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norm barrows

The Cowboys Guitar

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The Cowboys guitar.

A good friends of mine is a big Dallas Cowboys fan.    So I said I'd make him a Dallas Cowboys themed guitar.

Originally, I was going to add wood to the body of an ebay guitar to make a star shaped body and star shaped headstock - this was the "Bootsie Collins" design for the guitar.

Later, I decided on a more conventional guitar shape, with a tasteful Dallas Cowboys themed finish - this was the "Metropolitan Museum of Art" design for the guitar.

In either case, I hoped to somehow stain a guitar silver.    A great deal of time went into finding some sort of "silver stain".   Finally I tried metallic silver lacquer and lacquer thinner    This yielded the desired result: a silver stain that still showed wood grain. through it.

A guitar was purchased off of ebay.  A neck with dot inlays was purchased to replace the OEM neck with sharkfin inlays.  Star inlay stickers will be used, and would not work with sharkfins.

.The ebay superstrat.  Its been sitting on the shelf for a couple of months, waiting for the neck to arrive.



The guitar itself is really quite nice...



The plan is to stain it silver, with a blue border, sort of like a burst, but without the fade from one color to another.  The stain and paint don't fade together well,   And I never did develop my airbrush skills during my model building years as a kid.


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Only a small amount of bling has arrived for the guitar so far...



Given a choice of fretboard shades from light rosewood to ebony, my buddy selected the darkest rosewood - the one with the blue tape on it.



First step was to remove the strings....



And then remove the OEM neck with the sharkfin inlays.    No neckplate is used.   And I have a perfect Dallas Cowboys blue star sticker to go on a silver neckplate!     Best laid plans...



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The OEM neck, removed from the guitar...




The old (left) and new( right) necks are essentially identical - except for the inlays.



Th new neck was drilled for neck screws...



And here's the guitar with the new neck test installed.    The new neck is slightly looser than the old neck.   But scale length and string alignment are correct with the neck bottomed out and aligned with the long side of the pocket.   Neck screw clamping force will likely be enough, and there should be no need to shim to keep the neck from getting bumped out of alignment left to right.


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4 minutes ago, Workingman said:

You could dowel those holes and still do the neck plate. 

Yeah, but it has that contoured heel shape....

I think I may use the star on the trem spring cover.   But the center of the back will be stained silver, which probably means a blue cover and silver star - and the star is blue.    Maybe a silver cover with blue star will look ok - solid silver cover on stained silver wood, or maybe get a chrome cover.    There are two covers on the back to deal with, trem spring, and controls. They should probably match.   Doubt I'd find a chrome control cover for a noname ebay superstrat.


9 minutes ago, Workingman said:

Are you doing star inlays on the neck?

Star inlay stickers - Jockomo brand most likely.   Real inlay is is probably a bit too hard core for me at this point, I have yet to make my own neck from scratch.


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The guitar, completely disassembled, and ready for the "paint shop".  It only took four tools to take it apart.



First step to sanding off the old finish on the neck was to remove the OEM plastic nut.   This will be replaced with a locking nut later.IMG_20200524_140600.thumb.jpg.fb00f788f656b821ab6e30ec6a59d880.jpg


60 grit and a quarter sheet sander made quick work of the paint on the headstock.  I was pleased to find a nice stain grade wood neck underneath.   I sanded the rest of the neck.    Its all quite nice, with grain similar to the headstock.    I didn't reshape the neck,  just removed the old finish.



I didn't know if the guitar would be stain grade under the paint or not.   The body is much nicer than expected...


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I began testing finishes many months before I ever ordered any parts.   

Worry about the part you don't know how to do, not the part you do know how to do.

Apparently, silver stains did exist until a few years ago, but were discontinued due to lack of popularity.

So I decided to try making my own - basically by thinning out silver paint.   Metallic silver lacquer and lacquer thinner did the trick.

Stain and paint tests...




The "silver stain" effect - its silver, but you can still see the wood grain through it...



The Royal Blue color match test.    Finding Cowboys blue was harder than expected.  I had to order an official NFL decal as a color sample, then try different shades until I found the best match I could.   Given the fading at the edges seen in this test, I'm almost tempted to try squirting a burst border, instead of masking and spraying a hard line border.   The plan is to stain it all silver then paint the sides and about 10-20mm of the edges on the front and back in blue.



Edited by norm barrows

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The back turned out very similar to the front...



The the body with all the finish sanded off...



