood by rubbing with a small cloth pad. The name French polish is deceptive, because it's not a furniture polish at all, but a varnish, a finish, just as lacquer is a finish. The process is very time consuming, because the "varnish" is put on by just rubbing the pad around and around and around, slowly building up a very thin layer of finish to protect and beautify the guitar.

The varnish finish is the most labor intensive and the most expensive.

Although there are those that do not agree with my opinion, In a darkened room... with a professional player at the other end... I can not detect the tonal difference in finishes.

The bottom line is select the instrument that pleases you and don't worry much about the finishing.

All finishes need respect and care... they all can be scratched and dinged-up. Rough picks and sharp fingernails can do a lot of damage to your ukulele. Every good uke deserves a polish cloth to help care for the finish.

Just Keep Playing!