Ibanez ‘Skull’ Seven String
Restoring and repainting an Ibanez seven string guitar body.
This is a guitar body that came in after the owner had (with the best intentions) stripped it down ready for repainting with a skull design. Unfortunately the rubbing down had gone ‘slightly’ wrong and the body was as a result actually a bit of a mess when it arrived here. Because of the extra remedial work necessary in Dicks workshop as a result, it was agreed that a simple single colour refinish might now be the way to go instead of the originally intended artwork. Problem is, once a guitar is here and prepped ready for paint it kinda goes against the grain not to paint something on it – so this guitar did get it’s skull design after all.
So here we go…..
This is the guitar body after Dick had smoothed out the worst of the deeper marks after the original preparation, done prior to arriving here. There is nothing at all wrong with rubbing down, prepping, or even painting and finishing your own guitar body, in fact, if you have the time, tools and knowledge, there is nothing more satisfying. But if you’re in ANY doubt, it’s always best to either seek professional advice, or leave it to someone who really knows what they’re doing.
Anyway, there are still some fairly deep marks on the guitar body even after some fairly serious remedial work.
But compared to how it looked when it arrived………….it’s already looking good.
Still recogniseable as an Ibanez………..
First of all the body receives several coats of grain sealer and much rubbing down.
Then a first very heavy coat (well lots of lighter coats actually) of primer are applied. This helps build up some of the smaller imperfections even at this stage……….
………..and helps to show out the areas that need more serious filler work.
These larger dints and marks will be filled using isopon filler.
Here you can clearly see on the left of the image the area that has been rubbed down with 800 wet and dry, the area around the edge of the trem backplate hasn’t been rubbed down at all at this stage. This is the benefit of numerous light coats of primer as once rubbed down they’ll effectively ‘take out’ much of the remaining grain that’s showing.
Jumping a few stages here, the larger dints and hollows have been filled and rubbed down.
Likewise, around the edges of the guitar.
Then the guitar is re-primered.
Still not perfect yet, but already much better.
Next stage after the body is rubbed down with 1000 grade wet and dry, is to either apply another primer coat if she’s still not smooth enough, if the surface is smooth it’s on to the basecoating stage.
Okay, here the front of the guitar has been basecoated with a pearlescent white paint. The overall colour of the guitar is going to be a black into deep cherry red flip flop when it’s done, but I needed the white basecoat on the front to help the skull that’s going to be painted on here glow out from the background.
So with the front painted white it was time to basecoat the back and the sides black. First thing to do was to mask off the newly painted front of the guitar.
Then the back and the sides of the guitar were painted black. Next the whole guitar was lacquered to seal the basecoat paints in.
Once the sealer lacquer coat was fully hardened, the guitar was rubbed down with 1000 grade wet and dry to knock back any dust specs and to help level out any remaining minor lumps and bumps on the surface of the guitar.
With the guitar rubbed down and surprisingly smooth, it was time to whack a design onto it. This is going to be a comparatively quick and fairly simple paint job, but very enjoyable as it’s simple freehand airbrushing. So no messing about with masking of any kind on this one! And yes, this fella probably is related to ‘Mr Grim’ on the ‘Ouija Board guitar’ – you can see the family resemblance if you look very closely (same dentist I think).
First of all the light pencil outline is gone over with a dilute black paint and lacquer mix. I find this works really well for these stages as the lacquer dilutes the paint and makes it flow more easily through the airbrush without clogging. Also, using lacquer to dilute the paint does away with using solvent to thin down the paint, which can ‘pool’ and affect the surface your painting on. It also helps give a translucent effect so that the pearlescent basecoat can still catch the light below the paint/lacquer mix.
Anyway, first stages of some ‘more solid’ black paint going in here. Just a case of feeling the way through this and starting to form the shapes using shadow, bit by bit. Can’t really call this work!
After a bit more is painted in it’s really coming on very quickly. The skull is going to be in half shadow when it’s done, hopefully looking like it’s coming out of the dark background, the left side of the face in the light……….
………but, some of the right side of the skull will still be painted in before it’s painted over and shadowed in. Probably really no need to do this on the extreem right hand side of the skull as that’s going to be in deep shadow, but that’s just how I like to work. I find it easier with this effect to paint in and then darken down afterwards. Well that’s about it for tonight, I’ll be back on this one tomorrow when the skull should be pretty much finished off and toned back into the shadows.
With a bit more work the other side of the skull is airbrushed in, nothing too accurate here, it’s the overall effect we’re after here.
Starting to tone the skull in a bit here to give it a bit more depth.
Once ‘Smiler’ is pretty much airbrushed in it’s time to darken down the background around him.
This is where the effect really starts to show out properly. The white paint in the bridge cavity spoils the effect at this stage, but it’s definitely taking shape now.
With the background colour behind the skull painted in black It’s now easy to see how far the right hand side of the skull needs toning down to create the effect I want. Still a fair bit to go here.
Here the right hand side of the skull has been darkened down very slightly and I’ve started to paint in the black into dark cherry red flip flop paint over the black background paint.
Then it’s final adjustments to the tone of the skull. Some of the flip flop paint is then diluted in some lacquer and applied over the shadow on the right hand side of the skull. This softens the transition from cherry red/black flip flop background paint into the black paint of the skull airbrushing.
Looking pretty good at this stage.
The guitar body was then taken into the spraybooth and the back and the sides were treated to some flip flop paint.
Then the first sealer coat was applied to the guitar body.
I’ll get some better piccies of the guitar as she progresses through the lacquering stages……
This first lacquer coat is a bit rough as you can see by the odd dust spec showing in the lacquer. These actually got in there during the airbrushing of the tinted lacquer while painting the skull and after a good rubbing down and another few lacquer coats won’t be seen at all. But the overall effect is really working well. In a darkened room the skull really ‘glows’ out of the background colour and looks wicked. The next stage is to let this lacquer coat cure fully, then a good rubbing down and see what she looks like from there.
The initial lacquerings were very nearly enough to get the desired finish on this guitar, but there were two very small flaws in the lacquer so it got another coat after all. This is as the guitar came out of the spray booth today after a night of being baked. As you can see it’s been a gorgeous day here today so the guitar body was hung out in the sunshine – by far the best way to harden the lacquer off.
Just a couple of piccies of the guitar in the sunlight as it really shows off this black into dark cherry red flip paint.
Next stage for this guitar is a final rubbing down and polishing, by which time the paintwork should really be gleaming and seriously purdey!
After rubbing down and polishing this is the result.
The flip flop paint doesn’t show up very well here as photographing guitars like this is something of a compromise. Too much light and all you get is reflections, but keep the light sources to a minimum and the paints don’t show out quite as well.
The other problem is keeping my ugly mug out of the reflection………..obviously still not got that sussed yet!
This guitar body was an interesting job to take on as to start with it was far from ideal, but just goes to show that with a bit of work most guitars can be salvaged and put back to something of their former glory.
Here is just a quick piccy of the now re-assembled and set up guitar. Once the guitar is back with it’s owner I’ll post more pictures of the completed guitar, but for now thought I’d just add this piccy as an update.