"Kilometers are passing like kidney stones" – Bob Roll

Guitar Build – Body Prep and Paint

April 25th, 2011 Posted in Guitar

The body is a nice piece of  swamp ash from Rutters Guitars. My plan all along was an opaque colour, but when the body arrived I started second guessing that plan, as I think the grain looks awesome one it. What to do?


Before I get to paint I need to prep the body. Ash is an open grain wood, so grain filler is needed. Without it the paint will sink into the grain and the final finish won’t be smooth. When I was at Mohawk I picked up some grain filler and sanding sealer.


The body as it came was pretty smooth so I assumed (I know…) that it was sanded and prepped a bit before it got to me, so my first step was a couple of coats of sanding sealer. Then it was time for grain filling. This stuff is a thick paste like material that gets spread onto the body where it sits until the surface starts to dry out. After that it is scraped off the surface, hopefully leaving the filler in the grain. Once it dries, I lightly sand and then buff with a cloth. I then repeat the process with another coat of grain filler. I wasn’t sure if it was necessary, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. Hopefully it was enough of an effort to fill the grain and let me get my smooth finish.

Next I sprayed a few coats of sanding sealer, followed by a light sand to get a nice level, smooth surface. Things are looking pretty good right now.

Now the paint. In my research (obsession) for this project I came to really like some old Fender colours, Sonic blue and Daphne blue. Both are a light pastel blue. Based on pictures etc, I noticed that what is called Sonic blue varies quite a bit and the same for Daphne. Often the names seemed interchangeable although they are definately distinct, separate colours. I wasn’t looking for an exact colour match, but more of a general idea or “feel” of the colour I wanted.

When I was at Mohawk getting my other supplies and flipping through colour chips, the guy helping me discovered that they had 1/3 of a gallon of pre-mixed lacquer that was right in the range of what I was looking for. I figured it was workable so I brought it home with me. After looking at it a bit I decided it may be a bit too blue, a bit vibrant. I fired up the google-machine and ordered a bottle of white Mixol tint, figuring I could lighten it up a bit.

I should take a step back and mention that although I now have paint I have no way of spraying it, so I picked up this spray system. Basically a can of propellant with a nozzle and a bottle to hold the paint. Wasn’t sure how well it would work, but I figured it’s worth a shot.


The white tint arrived, the weather got a little better (not the 90% humidity, rainy weather we’ve been having) and it was time to start spraying the body. I fill up the sprayer bottle with 6oz of paint and try to tone down the blue by adding some white tint. I got up to 200 drops of white, testing the colour every so often. There wasn’t a huge difference after adding the white tint so I said to heck with it and started painting.

It didn’t start well. The paint came out in big splotchy blobs. Thinking about it I realized that I had neglected to add thinner as per the instructions included with the sprayer. (Yes, I eventually read the instructions). Thinner added and it is spraying a bit better although it was going on the body really quite dry. I stop again and consult the wisdom of the internet. The paint is drying in the air before it reaches the surface I’m painting…I need to slow down the drying time by adding more thinner. More thinner added and the paint is going on well and I’m finished with part one of my painting plan.


The front is painted, I just have to decide what to do with the back and sides. My original plan was to use a dark blue for the back and sides, and that’s what I decide to stick with. With Megan’s help I pick out a can of Dupli-Color Navy blue metallic paint. This is lacquer so there will (should) be no compatibility issues with everything else I have used and plan to use on the body. This paint went on well and before it dried too  much I pulled off the masking tape. Looks good! In low light it’s dark, almost black. Under lights or sunlight it brightens up and the metallic sparkles. I like it.


There’s a little touch up to do, mostly around where the binding wasn’t masked perfectly. I also need to scrape the paint of the front edge of the binding. This is a very narrow strip of binding, maybe 1/8″ thick, so it was impossible to mask and will be a bit tricky to scrape. I have an idea on a little homemade tool for this, thanks again to the interweb.

Di-freakin-saster. I started to spray some paint to touch up a couple of spots. Unfortunately things went south pretty quickly. Once again it was my fault for not taking my time and being impatient. This time it is weather related. It started raining which of course causes the humidity level to go through the roof. Instead of waiting for dry weather I went ahead and painted and the end result was blushing, which is moisture trapped by the paint.


Stupid mistake. Argh (I used much stronger language than that). I’m going to give it a few days to see if it improves at all, but at this point it looks like my only option is to strip it back and re-paint… when it isn’t raining.

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