Any good results using ColorTone aerosol can paint to finish Les Paul goldtop project?

Celticsaint

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I have some les Paul junior style bodies that I want to finish and use Rubato carbon fiber bolt on necks with. I’ve had a disaster trying water based dye and danish oil so I’m going to acetone strip them and I’d like to make one a goldtop. Has anyone gotten good results using the aerosol can ColorTone system from stew Mac? I might end up doing one in goldtop and one blue. I greatly appreciate any input and advice from anyone who has done this.
 

BrianH

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I’ve heard but cannot speak from personal experience but the Stewmac stuff is said to not really check or crack easily. I could be completely wrong about that. I just used a bunch of aerosol from Oxford Supply in Canada. Very high quality cans, Don is the nicest and is super responsive to questions, fast shipping. I’ve been super happy with Oxford. Oxford also comes with upgraded nozzles (along with standard) where you have to buy them as extras from stewmac.

Oh and I’m not affiliated with Oxford in any way. Just a happy customer who placed a third order yesterday.
 

cmjohnson

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My advice is that if you are serious about building and finishing guitars, get a compressor and a decent spray rig and learn how to use it. If you value your time, the time wasted on ONE botched rattle can finish adds up to enough money to get a decent spray rig that can yield professional results.

Rattle cans are a make-do solution. You won't find any professional refinishers, or any guitar factories, that use them.

The finish is what you will be judged by FIRST when someone looks at a new guitar you've finished or worked on. So it's worth it to invest in good finishing equipment.
 

LtDave32

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I have some les Paul junior style bodies that I want to finish and use Rubato carbon fiber bolt on necks with. I’ve had a disaster trying water based dye and danish oil so I’m going to acetone strip them and I’d like to make one a goldtop. Has anyone gotten good results using the aerosol can ColorTone system from stew Mac? I might end up doing one in goldtop and one blue. I greatly appreciate any input and advice from anyone who has done this.

The deal is, not the ColorTone gold-top finish. One can is easy.

The trouble is the billion-teen rattle cans of clear over it will bust your wallet.
 

LtDave32

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My advice is that if you are serious about building and finishing guitars, get a compressor and a decent spray rig and learn how to use it. If you value your time, the time wasted on ONE botched rattle can finish adds up to enough money to get a decent spray rig that can yield professional results.

Rattle cans are a make-do solution. You won't find any professional refinishers, or any guitar factories, that use them.

The finish is what you will be judged by FIRST when someone looks at a new guitar you've finished or worked on. So it's worth it to invest in good finishing equipment.


This is really it, in more than a nutshell. I agree with everything written here, and given the recent topics in the Luthier's Corner, I'd like to speak up about it.

Can a great finish be achieved with rattle cans? Yes, but it's more work and more money that you've likely bargained for.

Let's take a look at "great finish" first, so we're all on the same page. If you want that glass-like, mirror finish with lacquer, it's going to be work, it's going to mean materials. And rattle can lacquer ain't cheap. You have to apply enough clear, especially so over a metallic finish that you do not burn through the color coat when sanding it flat for that flat, orange peel-less finish.

Are you happy with a bit of orange peel, and that doesn't bug you? -Then by all means, rattle-can away. If you're not going to wet-sand the top clear coats for that mirror finish, rattle cans are fine.

Non-metallic finishes are another story. You still need quite a bit of clear, perhaps even cost-prohibiting to you. -that is, if your'e going to wet-sand it. If not, then a few coats of NCL from a rattle can are fine.

I'm not really trying to knock rattle-cans here. I'm saying that oftentimes, they don't provide enough volume, in this man's opinion. When I first started out, I tried the RC's. I quickly changed to a gun and compressor, albeit a shitty one in both instances. Even at cheap, shitty quality, they were way better than rattle cans.

Rattle cans thin the lacquer so thin, it invites runs. This is to get it out of that tiny nozzle, and get it all out under that little bit of stored air pressure.

Spray guns , and even a modest compressor is another world entirely. You can lay down as much lacquer as you want, and be in total control of the thinner-to-lacquer ratio.

