"Kilometers are passing like kidney stones" – Bob Roll

Guitar Build – Disaster Recovery

May 1st, 2011 Posted in Guitar | No Comments »

I had some serious blushing issues with the paint on the back and sides of the guitar. I sprayed paint when it was raining out and it was way too humid to be doing so. What happened is that moisture in the air was trapped in the paint as the solvents in the paint evaporated quicker than the moisture could.

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I waited a few days to see what would happen and while there was a slight improvement, it was still pretty bad. The next thing I tried was to spray some lacquer thinner on, hoping that it would soften the paint and allow the moisture to escape. Again, there was a slight improvement, but not enough. Next, I wiped the body down with a lint free cloth soaked in lacquer thinner which took off a bit of paint, but more importantly solved my trapped moisture issue.

The blushing was gone, but I was left with an ugly, blotchy, uneven finish. This was okay, all I needed to do was spray some more paint. Before that I wet sanded with 2000 grit paper to get rid of some dust and lint.

Finally had a break in the weather and once my humidity meter dropped to an ok level of 55% it was time to spray colour again. This time things worked out well, and when the masking came off, I was left with this which is pretty much what I had about a week and a half ago…

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Next up is 9 or so coats of clear lacquer. I am going to patiently wait for nice dry weather for that step…lesson learned.

Guitar Build – Body Prep and Paint

April 25th, 2011 Posted in Guitar | No Comments »

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Guitar Build – Neck Finishing

April 25th, 2011 Posted in Guitar | No Comments »

As previously mentioned, I ordered the neck from Musikraft and the standard finish is a seal coat of shellac. The neck is maple, which is a bit pale for my liking so my plan is to finish it with a vintage amber kind of colour.

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Now, I could have had Musikraft finish the neck, but where would the fun in that be? I wanted this build to be  a learning experience, as I haven’t done anything like this before. Besides, it would have been an extra $100. I’m sure I can do it for cheaper and achieve the same professional results as a production shop with my limited knowledge, lack of skill and zero suitable tools or equipment. Right??

I should take a step back and mention that I’ve been using a great resource to research this project. TDPRI.com has a great forum for guitar builds and finishing. Lots of great advice from people that actually know what they are doing.

So, back to finishing the neck. I went down to Mohawk Finishing in Vancouver and picked up some supplies. For the neck I’m using a can of Amber toner and a can of clear satin lacquer.

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I masked off the fretboard, hung the neck up in the garage and got to work. Starting with a coat of clear I then sprayed mist coats of amber, alternating a coat of clear with a coat of amber.

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I ran into a couple of newbie issues…I rushed things and managed to do a crappy job that turned out blotchy and too orange. Damn. So out came the acetone and off came those layers that I’d put on. Back to square one.

Starting over I took my time and ended up with a pretty good finish. I’m pretty pleased with it.

Next up, it’s a bit of an arts and crafts project. I decided that the guitar needs a headstock decal and I can’t live with a blank headstock. Once again it was back to TDPRI for info and I came away with a plan for making a waterslide decal. After making the rounds of the RC shops and craft stores (shudder), I found some decal paper at a hobby shop in Port Moody.

Next is the hunt for a suitable font that has the same feel as the Fender logo. I found a free font strangely enough named Fender. That will work. Next thing is, what to put on the decal? This will essentially be the name of the guitar, so I did some pondering, going through various versions of something-caster or tele-something before finally settling on a name. After printing the decals I still had some work to do. I just have to have gold lettering similar to some decals that I’ve seen in my extensive (obsessive) research. That means I have to flip over the decal so that it is upside down and then using a paint pen, fill in the lettering with gold paint. Before that happens, it’s important to remember to seal the printed decal as the ink is not waterproof. I shot a couple of thin coats of clear lacquer as a sealer.

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Decal is done, then it’s time to put it on the neck. It goes on smoothly but despite making a mockup and doing a test fit the proportions are off, and the something-caster part of the decal is just too big. So I take it off and start over. Not quite back to square one, but annoying enough.

After a couple of hiccups, I finally get something I like and it goes on the neck. Here it is

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Hurricane is an old nickname of mine and Mega is one of my nicknames for my guitar playing, all around cool chick,  super-star daughter Megan.

It’s time to start burying the decal in clear coat. Spraying a couple of mist coats and then spraying some wet coats. I again rushed things a bit and put on a coat that was too wet and ended up with a run, which I then tried to sand out. Doing that I ended up taking off the toner on one of the edges of the headstock. Damn again. Back in the garage I spray some more amber toner. It looks like crap right now, but once it dries we’ll see if I can make it look reasonable.

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Some more sanding, more toner, more sanding, more toner, sanding again…carefully and I think it’s as good as it’s going to get. Definitely not perfect but at this point I can live with it as my only other option is to strip it back to bare wood and start again. No way I’m doing that.

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Now it’s time for more clear on the face of the headstock, I put an additional 8 wet coats over top of the decal. The back of the neck already has somewhere around 8 coats of clear.

That’s it for now. I’m going to wait for the lacquer to cure for 3 weeks or so before beginning the wetsanding and buffing.

Guitar Build – Parts, Parts and More Parts

April 19th, 2011 Posted in Guitar | No Comments »

I received a surprisingly small package full of a surprisingly large number of smaller packages. Which brings me to the parts for my telecaster. With the exception of the pickups and the pickguard, these were purchased through KokoTele Guitar Works, who is an AllParts dealer. AllParts is sort of the guitar world equivalent of QBP for you bike geeks.

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It’s a pretty standard bunch of parts, but since all I had until now was an unfinished wood body and a neck I needed every other little screw, part, and component required to turn these hunks of wood into a guitar. So, just the highlights:

Tuners : Gotoh Vintage tuners

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Bridge : Wilkinson staggered 3 saddle bridge

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Pickups : Tonerider Hot P90 (cream soapbar cover) in the neck and Hot Classics in the bridge

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I also ordered a cream pickguard from Warmoth. The cream pickguard and cream pickup cover are quite different colours, so I may try to find a different pickup cover that more closely matches the pickguard. Or I may just go without the pickguard… we’ll see.

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Guitar Build – Body and Neck Choice

April 12th, 2011 Posted in Guitar | No Comments »

Wow, long time no post here.

I’ve been busy planning a guitar build. Obsessing over a guitar build may be closer to the truth actually. It seems that it has taken over from my cycling obsession for the time being!

So, I’m building a Telecaster. Technically I’m not building it, as I purchased the neck and the unfinished body rather than starting scratch, but I don’t have the tools or skills for that. So I”m assembling a parts-caster.

Here’s the body and neck I have chosen.

Body: One piece unfinished swamp ash from Marc Rutters of Rutters Guitars. He makes some really cool vintage spec and hot rodded components as well. Unfortunately I can’t really justify $50 for a pair of control knobs, no matter how nice they look or how well they are made. The template used for his bodies is taken from an actual 1952 telecaster, while not super important to me is pretty cool nonetheless. I opted for a standard telecaster bridge pickup route, a P90 for the neck and I added creme binding. It looks nice, it’s making me re-think my plans to finish it in an opaque color.

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Neck: The neck was ordered from Musikraft. I chose a maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard, medium jumbo (6150) frets, 1-11/16″ nut width, medium C profile .83″ thick at 1st fret .92″ thick at 12th. I ordered the neck  a tiny little bit thicker than the one on my Gretsch which feels good to me, so this one should be good as well.

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I have a box of parts coming in the mail, currently passing through customs, so next time will be all about the bits and pieces that make up the rest of the guitars.