This page showing – Preparation, Basecoating, Repairing and filling the neck/headstock and Painting the back of the body.
This Ibanez Sabre type guitar is going to be painted with very much of a ‘Physics’ based theme and will also present more than a few interesting challenges whilst it’s being painted – but we like them!.
Anyway lets start with the basic guitar.
This is actually a really nice slim bodied Ibanez, but from the point of view of applying artwork, the layout creates one or two challenges.
This is actually a really nice slim bodied Ibanez, but from the point of view of applying artwork, the layout creates one or two challenges.
As with any well used guitar, there is inevitably the odd dint and mark here and there….
Though in this case this appears to be from the previous finishing………..
The neck on this guitar was very well repaired after some serious damage many years ago. The finish has worn away since mind. This is not a problem as the neck is going to be rubbed down, filled where necessary, primed, and painted…………so soon you’ll never know this was here.
Here again, these marks will be completely repaired…………….
First job will be to completely rub down the neck and the edge of the fingerboard to remove any remnants of previous finishes.
The headstock of the guitar has some minor cosmetic damage which will also be repaired prior to repainting, but when it’s all done it will be as good as new.
So the onto the rubbing down and prepping……………
First of all the the neck is rubbed down with 800 wet and dry. This removes any grease, loose lacquer, residual grime and residue on the surface of the finish. This was particularly important on this neck, as having been previously repaired and refinished, as much of the remaining ‘refinish material’ had to be removed as possible to lessen the risk of a reaction with the new paints to be applied.
This was probably the deepest mark in the back of the neck. After it was rubbed down thoroughly as above…………….
……….the dent was filled with isopon filler. This was then rubbed down, first with 320 wet and dry and then 1000 wet and dry.
On the headstock, like the rest of the neck the first stage is to rub down with 800 wet and dry. Interestingly enough, the Ibanez logo came straight off under the lightest rubbing down – almost as if it had never been lacquered in. The damaged area was then roughed up and drilled into with a very fine drill bit to give the epoxy filler something to key into. This was done in exactly the same way as the repair on the Dragon Dean headstock where the process was covered in slightly more depth.
Then the epoxy filler was applied to the area and worked into the previously drilled holes to strengthen the bond. Normal filler probably wouldn’t be strong enough to withstand the knocks any headstock is going to take in ‘active service’, epoxy filler is far tougher and more likely to last the lifetime of this neck.
The filler is then rubbed down and a secondary filler layer of isopon is applied. This when rubbed down produces an almost perfect finish to the repair and after a primer coat or two, you’d never know this damage had been here.
The fingerboard is very carefully masked off, as is the truss rod – don’t want to be gluing up the truss rod with layers of primer, paint and lacquer.
Then it was onto the body. Not too much to do here really. Again the whole body was rubbed down with 800 grade wet and dry. During rubbing down it’s easy to see how well finished the guitar was previously, as once the shine on the surface is knocked back any little pit’s, troughs or rough areas show out very clearly. Above is a classic example of a guitar finished ‘not badly’, but could have been better. This picture shows where a lacquer coat has run slightly and pooled around the bottom of the guitar. This should have been rubbed back prior to final polishing, but was left and polished over……………shine ‘can’ hide a lot of minor anomalies in a guitar finish. If you’re ever finishing a guitar yourself don’t leave stuff like this and just polish over it…………………
………it’s a real waste of all the effort you put in to get it to this stage, AND, as here, literally two minutes (no more) with some wet and dry and the problem lacquer run was gone. This could be taken down through the grades of wet and dry now (if this was how the guitar was to be left), polished up and it would be perfect…………it’s that easy to do it right.
Anyway, here the guitar is already for the first primer coat. Notice how the neck cavity, the bridge post holes, and the ‘shielding painted’ cavities are masked off. The neck cavity always wants to be masked off when your repainting a guitar body, this goes some way to ensuring that your neck will fit and line up perfectly when the whole painting process is done. So next to the primer stages which are already well under way. The next update will be once the guitar is fully primed and perfectly smooth – ready for the design to be applied.
