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Product Reviews: Livos Oil Finish

Product Reviews: Livos Oil Finish

by Fred Carlson

Originally published in American Lutherie #63, 2000 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Six, 2013

Livos Oil Finish

I’ve experimented with my share of different finishing materials over the twenty-odd years (twenty-eight, to be exact, and some of them have been very odd indeed) that I’ve been building wooden stringed instruments. From my early years working with my artist/luthier mentor Ken Ripportella, I remember various concoctions of linseed oil and beeswax; later came guitar building with all sorts of awful chemicals, starting with automotive acrylic lacquer and soon moving on to the more standard nitrocellulose brew. It took some years to get advanced to the point that we had an actual exhaust fan to draw the toxic solvent fumes out of the shop, and during one of those years I had a bed on a small loft above my workbench, next to the finishing room. When finishing was going on, I was breathing lacquer fumes day and night. By the time we finally got the exhaust fan and I learned how to use a respirator, a certain amount of damage had been done, and I began to experience a lot of discomfort when exposed to lacquer/solvent fumes, as well as other chemicals. Although I had no idea then that my ignorance would compromise my health, perhaps for the rest of my life, it became pretty obvious pretty fast that I couldn’t work around solvent-based finishes anymore. I had continued to use oil and wax finishes on some instruments, but had not been completely happy with either the acoustic or protective qualities of those finishes when applied to the top of a guitar. I’d taken to using oil and wax for everything but the top, for which I was using nitrocellulose until the mid‑’80s. My sensitivity problems caused me to switch to one of the early waterborne lacquer-like polymers, similar to what I still use today.

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