Refinishing a USA Gibson Special

LtDave32

I'm walkin' on sunshine
Super Mod
Silver Supporting Member
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2010
Messages
50,825
Reaction score
172,973
Try it out. If you can make headway with the 1000, use that. It's less work to remove scratches in the end, which can be frustrating.

It doesn't remove orange peel as quickly as 600 will, but 600 leaves scratches that are hard to get out. Especially if you are polishing by hand.

Through experience, I've found it much easier to get that scratchless sheen by starting out sanding with finer grits. It's more elbow-grease at first, but much less labor in the long run to get the fine scratches out.

Be sure to clean your paper frequently with naptha and a rough rag, lacquer builds up quickly and you don't want any wayward "bits n' boogers" hiding under or on the paper adding scratches as you work. Clean off the residue from the body surface frequently too.
 

LtDave32

I'm walkin' on sunshine
Super Mod
Silver Supporting Member
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2010
Messages
50,825
Reaction score
172,973

LtDave32

I'm walkin' on sunshine
Super Mod
Silver Supporting Member
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2010
Messages
50,825
Reaction score
172,973
If you go with 600, then you'll have to go with 800 to remove the scratches left by the 600. Yet one more grit to do, on a finish that's thin to begin with.

Believe me, in the early days I used to use 600. Took the orange peel right off. but it left linear scratches that I had a devil of a time getting rid of. I wouldn't even know they were there until I'd been through all the fine grits, started to buff, and saw the scratches. Had to start out again from square one.

Nowadays, I start out with 1000 and find it much, much easier to get to where I want.

It makes it a bit tougher on you because you're trying to sand out orange peel from rattle cans, which is more and heavier orange peel than what I get from my rig.

But Brian, it's just more back-and-forth strokes. I hate having to get rid of scratches that just won't come out. I lessen my dealing with that by starting out with 1000.

Some guys even start with 1500. That's a lot of work though.

If you read the label of most of the scratch-removing compounds, many will say "removes surface scratches to 1200". That means if one sanded with 1200, the product is designed to remove what scratches are left from that grit of paper.

Remember to sand in one direction only to start. Then with your next level of grit paper, sand in the perpendicular direction. This way you can see if you got all the scratches from the first paper out.

This is important if you want a scratch-free finish.

Remember that with the first grit, it's to remove the orange peel. Every paper grade after that is to remove the scratches left behind by the paper. So as you go up from the first round, it gets much, much easier.
 

BrianH

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2008
Messages
470
Reaction score
150
So so helpful, thank you! It’s cuz of help like this that it’s coming out pretty well. I’ve read and watched SO many videos on doing this but nothing prepares you fully. And then when you have specific questions, this is priceless. I will start with 1000 grit tomorrow. This is kind of like preparing for parenthood on a much smaller scale. Haha. Props to you guys who do this for a living, I can’t imagine it.

I can already see some spots where I missed filling all the pores, a spot on an edge where I slightly over sanded, etc etc. Lots of little booboos. But they’re no worse than the “quality” it was brand new from Gibson. It had blotchy paint and black fuzz under the finish right from the factory!
 

LtDave32

I'm walkin' on sunshine
Super Mod
Silver Supporting Member
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2010
Messages
50,825
Reaction score
172,973
Sand the pits some, shoot some more clear on them, let it dry a day, sand some more, shoot some clear, etc.

Unless you used a vinyl sanding sealer before hand, that's the only way to get rid of the grain pits.

Do not "scrub" on the pit area. Long strokes. If you scrub, at best you'll create a low. At worst, you'll sand through.

I'm taking such a great interest in this because you've done so well with the color. I want it seen through to perfection.
 

BrianH

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2008
Messages
470
Reaction score
150
Sand the pits some, shoot some more clear on them, let it dry a day, sand some more, shoot some clear, etc.

Unless you used a vinyl sanding sealer before hand, that's the only way to get rid of the grain pits.

Do not "scrub" on the pit area. Long strokes. If you scrub, at best you'll create a low. At worst, you'll sand through.

I'm taking such a great interest in this because you've done so well with the color. I want it seen through to perfection.
Thank you!

I used nitro sanding sealer, not vinyl. For whatever that is worth and I don’t know the real world difference!

