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Finishing Advice Requested


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Hi all! I've finally got around to the finishing stages of my Explorer. Just grain filled and sanded back the body and neck (mahog/maple) with some oil-based BenMoore fill. It worked pretty good, and came out very nice.

Now, I've been toying around with ideas, and came to some concrete solutions: One, I want a black/red color scheme.

I did a mockup here and threw it up to Fotki. Black body/headstock, red bevels/back of neck. Other than that, I'm pretty much stuck.

Would the oil-based filler affect the painting process?

I'm also planning on using poly, as I've heard a lot of good things about it. It dries very hard, which is what I need, because there are a lot of sharp points on this guitar. I was thinking of picking up two cans of poly primer, white. That'll be enough to prime the body, right? Maybe 3, because I know you shouldn't use more than 1/2 or so of a rattle can. Another option would be to get the primer for a gun. It'd be cheaper, no?

How many ounces of paint would be needed to sufficiently cover a body with a spray gun? I've never used a gun before, but I won't be painting this body, anyhow, haha.

For the black, I was toying around with several options. First, and easiest would be a straight black. Second, Drak mentioned "piano black" in a thread that I posted on. Mixing orange in with the black, I think he said. That would be the look I'm going for, really. A really deep deep black. I don't know how much of the deep "void" effect is a product of the paint used or the clearing process or buffing or whatever. But I suppose that's why I'm on the forum, to be enlightened. Third option would be to put just a TINY bit of pearl to the black. Just enough to be barely noticable.

Reason for the third option would be to match the candy apple red that I was thinking of doing the bevels and neck with. I wanted to try something along the lines of the Kevin Bond Rhoads, a real deep red with a little bit of shimmer to it. I was thinking of picking up the 4oz HOK apple red candy. It's pre-mixed, so I wouldn't have to add reducer or anything, and I think 4 oz is enough for doing 6 bevels and the back of the neck.

So my options would be:

-Regular black with candy red neck

-Deep "piano black" with candy red neck

-Pearl black with candy red neck

As far as steps are concerned, would I want to spray the black first and red over it, or red first, or tape off the red completely. Suppose I'd have to do a test on my scraps to find out which one comes out the closest to what I'm looking for.

I also wanted to clear the back of the neck satin, with the rest of the guitar gloss. Is it just as simple as taping off the section to be satin'd and spraying? Because if there's one thing I can't stand, it's the sticky feel of a painted neck.

Sorry if I'm tossing out questions left and right. I've read many a tutorial, and I feel that I'd be capable of the actual painting process, I just haven't a clue what to buy. I've really got to give it up to everyone who has knowledge about this stuff, the makeup of paint and how they react with wood and each other, because it's definitely a field that is way over my head.

Thanks in advance, all!

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Just added 2 new photos to the build section on my fotki.


One of the countersunk tuner holes, and the other of the early grain-fill stages. I'm searching the dorms for someone I know with a scanner so I can scan the other pics I just got developed.


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I'd assume you can use anything over a filler. I've never had any problems with oil on water base filler or the other way. You also mention "Poly" as being very hard, do you mean polyurethane or 'ploycrylic'? I would not use a polyurethane anything on a guitar, maybe some people do, but that's just me. For your black you might want to check out black lacquer. It's like the clear lacquer, only its not clear and its black, and i mean black black, you can also tint this to get your piano black. As for the red, i would prime and then mask, it will be very hard to get a red over the black to look good with less than 3 coats. Good finishes are the ones that are maybe a few mills of finish but look a mile deep. Building up finish reduces the finshes stability and then you run into problems with possible cracking, checking, dings and dents. Whatever you use, make sure they are compatible to stick to eachother and the topcoat you apply is compatible with your undercoats.

Here's how i would do this:

-Paste fill and sand

-Prime the body and bevels with a thin coat of a SANDABLE primer or a sanding sealer depending on your finish type. Scuff the primer(or sealer) with a Fine grit sanding sponge.

-Mask body for the spraying of the bevels. Make sure to leave 1/16" outside of the bevels open so the red can coat onto the body some.

-Spray your red in a thin coat, sand that. Repeat spray and sand untill it is solid red. Do not just do this in one thick coat. 3 coats is what it may take, removing half of what you did with sanding after the first and second coats. Make it smooth but not polished, scratches help new finish adhere.

- Remove masking and mask off the red bevels you just did, ON the bevel.

- Sand down your 1/16" red band on the rest of the body to near nothing leaving something there to bind the black to the red. There should be almost no lip of color on the body, just a smooth feathered transition

- Start with your first thin coat of black, and sand it. Repeat that in the same way you did the red. Use thin coats and make sure it goes to all black.

- Remove the masking from the red. You now have a lip in the finish at the bevel.

- Sand the lip out of the finish using a VERY FINE grit sand paper or sponge. Be careful to not remove too much of either red or black. If there is a slight lip left it can be removed with the clear.

- Spray your first thin coat of clear, Sand that very smooth to a near polish. You can also remove more of that lip now if you didn't get it all because you didn't want to burn through your colors.

