Junior Sunbursts

umangu

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Hi Guys,

I was wondering if the yellow in sunbursted Juniors are done in the same way as in the TV Yellows - ie opaque yellow, followed by grain filler?

Or are they dont the standard way - ie grain filler follwed by clear yellow and shading?

The reason I ask is that on some photos I've seen, the grain isn't visible at all on the face, under the yellow, even though it is quite visible on the back, under the tobacco.

Thanks,

Umang.
 

Rhubarb Red

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As far as I can make out from a bit of knowledge of how Gibson produced its guitars, handling quite a lot of vintage guitars over the past 35 years, common sense and the Compete Analysis of Masterpiece Guitars section of The Gibson Book (the authorship of which is unclear - Tadahi Yasunaga? Jun Takana?), this is what I reckon.

First, I quote from the relevant section of the book (page 100 in the English language version):

"The finish on the '54 model is black sunburst. It looks simple, but requires several processes. After the wood-filler is done ON THE WHOLE BODY [my emphasis], the opaque yellow color is sprayed, then the the black added only around the edge of the yellow to make the sunburst. The intermediate shade around the side and back of the body, and rear of the neck, is a coffee brown or walnut color. This gives an expensive look on a limited budget."

I don't think tells the whole story. Gibson made it's mid-50s LPJs to hit the $99 retail price point in the dealership, and the Gibson factory (under the stewardship of the great Ted McCarty) "sold" it's guitars to its parent company CMI for 34% of the retail price, which is about $35 and the Gibson factory made a profit on that!. CMI sold the guitar to the dealer for 70% of its retail cost and the difference - 30% - was the dealer's cut.

(As a point of history, Gibson sold ALL its guitars to CMI in the same way, so it was making LPs in 1958-60 which retailed at $265 [an extra $42 for the Cali-Girl Lifton case!] and "selling" them to CMI for $90. Yes - $90!! From the lumber room to the packing & dispatch area and it cost $90 to make, at a time when Gibson employees - and many blue collar employees throughout the USA - made an average of 80 cents an hour.)

So, on such a low cost guitar, the painting process had to be kept quick and simple to keep costs down. This is how I think it was done.

I think the grain filler was mixed in with walnut dye (or a similar shade of dark brown) and painted on/rubbed off onto the entire guitar with the exception of the headstock face. This meant two processes - grain filling and dying - was reduced to one process.

At some point the fingerboard would have been masked up to the fret ends (it didn't overlap on the side of the fingerboard - I'll tell you why later).

After filling/dying/masking, the face of the guitar was hit with opaque yellow. A skilled spray painter could shoot the face of the guitar without much of the yellow going onto the side of the guitar, but it didn't matter if it did because:

The next stage would be the dark sunburst on the edge (It wasn't black but dark tobacco brown colour Gibson used across all it's guitar range). Again, this doesn't go onto the sides of the guitar and blends in with the walnut colour on the round-over edge.

Right - this bit proves Gibson only masked the face of the fingerboard and not the sides: after the brown burst is sprayed, the portion of the neck glued into the body (joins at the 16th fret) will have had its side dots covered by the paint on the 17th, 19th and 21st frets. No problem - the dark paint on the white dots was then scraped away.

Not sure at which point they painted the headstock face black and applied the Gibson decal, but when it was all done it would have got several coats of clear nitro lacquer, buffed and polished and the Les Paul Junior logo silk screened onto the headstock fascia. The assembly, final inspection and tagged, cased up and dispatched.

So that's what I believe the process was, but as to WHICH types/brands of dye/filler/paint and their colour shades you'd need to get to achieve the correct look, I don't know. This is the part where Forum members with spraying experience chime in!
 

umangu

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Thanks for the awesome answer Rhubarb.

A couple more questions:

1. When the grain filling and staining is combined in one step (like described above), can I use a water based filler (Timbermate) or will the stain just end up being sanded away?

2. Is the grain filler brown on the face of the guitar also, or just white?

3. Does the brown sunburst laquer get sprayed on the back and neck of the guitar also, or is the stain from the grain filler adequate?

4. Does any opaque dark lacquer get sprayed on the face of the guitar?

It seems to me from this photo below that the lacquer on the face, near the neck joint is opaque. Also, the lacquer on the neck and back is a continiuation of the sunburst pattern on the sides:







I know, all your answers will be 'In your opinion only', but I'll be glad to hear what your opinion is.
 




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