These are the sanding foam blocks I cut and they are basically weightless and are pretty flat.
AAFAB7C2-A89E-4EA2-810E-CFC50413FE74.jpeg
 

LtDave32

I'm walkin' on sunshine
Super Mod
Silver Supporting Member
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2010
Messages
50,825
Reaction score
172,973
So so helpful, thank you! It’s cuz of help like this that it’s coming out pretty well. I’ve read and watched SO many videos on doing this but nothing prepares you fully. And then when you have specific questions, this is priceless. I will start with 1000 grit tomorrow. This is kind of like preparing for parenthood on a much smaller scale. Haha. Props to you guys who do this for a living, I can’t imagine it.

I can already see some spots where I missed filling all the pores, a spot on an edge where I slightly over sanded, etc etc. Lots of little booboos. But they’re no worse than the “quality” it was brand new from Gibson. It had blotchy paint and black fuzz under the finish right from the factory!
Brian, I've seen Gibson boo-boos that passed their quality control that you wouldn't believe.
 

LtDave32

I'm walkin' on sunshine
Super Mod
Silver Supporting Member
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2010
Messages
50,825
Reaction score
172,973
Thank you!

I used nitro sanding sealer, not vinyl. For whatever that is worth and I don’t know the real world difference!

These are the sanding foam blocks I cut and they are basically weightless and are pretty flat.
View attachment 613420

No, that's perfect, that sealer. Just fine.

Here's the thing about sanding sealers for next time..

They are there to help cut down on lacquer use. You really don't want to use a million coats of lacquer as a "filler" to fill in grain pits or other surface irregularities.

It would cost a fortune, and since lacquer shrinks, it would take far too much time to deal with. As soon as you wait three weeks, it would shrink back and you'd see more pores.

What lacquer is, is lacquer solids dissolved in solvents. When the solvents evaporate or "gas off" as they say, it leaves the solids behind to harden. This results in the thick goo of lacquer becoming thinner and losing mass volume as it dries. Sometimes it takes as much as 4 weeks to sufficiently harden and all solvents to evaporate and really leave the project.

With sanding sealers, they are "high build" solids so you can get this done faster and more efficiently with less shrink-back.

If you just use plain lacquer as a filler, you end up shooting it over and over again to rid the job of those grain pits. Let it dry. Let it cure. There they are. Sand it again, spray it again, wait, dry, there they are,, etc etc etc.

For those who spend a lot of money on lacquer, sanding sealer is a godsend.

For those who get frustrated getting the grain pits gone, sanding sealer is a godsend.

It will get that particular job done and over with much, much faster and more cost-effective than using plain lacquer as a filling agent.

Believe me. I've been doing this as a hobby then to pro since 2009. I tried to fill pores with coat upon coat of lacquer in the old days. Same result, shrunk back, had to spray more then sand it back, etc. Until I got smart and started using sanding sealers.
 

LtDave32

I'm walkin' on sunshine
Super Mod
Silver Supporting Member
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2010
Messages
50,825
Reaction score
172,973
I can only imagine!

I've illustrated this too many times for the crowd here, but I received a SG for a neck reset that had a 4.55 degree neck angle. It left the factory that way. The bridge was up like a cello, and the bridge pup was adjusted all the way up it could go, and still not get close to the strings for a decent output.

nobody wants to play a cello for an electric guitar.

How this left the factory and passed QC, I'll never know. And it was not alone. Our Rich (CB91710) has a similar situation on his SG.

SG's should have a neck angle of 2.5 degrees or thereabouts. No higher than 3 or 3.3.

Les Paul jrs and Specials should have a neck angle of 3 to 3.3 degrees. Even better if they are a bit more shallow at 2.5 and have that bridge low to the body.

Only a carve top Les Paul has a 4.5 degree neck angle, and there are other factors involved to make that appropriate.

I've seen neck binding on a Les Paul at GC that looked like a "greater than / less than" symbol < > on the sides of the binding, at the center, all the way down. It was beveled. WTF?

Tons of overspray, plastics not fitting, etc.

I love their guitars, always have. But sometimes one runs into a real stinker that somehow left that factory less than what it should be.
 

