First Two Guitar Builds, 5 Years Later

DaveR

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I knew that the double cut guitar was just going to be a clear finish because the wood was so pretty. For the LP, I wanted to do some type of hand applied dye because of my lack of spraying capabilities. I liked the idea of an inverted burst (dark in the middle and light on the outside edge) but that was out of the question on this one because of an unsightly sap pocket or knot on the lower bout. I originally wanted green, but pretty much EVERY green that I've ever seen somebody online having a go at DIY style looks bad, so that was out. I own several amber and cherry sunburst guitars, so most warm colors were out. Not a fan of tobacco burst or browns. Purple is a bit much for my taste. No solid finishes over this flame top, and faded black just didn't feel right on a LP. That left blue and boy oh boy are there a lot of cool blues out there.

I decided to try to replicate this color for my first attempt. Gee I don't ever really try to do anything easy...
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I spent weeks fooling around with color samples and scraps of flamed maple. Dye them black, sand them back, dye them blue, sand it through, start over. Heheh. Dye dye dye some more and play around with it. I used a combination of Angelus leather dyes (based on Big D guitars youtube videos), Fieblings black leather dye (didn't like it), and LMII water based aniline dyes based on @Skyjerk 's experience on his tiger eye finish. An interesting side effect of layering alcohol based leather dyes and water based aniline dyes was that they didn't interact with each other a lot, and I could do wipe downs with Denatured Alcohol or Water respectively without turning the whole thing to mud.

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Finally settled on this one...and it was a 10 step process. I filled pages of notes while making all these scrap samples.
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Hit it with some of my intended clear to see if it still looked right. It was close-ish, but it changed later.
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In addition to all the steps, I was mixing aniline dyes from powders and playing around with how strong to mix, which also required copious notes.

My final recipe went like this:

1. Two coats of water based black dye. Let dry overnight.
2. Sand back until the highlights are totally bare wood.
3. One coat light blue leather dye. Let dry 4 hours.
4. Wipe with denatured alcohol.
5. When fully evaporated, carefully sand back some more.
6. One coat water based blue dye.
7. Wipe with water within 5 minutes.
8. When dry to the touch, scuff sand enough to feel smooth.
9. One coat of turquoise leather dye. Let dry overnight.
10. A bunch of coats of Mohawk pre-cat lacquer sanding sealer to lock in the color.

More pics to come...
 

DaveR

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A before the black dye pic. All taped off and ready to go...
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Slathered in two coats of water based black dye....no turning back from here. Water based dye didn't do much to the binding either, which surprised me.
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Can't forget to make the headstock veneer match...
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After drying overnight.
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I did a wipe down with fairly wet paper towels, just to save myself a bit of sanding. Pulled up as much dye as I could without totally soaking the wood again.
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When that was dry I sanded forever. I think I used 320 for all of this. Some with my random orbit sander, but mostly by hand with a big eraser wrapped in sandpaper.
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After a generous rub down with Angelus Light Blue leather dye. This definitely colored the binding.
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All the dyes wiped right off of the MOP inlay with a Q-tip dipped in Denatured alcohol. I tried to remove it quickly just in case leaving it on overnight could discolor the MOP.
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After the dye was dry, I gave it a wipe down with Denatured Alcohol to lift some of the blue. Didn't seem to mess with the black very much, which was good. However, wiping it down definitely lifted the color off of the knot on the lower bout, which I had to deal with later.
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Sanded back again. Looked pretty cool at this point, like one of those "blue jean bursts"
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DaveR