Better guns and compressors with more power and capacity produce better results, every time.

Plusses for rattle cans:

You can buy them in the color you want, thereby eliminating the need for dyes and pigments. Huge plus. Dyes and pigments are expensive. Color Tone and Trans Tint (same company, different label) are now $26.00 a bottle from my nearest Rockler. They've gone up about ten bucks from when I started. When you start buying multiples for different color mixes, bursts, etc that adds up. Upside is, they last you for years. I still have some of my original bottles from 2009 with plenty left to go.

That's about it.

Minuses for rattle cans:

High cost for the amount of lacquer you get.

Thin mixture.

Poor spray pattern and volume compared to even the cheapest of spray guns.

Spitting. They spit. And that sucks. Spray guns that are maintained properly don't spit.

Plusses for spray gun and compressor:

Not that expensive as you would think, if you're going to do a one-off. As I said, better results out of better equipment, but even the cheapest gun and comp trumps a rattle can.

You have control over the lacquer content, volume, ratio.

A good finish is easy to achieve, even for a novice if they pay attention to advice and work carefully.

In addition, when I first started out, I bought a ten-dollar "Husky" touch up gun with an 8 oz cup. It worked so well, I sprayed probably 30 guitars with it before I switched to a better, higher-capacity gun.

But I had a lot of orange-peel sanding to do afterwards. This is where the better gun comes in. I use a Black Widow HTE gun with a 1.5 tip (some will argue that tip size, but it works for me)

I have never looked back. Best gun I've ever used, and I used the old greats when spraying cars in my youth, Binks, Devibliss, etc.

Another thing; If you buy a company's lacquer such as Mohawk, Cardinal, etc then also get their recommended thinner for that lacquer.

I did so after using Home Depot's "Kleen Strip" which was high in acetone content. Too high . I switched to the right Cardinal thinner for my Cardinal series 2000 lacquer and it was night and day. The flow-out and shine was nothing short of spectacular. I have never looked back.

But you can buy (if you're doing a one-timer, or on a budget) quarts of pure lacquer and a gallon of thinner. Mix the lacquer 50/50 with thinner, you now have a half-gallon of spraying lacquer, and enough thinner to clean your cups and tools.


This whole thing.. Guys want to build a guitar, but hits a brick wall on the finish. Does not want to spend on spray equipment, gets into a discussion on rattle cans. And round and round we go.

As CM Johnson said, the first impression is the finish.

Good stuff that renders great results costs money. No getting around it. Unless you oil finish or you don't mind a "spartan", low-budget finish.

But if you want that amazing lacquer finish over metallic, you're going to need a volume of clear to cover it.

If you sand away on a rattle can clear over the metallic, you're going to get into those metallic particles and dull it. Trust me. You do not want to disturb the color coat in any way.

Some folks are quite content with shooting a fair amount of clear over such metallic finishes and calling it a day.

This whole thing is about if you want that flat, mirror finish. If so, it's going to cost.

I will also note that the average Gibson isn't wet-sanded anymore. Just go look at the local GC for conformation. Pick up an SG or something, look at the back or top across the light at an angle. They are rippled like a cat's tummy.

No wet sanding. No leveling between coats.

So if that suits you, then by all means use rattle cans and hit it with the buffer, but carefully.
 

LtDave32

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For guys who just don't have the wampum for a buffing rig, I used a 10" orbital car buffer for years.

More work, but it did work.

And you can find in in your garage on the shelf next to the electric hedge trimmers you never use.
 

LtDave32

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Another way around some of this is to buy lacquer in rattle cans for the color, then get a modest spray setup for the clear.

Now you don't have to buy so many expensive rattle cans of clear, and one or two rattle cans of color will suffice for the color coat.

There's more than one way to skin a cat.
 

CB91710

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For guys who just don't have the wampum for a buffing rig, I used a 10" orbital car buffer for years.

More work, but it did work.

