I finally finished all the sawing, routing, planing, and chiseling for the guqin parts—except for the tuning pegs. It feels good to have reach this stage, as the next steps mainly involve assembling and finishing. Most luthiers adhere to the traditional technique of applying coats of lacquer from the varnish tree (Toxicodendron vernicifluum). The toxic and caustic sap contains urushiol, which polymerizes to form a hard surface; some builders add deer horn powder to increase the hardness and abrasion-resistance of the playing surface. Normally, I like to be a purist, but in this instance, I chose to substitute using a modern polymer/additive with similar physical properties—fiberglass impregnated in epoxy. The materials are readily available, less caustic, and easier to work with. Plus, I can apply techniques from my previous boatbuilding experience.
Hopefully, this experiment in modernizing the most ancient of Chinese instruments proves to be worthwhile.