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A Few F-hole Questions

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I am going to be making a chambered tele-style guitar foe my next build. I am going to make some type of F-Hole, just not sure of the actual shape yet. I had a few questions though before I go any further with the planning on this. Since the hole is going to allow an opening to the inside of the chamber, do I need to put some type of finish in that chamber? It seems like that would be a place for a lot of humidity to change and allow the body to warp, or at least get moisture under the finish and cause it to have problems. When spaying my finish coat what is the prefered method to coat the end grain exposed in the hole. Should I just use a small brush to get all the hard to reach areas, or just try and get it with the spray? Will I need to polish the finish in the hole, or won't it be noticable enough to worry about it?

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You don't have to worry about the moist getting into the guitar (unless you pour a beer in there or something). Acoustic guitars have no finish inside and there are some pretty old once still around.

An F-hole can be bound and unbound. With a bound one you have none of the problems you are anticipating. If you are spraying the finish some will adhere to the edges of the F-hole and you will be fine. You can also use a brush for that. I have a very expensive Ibanez smaller bodied 335-style that has the edges of the F-hole painted (probably with a brush) in a slightly different opaque color (compared to the tinted clear top). That looks really nasty and cheap.

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Well, not necessarily. Bob Benedetto makes this really nice “La Venezia” model that doesn’t look too bad (or cheap). And traditionally a Tele Thinline has unbound F-holes. I’d say go for a look you like.

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I bound my f-holes and it was a pain in the arse, totally worth the effort in the long run, but not easy. Depending on how you shape them you have some sharp curves to deal with. However the detail is lovely and shows how much effort you've put into your work.

As for finishing it is quite customary NOT to finish the inside of the guitar. I confess I had guitar professionally finished by the incomparable Addam Staark, and when I posed the same question he kindly informed me that the insides of semi-hollows and their f-holes are not to be finished, if one follows traditional aesthetics.

Good luck, and keep at it. I broke a whole lotta wood sticks before mine came out, but the results of my hard-headedness have made me quite happy.


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The finish not finish debate.

In woodworking they say to do the same thing to both faces of the wood. This makes a lot of sense because you want the wood to accept and reject moisture evenly. Now the flip side keep finish to minimum thickness, and use as little as possible to cover the guitar. This makes sense because thick heavy film finishes can dampen a guitar. If you follow the minimal finish belief. Then why finish at all? Wood must be protected. If you leave wood bear it will break down faster than unfinished(yes, wood will break down and basically turn to dust over time with exposure to elements**how much exposure makes a huge difference in this process, look at what happens to an old unprotected fence post).

A note about film finishes; Film finishes performace is directly related to how evenly it is applied and how thick the film is. Thick and even will provide the best protection. Since we don't want thick, we use thinner but as evenly applied finishs to get the best results from what we put on.

So now you look at the inside. No finish? Well it is subjected to the same humidity changes, but not so much the oils and sweat from your greasy guitar player. So it may not need as much protection, but would definately see advantages(as even moisture transfer rates is important to us). Will it self destruct without a finish inside-NO. Will it be impacted with more stress from rapid changes in humidity-YES. Is changing rapid changing humidity a big problem on acoustic instruments-YES(we control humidty in the cases to defend the guitar).

What is "traditional" is not what I would call clearly best. It is a compramise. Traditionally we fight with humidty more because we prefer less finish(and this is harder on the instrument of course), but in most cases it is an acceptable trade off. If you are in an area that has regular rapid changes in humidity or you plan to subject the instrument to frequent travel. Then the "traditional" trade off may not be as good or acceptable. In the end it is a matter of what serves your needs best.

Personally I prefer to use a light wash coat of 2lb cut shellac "inside the box". It does not afford a lot of protection or add much finish weight. However it would knock the edge off a big rapid change in humidity, and that is all I ask of it. If I didn't do this I wouldn't lose any sleep because where I live humidity is not prone to radical changes.

All that said. I have been yapping about acoustics with working soundboards. A semi-hollows play is not going to be effected by a little body swelling or contracting(at least not the thinner caps). So it becomes a null issue for the most part.

P.S. Since Bendetto was mentioned in another post. He does apply a wash coat to the inside of his archtops in his video. He says he follows the woodworkers belief that you treat both faces of a board the same.


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