Here the guitar and neck have had their first primer coat and been rubbed down with 1000 grade wet and dry. Both the guitar body and the neck have been re-primered and rubbed down again since this stage. The neck will be getting one more primer coat to make it perfectly smooth, then the guitar will be ready for the artwork to be applied.
It was at about the same time – through exchanges of email messages with Mark and discussions with Dick – that the idea of creating more space on this guitar for the artwork (the design brief being of images of Max Planck and Albert Einstein combined with the Higgs Decay image) was hatched. Obviously the great minds of Dick and Mark were working far more effectively than mine – as I was purely thinking about possible solutions via the artwork route.
Anyway, with the decision made to alter the layout ‘ever so slightly’, the next thing to do was to hand the guitar body over to the very capable hands of Dick (Levens), my very capable partner and highly talented luthier at ‘Leverty Custom Guitars’.
The jack plug socket on this guitar was right bang smack in the middle of one of the two most useable areas (from an artwork point of view) of the guitar body (keeping a very large pickup selector switch company). So the plan was to ‘loose’ the jack plug socket from the front of the guitar and get rid of the oversized pickup selector switch in favour of a smaller one giving more options. Here Dick has plugged the holes with a compatible hardwood and redrilled the hole for the new multi-way pickup selector switch.
Minor work is also done on the back for the repositioned jack plug socket.
The plugged areas on the front of the guitar are skimmed with filler…….
…………….and rubbed down with wet and dry.
Dick had made such a neat job of the ‘plugging’ job, that very little filler was required to get the alterations smooth.
After a coat of primer and a rub down this was very nearly there. This was actually perfectly smooth to the touch – I just can’t stand starting work on a surface that doesn’t both feel and look perfect – so it was back for another primer coat.
And here we have it…………
You really cannot see or feel anything where the alterations have been done………………
And this guitar is now ready for the artwork stage to start. I will leave this guitar body for a day or two before I start applying the artwork to it – just to ensure there is no movement of the plugging and filling as the body goes through some everyday temperature changes – more of a precaution than anything else prior to artwork.
Well, as can often be the case when doing this kind of work, nothing is quite as simple as it might appear. The guitar was to all intents and purposes ready for basecoating in the last picture, but the next day there was just the faintest hint of a ridge around the edge of the wooden plug fitted into the guitar to fill the now redundant jack plug hole. So it was rubbed down again…………only to re-appear yet again the next day. We’re not talking ‘huge steps’ of ridges here, but enough that I’d know it was there. The solution however, was fairly simple. Leave the guitar to bake in the spraybooth for a week or so – this effectively evened out the moisture content in the wood of the guitar and the wood used in the plugs – and ten days later we’re ready to crack on again. Here the guitar has been rubbed down, had a thin skim of filler applied over the two plugs and has been rubbed down again with 600 and 1000 grit wet and dry.
The guitar body was then re primered and rubbed down again with 1000 grade wet and dry. Incidentally, there might apear to be an awful lot of paint being applied to these guitars, but in reality it is rubbed right back after almost every coat, so we’re only talking microns of paint in each coat. As you can see here, there was a slight high spot when the primer was rubbed down, so once again another coat of primer was applied……..
…..and rubbed down yet again. But here finally, she is smooth and ready for basecoating. This is a classic example of a job that seemingly is no further ahead than it was ten days ago and yet, an awful lot of work has actually gone into it in the meantime. Working on these guitars, whilst often very satisfying is also bloody frustrating sometimes!
Anyway, here the guitar has been basecoated and is ready for a sealer coat of lacquer. First of all she was given a basecoat of pure white, then a fine grain pearl white was applied over the first white basecoat.
Then the guitar was fully lacquered to seal in the basecoats.
She looked surprisingly pretty too with just the pearl white after a single lacquer coat! Next step though was……………yes you guessed it…………………to rub the body down again with 1000 grade wet and dry, front…………….
Then it was onto the airbrushing table.
Here the plan is to start setting up the background for the Higgs Decay image. This is why I’ve used pearl white paint and why here I’m subtly breaking up the perfect pearl white surface with a flip silver paint. I’m limited as to what I can do with the front of the guitar at this stage, as this surface now needs re-lacquering again before the real detail starts to go in. I don’t want to apply any colour to the front until Messrs Einstein and Planck (and the all important Higgs Decay image) are marked in position.