And you can find in in your garage on the shelf next to the electric hedge trimmers you never use.
Somewhere... not sure if it's in the garage or out in the storage unit... I have a Porter Cable DAO buffer that I bought back in 2004 when I was really getting into auto detailing.
2003/2004 was when we bought our first nice new cars... first new car my wife ever had was a 2000 Echo, I had a '91 Ford Escort wagon. '03 and '04 we bought the Tundra and Rav4.

So I went bugnuts and every 3 months went through the 3-day ordeal of claybar, cleaner, sealer, glaze, and wax topper.

Now I drive through the car wash :rofl:
 

Elrathia

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Great tips Lt. Dave. Once again I thank you for your insights.

I have done a few bodies with the stewmac rattle cans with decent (maybe decent -) Results. i mostly use them now for particular colors (sonic blue, Dakota red) and clear with compressor and gun. Currently doing a Goldtop with their antique color. It’s ok…

4C85D456-E077-4745-9631-B47B0C1A4D2A.jpeg

But it does take a lot of clear. I put 9 coats of clear on (probably a few too many, but I sure didn’t want to sand through the clear. I level sanded with 500 and intend to hit it with a couple more. The color isn’t real consistent across the top, and I had some drips on the first coat of gold.

I’ve used reranch, Oxford, and Mohawk brands as well. Spitting bastage…. And expensive too.

I did mix my own reds and browns for this and the last one though, and looking forward to my total independence from rattle cans.

steve
 

cmjohnson

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I agree with Dave's advice concerning using rattle cans for the color coat and using a pro grade spray rig for the clearcoat.

In a clearcoated finish, there are three critical things to address that directly affect finish quality.


1: Surface prep under the color coat. This is MORE important than you realize. Don't think that a metallic coat, IN PARTICULAR, is going to hide imperfections in the base it is sprayed on. A solid color will be somewhat more forgiving, but the metalllic in particular is going to be ruthless at showing sunken grain due to inadequate basecoat preparation. Or any other imperfection. That smooth metallic layer will be as lumpy looking as the surface it's sprayed on. Only imperfections that are smaller than the individual flakes will be hidden.

When you do the basecoat, use enough basecoat. Flat sand it after it dries/cures, then let it sit for days or weeks to ensure it's done shrinking. And it may take that long, because the solvents in the basecoat are inevitably going to filter into the wood underneath and then they will slowly evaporate out through the finish, leading to shrinkage. You will want to flat sand a second time, and go to a high grit number. I say 600 is good. I'm not concerned about getting too smooth and causing adhesion problems. This won't be a problem if the next coat going down is TRULY compatible with the base coats.

2: The metallic color coat is tricky. There is an art to spraying metallics. A consistent technique, with the right mixture and air pressure and spray distance. For the final coat, a drop coat is recommended. (Lower air pressure, spray from above at a higher distance, letting the flake drop to the finish, giving a consistent lay of the flakes. This will require you to manipulate the body so that the surface being painted is always under the falling paint.)

3: Using enough clear. But not TOO much. I highly recommend that when you start the finishing process, you spray a sample on scrap material and that sample is subject to EVERY step of the finishing process just like the instrument is. This gives you something to handle and investigate without risking damage to your instrument finish. With this sample you'll learn how many clearcoats are required to bury the metallic flake, and how many more coats you need to build a "safe" thickness for sanding and buffing, and learn how thick your final finish is really going to be.

For the very best results, I do the final clearcoat in two stages. Stage 1, I build my clearcoat to full thickness, let it cure out, and then wet sand it to smooth, free of orange peel, and ready to polish.
And then I do stage 2, a final application of two more clear coats. Let them cure, wet sand, then polish. This ensures that the final clearcoats are applied over a perfect base.
 
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LtDave32

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Great tips Lt. Dave. Once again I thank you for your insights.

I have done a few bodies with the stewmac rattle cans with decent (maybe decent -) Results. i mostly use them now for particular colors (sonic blue, Dakota red) and clear with compressor and gun. Currently doing a Goldtop with their antique color. It’s ok…

View attachment 619182
But it does take a lot of clear. I put 9 coats of clear on (probably a few too many, but I sure didn’t want to sand through the clear. I level sanded with 500 and intend to hit it with a couple more. The color isn’t real consistent across the top, and I had some drips on the first coat of gold.

