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FINISHING THE GUITAR  -  1

NOTE:  The photos on this page are thumbnails.  Click on the photo to see the full sized photo.  

wpe4.jpg (11047 bytes)  Once the tape is off the binding the finishing process begins.  First I file and scrape the binding flush with the body - top, back and sides.  Then the sanding process begins.   Not much to say about it - tedious but essential.  Here is the butt wedge area after it has been sanded.

I generally start with a coat of vinyl sealer before the filling process.  This means that the wood takes on only a very minimal color from the filler because I like the look of the wood as natural as possible.

wpe4.jpg (11618 bytes)  Occasionally I will stain mahogany.  Here I am staining the mahogany back of one of the harp guitars.  This is a water based stain, and works very well.  The only problem with staining  is that I must scrape the binding and purfling very carefully to remove the stain from this decorative feature.   For a view of the scraping process, go here.

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 I use a cup from sour cream or chip dip (cleaned, of course) to protect the inside from lacquer while finishing.  It is held in place with a piece of foam rubber.

 

 

  

I have a large number of "handles" for the bodies.  These are simple a piece of wood with a dovetail cut on the end.  This makes it much easier to control the body while spraying.

 

 

 

 Voila!!

 

 

 

  I have developed a new way of holding the body in the spraybooth.  I made a small dovetail out of 1/2" Baltic birch, used some threaded inserts and a hangar bolt to create a handle.  The advantage is that the sides of the guitar are completely unobstructed .  The thumbscrew simply screws in until it hits the back of the dovetail on the body and applies pressure - this makes the handle completely solid and secure.

  Another view.

  and another.

 

wpe4.jpg (8173 bytes)  After the body is sanded, I begin the finishing process.  I use nitrocellulose lacquer - like most current makers.  I begin with a vinyl sealer - which is a good sealer and tends to minimize cold checking of the final finish.  The back and sides are then filled with a dark wood filler, to fill the porous grain, and after suitable drying time, are sanded back to a clean smooth surface - I find a 220 grit sandpaper is more than sufficient.  Then another coat of vinyl sealer, followed by lacquer.  My regimen is four coats in one day, a week of drying time, followed by a light sanding with 220 grit fre-cut  (stearated) paper.  At this point I start filling any dips, voids or gaps so that the final finish will be completely smooth.  This is followed by three coats of lacquer and another week or drying time.  Then the guitar is sanded quite heavily, but carefully,(220 grit fre-cut again) to get a completely smooth surface.   Then I apply two final coats of lacquer.  This is allowed to dry for at least one month and is wet sanded with 600 grit wet or dry paper .  A day or two of further resting time and sanding with 1000 or 1200 grit paper.  A couple days more rest, and I buff the guitar on my Baldor buffer (see tools page).  Some photos of the buffer in use can be found HERE. Plus one at the end of this page.

wpe5.jpg (10212 bytes)  Another photo of spraying.  NOTE THE MASK.

 

 

 

wpe6.jpg (10743 bytes) Here I am sanding the body.  I use an air powered sander made by Dynabrade and I absolutely love this tool.  It works much better than electric sanders.  Note in the upper left hand corner of the photo - I am wearing a dust mask.  Never forget to do this.  

I recently bought a downdraft sanding table - a wonderful device that makes sanding much cleaner (and thus safer.)  

wpe8.jpg (7323 bytes)  More sanding of the body.

 

 

 

 There are always a few voids or other imperfections which are visible after the first sanding (or even before the sanding).  These are "drop filled" with lacquer to bring them up to the level of the rest of the body.  I use this small needle nosed bottle to do this.

 

 

 More spot filling.

 

 

 

 

 

 And more.  This is an essential part of finishing if you want a professional looking finish.

 

 

finish1-888.gif (130273 bytes) After the finish is all on, and has had at least a week to cure, I wet sand it with 600 and 1000 grit wet or dry sandpaper.  Here I am spraying water (with a bit of soap - I use either ivory or Murphy's Oil soap) .  The soap helps lubricate the working surface and minimizes loading of the sandpaper.

finish1-889.gif (188407 bytes)  I use an air powered palm sander to do the wet sanding.  It has a very small orbit and does a fine job.  It is also much faster that doing it by hand and much easier on my shoulders and hands.

 

Here I start the buffing process.  If you look carefully you will see that the wheel is not deformed much - this is because I use a light touch.  All the buffing is done on this lower quadrant of the wheel - anywhere else on the wheel and it might grab the guitar (or neck) and throw it.  I know this through bitter experience.  

This website and all of its content, text and images are copyright 1997-2011 by Charles A. Hoffman.  All rights reserved.

 

2219 East Franklin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN. 55404

hoffmanguitars@qwestoffice.net  or choffman@hoffmanguitars.com

(612) 338-1079