This has probably been discussed a million times, but I have never gotten a definitive answer.
A "French" polished mandolin (or other instrument) is finished, to the best of my understanding, by dissolving shellac flakes in a solvet (alcohol) and applied in thin layers by "building" up the finish. I understand a small lint-free rag is used to apply the schellac.
I have seen brochures for the "finest" European varnishes that is used on furniture and I assume could be used on instruments. This is already in a liquid form and is usually thinned with a solvent and also built up in layers.
Although I have heard of mandolins being "French" polished, I never see them advertised as a "shellac" finish. It is either lacquer or varnish.
What's the scoop? Are maker calling their "French" polished mandolins "varnish" as just a generic term. Help me understand!