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Then I added a coat of water based blue dye. Took some experimenting to get this strength mixed up just right and it was pretty thin.
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After five minutes I wiped it down with wet paper towels. I should have stopped here, because this looked KILLER.
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After it was dry, I gave it a very light scuff sanding just to knock down the little bits of wood grain that were raised by the water.
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Finally I gave it a hefty coat of Angelus Turqoise leather dye. I'm reasonably happy with the final color, but it's a bit lower contrast than I set out to do. The turqouise didn't really help the overall situation. I should have stopped at the previous step because it still had fairly bright highlights. Everyone I've showed the guitar to thinks it looks awesome, and I'm learning to love it as is. Lessons learned for next time, I suppose.
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These two pics are almost the same, but if you see that knot towards the bottom, you can tell I did some fine tuning of it with a q-tip dipped in my blue dye bottles. I had to really goop it on those areas and let it sit to get penetration in that hard chunk of the wood. It looks a little purple in this last photo, but it mostly disappeared under clear coat.
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The headstock came out a bit greener than the body. Even though the veneer came from the same billet as the body, that area of the board had a different base color to it. It was more brown/red than the whiter part I used for the top of the body.

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On a side note...if you are using those tippy bottles from Angelus, use the cardboard boxes they come in to keep the bottles upright. They are waaaay too easy to knock over. While dipping a q-tip in the bottles, I knocked one over and in my haste to set it back upright, I knocked over a SECOND bottle. Blue dye splattered EVERYWHERE. All over my bench, the floor, my shoes, my socks, my legs, my air compressor, my cabinets. And this dye is expensive so I was rather upset after dumping it out all over the place. It went everywhere except the guitar I was working on, so it could have been a lot worse. My wife heard all my F-bombs and came out to see what was the fuss. She snapped a pic of my "smurf hands" as she called it. This is my "I'm smiling so hard my teeth are about to crack because I'm super ticked off face".
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Tweaker

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The dye job on the guitar looks great!! So does the dye job on the bench!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done that...plus sometimes the lids leak when they are closed and they tip over and slowly dye everything on the workbench :mad:
 

DaveR

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Here I go, necro-posting on my own thread again. Last summer, I tried to clear coat these guitars myself with very mediocre results. I used Aqua coat as a grain filler under spray max rattle can 2k which did not work out well at all. The 2k seemed to just dissolve the aqua coat and sink into the pores of the mahogany. After a couple not so great attempts, and reaching the point of frustration where I was ready to BURN the guitars, I gave up and called on a professional. I hooked up with a local luthier and paid him to grain fill, clear coat, and buff these two for me.

He’s a busy guy and had them for several months. I did have a couple days off work that I spent hanging out at his shop and picking his brain about all things guitar related. That was a pretty great experience, getting to see how everything is done, up close and personal. I also got some hands on time with some of the process, including buffing with a proper setup.

I just got the guitars back this week and I’m working on assembly and setup. Pics to come soon!
 

DaveR

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Stepping back in time to early last summer, I tried to do the finishing on my own.

First I signed both guitars and gave them a "serial number".
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I made a makeshift spray booth. It wasn't great, but wasn't terrible either. Bugs got caught inside the plastic, but none wound up trapped in the finish.
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Disaster struck when level sanding the back side of the double cut. Something fell from up high over my workbench and made a big dent (new thread evidence of my freak out is here: https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/small-disaster-on-my-nearly-completed-build.427765/ )

I was able to steam out the dent and recover from this mishap pretty easily.
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Both guitars hanging in the spray booth with several coats of 2K spraymax on them.
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I don't have good pics of it, but the 2K seemed to dissolve my crap grain filler and just kept sinking into the mahogany no matter what I did. Sanded it down, applied more, rinse repeat, still had holes in the finish. I tried wet sanding and buffing out the top side, just to see how it would turn out. Lacking a proper buffing wheel, I tried to use drill pads and the end result was mostly junk.

