LEHTELA

GUITAR CRAFT


 

Instrument Care

General
As with any musical instrument made of wood, please take care of your prized possession by not exposing it to extreme temperatures or direct sunlight. This means temperatures below 65 F degrees or above 85 F degrees. Also, try to avoid exposing the instrument to sudden shifts of humidity. It is best to let the instrument acclimate to its environment by keeping it sealed inside its case for at least 1/2 an hour before playing. This is especially important if moving from one environment to another — dry to humid and vice a versa, warm to cooler or the other way around. Last but not least, don't go swimming with it.

Truss Rod
All LGC instruments equipped with truss rods that are two-way adjustable in nature. This means that the truss rod tigthens to the right or left. In between the two is a neutral position. The truss rod should not be left in neutral as it may cause an audible rattle in the neck. It is possible that the rod may shift to neutral, especially if the previous position was only slightly tightened on either side of neutral.

Please DO NOT ADJUST TRUSS ROD unless you have discussed its operation with the luthier. If possible, it is best to bring the instrument to the maker or to a trusted luthier or repair person. Be aware that there is a LIMIT OF MOTION to the truss rod and going past that point can break the rod. Repairing the damaged neck can be costly and is NOT covered under warranty if operation was performed by anyone other than the maker.

Oil Finish (or Finnish)
A hand applied oil finish is found on most LGC instruments. An exception is a custom instrument where the customer specifies some other acceptable finish such as French Polish or Lacquer. The beauty of the oil finish is unmatched — it retains the actual look of the wood visually and texturally. A good quality oil or oil varnish, properly applied, is unmatched in sound quality on medium or heavier hardness of woods. Hence, it makes an ideal finish for the neck and back and sides of the body.

Of all finishes, oil is the easiest to care for. The luster is easily re-established with a general application of all oil finished parts using a soft, clean cloth dabbed with high quality lemon oil. For players needing more protection, a protective layer can be established by application of a natural-based wax made for oil finishes. Be sure to clean the instrument first with a small amount of lemon oil, let dry overnight and apply the wax. This ritual should be performed 3 to 4 times a year. The instrument may need such nourishment monthly in very dry climates. Also, certain parts such as the back of the neck and the area of the sides and the top where the arm comes in contact with the body may need more attention.

Lacquer
This finish is standard on all soft-wood soundboards of LGC instruments for three reasons:
1) The client has two options to choose from in regards to lacquer. One option is nitrocellulose lacquer which is a traditional finish found in most handmade string instruments. The second option is waterbase - lacquer. Tonally there is nominal difference between the two. The waterbased version is recommended for those that prefer a satin finish. An outstanding feature with lacquer is that it does not penetrate deeply into the wood and thus will have very little dampening effect, tonally or resonance wise, which is especially important in the soundboard. As it ages, it not only hardens but even mor importantly shrinks ( especially nitrocellulose lacquer ) which allows the wood beneath it to resonate more freely - proof of which is found in many lacquer finished vintage instruments. Oil, used as a finish in the soundboard, may have a dampening effect on tone and resonance due to its deep penetrating quality. It should be noted that an oil varnish will however harden within the wood fibers over time. 

2) Oil does not produce a finish as hard as lacquer. Thus, it would be quite easy to penetrate the oil finish and go right into the wood. Thus, lacquer provides an extra layer of protection especially critical in a soundboard of Spruce, Redwood or Cedar. An oil finish, however, is actually more resistant to sweat, acids, humidity than lacquer.

3) Lacquer does not penetrate the wood but rather forms a layer on top. The final thickness is very thin but still harder than oil. Because of its thickness it does not cause any notable dampening of tone.

There are a few negatives for lacquer. By nature, it is shrinking indefinitely and over time will ' spider-web' or leave hairline cracks in the finish. This does not happen with an oil finish. The cracks pull into the wood itself. Also, lacquer, unless heavily waxed, has a sticky feel to it. Hence, it may not be desirable as a finish for the back of the neck.
The actual care for lacquer is a bit more involved than that of an oil finish. First, do not use lemon oil. Cleaning and polishing should done only with a polish engineered specifically for lacquer finishes. Be sure that the polish not only cleans and polishes but also has a moisturizing compound in it. Waxing lacquer is not recommended. Note that lacquer is much more susceptible to the effects of moistures ( known as hazing) so the upkeep of the original luster will require more work on behalf of the player.
Finally, do not mix different products when maintaining the lacquer finish. Use a very soft, clean cloth and stay with the one brand that is able to produce the above stated results.

Final Note re: finishes used in instruments made by Ari Lehtela

With considerations described above, the majority of our instruments are finished as follows:

Acoustic instruments - Soundboard: Lacquer                                                                                                                                                                     Back / Sides: Oil varnish                                                                                                                                                                 Neck: Oil varnish, teak oil or tung oil                                                                                                                                           Fingerboard / headstock veneer: polished and unfinished

Electric instruments -   Oil varnish throughout, teak or tung oil option for neck, unfinished fingerboard                                                                ( lacquer with or without added tint/color is an option )