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Stripped my Explorer!! (Finished Pics Added)


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Took a bit of a risk last weekend – but I seem to be getting away with it... [cool]

 

I've had a 2009 Explorer in dark cherry for a couple of years now. I've loved the Explorer shape since I first came across it in the late 70s, but when I was playing live I could never justify it in my mind. I fronted various blues-rock outfits, and for some reason the Explorer just seemed a bit over-the-top...

 

But then a couple of years ago (I only play "indoors" nowadays), I went out looking for the Epi Korina Explorer as "novelty" satisfy-your-boyhood-dreams guitar. When we finally found one to try, this Gibson was on the wall next to it. My wife talked me into trying it instead, and we came home with it. It's still the most expensive guitar I've ever bought...

 

It's a gorgeous player, and I've found that an Explorer is the only other guitar that makes me feel the same way as a strat does for "front-man" posing(!). If I was to gig again, I'd happily walk out on stage with an Explorer now.

 

BUT - I've had huge problems with the lacquer. Really bad, put me off playing it. I've had sticky necks before, but this was horrid. Either it never cured properly, (and the two years I've had it ought to be enough, especially with the standard "rough it down and polish it back up" techniques I've used), or I react badly to the current Gibson clear coat. Within minutes of playing it, the neck was always sticky as hell. No similar problems with an SG at all...

 

I was starting to think about moving it on, and I never sell guitars, and then last weekend I was watching Judas Priest "Live Vengeance 82" and noticed that one of KK Downing's original Vs had a stripped neck!! So I thought "what the hell, I like it apart from the stickiness problem, it's my guitar..."

 

I started trying to sand the neck - and got through in places, but it was LOADS harder than stripping a poly lacquer. Then on one of the other forums I'm on I discovered that nitro comes off real easy with stripper...

 

So, I thought, lets get some Nitromors... While I was waiting for the shops to open, I started wondering... the body's sticky as well... hmmm... With a bit of research about how I might finish it, and a fair bit of looking at the grain on the body through the dark cherry, and then a trip to the hardware shop to buy a load of tins of "stuff"... ALL of the finish was off after a few hours.

 

I can tell you there was an extremely thick clear coat that appeared to be two distinct layers (a thick one and then a thinner one underneath) while I was stripping it. After that there's a colour coat finish very similar to the Faded series - which just about wipes off with only a sniff of stripper.

 

I did very little damage to the wood (especially considering the look/feel I was after) – so I felt I was winning. If I'd caused any major gouges, plan B was fill and then go the "solid-colour with acrylic cans" route... and if that failed, plan C was take it to my luthier man with a sheepish grin and a "I think I've got some work for you..."

 

But it looked like plan A was still possible... :-k

 

I gave it a bit of a wire wooling etc and then took the next gamble – applied a "dark mahogany" wood dye. This was a magnificent success. I think a similar dye had already been done before the original finish went on, the grain was already "highlighted". But in a few places we were getting "pale patches" after the stripping and cleaning. My dye has completely unified that, and darkened the odd "ding" (some from wear and tear, some from the stripping) giving it a nice rustic vibe close up.

 

Now I'm nearing the end of sticking an oil finish on. I researched the options and decided "Danish Oil" was the route I wanted to go. Personally, I'd like to have left it "no finish", I love the feel of bare wood (all my strats have bare necks treated with Briwax, never had a warping problem, even the one that gigged/rehearsed for 15-20 years)... BUT I didn't think this was a good idea on this one. Danish oil promised me a thin coat, low-lustre finish, easy to use (the other option was Tru oil, but that apparently gives glossier finishes).

 

I'm waiting for the penultimate coat to cure, gonna knock it back with wire wool, then apply the last coat with fingers... When that cures, there might be some Briwax-ing, might not be, depends on how it looks/feels.

 

If things go according to plan, I should be able to put it back together at the weekend – I am SO looking forward to it, it feels utterly gorgeous already.

 

The wife, who is away on holiday, will be so surprised at what has happened when she gets back. She's hoping I do some recording now I've got the place to myself, but she's half-expecting me to have acquired a Faded V instead [thumbup].

 

However, for a fraction of the cost and (so far) no damage to the kitchen table, I've got a "new" Explorer... [cool]

 

I'm planning on taking pics when finished, so if I can figure out how to post them on here, I will...

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I've managed to find one, in a group photo from a year or so ago, not very good quality... I think that's the only pic I have of it "before".

 

And now I've just discovered you can't attach photos on this forum - you gotta host them elsewhere, is that right folks?