More stain tests, to determine the ratio of silver lacquer to lacquer thinner.  This is 50% silver lacquer, and 50% thinner.  In the end, it didn't behave like stain, it behaved like thin paint.   And lacquer clearcoat reacted with the silver, making it run.  So I gave up on silver lacquer.



Not only was the silver stain not working, I also ran into delays of game, due to kittens sleeping on the guitar padding...



And in the sandpaper box...



I switched over to Krylon metallic silver spray paint.  This is the metallic silver, with one very heavy coat of blue.  Adhesive from the painter's tape is sill visible.



This is the non-metallic silver lacquer.  I was thinking the metallic flake might be "too much", but my buddy likes it, the flake is very small and subtle, and the guitar itself is rather "busy" - with three pickups, a large bridge/tailpiece, and controls hiding much of the wood anyway.   So at this point, either I get some non-metal flake silver, and maybe some clear acrylic, or just go for the metallic silver, and clear lacquer.



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The neck, with the fretboard masked off, and ready for squirting.



The body after two light coats of silver.    Coverage is poor.   The paint is thin.    I used half a can doing two light coats.



The paint does not fill scratches well at all...



When sanding it almost seemed like the stain grade was a curvetop style laminate, and this is a spot where the sandpaper cut through to a coarser whitewood body underneath...



Edited by norm barrows

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Another place where the sandpaper seemed to cut through a laminate.   What I can't understand is why the factory would laminate, then paint over it?   Didn't pass Quality Control ? 



More scratch imperfections...




As you can see, Its a paint, not a stain, and the grain does not show though at all.  I was hoping for a two tone effect depending on the underlying grain.  But I had no wood of the same type for testing.   It worked in the tests, but on a different type of wood.  The paint itself is also not very smooth.



Results on the neck were similar.



Agian, it did not fill grain well...




If i were going to continue to paint it silver, I would do it like a car.   Scratch fill primer. Sand to 2000. Then squirt 6-10 coats of silver, then sand to 2000 again, then lacquer clearcoat, then sand to 2000 again, then wax and buff.

But I have a new plan...

Sand back to bare wood again.  Stain it blue - hopefully some grain will show that way.  Then mask it off and do the edges in silver.  Stain the neck too, and maybe do the front of the headstock in silver, or maybe just leave it blue with lots of silver hardware up there.

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For the record, if you are repainting a solid color, definitely dont ever strip the whole thing to wood, for the exact reasons you ran into.
You can buy high solids primer that will fill those scratches better.

Also, dont sand to 2000 before you clear coat

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On 6/7/2020 at 11:41 PM, killemall8 said:

For the record, if you are repainting a solid color, definitely dont ever strip the whole thing to wood, for the exact reasons you ran into.

I was hoping for a more "stain" type effect.    If I had decided to just go painted finish from the get-go, I would have just scuffed the OEM white finish, then shot it in silver,   And in general, I would have simply pretended I was doing a show car paint job, as opposed to a guitar finish.

But I want to see some wood grain.    I've almost finished sanding off all the silver with  100 grit.    just a little hand sanding of horn cutouts and sharper edges left to go.

I'm still confused about the body.  Its seems to be three piece.   some parts are smooth and flat like a chopping block.  and some parts - where it seems "sanded through" - are like balsa wood in texture - open coarse grain.   but light/drak grian line cross between the two parts, so it seems to be one piece of wood, just very hard and very soft in places, that have nothing to do with the grain.  

would shellac or something account for that?   the hard parts are almost like a laminate. 

i really need to post a proper question in the finishes forum. . 

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16 hours ago, norm barrows said:

I'm still confused about the body.  Its seems to be three piece.   some parts are smooth and flat like a chopping block.  and some parts - where it seems "sanded through" - are like balsa wood in texture - open coarse grain.

Looks like a two-piece to me, but there's both sapwood and heartwood in the large part. I*d guess the centre area is softer but it could as well be the other way around with species I'm not too familiar with.

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It looks like a 3 piece top over some soft core--basswood maybe. What does the end grain look like?


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Correction to my previous comment, it indeed is a 3 piece body without a top though. The lighter part below the trem cavity fooled my eyes... But compared the top and bottom photos at  

show the straight grained centerpiece and the more curved figuration  to match on both sides.



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I finished sanding off the silver, using 100 grit.

Apparently the body is 3 piece, not laminated, fairly soft wood, and has a thin hard sealer coat of some sort.

All my sanding so far, and most of the sealer is still there.    

I'm going to step down to 60 grit, and get all the sealer off.