I’ve used reranch, Oxford, and Mohawk brands as well. Spitting bastage…. And expensive too.

I did mix my own reds and browns for this and the last one though, and looking forward to my total independence from rattle cans.

steve

I think that looks great! Nice work.
 

LtDave32

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1: Surface prep under the color coat. This is MORE important than you realize. Don't think that a metallic coat, IN PARTICULAR, is going to hide imperfections in the base it is sprayed on. A solid color will be somewhat more forgiving, but the metalllic in particular is going to be ruthless at showing sunken grain due to inadequate basecoat preparation.
this, this, this. So important.
 

CB91710

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A problem that I have had, not just on guitars, but traffic signal boxes, computer cases, and other things, is having 2nd or 3rd coats wrinkle.
On a guitar body I did years ago, everything was great through the color coats. Blocked it all down, nice and smooth at 600.
Shot the first clear, and it still looked great.
Let it go for 24 hours, then shot the next coat of clear, and the whole thing wrinkled, almost like it had an oily contamination (but didn't)

My last project, I just let the thing cure for a full week between coats and had no issues.
On a NEMA 3R electrical box that I was painting with white RustOleum, the first coat went down great, but the 2nd coat wrinkled, and I could pick it up by the skin and lift it off of the 1st coat.

There's a guy on Strat Talk working on a build, and it looks like he might have the same thing happening on his color coats.
I'm wondering if it isn't from respraying too soon after sanding... with the sanding cutting far enough into the cured skin to expose the underlying "still wet" paint that is still offgassing?

This is after his 4th coat. I believe he is blocking 600 between coats.


IMG_20220704_215611.jpg
IMG_20220704_215617.jpg
IMG_20220704_215625.jpg
IMG_20220704_215609.jpg
 

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That could be a number of possible things. Some paints are chemically incompatible with themselves once you have a flashed off layer and spray on top of it. Yes, that happens. For example, when shooting Axalta Chromasystem automotive acrylic urethane basecoat, you spray it and leave it alone. Trying to sand down and touch it up after it's set for the WRONG amount of time means that the next layer of basecoat is going to bubble up like it's hit a patch of paint stripper. I've had it happen to me. So I'm ultra careful not to do that.

And then there's solvent flash-thru, where the paint solvent coming out of the still curing lower layer affects the next layer sprayed over it. It's not quite the same thing as I mentioned above but it's kind of related.

I've learned that even with automotive paints that are supposed to cure and be ready for sanding, buffing, polishing, and delivery to the customer in as little as two hours when sprayed on a car, if they are sprayed on wood, the finish will continue to cure and shrink for MONTHS before it reaches full cure. This is because the solvents diffuse into the wood, and then when the finish is curing, they diffuse back out through the paint film, keeping it from reaching full cure. So I always expect that for a really perfect smooth gloss finish, I need to do a final repolish a month after the guitar is done.
 

lee1964

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Everything said before is 100% accurate, as I’ve run the full gamut, I started with auto rattle cans and as long as it’s done properly it works a treat, however I did do a auto spray painting course at night college for two years.
I then bought a very small, won’t say compressor??? more like an air pump setup and got similar high quality results as it’s not so much the delivery method but more about prep and not rushing.
Then in 90’s I bought a 2.5hp compressor with a huge storage tank that I use mostly high quality auto touch up guns, whilst yes the delivery of paint is far better it’s totally irrelevant if your prep is below par and you rush.
Then due to divorce I can no longer use my full compressor setup so I’m back to rattle cans, luckily here in Straya there are a few great suppliers that even mix vintage style nitro with few plasticisers added with cans that have a nice fan spray pattern.
Under solid colours I usually spray an auto 2k epoxy primer then colour coats followed by clear. The old rule of thumb I was taught was after your primer is levelled and as smooth as a baby’s bum you apply the least amount of colour required to get coverage then one final, which in my case is never more than two and a half coats, I say that as the first coat is usually just a dust coat to get colour on the guitar, then followed by two light wet coats.
I then apply clear usually over two or three days never more than three coats per day six coats of clear is usually enough for solid colours, then I sand back any imperfections and finish the guitar with a flash coat to melt all the sanding scratches together,
Flash coats are an even thinner mix of clear with retarder added so that it flows out. This generally yields a very high quality finish with just a buff and no final sanding. If the guitar requires a super high glass like gloss I only need sand the flash coat with 3000 grit as it’s already smooth and level then I use Auto Glym super resin polish for final very light buff, I’ve even done this by hand with micro fibre cloths on my couch watching tv at night, the chances of burn through are negligible as the surface is almost perfect before you start buffing,and you only need sue a gentle touch.
You may need to add a few more clear coats over metalics as it depends on flake size

