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Guitar makeover and learning experience


tweed2

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From this:origtele.jpg

 

OK. This all started back with the Tweedcaster that was up on eBay. The Tweedcaster sold for more than I was willing to pay and I moved on. But suggestion that I should build my own gestated in the back of my brain, until I gave in and decided to go ahead and build a partscaster. So I set up three parameters and started planning. First I set the maximum cost at $240. Second, it had to have a string thru bridge and third, it had to fit in, looks-wise, with the rest of my guitars.

 

I found a loaded Squier standard body and a separate loaded Maple Squier Custom neck and got both for under $140. The body was a dark walnut stain, so it didn’t fulfill rule #3. So as soon as I got it, I started sanding. I knew it was agathis and probably several pieces, but it ended up looking a little too ugly to live with and a little too dark for a natural stain. I had already decided to use Behlens spray can finish system on it and drove into town to pick up the stuff at a woodworking supply store. While in there I looked at their veneers, thinking that I might overlay the front. One piece veneers were out of the question, too expensive. But I found a 6pack of quarter sawn Ash strips, of which 3 would do one guitar and since the wood was very light in color, It’d be easy getting the final color I wanted. The guy at the counter turned me on to a great way to glue (more on that in a moment), especially 3 pieces, so I was off.

 

I picked 3 pieces that matched well, marked the alignment points and got the glue out. I was told of three ways to glue this stuff. Contact cement (very unforgiving, once it’s down, it’s down); veneer glue ( lots of clamps), or iron it on. Yep, a regular clothes iron. Take TiteBond (III) yellow wood glue, water it down a bit (20%). Spread it on both surfaces, thin, with a credit card as a trowel. And then let it dry. Heat your iron to medium temp and find a piece of butcher or craft paper to place over the veneer. Set the middle strip first, in place, cover and slowly run your iron across 4 or 5 times. It will melt the glue, bond the two pieces and after cooling for 5 to 10 seconds will be stronger than the wood (more on that, later) . You can place the adjacent pieces, aligning the grain and getting a tight joint and repeat. I did several sample blocks, in addition to the body, so that I could experiment when it came time for the finishes and I’m really glad I did. It gave me the chance to get a real look at things before committing.

I ran a 1/8” round over router bit on the back edge and then set it to half depth and ran it around the front edge, just to ease it a bit. A light sand with 150 grit, then some filler for the low spots and deep grain. I went with a little darker filler to make the grain stand out. Another 150g sand, then a 220g sand. Behlens has a clear vinyl spray filler/primer that is easy to work with and their stains and top coats are formulated to chemically bond to it. Two coats of that, then a 320g sand. I used a dishwasher box as a spray booth, complete with light bulbs for heat, a fan and 4” dryer hose to exhaust outside and a thermometer to track the temp. The body was hung on cable, and the staining began. Several light coats of Behlens Golden Oak guitar stain got that aged Tele color perfectly (and when put next to my other “natural” guitars, blended in well. I let that set overnight, then started the top coat the next morning. One hour apart, no more than 3 in one day.

 

When I went out the next morning, I found, to my horror, that the temp had been riding at 90 degrees all night and the edges of the veneer were starting to split at the grain points. There was no way to pull it around, so I thought that I would try heating the glue again, and peel that veneer off and replace it. No dice, Chicago. That stuff was down, a chisel wouldn’t cleanly separate them. I went back to the supply store and told them what happened. They saw two possibilities. First, the prolonged high temp may have caused the veneer to shrink, and it gave at the weakest point, the thin part of the grain. The other possibility was not keeping the guitar and veneer in an acclimated place, allowing the two to get cold while working in the garage and then warm while inside getting glued up and drying. I picked up a bundle of quarter sawn Maple strips (nice even grain on that stuff) and went home to belt sand of the Ash and start over.

The process was tweaked to allow for what I’d learned and things went beautifully the second time. The temp in the booth stayed at 70-75 degrees. While the staining part was occurring I sanded down the headstock (no more Squier) of the neck and did a light stain on it. The Revamp (label I use on my guitar cabs) waterslides were applied and then covered with the Behlens lacquer guitar top coat, while doing the body. The side and back of the body are noticeably darker than the maple overlay, but have the same number of stain coats and top coats. As frustrating as the redo was, in the long run, I’m happier with the look of the Maple.

The neck got a full fret dress and the pickups were changed out with a used Fender Twisted Tele neck (nice and hot, almost P-90 sounding) and a new KentArmstrong hot bridge PU. Everything else is stock. With a little creative accounting (i.e., I didn’t count the mistake stuff and I used the “free” extra waterslides I got when I purchased two custom ones), I ended up $2 under my limit. I got a one-of-a-kind guitar that fulfills all of my criteria, and sounds and plays like a guitar costing much more. And, I learned a few things.

