French Polish

Achieving a professional quality shellac finish applied using the French polish technique is much easier than one might think. This course will show you how to achieve professional results in a fraction of the time traditionally needed.

Buy Now $77.00 31 Lessons 6:10:09

July Promo: Get the audiobook “My Life as a Luthier and Instructor” for free!

Eligible on purchases of $150 or more

About This Course

Welcome to the Robert O’Brien Online French polish Course. This course is chapter 12 of Robert O’Brien’s Online Classical Guitar Building Course. You can purchase the entire online classical course which includes this chapter or you can purchase just this chapter separately here.

This is not your grandpa’s French polish method. This is a modern day approach to the traditional method of applying shellac known as French polish. It greatly reduces the amount of time needed to French polish your guitar. It also covers surface prep in great detail.

In this 6 hour long course you will learn about:

Acoustically speaking shellac is arguably the best finish available for a musical instrument finish. Follow along as Robert de-mystifies the ancient art of French polish.

Your French polishing course and acoustic building course have been fun and beneficial. I review them a lot. Your French polishing approach has really helped, particularly with soundboard finishing. I learned French polishing from (Well known luthier and finisher), but could never get the technique to work. Bill
See what others are saying


I did your FP course a good while ago, and still go back to it from time to time. It's a perfect way to finish, especially in a dusty shop with no dedicated space for finishing Bob
After only an hour (two at most) I never saw the finish come up so fast to such a smooth luster. I know I need to do a few more sessions but, holy cow! Good stuff Robbie! Worth it for sure. ANYONE would benefit from the French polish course. Thank you! Tim
This is another course I refer to often and constantly pickup new bits of information. Great camera work also as I can see the shellac spiriting off. Todd
The Best Online French polishing course available. Doug Proper - The Guitar Specialist
You won't regret going with Robbie's FP method. No finish is perfect or foolproof, but Robbie's method is as close as you can get Peter
I viewed Robbies online French polish course, and it is fantastic! If you are considering French polish I would highly recommend it. His method will save you a ton of time, and with a little practice you will have very satisfactory results. Mark
I signed up for Robbie’s 6 day build (this May) and since I’d bought the 6 day videos as he recommended (and it has a full French polish section) I finished that guitar simply from watching the video and it turned out great. Pat
Robbie's course it's fantastic! My first experience with French Polishing was in person with Robbie when I built a guitar with him, and I can tell you the online course doesn't miss any of the details. The great thing about the course is you can rewatch sections. His camera work is really good as well and you can see the shellac flashing off in many shots. Todd
With Robbie’s course it a real added value to any stringed instrument. Not to hard to master and a skill for a lifetime:) Dick
I loved Robbie’s video course. Clear, concise and well explained and you can watch it as often as you need! Barry
I paid my dues learning to French polish until I purchased Robbie's FP course ! Steve
I finally got my French Polish Course! I’m learning a ton! Tim
After only about 2-3 hours this neck is looking great! The French Polish course is a secret weapon! Tim
Robbie, this is my first time with trying French Polish after watching your videos. After just two rounds on the back of this cherry tenor ukulele with garnet its absolutely glowing! I'm sold on French Polish Brett
I’ve had good luck with this technique-thank you it has opened up a new world for me in the one area that I always fumbled! Jim
It was a great course, and I learned a lot of things about finishing that apply to whatever kind of finish you apply. Robby's technique for French polish course is easy, proven, and effective, and I use it on my instruments to get a beautiful finish. Christ
I've begun taking a French polishing course. Have stayed away from it because it seemed to difficult. But, Robbie O'Brien has completely demystified the process in his online course. His instructions are clear and comprehensive (the course is more than 6 hours in length, broken up into manageable sections. It's clear enough even for me to follow. If French polish isn't your thing, he has a wealth of other video courses, as well a ton of luthier tip videos. And he'll also teach you how to build a guitar in one week, (they must go through barrels of espresso) you can take a course at his shop. Food for thought. Michael Propsom Guitars
I've begun taking a French polishing course. Have stayed away from it because it seemed to difficult. But, Robbie O'Brien has completely demystified the process in his online course. His instructions are clear and comprehensive (the course is more than 6 hours in length, broken up into manageable sections. It's clear enough even for me to follow. If French polish isn't your thing, he has a wealth of other video courses, as well a ton of luthier tip videos. And he'll also teach you how to build a guitar in one week, (they must go through barrels of espresso) you can take a course at his shop. Food for thought. Michael Propsom Guitars