P.S. rattle cans can achieve great results that if done properly are in no way inferior to a full spray setup.
If you work to it’s limitations

Lee
 
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cmjohnson

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Except that rattle cans are heavily thinned for spraying through the little spray orifice they have, and you are paying a lot per ounce of actual finish material. So you risk a higher chance of runs and you'll go through a lot of cans of expensive clear rattlecan lacquer before you've achieve a full build finish.
 

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I will describe my own personal experience doing a goldtop refin on a Les Paul, using aerosols. I used ReRanch gold. I purchased 2 cans but only needed one. I used ReRench clear -- 3 cans. The gold itself came out really wonderfully. It was completely uniform and the color looked slightly mellowed with none of the vinyl plastic-like gold that we see on too many production goldtops now. The clear worked beautifully with the gold and I was able to produce a very thin finish that over time has hardened into a great looking, great feeling top. I claim no special skill or knowledge whatsoever. I've done loads of work on guitars and built 6, including two acoustics, from scratch. I would describe my skills as maybe production standard -- not expert, not amateur. I have one virtue. I work carefully and I maintain extraordinary patience. My prep work is thorough. I sand surfaces until they are beautifully smooth. I spray lightly and methodically. I cause a sag...almost never, ever. I sand lightly and very carefully. Everything I have listed is attainable by a serious person. I am not exaggerating the result. I sold it to someone who just loves it. Do I think anyone can do a great aerosol finish just because I did? (BTW, I have subsequently done several fine finish jobs, so this was not just a fluke.) Nope. Why? I know way too many people who just cannot manage their impulses. "If I can make the coat heavier, I'll get the finish built faster." I know too many people who cannot focus and work in the moment. I realize that this sounds like an insufferable brag, but that is the opposite of what I am trying to say. There's nothing special about me. I was just willing to do the job the way you have to do the job.
 

Skyjerk

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Except that rattle cans are heavily thinned for spraying through the little spray orifice they have, and you are paying a lot per ounce of actual finish material. So you risk a higher chance of runs and you'll go through a lot of cans of expensive clear rattlecan lacquer before you've achieve a full build finish.

I'm pretty sure they also have added retarder, and increase the chance of a run even more as they take longer to flash off.

Also giving more time for a BIG OL BUG TO LAND ON WHAT USED TO BE A PERFECT COAT!!!!!!
 

cmjohnson

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Yeah, the bug....I shot a sample sheet of five special metallic finishes once, and when it came time to clearcoat it, in acrylic urethane, I shot the panel laying flat on the stand, got a perfect gloss out of the gun, put down the sprayer, went inside, and came out a few minutes later to do gun cleanup, and this giant freaking crane fly (looks like a 2 inch mosquito) had landed in the urethane, got stuck, and swam three inches across the panel before expiring!
 

Skyjerk

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Yeah, the bug....I shot a sample sheet of five special metallic finishes once, and when it came time to clearcoat it, in acrylic urethane, I shot the panel laying flat on the stand, got a perfect gloss out of the gun, put down the sprayer, went inside, and came out a few minutes later to do gun cleanup, and this giant freaking crane fly (looks like a 2 inch mosquito) had landed in the urethane, got stuck, and swam three inches across the panel before expiring!

You gotta give the little bastard credit. You might have killed him, but you'll never forget him :)
 

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