 

First, if done right, I do think you can get a good finish from a can. Don’t know about paint, but stain and top coat certainly is achievable, despite what I heard and read before starting. I can't say enough good stuff about the Behlens system. It was very easy to use and the results were beyond my expectations. Also, taking your time and planning things out makes a huge difference. The extra sample pieces that I did allowed me to experiment as I went, so that I didn’t have to redo things too many times. Gordy’s words about patience, in another thread, really rang true here. I’m already looking for another guitar to do. Something flat, with square edges, like a Jr. maybe. And, there’s some real nice book-matched flamed maple veneer down at the store………….

 

To this (notice the Family resemblance?):IMG_3534.jpgIMG_3515.jpg

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Awesome job Pat, very well done mate, I'd seen it in a PM you sent me but you didn't have that headstock closeup in those pics, that looks fantastic. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Thanks Rob. I don't get to use tools at work much anymore, so it makes doing projects like this, all the more fun. Veneering is a great way to cover up an ugly body face, knicked up edges (see picture of original) or change color. It wouldn't have been too much more to get a new unfinished body, but I wouldn't have made my budget (which allowed for the upgraded pickups) or had half the fun. And, the headstock waterslide guy was excellent to work with, he did a bang up job.

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Now that's what I call a DIY post!

Excellent.

36_2_25thumbsup.gif

 

Not only an interesting and educational read but, complete with redoing of a boo-boo into a successful completion.

 

Thanks for sharing. Don't know about others, but I just learned a few things.

Love the spray booth setup as well.

 

Willy

Thanks. The glue thing was amazingingly simple and extremely effective. The booth was neccesary to get control of the environment. It's folded up in the garage, waiting for the next body.

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Wow, nice work Tweed, but what about the Tweedcaster idea?

 

Also, can you post some close-ups of the body?

Thanks. I'll see if I can't get something posted tomorrow. As far as the tweedcaster, I'd have to ponder the binding issue. Never done binding before, so I'd have to find a crap body to practice on. Besides, a tweed tele has been done. Maybe a double cutaway tweed Junior?

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Nice job Tweed! It looks as though the back is a bit darker color than the front. If you take some close up pics of the front, could you also show us the back?

 

Yeah you have the right idea. Practice on scrap. Practice on scrap.

Have patience.

 

Binding is a bit easier than you might think. Once you have the right router bit, things go a bit easier. That, and a big box of elastics big enough to go around the body. And some cabinet scrapers.

 

There are some pretty good videos on Utube about binding. Have a good look before you get started.

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Wow, nice work Tweed, but what about the Tweedcaster idea?

 

Also, can you post some close-ups of the body?

OK Brian, as promised.

IMG_3563.jpg

IMG_3552.jpg

IMG_3549.jpg

IMG_3544.jpg

 

The Behlens finish on the Agathis (back and sides) really looks deep. If it were only more consistant. Because the veneer is so thin (1/16"), there is no need for any binding, but it might look pretty cool, in this case, black. Just a slight round-over to ease the edge on the Maple.

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Nice!!! Really nice....a job well done, tweed. I like the color difference between the front and back - binding is kind of overrated (says I, who has no unbound guitars ;) ) Wish I had the spare time to undertake this kinda stuff ... maybe when I get outta school (working full-time/back to school@54 yrs old), or retire, or hit the lottery, or something.

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That contrast looks quite good Pat, maybe even veneer the back too so there's just the darker band around the edge, that'd be a lot of work though.

Not really. More involved in the finishing than the veneering. When I do another one (and there will be another), I probably will do the back. Thanks again.

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  • 2 months later...

I'm new here and thought this would be a good place to post a request for guidance.

 

I picked up a used Epiphone Les Paul Standard the other day. Came with a case and I figured with a price of $175 I couldn't go wrong. With the exception of the toggle switch being an little wonky and the jack being loose, the guitar works well and sounds very respectable. However, the finish is scratched to hell, has a cigarette burn and a couple of holes drilled in it to reposition the strap. There's also some minor wear on the neck, but, nothing to be concerned about. I've probably made it sound worse than it is, but, I bought this to refinish it (something I've always wanted to do).

 

Anyway, I don't want to pooch this up too badly and thought y'all could give me some advice. First off, the back can probably just be sanded down and recoated with polyurethane. The front I plan on stripping completely with a heat gun/sandpaper and doing a red/black sunburst style coating. I'm going to try to stay away from the neck.

 

The question is:

- Am I wrong for not stripping the guitar completely?

- What kind of paint should be used?

- Are paint/color specifications available? Basically, I'm probably going to screw up and have to repaint the black back of the guitar. I'd also like to maintain the antique white strip around the top edge of the guitar and it's almost inevitable that this will get damaged.

- I want to fade out the top by sanding/blending the transition as I'm not a fan of airbrushing. Perhaps this is a mistake.

- The finish is a polyurethane seal right?

 

All in all, my ambition may greatly exceed my skill, but, it should be fun to try. Any thoughts?

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