Well, it was at least a couple of weeks after I sprayed the top of my Les Paul, before I finally found some material I could use for my cover plates for the two opening on the back of the guitar. I couldn’t just buy a standard cover for a Les Paul, as is almost everything else on this guitar, it was custom.
After calling all of my local contacts for some blank materials and striking out, I started looking for some other options. I found something at my local Lowe’s store, which somewhat surprised me. I bought a piece of Lexan plastic that was about 12″x12″ and just over 2mm thick. This plastic is easy to work on a bandsaw or with hand tools, and wasn’t prone to cracking. Oh, and it was pretty inexpensive!
I first drew out my pattern for both openings onto the Lexan and then drilled the attachment holes on my drill press, so I didn’t have to find a good way to hold these smallish pieces to drill. Next it was on to my bandsaw, cutting close to my lines. I stayed a bit away from my lines so I had some cleaning up to do, in order to get them down to my pattern. I have a belt sanding machine, but I was afraid it would impart too much heat and start melting the plastic, so I went the old hand tool route. I think the tool(s) I used might surprise most, if not all. I started off with my Lie-Nielsen woodworking float, that is actually made to flatten the bed of a wooden plane. I held the float up against the end of my bench, registering it against the 90-degree surface, so I’d keep the edges of the cover also at 90-degrees. I pulled and rotated each cover plate while sliding them down the float, removing material in a very controlled fashion and not putting my digits at risk.
|Holding float so the edge will be 90 degrees.|
After bringing both cover pieces down to the pattern lines, I used some 100-grit sandpaper but found it was very slow. I decided to try another odd tool for the job, since I knew I still had enough material for at least another batch. Ha. I picked up one of my spokeshaves. As it turned out, the spokeshave was able to take a nice thin shaving and leave a much nicer surface on the Lexan. I’d never have expected that, but I was quite happy it worked. After I’d cleaned things up with the spokeshave, I still followed it up with a little sandpaper, which was perfect at that point.
|Small Lexan shaving from clamped cover.|
With both covers to size, and with the Lexan being clear, I was able to lay them in place and make sure I wasn’t too close to an edge on the openings on the guitar back. Once I had them in place, I marked for the screw holes and drilled the guitar. I then screwed both plates down and using an X-acto knife, I lightly scored around each multiple times, making sure I ended up fairly deep. I pulled both covers back off and brought in a tool that was perfect for the job. My Lie-Nielsen router plane.
|Router plane removing wood from guitar cavity.|
I used my covers to set the depth stop so I didn’t accidentally go too far. I started out fairly shallow, as I didn’t want to risk that I might overshoot the depth at which I’d scored around the plates. When working in this manner, with this tool, it’s important to remember to keep pressure on the handle over your reference surface. If I forgot this, I’d likely dig down at an angle and have an ugly surface. After each pass with the router plane, I’d score around the opening again, and continued the cycle until I was at full depth. It was much less nerve wracking than a powered router, and I didn’t need a dust mask or any eye protection.
|Lip for cover complete.|
|Les Paul back with both covers in place.|
I know it’s a bit difficult to see the covers while they were still clear, as my Lexan arrived, but it wouldn’t be long until some of the new cool spray paints for plastics had them nice and black.
More to come….
Thanks for checking out my blog and let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.
Well, I know many won’t believe this, but I finally put some nitrocellulose lacquer in my brand new Earlex HV5500 and sprayed the top of my Les Paul.
I went with nitrocellulose lacquer to replicate what Gibson used on their guitars in the late 1950’s, as the 1959 Les Paul is my all time favorite guitar, not that I have $500,000 to toss at one (cost may be less now, but it was up there a few years ago). Many Les Paul aficionados have attempted to quantify what made the Les Pauls from the late 1950’s so special, in their tone and sustain, but this is extremely difficult when dealing with an organic product made mostly of wood. With this, I thought I’d rather replicate as much as I could, of the original building components, including the woods and finishes.
Being a novice sprayer, I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I just focused on the top and headstock the first day. Surprisingly, the application with this HVLP system was much easier to accomplish than anything else I’d ever used (talking spray cans here). I taped up some of the guitar, to prevent the spray from hitting it. Primarily, I’d toyed around with trying my hand at a sunburst, and the tape would make sure I only left the color where it was needed. After the initial spraying of the top, I decided I really liked the coloration I’d obtained with just straight lacquer. It has a sort of warmth to it, that almost looks to age the guitar a little.
|Top after first day’s session of spraying lacquer.|
After the top was dry, which didn’t take very long, I noticed the surface was much rougher feeling than what I’d expected or could tell from the looks. It felt almost like some grit of sandpaper. This was probably just my inexperienced application technique, but I did lay down just enough product so the top looked consistently wet.
I’d read about letting the lacquer completely dry before attempting any sanding or polishing, which I couldn’t really find anything advising exactly how long that should take, so I decided it was best to stop at that point. I had applied somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 – 12 coats sequentially the first day.
I wanted to spray the rest of the guitar, but I hadn’t yet purchased any material to use for the control covers on the back, nor created the recesses for the same. I knew I wanted to have both completed before moving forward, so that was all for now.
Thanks to all who have hung in there and are still reading. I’ll have more soon! Promise!!
I wanted to apologize for those who have followed my blog, as its been way too long between articles. Unfortunately, part of this was related to a medical issue. I had a smallish place on the side of my nose that would seem to heal 99% of the way only to get bumped or have […]