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Traq Guitars 2015: a crazy ex-strat

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thanks, gentlemen! I'm super happy with the way it turned out, I had my share of frustration and failed attempts but after this one I'd feel pretty confident doing another one.

shellac is my best bet to protect this from the 2k clear I have prepared for the topcoat. Worked last time with brushed on nitro ... I'll make the headstock decal first and then I'll shoot shellac all over the thing (except fingerboard of course)

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Looking at the weather forecast looks like I can start spraying clear tomorrow. Meanwhile: I got some Z-poxy recently from LMI to try as a pore filler, since the swirl is going onto the neck on t

well KEA my build is basically the opposite of your super-clean ones but do build more! Last week after fretting I did a quick alignment check by locating the outer bridge saddle holes and check

Ok, so it IS possible to get a good result with Magic Marble. For some reason most of my previous tries (and many of the ones I saw online) ended up with washed-out colors, there was not enough paint

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well getting closer to the dangerous part. Made the headstock decal, aplied it and started shooting shellac all over the guitar:


here's a closeup of the headstock:


I need to find something better to spray this stuff, I'm using this strange aerosol can that I can fill with air from a bike pump, I think this was working ok in the past, but now the atomization is poor and half the shellac is dripping from the nozzle onto my hand. I did clean the cap thoroughly so I don't know .. 

Looks like I'll need to figure out a better setup.

I was trying to level the shellac with P220 and started to go through the paint in places, fortunately I noticed early. I did level the worst nibs fine, so I think I'll leave it at that. I'll try to paint/wipe and extra coat of shellac or two maybe. Then I need some better weather (we had a horrible 2-week heat wave and now its supposed to rain for a few days) for spraying the aerosol 2k that I got.

I have 2 cans, so the plan is to do 2-3 light coats from the first can (until its empty), then wait 24h, level with p600 or thereabouts and shoot the second can before 36h pass from the first spraying. I understant this should make the coats melt together.

Meanwhile I started on the pickguard - here is my fancy new router table:


I need to work on extraction a little, right now the whole workshop is covered in this small black&white bacon ...

Here's a test fit after laying out and cutting the neck "pocket"


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3 hours ago, Mr Natural said:

that swirl is so cool I almost wish you had swirled the pickguard too. 

I was considering this actually but I wasn't sure it would look good .. but all is not lost - I'm toying with the idea of making a prespex pickuguard for this guitar. For the moment I won't be shielding the cavities with the usual black paint, just in case.

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On 04/07/2017 at 6:30 PM, ScottR said:

Did you run some swirl up the neck. and fade it out?

yes, this was the plan from the beginning - since I had no logical separation line (like on a bolt-on)

actuall now I remembered that I also wanted to do this on the fingerboard and clearcoat over the frets like on a maple board .. oops. Well I guess that idea got lost somewhere along the way, at least that wasnt an important design element and fretwork will be much easier now. Maybe I even at some point conciously decided to not do that, I don't remember.

But yes - at the back I wanted to just blend it in. The neck went into the water as far as it could (given the depth of my "tub") and later I did a smooth transition using turpentine.

Here's a fuller shot, after coat 2:


actuall coats 2 & 3, I ran out of paint in the stupid 160ml rattle can while doing coat 2 on the front of the guitar (looks like I went too heavy on the back) so I quickly drove to the local hardware store to get another one and got another one. So I ended up using 60 CHF =~60 USD in rattle-can clear, I thought two cans would cut it, but I didnt want to wreck the guitar later because of me being cheap. (like sand through due to having not enough clear etc). 

I'm happy to report no compatibility issues appearing, in fact I did a test on a piece of maple veneer that I dipped in the magic marple paints when testing different color combinations. That one didn't have the shellac barrier coat like the guitar has and I was spraying it in parallel - also no issues seen there. So looks like auto 2K might be compatible with magic marble.

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40 minutes ago, pan_kara said:

But yes - at the back I wanted to just blend it in. The neck went into the water as far as it could (given the depth of my "tub") and later I did a smooth transition using turpentine.

I'm glad you did that--very cool effect!