I'm working my way through that course now, it's fantastic!!! John
I finished French polishing my guitar using your method. It turned out great, so I thought I'd send some pics. Shawn
I’m a fan of your French Polish online course. This is my third guitar and first time doing the technique. A much more pleasant experience than the spray on lacquer approach. The video format was perfect for just playing while I finished my guitar right along with you. I’m very happy with the end result. Thanks for sharing your method. Brant
I've been building instruments since the 70's, and I've French polished a whole bunch of guitars/banjos/ukes/etc. I've been happy with the quality of what I have been doing. But your FP course has still been a revelation to me. Not so much for the technique, but more so for the thought process behind the technique. I've never really stopped to think about what's really going on at any particular part of the FP process--it's always worked, so I didn't wonder. But your course really stressed some of what's going on behind the scenes step by step and it's been very helpful. Dave
I think the course Robbie offers is great! Barry
I very recently purchased the FP course and definitely recommend it (as it was recommended to me by other members of this forum). I only wish I'd thought to get it a couple of months back. It's a great course. Ted
I did this course a few years ago, and I keep returning to it. French polishing is not easy, but I have tried a number of different approaches and yours is definitely the best for beginners wanting a hi gloss finish without complex equipment. It is also extremely well set out and the real time aspects give a good idea of what to expect. Many thanks, Rob Rob
I am doing FP the Robbie O'Brien way. Works very well, especially when your time is limited. Kevin
I can not say enough about Robbie O'Brien's French polishing technique and his on line class. I have successfully learned a few different methods including Milburn's. Robbie's is the clearest most straight forward, and repeatable method I have tried. For me it was worth the cost of the course, I have use this technique on most of my classical guitars. John
Thanks for the help you gave me last yr when I was learning the French polishing, your tutorials have proven very helpful! Clyde
Love the lessons! John
I have been using your French Polishing Video technique with great success. Dean in Canada
I really like Robbie’s techniques from his video. I’m well-pleased with the results I achieved - especially given this was my first attempt at French polishing. It’s quite forgiving. Barry
I want to thank you for the French Polishing course. I have finished a couple of guitars and they look great. I also did the arm bevel course and the results were also great. Steven
I was really struggling with French polishing my # 1, Flamenco "blanca" until I purchased your French Polishing course. So many good points reinforced in your video. I was definitely experiencing the terrible "too's"; too wet, too hard, and too long on one spot. Your teaching method and repeated emphasis on the procedures reshaped my brain! It totally saved me and the guitar! Steve
Just wanted to thank you for your FP video! I did my back and one side this weekend (in between honey-do's) and am really pleased with the results so far - and, I find the whole process really satisfying. I'm a long way from done but wanted to add to the feedback you're getting for this video, it's really great. Clay
The course is fantastic, great results in almost no time. Today I started the polishing on a Portuguese guitar, about half hour, 45 minutes in every surface and it is already really good coverage and shine. Best wishes, keep up the amazing work. Pedro
Recently I bought you French polishing course and it's been really excellent to see the improvement of the finish and the time of the process efficiency. Pedro
Hi Robert, I recently purchased your informative online Modern French polishing course, Fantastic application method! Gary in Australia
I learned a very traditional French polish technique in, of all places, high school shop. I have done it that way ever since and was consistently getting great results. The method you taught was so much easier and way quicker than the traditional technique and, after a few sample boards, the results are every bit as good. I have an instrument almost ready for finish and can’t wait to French polish it using the method you taught. Mike
Canadian Luthier Evan Kingma here! I was an apprentice in Granada for 5 years and the French Polishing method I learned there is very traditional and time consuming. Recently I have been exploring ways to cut down on the time it takes to polish when I came across your method and videos. I purchased the FP videos and have been watching them. They are excellent! Not only as instructional videos but they are very entertaining too! Maybe its just because I am a luthier but I find myself watching them when I am on lunch break instead of TV or whatnot, I love it! So I first just wanted to thank you for the videos! The method is great! Evan - Kingma Guitars
I'm close to finishing my first build so looking forward to French polishing based on your course. I've read about FP for years but seeing you do it on video moves it from a mystery to a process - very motivating and exciting - thanks! Clay
Thank you so much Robbie for the French polishing online course, it was so easy to follow and adapt to my own build! I’m very happy with the result. Graham in Australia
