What makes a great guitar finish?

High gloss finish on a carved top of the Duke Classic


Soft finish dampens the resonance
There is a certain “rule of thumb” for a good guitar finish – and I’m convinced most luthiers would concur with me on this. In order to get the best tone out of wood, the finish should not dampen the resonance of it, right? And in order to not dampen the vibration of the wood, ideally the finish needs to be thin and hard. Why so?

It is common sense, really. If the finish forms a thick layer over the wood, it obstructs the sound waves within the wood. And if the finish forms a soft layer, it becomes an even more effective damper. And with this same logic, a thick and soft finish would be the worst imaginable guitar finish.

I’ve done my own research
A great guitar finish feels right, looks right and protects the wood right. The finish must be thin and hard to not dampen the sound of the guitar. Instead of blindly doing what was done before me, I have trusted my own intuition and experience, done my own research, and found the very best finishes for my guitars.

Glossy or satin finish?
Other than the above mentioned criteria, the choice of finish is largely a matter of taste. One wants a durable glossy finish, whereas another might want to feel the wood right under the fingertips.

There are a lot of bad finish types available. Some feel sticky, or others make too thick layer no matter how you apply them. Therefore, I have taken the liberty – and responsibility – to rule out all finishes that don’t work well.

I only offer finish options that allow the wood to vibrate – finishes that feel and look great. I have also considered the environmental regulations when choosing the finish options.

Unicorn Classic carved top buffed to high gloss


Almost like glass…
This is the classy guitar look – a glossy appearance, almost like glass. This finish is the most durable kind we make. It stands best against time, and the guitar retains its premium look for years and years to come.

As thin as it can be
Our glossy lacquer is as thin as can be, and has minimal effect to the natural sound of wood. The type of lacquer we use doesn’t feel sticky even in the sweatiest of circumstances. We use glossy finish for both bodies and necks. Even some of the fretboard wood species can be optionally finished to high gloss.

How to clean the glossy finish?
You can keep the glossy finishes nice and clean with the commercially available guitar polishing compounds. You’ll find more detailed tips from our Maintenance Guide.

Paperthin satin back of a Hellcat Deluxe


You can feel the wood in your hands
Our satin finish feels smooth and natural, because it leaves the wood pores open. The finish is literally paper thin, so you can really feel the wood in your hands. This finish doesn’t feel sticky at all, and it retains its satin feel well.

A player’s finish – what does that mean?
One notable feature of the satin finish is, that it wears down relatively fast. It gets scratched and dinged under normal use – there’s no way around it. Many players like the look of the worn down satin finish – but as always with tastes, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. If you like your guitar to stay in mint condition as long as possible, the satin finish is not for you – choose the high gloss finish instead.

We use the satin finish a lot for necks and backs of the bodies. It is a relatively popular choice for guitars with spanish cedar back. Most of our maple fretboards are satin finished too.

How to maintain the satin finish clean?
You can keep the satin finish clean with the commercially available guitar polishing liquids. However – do not use buffing pastes or other compounds (typically car care products, or even certain guitar care products) that will clog and discolor the open pores of the wood – it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to remove such goo from the clogged pores! You’ll find more detailed tips from our Maintenance Guide.

Bare Bone has become one of our most popular finishes fast


Aged jeans, aged furniture, aged guitars…
Aged look has been one of the hot trends in guitars already for quite a while, just like it has become popular in clothing, furnitures and on many other fields.

A heavy relic’d look would be the most dramatic form of artificial aging – wearing down a new guitar as if it would’ve been in heavy use for decades.

We’ve done our share of relic work, but every time doing something like that I’ve felt that it would be cool to offer something different, that would fit to the “aged look” category, but still would be something unique.

A new take on an aged look
Eventually I came up with this special method, that makes wood look like it would’ve laid at the bottom of an ocean for years.

The grain structure feels and looks worn down and embossed – boosted – in a very natural way.

As natural aged look as it gets!
Even if the Bare Bone finished wooden parts look rugged and primitive, they feel exceptionally smooth and comfortable. There is no artificial scratching or structuring done to the wood – it’s all the natural, genuine grain of the wood itself.

Worn down by you, for real
The Bare Bone finish is available to select models only. This finish wears down pretty fast – you can’t really avoid it. So if you want your guitar to keep its new look, better to stick with the glossy finish type we offer. Even our paper thin satin finish is much more durable than the Bare Bone finish.

How to clean it up?
Guitar polishing liquids can be used for cleaning the Bare Bone finish, but do not use buffing pastes or other compounds (typically car care products, or even certain guitar care products) that will clog and discolor the open pores of the wood – it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to remove such goo from the clogged pores!

Oil/wax finished fretboard


If your Ruokangas guitar has a rosewood or ebony fretboard, we have finished it with a special blend of natural waxes. This finish protects the oily tropical wood surface well against sweat and dirt, and gives the fretboard a smooth feel under your fingertips.

We don’t offer oil finish for bodies and necks of our guitars as a standard feature. See instructions how to keep the waxed fretboard clean in our Maintenance Guide.