On the back however, it’s a different story. My plan was to have the back in just a really nice shade of plain dark blue sunbursting to dark blue (almost black) towards the edges and on towards the neck pocket. But then my plans for simple usually end up changing. Seeing as the back is also pearlscent white like the front, it made sense to have a bit of a play about to see what happens.
So once again, the perfect pearl white is broken up with flip silver as on the front.
Then the first hint of colour is applied using a lightly tinted lacquer. Just looks a mess at this stage I know!
But with a bit more work the effect I’m looking for is just starting to appear. If this works as I’m hoping, I want to continue the background theme from the front of the guitar round onto the back of the guitar. This means a combination of the Higgs Decay blue background (as is developing above), and a deep space galactic type sky scene. Anyway, we’ll see how that goes…………….if it doesn’t work out on the back……. I’ll just whack a nice tone of dark blue on the back as per the original plan!
So, this is where it’s at this evening. The effect I was looking for is starting to work very well here, though it’s very early in the process. I’m pleased with the progress so far. But there’s much more to do before I’ll know if this combination on the back will work.
Meanwhile, the neck has been basecoated………
……and the first stages of the sunbursting on the neck is done.
My favourite colours for guitar sunbursting are blue into black………..
And here the neck is ready for it’s first lacquer coat.
The effect on the headstock is designed to be very subtle, but still to match the guitar body. Once the Ibanez logo is in place and she’s all lacquered up – this should look pretty cool.
Amazing the difference a lacquer coat makes……….
This was straight after the lacquer coat was shot onto the guitar, so it’s not perfectly smooth yet (lot’s of rubbing down and relacquering before that stage) , but the colours are showing out really well, even at this stage.
Taking shape already………
Anyway, back to the body………..
After mulling a few ideas for the back around in my head, it became obvious that the only way to make the back work was to incorporate the back plates. So the back plates were first of all rubbed down with 1000 grade wet and dry. Then they were primered…………and once again rubbed down with 1000 grade. Then they were base coated white just like the rest of the guitar body, then also treated to a coat of pearl white. If they hadn’t been prepped exactly the same as the rest of the body, they would have looked ‘flat’ compared to the rest of the paintwork. Particularly were the design is airbrushed over the pearl white with tinted lacquers giving the glowing reflective finish necessary of the Higgs Decay background areas.
Next the covers are loosely fitted……….
…………..and the paintwork is continued over the plates
When it’s all matched in……….
Time to start creating the second of the two backgrounds………….
……….and have my first go at painting in a ‘Black Hole’.
As good a place as any to start!
Starting to get the feel of this slightly here. It’s a real pleasure to actually be doing some airbrushing!
Normally I’d be trying at all costs to avoid the little white spatters of paint you can see here, but on this part of the design they’re actually a benefit as once the background airbrushing is done – it’s back to painting in the stars one by one over this black hole scene.
Just a case of balancing up the colours………
Once it got to this stage it was dark and I was working completely by artificial light………….
……….So called it a day at this stage. I can, and regularly do work by artificial light, but it’s far easier to see what your doing and to match your colours under natural light and so we’ll leave this at this stage until tomorrow.
Starting to airbrush in some of the stars….
The rest will need to be painted in with a normal paintbrush……….
Just a few stars to go at this stage…………
Looking a bit more as it should with the addition of these stars.
The back as shown here is still needing a fair bit of work to get it finished. There are still a good few stars to be painted in in this picture (they are all done now), then once this has been lacquered in there’s some finishing and highlighting airbrush work to be done around the ‘core’ of the black hole itself. There may be some other detail work going on the back here too before this is finished, but my priority for now is to get things moving on the front of the guitar and get her nearer to completion.
The back of the guitar is looking good and should look even better under a lacquer coat. But the best part of painting the back is that it’s shown that the background effect for the front of the guitar will work and look good. So tomorrow it’s to work on the front of the guitar. This is an image of ‘Higgs Decay’, the image that will form a major part of the design on the front of the guitar, along with images of Max Planck and Albert Einstein.
shows – Painting the front of the body, including, Masking, Applying silver leaf, Airbrushing faces and Finishing.