40 minutes ago, pan_kara said:

60 CHF =~60 USD in rattle-can clear,

That is some high dollar clear.:blink:


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Fretwork in Blue:


took me some time, I still suck at this, after doing something like 10 necks since I started out. But at least I managed to get rid of every last scratch in the end, though I needed to spot-sand with P400 in a few places. We'll see if this is quality fretwork when I put the strings on, but visually it's ok.



well but there's also bad news. I started wetsanding the clearcoat with P1000 to prepare for polishing (it's ~5 days since spraying) and somehow I managed to go through:


this is the lower corner of the body at the back - thankfully I started from the back. 

So I don't really understand how this was possible, you can see that 1-2cm from the sand-through I still have the "shiny spots" from leftover orange peel. I managed to get it mostly out in almost all of the back, though on the horns I fear I might be also starting to go through the color layer...

I've been trying to understand what happened and the only reasonable explanation is that I'm stupid and the shellac coat that I had between the swirl and the clear had so much orange peel that what I'm trying to sand out is in fact that - not the orange peel in the clear. Its true that the shellac didn't spray very evenly and I didn't really sand it flat (because I was afraid I'd go through). I only sanded it a little bit with a P800 "shinex" pad.

I'm not sure what to do with this, especially with the frond and the sides. This bit I will just mask by hand (paint the swirl) after polishing, but I don't want to repeat this - so at the moment I'm considering polishing the rest of the guitar without trying to sand the orange peel out. I think this will look better than partially-sanded orange peel - that tends to create ugly and very visible pitting after polishing, and orange peel just remains orange peel.

I mean - on the pics above the guitar looks great even without polishing, orange peel is not something that's very visible unless you look really closely.

I'll attempt a mirror finish again next time and meanwhile I'll continue to hate spray finishing

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IME the Magic Marble paint is much more delicate than a conventional paint coating, and the layering effect of all the various colours and variations in paint film density as it gets dipped tends to create high and low spots in the finish underneath the clear, Maybe your clear coat in that area was just a little bit too thin, the swirl layers were a few microns higher than the surrounding area and a spot was created where sand-through was particularly likely before the nearby orange peel was removed?

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1 hour ago, psikoT said:

Well, that was a complicated finish... but still rocks. Next time just give it 5-7 more clear coats than needed, just to be safe. 

well this being 2k automotive paint I was expecting more build than with nitro - AFAIK on cars you just do a tack coat followed by a wet coat and that's it (or maybe 2 wet coats) - clearly its done by gun and thinned differently etc but still. A single 20 CHF can of this stuff gave me 1 tack coat and 1 full coat on day one, and I think that's as much as I've put on the wenge-padouk body I was doing some time ago (aka Etna). But here I wanted more paint to be safe so I repeated the process on the following day, then I got another can just to be safe - so I ended up with 2x-3x more clear than I (probably incorrectly) thought were "needed". My previous swirl was finished with brush-on nitro, there I really went heavy in terms of the number of thick brushed-on coats :)


45 minutes ago, Mateyboy said:

Wow! That looks the biz!

thanks, hope I'll manage to not screw it up further :D

30 minutes ago, curtisa said:

IME the Magic Marble paint is much more delicate than a conventional paint coating, and the layering effect of all the various colours and variations in paint film density as it gets dipped tends to create high and low spots in the finish underneath the clear, Maybe your clear coat in that area was just a little bit too thin, the swirl layers were a few microns higher than the surrounding area and a spot was created where sand-through was particularly likely before the nearby orange peel was removed?

could be that I somehow sprayed less clear in that spot.. but really with the orange peel right next to it, there must be some extra factor. Hence my shellac suspicion. 

I was actually wondering how to handle the texture left behind by MM, on my previous try the paint was very uneven, but on this one it was actually pretty much flat after the dip, except for a few spots. Otherwise my plan was to shoot one coat of clear and then get it perfectly level (killing all the high spots) and use that as the base for the next coat(s). Well looks like I should have done this anyway. Lesson learned.

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So the neck is fine, I got the whole back of the neck nice and flat starting with P1000, then P1500 and then micromesh pads up to the "teal" one (4000 or 5000 or something) and this is where I'll leave it - I'll stick with this satin finish to have a faster neck. 


