Refinishing my Strat

Discussion in 'The Custom Shop' started by JoeBguitar, Oct 21, 2017.

  1. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    I've been wanting to attempt a refinish for quite a long time. I got an American Standard Strat for a pretty good deal and finally decided to give it a go.

    The guitar was a beautiful Chrome Red (trans red over silver metallic) but had some chips in the Poly. I first considered refinishing in Candy Apple Red (trans red over GOLD). Why would I refinish a guitar in basically the same color? Well, first because I like the feel and look of nitrocellulose. Second, I was really just looking for a project to keep me busy.

    After doing some research, I decided that a candy finish would be too difficult for a first time refinisher. So I went with the second most difficult finish - sunburst.

    There are several things I learned during this process. First and foremost - there are a lot of naysayers on the Internet that want you to think that you can't do this. They think you should take it to a professional or even let go of the idea altogether. I'm posting this as proof that a beginner can achieve a respectable refinish. This is not a step-by-step or guide of any sort, but if you need advice for your own projects let me know.

    What follows is my chronicle of a first time refinish with nitro rattle cans.

    First, the original specimen:


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  2. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    I cannot stress hard enough the very first and most important step when attempting something like this that you've never done before:

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    Get some beer. Preferably 6 strong ones.
     
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  3. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    The thing I was most worried about was stripping the poly finish. I was convinced (after my online research) that this was going to be a horrible job.

    I couldn't have been more wrong:

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    A heat gun made VERY quick work of the poly finish:

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    As soon as the paint gets a bit hot it's easy to get the chisel right underneath and peel off. This whole process only took an hour or so. FYI - that black paint in the cavity... Not sure what that is. Must be some kind of shielding paint. The heat gun was doing no good against that. Oh well.. I kept on.

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  4. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    Once the finish was stripped it was time for a bit of sanding:

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    Naptha:

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    Then time to spray some nitro sealer:

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  5. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    You can't tell from the photos, but this AMERICAN STANDARD strat is a 4 piece body:facepalm:
     
  6. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    Now it's time to black the edges. I'm going to spoil the twist in this story and let you know now that I ended up stripping this finish and starting over :hmm:

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    You might notice I blackened not only the edges but also the front edges of the front (and back). The reason I did this, was because that's what it looked like on two tone finished strats... Boy was I wrong..
     
  7. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    You probably noticed the neck hanging in the last picture.. OK, you twisted my arm. Let's take a look at that.

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    I wasn't about to take a heat gun to the neck.. I won't do this again for less than $100 per hour...

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  8. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    My first thought was to save the logo:

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    In the end, I decided that would not look good. Time to do some online research:

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    After some clear and amber nitro, the new decals were applied (no, I did not install the "Custom Shop" logo - I didn't even know that would come with the order)

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  9. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    Fast forward a few days and the neck is done (with the exception of a few weeks drying and then sand/polish):

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  10. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    Back to the body... After removing the "templates" and spraying the amber color, I wasn't really impressed:

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    Like I said before, it looks like those vintage strats had black borders on the front. I was sure I could blend this with my tobacco brown nitro....

    Going to bed now.. Will update tomorrow :lol:
     
  11. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    OK, one more photo for tonight:

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  12. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    Alright, like I said - this isn't a how to. But let's take a minute to talk about what happened with that horrendous looking body above.

    I wanted that classic looking black band around the edge with an amber center. My plan was to take my traced cutout of the body and cut it back to be smaller so that I would get some black on the front and back.

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    As you already saw, this turned out awful:

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  13. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    I figured the tobacco brown would blend it perfectly. As soon as I started spraying it, I realized this was going South damn fast.

    The can of tobacco brown gave me issues that none of the other cans did. It immediately started spitting and sputtering. I also got several "pits" in the finish where the lacquer seemed to bubble away from certain areas.

    My dumbass decided to spray even heavier in order to cover this up. Prepare yourself:

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  14. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    OUCH! :facepalm::dunno:

    Out of frustration, I didn't take any pictures of the next part. I first started by trying to sand off the brown (there was a clear coat in between the amber and brown). This quickly made me realize that I had to start over. The gummy mess of sanding left very hard lines of different layers of lacquer. I probably should have waited a week or so to sand instead of 4 hours but I was being impatient.

    So it was off to the heat gun... Yuck. It's crazy how your preconceptions can change so fast. I was convinced before I started that nitro would be so much easier to strip than poly. That is not true at all. The nitro just starting melting into a disgusting black goop that was a pain in the ass to remove.

    Eventually after lots of lacquer thinner and sanding, I had the body back down to bare wood. However, there were still some black-ish stains leftover from the melted nitro. I probably could have eventually gotten these out, but I was just ready to start over.

    At this point I considered just finishing it in solid black. After a day at work and some time to think about it, I decided to give the sunburst another try.

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    Last edited: Oct 21, 2017
  15. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    I decided to only put black on the edges this time - not the front and back. So I Googled a strat template, printed it and cut it out:

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    Then some amber:

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    A few coats of clear and then it's back to work (as in my real job). I planned to spray brown that evening.
     
  16. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    I did a few things different the second time around. First, I went to Lowe's and got some "tack cloths" which are basically these sticky rags that are great for removing dust. This worked a hell of a lot better than the shop rags I was using before. I also sprayed much thinner coats all around. I fully expect to get a lot of grain soak with this refinish but I'm perfectly OK with that (I like the look).
     
  17. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    The tobacco brown was still spitting and sputtering like before, but I was very careful to only spray the outside edge. I probably wasted about half of the can just trying to barely spray the edge but IMO that's to be expected with these rattle cans.

    First coat:

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    MUCH better IMO. I was worried about those hard black lines but I decided to keep going. You can probably notice those little splatters of brown in the center (Thanks, STEWMAC!!!!!). Not sure what is up with these but I'll just carefully sand them out after letting it sit overnight.
     
  18. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    I used the entire can of brown very quickly which had me worried because I could still see black lines. I decided to close the door and go back in the house and come back in a bit and see how it looked.

    I brought it in the house since the sun had already gone down:

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    Personally, I couldn't be any happier with the result. This is pretty much exactly what I was going for. After sitting for a couple hours, the brown perfectly blended with the black.

    I moved it to the garage. Looks a bit different in that lighting:

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    And who could resist a mockup:

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    I think Clapton would be proud. :cheers2:
     
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  19. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

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    So that's it for now. That all happened over the last week. This morning I'll be sanding out those little brown specs and the I'll get started on the clear coats. My plan is to use one can of Watco clear followed by one can of the Stewmac Aged Clear. That sounds like way too much to me but that's what I've been reading online. I will DEFINITELY be light-handed with my wet sanding in a few weeks.
     
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  20. El Pablo

    El Pablo Senior Member

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    Nice job!
     
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