I can highly recommend Robbie’s online French Polishing course, I did the course during lockdown & it’s great! Mark
I wanted to give you a big thanks for teaching me the great art of French Polish. It is the only finish I use…Period! Dave
I learned French Polishing ad hoc from a couple of friends and really appreciate your sensible, methodical approach to it.  Kevin
I followed your French polishing video and was very happy with the results (thanks). Kevin
Working on my first build and am at the finishing stage. I purchased and studied your French Polish course (very helpful!). I started with the neck and it came out great. I am now working on the back. Mark
My last build was a parlor guitar for my wife, and I achieved my best finish work yet using your French polishing course. John
I met you at MASW and ended up purchasing your French polish course. I have been working on finishing the guitar I made with "another builder". I did a practice board and it was beautiful. Kevin
Your online French Polish class is really great. I’ve made leaps and bounds after watching your videos! Matthew's Guitar Company
I just bought your French polishing video (its great, thanks) You've got an accessible approach and its great to actually see how to do it - and it looks freakin great. Clay
Big thanks for all you do for the luthier community - I’ve learned so much from your videos over the years. BTW, your French Polish video was a breakthrough for me, I use your technique on all my instruments. Mike
I followed Robbie's 'French Polish ' course to the letter and was extremely impressed with the outcome (as was my client). As always, his approach is straight-ahead, no 'fluff' and the process was demystified completely for me. Further, it's nearly a 'real-time' approach in that one could go through the course while working on an instrument (with the added benefit of being able to pause / rewind / revisit as needed. I've now done several instruments this way and have been impressed w/ how forgiving and simple it is. Mike
I'll just add another +1 for Robbie's course. Followed it exactly on attempt #1, was done in 2-3 days, strung up, no imprinting or any finish problems, now a year out. Lamar
If you are planning on putting multiple layers in a day and get the finish done in 3 or so days, I highly recommend using Robbie's " dry" method. I purchased the course on his website and honestly could not recommend it enough. First time I tried French polish it was a disaster, but I am now on my third guitar with his method, and if you follow it exactly it works. Mo
I'm very happy with the French polish I get following Robbie's course. Tony
Just a note to say THANK YOU for putting together the French polishing course, this will be a game changer! I finished working through the course last month or so, and just had a chance today to finally make a test run on some scrap pieces of back and top. I'm only just past the first level and I can see this is gonna be great in terms of results and even more so in time efficiency. Thanks much! Shawn
I finished the French polishing technique in your DVD. It’s brilliant and worth every penny. I’ve viewed and re-viewed this course and really found it helpful and my results were fantastic! Barry
I use a technique I learned from Robbie's French polish class. It is the best most repeatable method I have used. If one has the patience a guitar can be polished in a half day that looks good off of the pad. John
I just finished the French Polish course, and want to thank you for sharing that. I've learned/seen other methods, but yours makes so much more sense to me. Thanks again for your help, expertise, and teaching! Shawn
If any luthiers or craftspeople out there are interested in learning this amazing skill of French polishing (the best finish for musical instruments), I can highly recommend not only this class, but classes, in general, with Robbie O'Brien. All of his material is excellent, of the highest quality, and very entertaining, as well. You will learn a new skill, and have fun at the same time. Christ
Today I’m working on the finish. Sanded all morning and the French Polishing all afternoon. I love the quiet thought that goes into this finishing technique and am so happy to have learned it from Robbie O’Brien Allen
I polish all my tops and that normally takes me a week. I bought your video, watched it, just banged out a top that’s as good as anything else I’ve ever made in just under 2 hours. Your technique is gold! Matt
I put off any attempt at learning French polishing due to the mystique around it as you mention but you've broken it down nicely. 100% traditional, or otherwise, the results are encouraging and I look forward to being able to share this with my own students in the shorter build courses versus getting into spraying. Mike
I have found your French polishing course great and in the process of finishing 2 steel stings builds. Mo in the UK
Your French polishing course and acoustic building course have been fun and beneficial. I review them a lot. Your French polishing approach has really helped, particularly with soundboard finishing. I learned French polishing from (Well known luthier and finisher), but could never get the technique to work. Bill
Since doing your French Polishing course a few years ago, I have tried a few different finishes, but finally settled on FP as my 'forever finish', thanks to you. Robert
French polish. I did Robbie's course and it is excellent. Rob
