Thursday, January 11, 2018

May I introduce you to...

So, I don't have a name for this one yet.  We're still getting to know each other.

You've come a long way...

Submitted for your approval - without further comment:

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wax on, Wax off

Welcome to the Green Room.  Have a seat on the couch.
The problem with having an unheated garage for a workshop is that winter happens.  Here in New England it happens quite vigorously.  So, when the outside temperatures drop below my shoes size - I don't get much done in the workshop.  But because I was so close to being done with this project - I brought the work inside.  Hence, the green plastic drop cloth on the furniture.

Two faced son of a....
As you can see from the title of this post - it's time to get my Mr. Miyagi on again.
You can't get a really good shine on a nitrocellulose finish without polishing your arm off.  And yes, you do end up waxing on and waxing off (at least I did).  It works just fine - why would we doubt Miyagi?

But before you can polish - you have to sand - so sand I did.
I started out with 800 grit sandpaper but I want to caution you - really look at your project before you make that determination.  On previous builds, I've started at 600 or even 400 grit sandpaper - as those builds needed it.  This time around I sprayed the guitar body very evenly so I didn't need to even out the finish and I had no orange peel or finish spits to knock down.  So I didn't need one of the coarser grits to start.

...and After
It was kinda nice to be able to go straight to 800.  Once you get to that fine level of abrasive you are almost "wiping" the guitar body as opposed to "sanding it."  I did continue to sand with the grain for the 800 and 1000 grit sandpapers but once I moved over to 1200 - I started to sand in a circular motion.  Another thing about sanding with 1200, 1500, and higher grits - you should wet sand.  Which means you should pre-soak your sandpaper.

It says "waterproof" not "idiot proof"
Because this is a semi-hollow body guitar I chose to use mineral spirits as the "wet" in my wet sanding.  You can use water or naphtha if you choose but water will raise the grain on any unfinished wood.  In my case, the water could soak into one of the holes in the Maple top and get under the finish - which could be bad (as in crack the finish bad).  So I chose mineral spirits which doesn't raise the grain much.

"Mineral Spirits."
Yeah, sure...
The liquid/lubricant you use and the detritus from the sandpaper make a kind of sludgy mix (most people call it slurry) that you need to wipe off as you go about sanding the body.  I personally found that I didn't need to sit in one place for a long time and work the paper.  I went over the body lightly - the idea being you aren't removing much at this fine level of abrasive.  You are just smoothing out the finish.

Because I sanded up to 1500 grit I was able to skip using a "coarse" polishing compound.  Which is good - as I don't own a "coarse" polishing compound.  About 10 years ago I did buy tubs of medium grit and fine grit polishing compound.  Which is both advantageous and not.  It was nice to not have to buy another couple of tubs of polishing/waxing compound.  But these guys are getting old.  Most of the paste has hardened and I had to dig into the middle of the tub to find polish that was soft enough to buff out the finish with.

Thank you.  You're pretty Fine yourself.
Looks like putty.
Tastes like chicken.
Speaking of buffing.  In the past, I used a buffing wheel attached to my cordless drill to do the bulk of the buffing/polishing for my previous builds.  It worked okay for the electric guitars but the buffing wheel nearly catapulted the sole acoustic body I've worked on across my workshop.  There is one downside to using a buffing wheel (a real one or a drill mounted one) - it's easy to rub right through the finish to the bare wood.  I know this from personal experience.

...spreads like chicken too.
So, to minimize the chance of that happening on this build I did all the polishing by hand.  You can tell if you look up close as there are visible swirls under the right lighting conditions.  But from 3 feet away - you would never know.

Wax on...
As to how you do this:  I took a bit of the polish and wiped it on with a clean soft cotton rag.  Then I took a second clean rag and wiped the polish off the body (hence the title of this post).  Yes, I did switch hands.  No, it doesn't matter if you buff in different directions like Mr. Macchio.  The only real secret is to not use the same rag to wax on when you switch from medium to fine grit.  Keep the different grits separate.

"It rubs the lotion on its skin..."
Once I had polished the guitar body to a decent shine I used a "swirl and haze remover" as a final wipe down.  This is kind of like an ultra-fine polish but it's a liquid and you could (in theory) use it once a year on your guitar to really clean it up and get closer to the instrument's original shine.  But beware this is an abrasive - don't use it as an everyday cleaner.

"It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it get's the hose again."

