A note from Bart… and a video

The subject line said

20th anniversary of one of your guitars

and the message body

You made the fabulous “Batuque” guitar 20 years ago!  How time flies!  It’s brought a lot of joy to my dad, and continues to bring joy to me!  Although I gotta be honest, “waves and reflections” gets most of my attention. I put new strings on it today to celebrate, and posted a TikTok about it.  Thought you might enjoy:

Cheers!, Bart Migal

Thanks Bart. You’re one of quite a few players who have more than one, but your story is special to me.

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Update from Valerie

Last year Valerie got a new guitar I built for her. After having it for a year, she seems to be enjoying it.


So nice to hear from you.   I was just thinking about the fact that I’ve had Carina Nebula for a year now.  We have totally bonded.   I play in two guitar ensembles plus solo pieces so she gets lots of use.   I get a lot of compliments on the sound.   The guitar is in great shape (see attached) — I’ve put on a tiny scratch or two but that’s life.   Maybe next year, I’ll get you to put on a fresh coat of French polish if that’s something you do?  or would recommend?   

I hope all is going well for you and looking forward to seeing you at a VCGS concert -we’ve got a great season coming up.

cheers and many thanks again,


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Homage to 4 guitars and a life of building

Here is a video for lovers of classical guitars. It was made by Antigoni Goni about 4 guitars, each built by Jose Romanillos before his passing. It’s quite a beautiful video, and certainly meaningful to me: I went to Spain to build a guitar in Jose’s workshop in 2004. So I am familiar not only with Jose, but also his widow Marian Winspear, and Gerhard Oldiges who appear in the video. I learned many things in Siguenza Spain. Both guitar and life lessons.

Watch the video.

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Flash (back) : A recently found video of Miro and Yvette

Back in June of 2022 I posted a video of William Bajzek playing Bolero by Arcas on a guitar I made in the fall of 2020. Remember 2020? Pandemic. A time of isolation. Not necessary a bad thing for a mostly solitary luthier like me. But, I certainly missed hobnobbing with my guitar friends.

Another video – Same guitar a year earlier.

In May 2021 I got a call from Eric at Pacific Rim Tonewoods, asking if I could show up for a house concert the next day at a house on Lummi Island. In 2021 the first vaccinations were just starting. I got one, so I said yes. (YES!) Miroslav Tadic wanted to play a classical guitar along with some steel string guitars made for Pacific Rim by a guy in Australia (Trevor Gore). So the next day I found myself with my friend Merrilee at Steve McMinn’s house along with a small audience. Here is with Yvette Hazwarth. Nice ensemble.

Pacific Rim Tonewoods – IN CONCERT – Miroslav Tadic & Yvette Holzwart from Pacific Rim Tonewoods on Vimeo.

I wrote about this event more than a year ago, but just found the video! The embedded video starts with Miro playing my guitar, but there are other pieces (steel string guitars) you can see and hear if you like. Worthwhile listening. Miroslav Tadic and Yvette

Here’s a picture Merrilee snapped during the performance. Joy.

Miro and Yvette house concert – 2021 credit: Merrilee Harrell

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Some Feingold Pictures

As it happens… David Feingold has a recent guitar that I built earlier this year. David’s son, Jacob Feingold, is an accomplished photographer and he took some pictures of his dad with the guitar. They are really nice studies, or perhaps environmental portraits.

For more, please visit jacobfeingold.com

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For your consideration:Wood for rosette

Here’s some wood I am considering for use in the rosette of an upcoming guitar.

naturaal and died burls
Afzelia xlay
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Bach is Back…

I got a note from Rick, who was counting practice hours to see if he could get to 10,000.

“…I am still counting hours. I wish I were better at it but a good day begins and ends with Bach.”

Blaine, WA / USA – July 17, 2019: Illustrative Editorial shot of a music montage showing a classical guitar, music by Bach, a pencil and shavings, a nail file, old guitar strings and crumpled package, and a cup of coffee on a black background

Thank you Rick, for getting in touch, and for providing the description embedded in the great picture.

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NOT attending a festival…

Since the spring of this year, I have been planning to attend the California International Guitar Festival. I’ve done only one festival (in Vancouver, BC – in July) in the last few years and was truly looking forward to it.

Unfortunately I’ve had an illness and death of one family member in the last three weeks. Additionally, another family member is in home hospice comfort care…

I had a couple of nice guitars to share at the show, but attending the festival is just not in the cards.

The illness and death make me sad, along with not attending.

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A note on a guitar, from a new owner.

I got this note from the owner of a new guitar Carina Nebula.

… as for Carina Nebula, well I am thrilled by the name and the link to the James Webb telescope.   The picture does indeed look like the guitar rosette!    How did that come to be…intention?  Coincidence?   Artistic moment?   Everyone who sees my guitar comments on how beautiful it is and when I tell them the name and show them the photo, well, amazed is a good word.   I was tied up with the guitar festival and some visitors recently so I’m squeezing in guitar time but the difference in sound and ease of playing is striking.  It motivates me to try to play more beautifully (no blaming the guitar any more).



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French Polished Shellac

“French Polish” is the finish most often found on hand-built classical guitars.  French polish is a process, a combination of shellac and how it is applied to the guitar.  It is not a product that you can buy at a hardware store.  My purpose here is not to go into depth about the process, but to explain a few properties of this type of finish to those not familiar with it.

First, briefly consider other finishes.  A lot of “factory guitars” are finished with Nitrocellulose lacquer or Polyurethane that are sprayed onto guitars.  Those finishes can be pretty thick and tough and look glassy and glossy.  These finishes look good when new and are resistant alcohol, but they are not the best for sound (or in this beholder’s eye, beauty).   While anything is possible, these finishes are not easy to repair.

My guitars are French polished.  They sound better that way.  Also, I don’t have to have expensive specialize equipment to spray and to protect me from lacquer or poly, although I have brushed on lacquer once (enough).   I find lacquer very unpleasant to apply and during the drying/curing period!

  French polish is a “Spirit Varnish”.  The ingredients are shellac, alcohol, and some oil. Non-toxic and even edible ingredients! 

A carefully applied French polish finish is attractive, transparent, thin, and light.  Because of these attributes, French polish finish is much easier to scratch or dent.    Expect some dings and scratches.  You can minimize those by learning to handle guitars carefully and with respect.  If you touch the top with your nails, you can expect some scratches and dings.  We all do it, but we can learn to do it less often!  Some great players have guitars that look like they have been played hard, and others look immaculate after years of playing.  The first mark can be upsetting, (nobody knows this better than the luthier that applied the finish) but usually no real harm is done.

Sometimes people’s sweat, skin oils, and body heat (!) can mar the finish.  This is dependent upon individual’s body chemistry and habits.  The finish sometimes dissolves where the guitar touches the player’s chest or right arm.  This only happens to certain people who practice for hours on end.  Sometimes you might see players put a cloth between the guitar and their body, or wear a sleeve on their right arm to protect the finish where the guitar touches their body.

Heat is another enemy of French polished shellac.  Don’t leave your guitar in the sun, or in your car’s trunk on a hot day!  Don’t leave it right next to a heater!  The reasons go beyond damage to shellac.  I think I should make a post about threats to guitars in the near future…

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