BrianH

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2008
Messages
470
Reaction score
150
Exactly why I didn’t mind using this guitar as a candidate for first refin. I got it for a good price, one nut slot was cut too low and all were not cut well, then I cut the nut shelf too low and sunk in a piece of mahogany to bring it back up and then color matching to the school bus yellow was annoying and the finish was so bad to begin with, I said eff it. So far it’s coming out better than hoped even with my mistakes. I hope this thread helps other first timers and best I’ve learned so far is what everyone else says: don’t rush it. Take your time, one step at a time.

I hope I take this from a guitar I liked to one I love. Going to be replacing pickups with Wolfetone and pots with VIPots as well.

I have a 2021 USA junior that is sub 7 pounds, plays great, sounds great (I replaced electronics tho). This Special was less than... special... out of the box.
 

LtDave32

I'm walkin' on sunshine
Super Mod
Silver Supporting Member
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2010
Messages
50,825
Reaction score
172,973
Now it's damn special, that's for sure.
 

BrianH

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2008
Messages
470
Reaction score
150
Looking for opinions on the Les Paul silkscreen. I have a “Les Paul Model” silkscreen. I’m thinking of using that even though it doesn’t say “Special.” Did any vintage Specials ever have “Les Paul Model” on the headstock? Or did they always say “Special?” I’m not sure I want to spend the $70 or whatever it is to buy another silkscreen. Thoughts?
 

LtDave32

I'm walkin' on sunshine
Super Mod
Silver Supporting Member
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2010
Messages
50,825
Reaction score
172,973
Vintage Specials had "SPECIAL" in block font under the Les Paul sig.

That being said, the only one who's going to care is you. If you don't mind "MODEL", then nobody else will either.

You can do it via decal from George Charles ([email protected]) that says Les Paul SPECIAL for about $28.00. You can bury that in lacquer, spray over it several times, sand it back a bit, spray, sand, etc until you cannot see the witness line of the decal. It will look like a silk screen.

-If you want. I'd just leave well enough alone and do the silk screen as you have it. You're not trying to recreate a vintage instrument and fool people, after all.

If it's any consolation, specials never came in that shade of metallic blue either. So I say do what makes you happy.
 

BrianH

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2008
Messages
470
Reaction score
150
I’m leaning towards just using what I have, like you said. This isn’t a replica or anything. I’m guessing there’s at least one or two vintage examples that say “Model” anyhow by mistake!
 
Last edited:

BrianH

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2008
Messages
470
Reaction score
150
So after 6-7 coats I sanded with 1000 grit and got most of the orange peel off. Most, anyhow. Shot two more wet coats an hour apart and tomorrow I’ll sand again using 1000, this time trying to get it all universally dull and smooth where I can, which will mostly be flat surfaces, neck.... I’ve barely touched any edges. I’ll have 8-9 coats by then and hopefully a smooth surface.

Then I think I’ll lay on whatever clear coats I have left in my last can which I think will be about three more for a total of 11-12 coats. That sound reasonable? Then she will sit for a month. Still little bits of dust in the finish here and there and curiously a pinhole or two where there is no color. I’m ok with that as they will just be dings as it ages. I don’t have any more color to touch these spots up with but again, I’m not hoping for factory brand new and fresh.
 

LtDave32

I'm walkin' on sunshine
Super Mod
Silver Supporting Member
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2010
Messages
50,825
Reaction score
172,973
Remember, when all the spraying is completely over, no more touch-ups, cans are empty and there's no more to spray... You start the wet-sand process with 1000 and go to 2000 or 2500. Then polish. Using 1000 and then spraying over it is sort of defeating the purpose of the 1000. If you were going to spray over the sanding, you could have used 600, them spray.

1000 is to get the orange peel out with minimal sand scratches. Spraying over that sort of reintroduces a bit more orange peel.
 

BrianH

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2008
Messages
470
Reaction score
150
noted, thanks! I AM doing some wet sanding now with 1000 grit and will do again tonight to knock down orange peel, then lay down last few coats and will leave alone for a month or so.
 

fatdaddypreacher

V.I.P. Member
Joined
Feb 5, 2011
Messages
7,382
Reaction score
5,611
well, i think daves point is that if there will be clear coats to follow, 600 will work faster and give the leveling you want, and the subsequent clear will cover the 600. only start with 1000 after final clear is laid. i think i understand that right. that's good info, as i have been wasting a lot of time sanding. this thread has loads of good info. i've never used sealer before, but have been building with lacquer after sealing with egg white. will order sealer for next builds.
 

Latest Threads



Top