The finish of a musical instrument can be critical to its musical success. At Bear Meadow, we use materials that at first glance seem common, but we use them in a not-so-common way.

I use a rare and fairly costly shellac (about three times as much as the best Behlen's shellac) that I get from Kremer Pigments, on Elizabeth St, in New York City. It's called Ruby shellac, and gives a beautiful glow to the wood. (Like a woman's rouge makeup: you're not supposed to know it's there – it's purpose to make you want to look at her face more.) Shellac is one of the hardest finishes, even harder than the varnish we use. This makes it a very good underlayment for the varnish, as well as a good sealer for the inside of the instrument.

I use a "one-pound cut" mixture: one pound of shellac diluted in a gallon of alcohol. Of course, you don't want to make up that much, as dissolved shellac, has a shelf life of a year or less. I make up small batches with this formula: 1 ounce of shellac in a cup of alcohol. Use a specially formulated denatured alcohol, not the kind you get at hardware stores--these alcohols have water in them, which will not help your shellac at all.

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