Posts by date

Lacquer continued, back and sides – Final

Posted by is9582 on October 31, 2013 with No Commentsas , , , , , , , , , , ,

A little over a week ago I’d completed the control cavity openings as well as their covers. It was then time to move forward and spray the remaining sections of the guitar. To spray the back, I cut out some additional cavity covers made out of card stock, so I wouldn’t get lacquer in the cavity nor all over my newly created Lexan covers.

Back sprayed with lacquer, with alternate covers in place.

 The guitar back, as well as the back of the headstock, were both just as easy to spray as the top versions of both. Since I’m such a novice at spraying, the back of the neck and the edge surface of the guitar body was a bit more of a challenge. I learned very quickly that adjusting the volume of product available at the trigger was imperative for the edge, seemingly more so than other parts of the guitar. Since it doesn’t require much extra product to have a runny surface, I might suggest spraying the edge with the back of the guitar towards the ground. This way, just in case there are any runs, they will never show on the top edge of your guitar. (Don’t ask me how I know this). One other helpful hint (or at least it was to me) is to have a piece of soft cotton fabric that you can soak in lacquer thinner, just in case you get a run. I did this, as an “Oh my god, how am I going to handle this” type of scenario. I’d lowered the product level, but obviously not enough, as I sprayed an edge and it looked like I’d grabbed a can of lacquer and just poured it on. My mind was racing and the first thing I grabbed was a paper towel, which was a total mistake. Luckily I had an old T-shirt close by that I could cannibalize, which I did, and that arm of the shirt soaked in lacquer thinner removed the glob I’d just laid down, along with the now stuck paper towel (sorry, no photos as I was about to pull my hair out, thinking I’d totally messed up my 3-year project guitar). I was soooo relieved. I let it dry and resprayed with a much reduced product amount and it worked. Whew!

So now I’d waited just over a week for the lacquer to totally dry. It was time I wanted to test to see if it was ready to wet-sand and buff out. I had a little overspray on a board, from the later spraying, I used as my tester. It seemed to be accepting so I moved forward. First I used some 800-grit wet/dry sandpaper with water and a wooden block, to keep flat areas flat. Again, I tested on an area I could easily respray if it was problematic; the headstock. All was fine so the whole guitar received the same attention.

I went to the local auto parts store to purchase some polishing compound and some higher grit wet/dry sandpaper. While there, I picked up a kit for restoring the headlight lenses on cars. The kit I got had a application sponge pad for a drill, wet/dry sandpaper in 800, 1000, 1500 & 2000 grits, along with a bottle of very fine polishing compound.

Headlight kit in front of finished guitar.

 After using the kit on my wife’s car, and seeing the end result, I thought it might also provide good results with the lacquer on my guitar. Again, I tested on a very small area of the guitar, and I saw a face shining back at me, so I proceeded. I took my time and started with the 1000 grit sponge pad it provided, and worked all areas of the guitar until the same dull scratch pattern was seen. I made sure to keep a cup of water handy, to dip the sandpaper when it started clogging. I also had a spray bottle, but I actually like dipping the paper, as I could also better clear the paper in the cup.

After running through the 2000-grit paper, it was already showing some reflection, but couldn’t go without some polishing compound. I cut another small area of cotton fabric and folded it up into a small square and applied a little dab of the polishing compound. Think about half the size of Lincoln’s head on a Pennie. I lightly spread it around a smallish area of the surface and then focused on that portion until I had a mirror-like reflection. I used both circular and straight movements as a combination. After working over the whole surface, I took the soft plush towel that came with the headlight kit, and completely removed any glazed compound. I would repeat on any areas that were less than mirror-like. It took somewhere between 4-6 hours for me to do the wet sanding through the polishing compound, by hand. I then applied a super light coating of good furniture wax, and buffed to a crazy shine when all was said and done.

Even though I hadn’t initially planned to use that kit for both the headlights and my guitar, it turned out to be a pretty sweet deal. The kit was about $27, and it saved me from needing to replace about $500 worth of headlight lenses as well as the sandpaper cost and polishing compound for my guitar. In my books thats one heck of a good deal, and the best part was the results are amazing! Oh, and here’s a larger photo of the finished product (the guitar, not the car).

Thanks for checking out my blog. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.


Custom control cavity shape and cover materials

Posted by is9582 on October 31, 2013 with No Commentsas , , , , , ,

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.


Its lacquer time!!

Posted by is9582 on October 31, 2013 with No Commentsas , , , , ,

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!!

Quick blog update

Posted by is9582 on October 31, 2013 with No Comments
in Uncategorized
as , , ,

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 […]