 

Ah... ok, when I've finished it and put it back together (and the wife brings her decent camera back from her holiday [biggrin]) I'll take some pics of the after and then see about getting a photo site.

 

Meanwhile, I gotta get some sleep - gotta get up for work in five hours!

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It's not exactly a Faded Explorer now, but I have to admit that I've spent months looking at my Faded SG in one corner and then looking at my glossy/sticky Explorer in the other, thinking "you sorry POS, why can't you look/feel like that?" [biggrin]

 

It's a deep brown mahogany natural with "slightly shinier than satin" finish at the moment. I'm hoping that I put the last coat of Danish Oil on this morning before I came to work. If I don't need to do anymore layers or touch ups, that means it should be cured enough to re-assemble on Sunday.

 

Haven't decided whether I'm going to do a Bri-wax layer on top yet. Although it's slightly shinier than satin at the moment, the oil finish seems to flatten out slightly as it dries - so I'll just see what it feels like when it's dry enough. I'm quite keen on ending up "satin" - so wire-wool and Briwax might be in order. But I do rather like how it's looking at the moment - problem is that shinier shows up some of the inconsistencies in my application of the oil... (although if my wife wasn't away she'd probably say "well I can't see them"!)

 

I'm very excited about strapping it back on and firing it up. Luckily, I've just got some new Raw Vintage trem springs for my strats, which have turned out to be a bit of an eye-opener for tone/feel, so at least I've got something "new" to play with while I'm waiting...

 

I've figured out I can use my old MySpace account (if I can find it and work out how to use it!!) to host the pics, so hopefully I should get some up in the next day or so. But the finished article will definitely be going up once it's done.

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I have a Faded Les Paul (Vintage Mahogany) and the neck on that guitar was sticky for a good couple of years.

 

My Explorer (in natural) took only a couple of months.

 

Like you say maybe the lacquer did not cure properly in yours.

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Ok, let's see if this works (Pic of the geetar before I attacked it):

 

IbeUX.jpg

 

Woohoo!

 

After many edits, yes, I can see it on here (I ended up using http://imgur.com/), hope you can see it too [biggrin]

 

Anyway, that's the only pic I have of it before stripping - and it's a bit cr@ppy quality.

 

Now I'm going back to the job - we are bri-waxing, and we are very hopeful of a finish today or tomorrow

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"Vintage" - yeah, it pretty much came out exactly how I was imagining or dreaming of when I first decided "oh what the hell"... and things don't often work out like that in real life, do they?! :-s

 

I have a mental image of Allen Collins playing one in Lynyrd Skynyrd - I think that's probably the one that started my love of the Explorer shape/image, I'd have seen the footage in 1979 or 80 or so. About a year ago I got Freebird the Movie and saw the guitar again, and I started wishing I had a brown one rather than a purple one. I even wondered about tracking down a Vibrola (I also looked into a Vibramate and Bigsby - reversable if I didn't like it - but the look of the Bigsby on an Explorer, while cool, it isn't quite for me). Now it's the right colour, and I've recently really come to terms with using a trem on other guitars, I ought to be tempted again - but the desire isn't there at all now , this one's staying as it is for the moment!

 

I know what you mean about the grain on the Fadeds. I don't mind it so much, but it is a bit distracting sometimes. When I bought my SG, I played several, I'd have put up with very rough grain if it had been the best sounding guitar, but luckily the best one had the smoothest body. The neck I've worn in with playing and the occasional Briwaxing (applied with wirewool). The SG's neck isn't as smooth as my Roadworn strats with their bare maple (and they needed some attention to get that smooth!), but it is well within my tastes now.

 

But this little beauty feels smooth [cool] - barring the odd minor accident from the paint scraper on the body edges (but that just adds to the vintage look!)

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The guitar looks cool, I like walnut color guitars but why didn't you buy a Natural Explorer to begin with?

 

There was a Guitar of the Week Explorer in natural with a short vibrola just 3 years ago or so, a couple of guys in here have them. Closest thing to Allen Collins' Explorer without the insane price.

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Thanks guys.

 

I gave it a good old workout yesterday. I am now very happy with my Explorer.

 

@stiffhand, yeah, I've wondered a lot over the last year or so, why did I buy this one?.. [biggrin]

 

The straight answer is "because it was there and it played gorgeously...". I must admit, if the guitar of the week version you describe had been next to it, I think I might well have been leaning towards that instead.

 

I always try before I buy, I go looking for things, but basically I "let the guitars come to me" when I'm shopping, I browse the shops I can reach and then when one says "take me home", I weigh up the pros and cons. This one really jumped out at me that day (we were actually checking out Les Pauls).

