The Woods: The Finishes

For most panels and cases, GMUSynth offers two distinctly different finishes: Oil and Wax, and Hand Rubber Polyurethane.  Each have their own unique look and feel.

Oil and Wax

The oil and wax is a very close to the wood finish.  It almost feels a bit rustic.  You'll feel the full character of the wood; pores and grain can often be felt with your fingers.  There's an organic feel to it.  It provides a sense of the lineage of the where you can sense it was a living thing at one point.  Which is all really cool.  But, it's not real refined.  It doesn't feel like what you’d expect from a musical instrument like a polished Gibson Les Paul.  It also doesn’t provide much protection; from moisture (causing movement and swelling), UV (causing color shifts...usually duller), or wear.  


Hand Rubbed Polyurethane

The opposite of this is the Polyurethane finish.  It is very a piece of furniture.  This is more of the museum or Les Paul feel.  And it offers protection against UV, moisture, and wear and tear.  It is by far what I prefer.  It's how I finish all of my personal gear, as well as the restoration projects I do.  Those opposed to this finish may complain it feels 'plastic' or too processed.

 Some ask why I don't use lacquer like they do on production guitars.  The reason for this is simple: poly is superior.  It provides much better protection to wear and tear (they use poly on tables and floors for this very reason.)   Lacquer is popular in production environments because it's forgiving.  Each coat you add melts into the previous coat. So, you only have to get things right once..then stop. If you make a mistake, just add another coat.  This is great for large plants and productions lines  With poly, if you make a mistake, it's never going away.  Every coat has to be perfect.  If you make a mistake, you sand everything off and start over.  But, in a custom shop, this isn't that hard to do.  And in the end, the customer gets something that looks new for much, much longer.

The 'Hand-Rubbed' element refers to polishing done after the poly has dried and cured.  Once it has hardened, the price is hand sanded with soap and water to very fine grits (starting at 800 and working up to 2000), then polished again using speciality Abralon pads (working from 1000 up to 4000).  This progression effectively rubs the glossy surface down to a matte finish, then polishes it back up to the desired sheen.  The final result has slightly varying levels of gloss at different points on the surface, yielding a pleasing natural, organic type effect.


The hand rubbed poly finish is available in three different versions of varying sheens. 

  • Flat / Satin finish is available for those wanting the look of oil and wax…but the protection of poly.  
  • Semi-gloss is the standard sheen, is very durable, and looks great.
  • High Gloss available for those wanting a flashier finish. 

Note that the High Gloss finish requires several extra steps such as pore sealing and additional surface preparations.  As such, it incurs an additional cost.