I've struggled with this for a while and can't find any articles or videos showing how best to mask the soundhole for finishing. The Taylor factory tour youtube video shows that they use tape somehow, but it doesn't look well-sealed. Others suggest to blow a balloon in the soundhole, but I find that if you're a applying a wipe-on finish (e.g. TruOil), the proud bump of the balloon gets in the way.

Here's a photo I borrowed from the AGF that shows how John S. Kinnard masks his soundhole. Does anyone know how he does this? I've sent him an email through his site but haven't heard back yet. I can see a crease in the center of the mask, so he must fold it in half, insert it, then apply it somehow.


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Put in the balloon then slide in a stiff plastic sheet and it will flatten the bulge and keep solvent from melting the balloon. You could also use a plastic top from dip, rice pudding, margarine, etc.

Kind of like, Robbie, I've used a plastic lid that's just a bit larger than the sound hole with a hole in the center. The balloon can be placed through the hole and inflated, It holds the plastic lid but with out being in the way much.

For the record, I don't plug the hole when I French Polish shellac. Why do you need to plug it with tru-oil?

Thanks Robbie and Ned, this helps.

Ned, I just found an article describing something similar to your suggestion. Is this what you're talking about?

I want to mask the soundhole because, knowing myself, I'll probably drop something in the soundhole and make it all sloppy. Besides, this is my very first build (from a kit) and my wife wanted to do it with we have two newbies in the workshop. :)

If you're curious, we have build threads going on the AGF and UU.

Thanks again! I'm going to try the balloon and cardboard.

Couldn't you just crumple up some newspaper inside the sound hole. Being you are wiping on a finish, what little bit of finish that could get in the sound hole would be caught by the newspaper.


Yep, you can and it also provides some stand-off between the edge of the sound hole and the "packing" - but I do like the balloon and margarine lid sort of thing.

Now, has anybody got a stroke of brilliance solution for doing "F" holes.....easy and simple would be good...I already have complicated and difficult!


I've stuffed newspaper inside F holes on mandolins, would work on guitars too, I suppose.


I once used a rectangular strip of cardboard and a balloon on an F hole guitar. It did 't fit as tightly as I would have liked on the ends but it did keep overspray off the back anyway.  One nice thing about the balloon trick is that it gives you a way to hold on to the cardboard when you are ready to remove it. I REALLY hate fishing things in and out of F holes. 

 I don't like newspaper in an F hole instrument because it's too hard to get out. The F shape is prone to splitting and I just don't have the patience to take the paper out a bit at a time.  Haven't tried the foam under cardboard but I think the balloon trick is the easiest trick to insert and remove that I've found.

Cool info Ned, thanks! From a sourcing perspective, balloons are much easier to find than foam rubber, and can also work for all different sizes of instruments from guitars to ukes. I don't have the f-hole challenge, but I think I'll try both the balloon and foam rubber methods - both with cardboard or plastic on top - to see which one works best for me.

Thanks again.

Hey everyone, I just heard back from John Kinnard:

"That's just cardboard held in place from underneath with foam rubber. The cardboard is slightly bigger than the hole."

Foam rubber sounds so simple! Much simpler than a balloon. I'd imagine you could do the same with the F-hole by just cutting the foam rubber and cardboard appropriately?

What could be simpler than an balloon? As Bogart said, "just put your lips together and blow."

Oops ... it was Bacall's line.


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