I purchased yr French polishing course 2 days ago and spent all day watching it all before having a go. I live in Melbourne Australia. I have made about 20 guitars and mainly applied lacquer finish in past. Thank you for your excellent explanation and demonstration in the course. I will be coming back for more as they are excellent value and i will continue to learn new tricks, and alternative techniques. Frank
I think Robbie OBrien's DVD French Polish - A Modern Approach, is easy to follow and I am happy with the results that I get. Bruce
I’m wrapping up my second guitar, which I finished following your French Polish method. I’m really happy with the results. That’s for making those videos. Eric
Thanks again for this video, it was just what I needed to take my builds to the next level. Phil
After purchasing Robbie's French Polish class during this Covid lockdown, I am a little more than half way through my first attempt. I have tried this off and on for years, never had any luck. But so far, I am loving this technique! Really liking this finish! Phil
I'm on the home stretch of finishing my first build (A steel string OM type using Robbie's course.). I also opted for the French Polish finish and got Robbie's course on that also. Took me 4 days and I just wrapped up on the finish and I'm happy to report that I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. Jud
I have purchased and followed you French polishing course and found it to be superb…good course and highly recommended! Mitchell in Scotland
After finishing your French Polishing course I took my hand built guitar to a local woodworking store as they wanted to see how the finish had come out. The employees were very complimentary and wanted to know how I had gotten such a nice finish. Chuck
My first attempt at French Polish finish on my third O’Brien classical first cutaway version. Very pleased thus far, the lesson on FP is very good! Robert
I purchased your video on French Polishing a guitar. This was the first time I had taken this approach to finishing, and I was extremely please with the results. Jeff
I really liked your teaching style with lots of repetition interspersed with each advancement. I have been looking for years for a finishing method that produces spectacular results. I think I finally found it. I have tried lots of things, some off the shelf and some innovative. The way you have this distilled down to 190 proof is just outstanding. It's very little work and very fast. I never ever would have come up with it on my own. Now I think I can finish the one guitar I have without making big mistakes. Bryan
You and I did a french polish on my dread last night and it turned out great! I make a pretty decent guitar, but I have been struggling with the finish. This is perfect since it isn't toxic and is not that hard to do, if one follows your video. Yes, you were right there with me via video, step by step. My applicator would even start to grab at the same time as yours in the vid. Happy I bought your video. And as an added bonus, the french polish has left a nice clear polish on my fingernails. This will definitely be the choice of finish going forward. Thanks for putting all of your tips on line and sharing your amazing knowledge. I may have to try the arm bevel soon. Kathy in Colorado
I built a new guitar recently with a design I did from scratch. On this guitar I used the directions in your arm bevel video and the directions from your french polish course. Both were great and easy to follow. I watched another builder's french polish course and it was so complicated, I was ready to abandon the idea until I watched yours. Mark in Colorado
I would like to express deep gratitude for your French polish course. By far the best result I have been able to get from a fp technique! Thank you for making it available. Ben
Mr. O'Brien's online French polish course, is an incredibly well thought out and put together set of instructions on his methods and materials. The entire process is clearly explained and the because of the excellent video work, you really feel as though you are the room with him. Chris
If you don’t have Robbie’s course on French polishing, do yourself a favor and get it! Joe in Idaho
I am a furniture maker and recently purchase your Shellac video class. I tried you process on a jewelry box and I could not be more happy. The results were superb and I thank you for sharing your process. Doug S
French Polish
Lesson 1: Finishing Overview 0:49
Lesson 2: Rounding over Bindings 15:12
Lesson 3: Intro to Sanding 2:56
Lesson 4: Gap Filling 7:03
Lesson 5: Sanding the Peghead 13:32
Lesson 6: Sanding the Neck 6:17
Lesson 7: Sanding the Body 9:39
Lesson 8: Masking 15:33
Lesson 9: Shellac Seal Coat 7:13
Lesson 10: Intro to pore Filling 7:50
Lesson 11: Pore Filling 14:26
Lesson 12: Sanding the Pore Fill 9:33
Lesson 13: Sealing the pore fill 4:48
Lesson 14: Pore Filling the Neck 11:06
Lesson 15: Top Prep 11:10
Lesson 16: Mixing Shellac 12:05
Lesson 17: French polish technique - Sealing 21:20
Lesson 18: French polish technique - Polishing 27:13
Lesson 19: French polish technique - Leveling and more polishing 24:31
Lesson 20: Spiriting off 14:13
Lesson 21: French polishing the sides 28:28
Lesson 22: Fixing Dents 5:34
Lesson 23: Spiriting off the side 12:39
Lesson 24: French polishing the other side 10:13
Lesson 25: French polishing the top 20:56
Lesson 26: French polishing the top (cont.) 19:56
Lesson 27: Finishing the Neck 23:30
Lesson 28: Finishing the Peghead 11:38
Lesson 29: Rubbing Out the Finish 11:14
Lesson 30: Polishing problem areas 2:23
Lesson 31: Finishing Conclusion 1:29