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Finishing Techniques

This workshop will teach students how to apply and repair various finishes including Nitrocellulose Lacquer and French Polish (shellac). Students learn both wipe-on and spraying techniques. Skills learned in this guitar finishing class will transfer easily to all areas of woodworking, including instrument finishing, wood sculpture, furniture building and antique restoration.


The French Polish technique has been used for centuries to finish some of the oldest examples of string instruments that are still around today with results that have stood the test of time. Its use of shellac, a byproduct of the lac beetle, makes it an ideal finish for home projects and anywhere that lacks the space for spray finishes. When done right, French Polish will stand up to, and surpass, most other finishes.

Nitrocellulose lacquer is the classic finish for guitars – especially electrics. Most guitar makers don’t use nitro anymore despite its superior quality as a guitar finish. This is because it is more difficult to apply and requires properly maintained equipment and space to work with.

In this workshop students will learn:

  • Wood selection for aesthetics and structural integrity
  • How to operate an industrial spray booth and gun
  • Proper French Polish technique from start to finish
  • Finish removal
  • Staining and color mixing
  • Sunbursting
  • Finish repair and touch-ups (drop filling, super glue repairs, etc.)

Materials & Supplies

Each student will be given several pieces of various hardwoods to practice on. Students are encouraged to book extra time in an open workshop to work on their own instruments and refine their skills in a controlled environment.

NOTE: A high quality organic vapor cartridge respirator with P-95 particle filter is required for this course. Students may bring their own respirator or purchase a new one from the school. Respirator cost is $40.

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Weeknights: 7 pm – 9:30 pm

Weekends: 12 – 4 pm, Saturdays and Sundays


$395, Weeknights

$585, Weekends

*An early registration discount may apply

Tuition includes class fee and materials: wood blanks, paints and stains, sand paper, brushes, nitro-cellulose lacquer. The weekend course fee includes catered lunches and refreshments each day.


Ian Schneller is the founder and chief instructor of the Chicago School of Guitar Making. With over 800 handmade instruments bearing his Specimen name, he brings a wellspring of knowledge to the classroom with the mission of perpetuating the tradition of handcraft and design innovation. He has shown his work in a variety of museums around the country and is a faculty member of the Sculpture Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

How to Register:

Registrations are limited to 8 students. You can register for any of our classes online, by phone or in person.

Register Online

Make your selection of the class dates you wish to attend (and if applicable, the type of kit) in Available Dates column on the upper right of this page and click ENROLL NOW > Enter the required information and then proceed to pay by clicking the Paypal button and choose your method of payment.

NOTE: It is NOT necessary to have a Paypal account to use their service.

Register by Phone 773.489.4830

Call us if you prefer to register over the phone with your credit card. We will send you a confirmation via email, or by snail mail if you prefer.

Register in Person

Come by the shop during business hours and enroll using cash, credit card or a personal check.

Hours of Operation:

Monday – Friday: 12 – 7

Saturday: 12 – 5

Map our location


Click Here for a list of nearby places to stay during seminars, along with transportation information.