Even though there are no pictures of it - you do the same exact process on the back of the guitar as the front.  I just didn't take any pictures for some reason.  In fact, it's really important that you go through the steps (and grits) only once - so you have to do the front, back, and sides all at the same time.

Not too shabby

For the neck - I repeated all of the above steps for the front of the headstock so that it would somewhat match the guitar body.  For the back of the headstock and the rest of the neck, I used extra-fine steel wool and wiped down the neck until it had a smooth but matte finish.  I'm not concerned about the neck having a gloss finish and a matte finish is more comfortable to me.  (it's also super simple to do - which is nice).

"I just want to make people silky smooth"

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


Uh oh.  Dad's got the fringe out again...
I see tape fringe!  That can mean only one thing.  Daddy's gonna have a good time tonight!!!


Sorry. Wrong blog...

But seriously, it's time for more binding (yay!).  I decided way back that I wanted to bind this Les Paul style neck - including the headstock.  So, here we go.  In a previous post, I discussed how I needed to make a channel for the binding to sit in.

57 Channels and nothing on
Also in a previous post, I talked about making binding paste...

Mmmmm... Death Chicklets

The joy of watching plastic melt...

Death Chicklet soup...?
I've also talked at length about working on plastic binding: here, here, and here.

Always the same:  It's picture day and I have flyaway binding

So what more is there to talk about?
Not much.  I just thought a post of nothing but pictures would be a bit boring.
And I thought the blog would be a bit dry without my pithy observations.

Something pithy
But in truth - here's the bit I wanted to get to: The headstock.
Binding the neck isn't really that new and different.  If anything, it's easier than a guitar body because it's pretty much a straight run of binding with no curves.  Until you get to the headstock.

Curvy you say?
The headstock was the reason I needed to bind the neck over two days.  Day one was the neck and the big curves of the headstock.  Day 2 was for all of the little curves.

All wrapped up and nowhere to go.
So, after Day 1 we are left with this:

No, my workbench didn't magically turn into polished stone.
After all the tape was removed we had this: 

Ladies and gentlemen - my kitchen floor
If you look closely you can see that I cut the binding too long - so I need to trim it.

And we're back in the garage.

Take some snips and cut the binding to the correct length and you are left with this:

That middle bit is going to be a problem
And this:

And this is gonna make the guitar look better how?

And this...

Son of a...!

So, remember when I said there was really nothing new to report about doing the binding on the side of the neck.  Yeah, I lied again.  Lying liar that I am.  What happened here?  

I was pretty surprised myself.  I must have pulled the binding in the wrong direction when I taped it down because I was about a half inch short.  And by the time I realized this the binding was mostly done - so it would have been a real pain to redo.  So, I slapped another small strip on there and we'll work on it.

Lil' bits
Day 2 working on the neck was to affix the little bits.  Now there is a reason I split this process over two days.  To make these pieces blend seamlessly with the larger bits you have to trim, sand, and pre-fit them.

Unless you actually know what you're doing and then you do this in one night...

I started simple with the small piece that goes on the butt of the neck.

Heh, heh.  He said butt!
Then I tackled the top of the headstock.  On a traditional Les Paul guitar, the final profile or shape is supposed to look like an open book.  Which means I'm going to have to do something about that peak in the middle there.

Binding gives you wings!
Since we use anthropomorphic terms for guitars (neck, body, head-stock) this last part here would be the what?  Jowls?  Adam's Apple? Lymph Nodes?

Caressing the guitar jowls
Anywho!  All these pieces were cut to fit.  And in the few cases where they were not an exact fit - I used a bit of extra binding paste to cover my mistakes.  It's not like that went poorly the last time I tried that trick.

Then I waited overnight and on day 3 scrapped that sucker.
I will mention again that I use both a cabinet scraper and a utility blade to scrap bindings.  This time out I also tried using a 1/4 inch chisel.  Which worked for the area where the nut will go as that is harder to scrap or snip.

After a rough night on the town

After a shower and shave.
Scraping turned up a few blunders.  I kind of thought this one might not be a tight fit as I taped over it.  But until you take the tape off it's hard to know either way.

Heisenberg's lesser-known experiments with binding.  No dead cats required.

And I knew the top of the headstock was going to need a solution.

Pictured: Unresolved issues

Buth otherwise - it's starting to look pretty good

Pictured: Pretty good

Seeing as this neck started out life looking like this:

So, I've had some work done.  So what?
I mixed up a small batch of binding paste and filled in the cracks.
Once that's dry we'll scrap again.
A little schmeer...
And now we wait for Day #4

What could possibly go wrong?