Edited by norm barrows

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I sanded the whole guitar down to bare wood using 60 grit.   The "sealer" was clear, about 0.2 to 0.4 mm thick, and created a white powder when sanding, which smelled like juicy fruit gum.     It was very hard. even 60 grit and a power 1/4 sheet sander barely scratched it.    I considered the power planer, but just kept sanding.

Then I mixed up some blue dye.    Keda brand, an entire pack of blue with about two shots of water.   It looked plenty dark in the jar, and on the applicator (papar towel), but the guitar came out aqua blue.



Keda black dye is actually a very very dark blue.    So after drying overnight, I took half the remaining blue dye, and added a small amount of black dye power (half a pea's worth).  I then applied this over the aqua.  I really lucked out. The result was Cowboys Blue.  Its a surprisingly dark blue.



A closeup of the color



The back turned out just as nice.




Edited by norm barrows

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The blue is a very good match for the blue on the official Cowboys stuff I got for the guitar.  The large star was purchased just to get a proper color sample of the blue.  The small star was planned for the neck plate.  I later discovered the guitar has a contoured heel with no neck plate.  I may use the small star elsewhere.



A leftover silver selector knob from the tele clone build will replace the OEM black knob.



I wasn't sure if the pickups would be painted silver or blue.  But since the center of the body is blue, the pickup rings wil definitely be silver, so I painted them.



I was thinking that all silver hardware might be enough, and the guitar might not need a silver border on the body, but its just too much blue.    So it will get a silver border on the front and back, and silver on the sides, similar to a burst, but without the fade, just masked off and squirted.



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I used a bit of plywood, a pencil, and some CA glue to create a marking tool   The Idea was to run it around the edge of the body to mark off where to mask the front and back for painting.



Unfortunately,  I only got a little bit marked off, and the pencil came unglued.



So i did a rough masking by freehand, which will be cleaned up with an exacto knife.



But I decided to try the marking tool again, rather than doing the exacto knife trimming by freehand.   So I sanded down both the pencil and plywood, fully coated the mating surface, as oppose to a thin bead as before, and once that dried i ran a bead down each side where the pencil and plywood meet.   Hopefully that will hold, and i can mark off the tape, trim it, then squirt. I also ordered a different kind of silver paint to try - chrome enamel, as opposed to metallic silver enamel or metallic silver lacquer.    I'm not sure what I'll use for a clearcoat.  Acrylic would probably be easiest.  But I have some spray lacquer, brush-on lacquer, and brush-on poly to use up.


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The front of the body, all masked and marked for final trimming...



The back...



A closeup of the trim lines made with the marking tool.   Everything outside the lines will be cut away with an exacto knife, leaving the center masked off, and the edges exposed.



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Once the outlines were all marked out, the masking tape was trimmed using an exacto knife.

The front side - masked, trimmed, and ready to squirt.



The back side - masked, trimmed, and ready to squirt.



So then it was off to the "paint shop". It only required one coat to get decent coverage. Krylon metallic silver is hogh flow, and rather thin, very similar to Testor's silver, used in painting models. Once the silver dried for a few hours, i removed the masking.

The front, with masking removed.


And the back side....



Overall I'm pleased with the results.   Some of the curves could have been a little smoother, but my friend likes the "custom look" of the slight imperfections.

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After painting the body, I waited a few days while I decided what to do with the neck.   It seemed awfully plain in just a solid blue stain.    I considered a silver skunk stripe or a triangle with the base at the pocket and the point near the headstock.  But after consulting with my friend, we decided to try the outline effect on the neck as well.   So the first step was to mask and mark off the neck...



The headstock,  masked and marked off for trimming....



Then it was exacto knife time again.  Magnifying glasses help with fine detail work.    Here's the back after trimming....



And the headstock, trimmed, and ready to squirt...


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Here's the headstock after being squirted with silver....



And the back of the neck.  The top, sides, and ends of the fretboard were (and still are) all masked off, so there will be clean rosewood when the masking finally is removed. 



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After painting the neck it was time to try some clearcoat.   I tried some spray lacquer I got at true value hardware.  It tended to dissolve the silver paint.  So I quickly finished a single light coat on the front, and set it flat to dry, and hoped the silver paint didn't run.     Once it dried it was ok.



One of the spots where the lacquer really dissolved the paint - but it dried ok.



The other bad spot.  It too dried ok.



It was obvious lacquer would not work.   But I was lucky, and did not have to re-mask and re-squirt.

Today I picked up clear rustoleum spray enamel, minwax water based acrylic, and minwax spray poly to test on the silver painted scraps from the earlier paint tests.  I also need to get some non-water based acrylic. 

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