I got to the same point on the headstock, but there I will be polishing. Thank God for my auto detailing hobby :) :


I have these denim "orange peel removal" pads that remove orange peel by polishing it off (as opposed to wetsanding) - maybe these will do a good job of reducing the orange peel on the front without digging in too deep. 

On the back I just painted the swirl back on for the moment:


if this continues I'll accumulate enough skill to paint swirled finishes by hand lol

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Alignment test:


I started putting everything together on Monday so play two rehearsals on it (Tue and Thu) before the gig on Sat, and in the process I realized that some of the hardware that I was sure I had bought I in fact don't have. I knew I'm missing a tuner, but I'm also missing black strat knobs (I have a pair but they're some super-ugly old ones from somewhere), black jack plate (I have to borrow a chrome one waiting for a different strat), and [drum roll] the .008 string that was supposed to act as the high A string.

And so at the moment I'm working with this contraption:


its going to be amusing, playing it live. It freaks with me in so many ways ... since my fingers feel a 7-string neck they automatically think "attention! B string present!" and I have a tendency to shift all chord shapes down by one string.. on the other hand they feel the edge of the fingerboard at the treble side and expect a string to be there, so despite the A string being missing I also have a tendency to shift everything down one string at the treble side. And to top it off the fan makes me loose orientation anytime I need to suddenly make a jump to some position above the 12th fret.

I guess I can't just keep it simple, can I ?

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16 hours ago, psikoT said:

You mean the high E string missing, right?

Congratulations, that strat looks great... maybe you have to practice a ll bit before the gig, that fan must not be easy to play.

Good luck anyway. :) 

no man, I do mean the A string :D - the E string is already there now, but there's going to be a higher string above it. I already have a normal 7-string with a low B so I wanted something different here. So the fan doesn't run over standard-baritone scales, the low E is 25,5' and the high string is shorter (I forget now what I used). So that I can get reasonable tension tuning a .008 string up to A. Hopefully

and yea, the fan came out a bit over the top, especially with the short scale it's getting quite crammed up there. I did play two full rehearsals with it so I more or less know the places where I need to focus in order not to loose fretboard orientation. I did produce some spectacular fails at the first rehearsal :)

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Waayy cool man!  Especially the graceful transition into natural wood in the neck.  Reminds me of "Terminator: Judgement Day" when the T-1000's arm slowly transitioned from human arm into a sword.  

A little tip on rattle can vs 2K - rattle cans are cut with solvent at least 2 times more than 2K urethane at gun viscosity, so they will spray out the tiny orifice.  Cans give you maybe 20% solids, while 2K is close to 50% solids.

Therefore two wet heavy coats from can might yield 2 mils dry, while two wet coats 2K gunned on will give over 12 wet, then dry to 6 mils, reducing sand through chance.   Of course, the greatest tip on leveling out orange peel is to flat sand well away from any edges, then when done, I do one or maybe two passes over rounded edges with 1000 or finer.  Same with buffing - never buff edges til last, and then only lightly.  

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thanks for the tips @StratsRdivine! I don't think I'll be going the spray max route again, this stuff is too expensive for what it is. I even have a gun, I did spray some 2k once that I got from a luthier store in France, I might go back to this. Or nitro. I've done a classical neck refinish several months ago with spray can nitro and I'm super happy with the finish there. I think I used half a can of nitro (plus some sealer). 

Indeed I went through at the edge (the pressure being naturally higher there due to smaller surface under the sanding block) but I still claim my error was in having too much orange peel in the underlying shellac coat. I just had to sand too much with P1000. 

Anyway. I buffed the guitar but it didn't really turn very shiny, either the clearcoat was too fresh (~1 week?) or too thin. Now that the guitar served it's short-term purpose I can get back to trying to make her officially finished. I think I'll lightly scuff the finish and shoot some nitro over it (body+headstock) in hope that I can buff THAT up. I'll fix some small details here and there in the process. And order proper hardware.

Meanwhile, it was perfectly fine for this:


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