It was at this point (early July) that I contacted a local luthier and asked for help. Jacob Harper of https://harperguitars.com/ was able to take on the job and sort out my finishes. On the LP, we decided it would be best to srape the clear back off of the back and sides to address some areas where it didn't look like it adhered well. The other guitar had a lot more clear on it already, so we just level sanded it and he added a bunch more 2K on top.
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While scraping on the neck, the clear came off in giant strips, so I think it was for the best that we decided to remove most of it.
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Right before Thanksgiving I got my guitars back from Jacob, and over the Christmas holiday, I finally had enough free time to sit down and finish assembly and setups on both. I did spend the day before Christmas back at his shop, addressing a finish issue, and touching up a little fretwork from my first hack at it.

When I strung up the blue guitar, the side load on the tailpiece bushings caused the finish in front of them to buckle and lift slightly. Hard to see in the photo, but it was pretty obvious. I think this is because my original clear coat just never bonded very well and everything we did after was on top of that. We were able to correct the issue by removing the studs, wicking CA glue under the lifted finish, and then a little touch up wet sanding and buffing removed almost all traces of the problem. I definitely learned some lessons for next time, plus learned about how to fix problems as they arise, which seems to be about 30% of all woodworking anyway.
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DaveR

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These iphone pics are the best I can do for "glamour shots" of my guitars. I have a pro photographer buddy who I may try to hook up with in the spring to get some good pics of these.

These photos really don't do them justice. The blue top is so deep looking and flip flops with the lighting in spectacular fashion. Makes me want to dive in for a swim.

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The amp in the background of the first few pics is another project I've been working on. Finally finished the woodworking portion of it this year, but I still need to finish the wiring of the tube amp that goes inside the head. It works, but I have plans for a bunch of modifications to it.

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CB91710

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Beautiful work.
It's a shame about the clear coat adhesion, I hope it doesn't become a problem in the future, as that blue is simply stunning!
Any idea why it didn't stick?
 

DaveR

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Beautiful work.
It's a shame about the clear coat adhesion, I hope it doesn't become a problem in the future, as that blue is simply stunning!
Any idea why it didn't stick?
I used SprayMax 2k from a rattle can over a water based grain filler. I saw somebody on YouTube do that and seemed to work, but didn’t turn out so well for me. We finished with a catalyzed polyester grain filler and true 2 part automotive 2k for the top coats. Before I try to finish another guitar I’m going to invest in a proper spray setup and practice on some junk wood. But at the pace I work that’ll likely be a few years.
 

tolm

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Awesome stuff! And that amp shell / cabinet is stunning.
 

Bobby Mahogany

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Really nice work!
The Pelham Blue is far from my favorite color but your guitar looks really good.
That DC top is sick.
:thumb:
 

Robert Parker

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Amazing work. I learned most of my initial wood working in a cabinet shop, so I find myself as intrigued by your amp and furniture as I am your guitars.

Is that purple heart between the curly maple? What finish did you put on them? I always preferred the look of finished wood to tolex (tweed being a close second behind wood).
 

DaveR

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Amazing work. I learned most of my initial wood working in a cabinet shop, so I find myself as intrigued by your amp and furniture as I am your guitars.

Is that purple heart between the curly maple? What finish did you put on them? I always preferred the look of finished wood to tolex (tweed being a close second behind wood).
Thanks! That is Purple Heart on the amp. The finish I used was General Finishes Arm-R-Seal, gloss, oil based poly. I thinned it about 50% with mineral spirits and wiped it on with old t shirt scraps. About 15 coats, gently scuffed in between with scotch brite.

It’s shiny and looks good, but the grain on the walnut is very porous and not filled at all. I would have preferred a guitar style gloss finish, but didn’t have the time, patience or resources to pull it off.

I actually really like working with General’s water based poly products. Easy to apply with a brush and only takes a few coats. Not suitable for a guitar, but looks great on furniture and no stinky off-gassing period like oil based.
 

VancoD

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...learned about how to fix problems as they arise, which seems to be about 30% of all woodworking anyway.
lol - 30%? More like 75!

The guitars and the amp look absolutely gorgeous. It was a long time coming, but certainly the end results speak volumes for the journey.
 


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