- Spray your final coat(s) of clear (sanding in between for multiple coats).

- Polish guitar to a mirror shine.

I finish furniture in a small little shop. While this WILL work and be a really good finish, i bet someone else here knows a better way. I just wanted to avoid a lip in the finishes. Oh and softer finishes scratch easier but are harder to chip. Harder finishes chip easier but are harder to scratch.

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Oh wow, thanks a LOT, Sand Paper!!! I'd say I owe you one, but it's clear that you're the expert at this game B)

Yes, I did mean polyurethane, or just urethane, I'm not sure what the difference is, but I DO know my latin and greek prefixes pretty well :D From what I hear, a lot of people use it, and it's reputed to be very hard. My main concern with thickness/hardness is that there are a lot of sharp corners on this guitar, and if a corner gets knocked the wrong way or anything... I'm not known for having a mile of patience, heh.

I've also heard people using epoxy as a primer, and it's reputed to be rock hard, but a B* to sand. I suppose I could dye it white and apply it with a ton of sanding. Or just pick up some Krylon primer :D

You say to use black lacquer. Please correct me, but doesn't lacquer have a very long cure time. So say I get some black lacquer from ReRanch or wherever I can grab it. Do you have any preferred brands? Do I have to mix/reduce it? I haven't heard anything about adding orange to black to make it black-er, so I think I'll stick with a lot of buffing at the end to give it a really deep look.

Like I said, I'm planning on getting HoK candy apple red premixed, for a little bit of eye-catching-ness. The website says something about "unique chemical makeup" (Bah, it's all fancy Ed Roman doubletalk), and that it should be good over and under just about anything. Is one 4oz bottle enough to do 6 bevels and a neck back? I know nothing about the loads/capacities/covering of spray guns, so I'll probably get 8 oz to be on the safe side. I might even go down to the local car paint shop and see what they have for candy red.

Black lacquer means lacquer clear, that I know. I know you mentioned avoiding lips in the finish; If I were to paint the back of the neck satin, that's just one more lip to smooth out. Would you recommend shooting satin clear over the neck back, or buffing the gloss out with 0000 or microgrit cloths? I really can't stand a sticky gloss neck feel.

Sorry I've tossed to many questions your (or the general public's) way :D Just a guitar noob trying to get by in the world. Thanks again, and thanks in advance!!

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You can get lacquer in any color you want, and if they dont make that, you can tint it. I would not use polyurethane, it's sub par in my oppinion and a generic fix for people who just don't care. You obviously care, or you wouldnt be asking. Lacquer comes in all sheens as well from totaly flat to high gloss. Lacquer has a workable dry time between coats of about 15 minutes, faster if you use a dryer, longer if you use a retarder. I'm not sure about cure time for polishing but you can find that on here i think. Lacquer is known as a "hot finish" which means it "burns" back into what you already applied bonding all coats togeather for strength. You can also avoid a lip between different sheens by spraying a satin and buffing to gloss the areas you want gloss. You can do cool feathering techniques this way as well as adding designs that are present in the sheen only. An example would be to mask off a tribal pattern on the guitar that has been sprayed with satin, polish the whole guitar, then remove the mask for a satin transparent tribal design.

Lacquer however isn't cheap. A gallon of whats known as "water white" (clear) Vinyl Sealer and water white satin finish will run you maybe $95. A gallon of thinner is around $20. I'm not sure of pricing on quarts because we don't buy anything below a gallon at a time. The higher in sheen you go, the higher the price. Price however isnt important when you do a really good job and have a very nice finish. Polyuerthane isn't a nice finish.

Let me know what you want to do and if you decide to go with lacquer i can point you in the right direction as to what materials you will need to complete your project.

P.S. The most durable finish on the market is a product made by Sikkens called Cetol. It's used in the marine industry as well as for anything that takes a beating. It's water proof and it WILL stick to Teak regardless of what people tell you. It also does not like to come off, it's like armor. However, it feels sticky and i'm not sure if that ever cures completely out.

Edited by Sand Paper
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Thanks for the info again! I've been looking into epoxy as a primer. Wes did an awesome ESP-style guitar and put epoxy over it as a primer. I could follow what he did and just dye the epoxy white to use as a base. Then I could put a black lacquer over with the HoK candy red, and finish with a combination gloss/satin clear.

What is the difference between lacquer and shellac? Reason I say this is because I'm looking at the website of a paint store that is down the street from me. They sell clear shellac and oil-based poly gloss for pretty cheap. Also, they're a Benjamin Moore dealer, and BM has an acrylic poly that the company could order in for a pickup. Perhaps these could be alternatives to expensive clear lacquer.

Another option would be ReRanch; they have 16oz rattlecans of lacquer gloss and satin. I know it's a rattlecan, but it's still fairly inexpensive, I just don't know how much I would have to buy...

Speaking of how much to buy, do you know how many ounces of spray I would need to do the bevels and back of neck in red? HoK sells what I want in 4oz bottles.

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