 

In fact, I've personally not seen many Explorers "in the flesh", and in the couple of years since I bought this one, I don't think I've seen another Gibson, only Tokais and the odd Epi.

 

Anyway, after I'd tried it for 30mins, and fallen in love with it, I had to buy it. And I did expect the slight stickiness in the shop to die down after 3-6 months, and I do really like the dark cherry colour anyway.

 

I had a honeymoon period with it, and then gradually it started gathering dust, and then it ended up in the case. If it was still the same colour but felt like it does now, I'd still be very happy. But I do like this look and I felt more confident about getting this "natural" colour scheme consistent than trying to redo a cherry - so this seemed the obvious way to go.

 

When it comes down to it, I took a massive risk doing this. I felt it was something like 70-30 in my favour, and I knew that the original "first-love" I had could be re-established and built on if I was successful. But I also knew it could be a costly mistake if it went wrong [biggrin]

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Looks great! (even if i'm not an Explorer guy) In the near future, when i'm around 17 i'll probs get a faded sg and do the reverse of what you've done and create a tobacco burst finish (like the 70's SGs) and put a '57 in the bridge and a P94 (like you have done) in the neck.

Once again, looks great! looks way better than when it was original [biggrin]

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Quite a striking change, came out nice looking! Thanks for the pics. The vibrola model stiffhand is talkign about is pretty rad. The main draw for me is the 57 classics in it. I fell in love with that one. The vibrola I could take or leave. It's a neat thing but I don't use it much and it doesn't have the stability of a floyd. The color, like the original reverse v's was a transparent amber. Kind of like a butterscotch color. By contrast, the stock natural explorer has a darker hue to it. Here's an old pic for comparison:

 

DSC00061.jpg

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Nice pic!

 

I personally prefer the colour of the one on the left.

 

Is the vibrola one mahogany or korina? And is the vibrola as stable as a vintage strat trem? I'm used to using those and making them pretty stable... also, can't tell from the pic, has the bridge got roller saddles?

 

One thing though - your pic has made me wonder about putting gold hat knobs on mine instead of the big black speed knobs... (there might be some temporary swapping going on when I get home from work!) [biggrin]

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It's mahogany. Just tinted.

 

The vibrola, eh.. I haven't used a vintage strat trem enough to say but I'm gonna say probably not. When I think of trems, my conception is that you can add springs or tighten the claw to make the bridge plate sit on the body and a little too much tension to ensure this is fine. The vibrola sits in kind of a floating position (it goes both ways) and it's just this bent piece of sheet metal counteracting the pull of the strings. There are no roller saddles and in my playing around, it'll stay mostly in tune if i don't fiddle with it too much. That could be due to some pinching at the nut or whatever, but I don't have that issue just bending really. when all is said and done, for my uses, the vibola is nice for adding a little sonic garnish, but ultimately not worth the trouble to me.

 

On the knobs, I personally hated hwo the balck speed knobs looked so I went to amber top hat knobs. On a natural mahogany finish they look great (that lighting doesn't do it justice). On an amber finish like the one on the right they don't "pop" enough visually so gold may be a better choice.

 

 

P.S. sorry for the momentary thread jack

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No problem with the threadjack - I kinda caused it anyway! :-k

 

It sounds to me like what I really need to do is find a guitar with a vibrola and try it out. I've pretty much ruled out the reversible option of Bigsby and Vibramate - it is attractive on some pics I've seen, but it is a big "statement" on an Explorer, and I just don't think it looks quite right for me...

 

If I tried out a vibrola and it felt familiar enough, I might consider a conversion... but I'm certainly not doing any hacking without having some idea whether it would be a mistake or not!!

 

On the knobs - I tried some gold speed knobs the other night (I found them in my spares box)... er... FAIL! [biggrin]

 

I actually don't mind the black speed knobs myself - but gold that size seems even bigger!

 

I've got an old Epi LP in storage - I think that has amber top hats (it actually has the Explorer's original 500T and 496R pickups as well), I'll dig it out and see whether I like them any better than the black speed knobs. I do have amber tophats on a Tokai Love Rock, but I'm not messing with that! (the knobs on the Epi have already been fiddled with to fit CTS pots, the Tokai ones haven't).

 

BTW the Explorer is playing like a dream now. In my haste to get it back together, and the initial "oh wow!", I'd forgotten that I hadn't really set it up again properly. I got up early and sorted the bridge and tailpiece before work this morning - "Oh WOW!!!" [biggrin]

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