Les Paul Refinish

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by alk-3, May 1, 2009.

  1. alk-3

    alk-3 MLP Sponsor

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    Some time ago Magnus (goocart) shipped his 98 R8 to me from Sweden. The aim was to do a full refinish to get rid of some unwanted attributes.


    Here are some before pictures showing the guitar as I received it. Not bad looking overall, with a nice curly maple top. Unfortunately some one aged it with compressed air, causing a shattered glass type checking, which looks very fake. they also battered it up pretty badly in general, including fake arm wear.

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    On the back there were three round dents that may have been the result of some previous owner getting carried away on stage and trying to impale the guitar on a mic stand :)

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    The wires are tied together inside with a piece of cotton fabric. I'm guessing to stop the cables from rattling around inside.

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    The 3 dents are now clearly visible (like they weren't before) after the finish is removed from the back.

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    The guitar now completely stripped except for the maple top.

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  2. alk-3

    alk-3 MLP Sponsor

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    In an effort to get rid of the dents I first need to remove the left over lacquer from the dents themselves. I use a sharp knife to gently pick away the lacquer, trying not to disturb the wood itself.

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    The next step is to drop a few drops of water on the dent and let is soak in for a few seconds, then you place a piece of cloth or paper towel over the dent and apply a very hot iron. This causes the water in the fibers to boil very quickly and expand all of those crushed wood fibers. This is all very time sensitive, so I was unable to snap any shots without a helper, but I think you get the idea. The result is pictured Below.

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    I then applied the filler and set the guitar aside to dry.

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  3. SABLE

    SABLE Banned

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    Nice job.
     
  4. Mongrel

    Mongrel Senior Member

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    Very cool trick there, thanks for the info!
     
  5. alk-3

    alk-3 MLP Sponsor

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    After letting the filler dry for about a week or so, it's time to draw our attention to the top..

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    I start sanding with 120 grit, changing paper often as the lacquer tends to clog up the paper.

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    More sanding...

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    Almost done...

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    The rest will be done by hand.

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  6. alk-3

    alk-3 MLP Sponsor

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    Using scrapers and sand paper it's important that the joint between the fretboard and body are nice and sharp, and free from old finish.

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    I also spend some time sanding the back, to lighten the back in areas and give the whole guitar a good hand sanding with 220 grit paper.

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    Just a quick mask of the fretboard and we're ready to go!

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  7. alk-3

    alk-3 MLP Sponsor

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    First a light clear coat

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    On the front as well, then a quick sand with 400 grit to knock off the raised grain. Then another coat of clear to give as a nice smooth base to begin layering the colours.

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    Time to mix up some colours

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    We start with a strong yellow as the base...

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    ...and lay it on evenly, but not too heavy.

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    The back gets a treatment of a red/brown shader.

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    It's now time for the burst. I mix up a batch of colour, and spray it on somewhat unevenly, to try to capture that faded look. Here is the guitar ready for 'bursting'

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    With my detail gun I lay on the shadows that will become the unfaded red under the hardware.

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    Some of the details..

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  8. alk-3

    alk-3 MLP Sponsor

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    It's now time to scrape the binding. This is what makes or breaks a good finishing job in my mind. Lines should be crisp, with no errors, especially near a joint or hard to scrap areas. This is the most time consuming aspect of finishing for me. I take it slow and easy, we don't want to have squiggly lines all over the place.

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    The final product of all that scraping.

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    The head stock got a coat of clear with the rest of the guitar earlier on.

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    So now it's ready for the black paint.

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    This is what it looks like after two coats. About ten will be required.

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    The guitar up to this stage, resting while I clean up and get ready for the next stage.

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  9. alk-3

    alk-3 MLP Sponsor

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    The lines get defined around the hardware that prevent the red from fading. In the end none of this will be seen, but as with any top quality product, it's the details that count.

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    A coat of amber, and a few coats of clear finish the job for now.

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    The head stock gets cleared as well.

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    The back is also cleared.

