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Review: Guitar Finishing Step-by-Step by Dan Erlewine and Don MacRostie

Review: Guitar Finishing Step-by-Step by Dan Erlewine and Don MacRostie

Reviewed by John Calkin

Originally published in American Lutherie #61, 2000 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Six, 2013

Guitar Finishing Step-by-Step
Dan Erlewine and Don MacRostie
Stewart-MacDonald, 1998
ISBN 978-0964475236

The death of lacquer as an available finish was pronounced at least ten years ago. Because lacquer was so environmentally hazardous, the various levels of government were supposed to restrict its use to the point that manufacturers would find no profit in producing the stuff. Well, folks, it hasn’t happened, and lacquer remains the premier finish for most string instruments. If you’ve yet to have your first heady whiff of lacquer fumes, you should study Guitar Finishing Step-By-Step before you dive in. If your plans include the re-creation of the many factory guitar finishes, you should have this book regardless of your experience level.

The book has a strange flow to it, though. There are only three stages of finish work — wood prep, finish application, and rubout. However, the plethora of tools and materials available today leave too naïve an approach open to confusion and failure. To avoid this, Erlewine and MacRostie rely on detailed description, technical information, and a degree of repetition to cover all the bases thoroughly. For instance, a description of power sanders is followed twenty pages later by a description of power sanding. Both sections include important and overlapping information. Readers who skip about in order to get on with their finish work will find themselves handicapped.

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