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    Next will be aging and checking, but we'll have to wait a bit for that...
     
  10. nuance97

    nuance97 Premium Member

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    WOW!

    What a difference a refinish can make.:cool:
     
  11. Skynyrdpicker

    Skynyrdpicker Senior Member

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    You're an artist, is all I can say! :thumb:
     
  12. alk-3

    alk-3 MLP Sponsor

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    One more showing the flame a bit better.

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  13. pinefd

    pinefd V.I.P. Member V.I.P. Member

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    Tom, it's looking great!

    A couple of questions for you, if you don't mind...

    1) Since this guitar originally had an enhanced (double stained) top, do you think after sanding the top, that any of the original enhancing remained in the low spots of the flame?

    2) I find it interesting that you apply a coat of clear before any color (to the top). I believe many people, including Murphy, will do a yellow or amber wash, and then clear before applying the burst. Is there a particular reason that you do it the way you do? And do you think that it either helps or hurts the 3D/movement of the flame?

    Thanks!

    Frank
     
  14. alk-3

    alk-3 MLP Sponsor

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    Hey Frank
    1) yes, the double stain was quite deep, and I see no reason to remove it, and plenty of reasons to leave it.

    2) to be honest, I've always done it that way because that's the way I was taught to spray furniture. The reasoning is this; You know how when you spray the first coat of finish, it raises the grain just a touch leaving a slightly rough surface that you can feel, more than see? Well, my approach is to lay on a light coat just to induce the grain raising effect, then knock down the grain with a scuff sand with burnished 220 grit (or new 400 grit).
    That in turn leaves slight sanding marks, so I spray another coat of clear to smooth it out. After that tacks for a few minutes I can go ahead with the colour without having to sand the grain down on a colour coat.
    I also find if you spray the colour on the bare wood it will raise the grain, and then due to the natural surface tension of the thinned lacquer you get little dots of thicker finish at each raised wood fiber contributing to a muddy look.
    I once was spraying a guitar when I was very tired, and sprayed the colour before the clear sealer coats, and immediately saw what i had done, I find it that noticeable, and that objectionable.
     
  15. diceman

    diceman V.I.P. Member

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    Incredible! I'm speechless, really!
     
  16. Shepherd

    Shepherd Senior Member

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    If you wipe the body down with a damp rag wont that raise the grain, that way you wont have that problem when you spray? I've read where alot of refinishers do this as a first step to avoid that .
     
  17. Jessenoah

    Jessenoah Senior Member

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    the one thing i dont like about this
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    is that it isnt this color
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    :D



    but tom's finishes are top notch!
     
  18. The Thruth

    The Thruth wizzard MLP Sponsor

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    Tom this is Amazing :thumb: :applause:
     
  19. GooCart

    GooCart V.I.P. Member

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    I'm happy as a child at x-mas, sending the R8 to Tom is one of my best ideas ever.

    The burst is exactly how I wanted it, but Tom really surprised me with the back, it's so much better than I ever could expect, the faded cherry red really does it. It's going to be fun to follow the next steps.
     
  20. Ole'Lefty

    Ole'Lefty Premium Member

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    Magnus-you deserve such a fine piece of work. You have made contributions here that cannot be counted. I am working on my master guided 59carve, thanks to you, and that is just one area of your generosity. Maybe more important than the 3D work is your always enthusiastic support of others- and you project your spirit of kindness through an LCD screen thousands of miles from you.

    I'll bet a fair number of on-lookers are stunned at how well a skilled dent raising can level wounds.

    Tom's grain raising is the same routine I use, but hand applied. And, I have had great results with non-woven abrasive pads for knocking off those small raised fibers-unlike steel wool, no rusting particles are left behind. I think Tom would agree that sometimes you get a piece of wood the fights back. You raise the grain but sanding paper just shoves them down-hiding and ready to leap out and attack a later coat - I hate when that happens.That is where those pads help. They pull the grain fibers out of the wood. It is after that, that I fill. It is the old rule-a finish is only as good as the prep.Ole'Lefty
     

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