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Thread: Stratocaster Build - From Scratch

  1. #91

    East Indian Rosewood is not a real rosewood?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Coloccia View Post
    Every older guitar I get in my shop with brazillian is horribly worn. I wonder if east indian will fair better. Not a real rosewood, but very nice.
    East Indian Rosewood or Dalbergia Latifolia is most certainly a real rosewood! It may be grown on tea plantations to provide shade but Dalbergia is Dalbergia.

    The specific gravity of both Brazilian and East Indian Rosewoods is 0.85, I would suggest that the BR boards that you see in your shop that are worn are not worn because they have not faired as well as EI, quite simply they are on older instruments and are more worn due to age and useage. BR has been banned from trade for a long long time and any guitar wearing it is old and likely worn. I have used both species in my guitar endeavours and I would judge that they are very close in all working/wearing properties - except that BR smells like maraschino cherries when you work with it.

    The violin family is not really built in that robust a manner compared to guitars, it is the string tension that creates the two very different life expectancies - decades for guitars and centuries for violins. The higher string tension of guitars really tears them apart - violin 50 pounds steel string guitar 150 pounds plus!

  2. #92
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Fournier View Post
    East Indian Rosewood or Dalbergia Latifolia is most certainly a real rosewood! It may be grown on tea plantations to provide shade but Dalbergia is Dalbergia.

    The specific gravity of both Brazilian and East Indian Rosewoods is 0.85, I would suggest that the BR boards that you see in your shop that are worn are not worn because they have not faired as well as EI, quite simply they are on older instruments and are more worn due to age and useage. BR has been banned from trade for a long long time and any guitar wearing it is old and likely worn. I have used both species in my guitar endeavours and I would judge that they are very close in all working/wearing properties - except that BR smells like maraschino cherries when you work with it.

    The violin family is not really built in that robust a manner compared to guitars, it is the string tension that creates the two very different life expectancies - decades for guitars and centuries for violins. The higher string tension of guitars really tears them apart - violin 50 pounds steel string guitar 150 pounds plus!
    You're right, Chris. I had Pao Ferro ("bolivian rosewood") on the brain...that's what I happen to use most often.

  3. #93
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    The shopping trip today was interesting. I just have to keep reminding myself that a piece of wood that appeals to me for it's beauty may not work in concert with other woods that do the same. But, I still can't resist buying by emotion... and I did. Our stop at the hardwood store struck out on curly maple. This is their satellite store and the selection is a fraction of their big store. But the curly maple they had had nice figure but had deep planer chipout. And, after smoothing that out, there wouldn't have been the 3/4" thickness I need.

    In the exotics section I saw a beautiful piece of ebony and another attractive piece of cocobolo. My SO loved the ebony but not so much the cocobolo. I ignored the snub. And put it in the cart. They had some Santos rosewood and some other kind of rosewood but neither did anything for either of us.

    On the way home, we stopped at Woodcraft and picked up some Behlen Stringed Instrument Lacquer, Vinyl Sealer and mahogany Water-Based Grain Filler. I actually felt like I was a luthier. Stradivarius has nothing on me! I also picked up a 1/4" plug cutter and some fine sandpaper. While I was trying to figure out what I forgot , my SO drags me over to some curly maple. I never buy wood from Woodcraft because it's usually more expensive. But this was on sale for $6.99/bd.ft, about half what I would have paid at the hardwood store. It was a full 4/4 and almost no chipout and really nice figure. Now I'm thinking I need to go back and clean them out. So, here is today's catch:



    The picture doesn't do the wood justice but gives a good idea of grain patterns. The ebony and cocobolo would most likely end up as fretboards, but probably not on this build. I was ready to glue up the BE maple fretboard to the cherry neck last night but discovered I had over-cut the nut. It was my fault, I wasn't paying attention. So right now all I have milled for fretboards are the cherry and jatoba boards. I have another piece of BE maple in the queue.

    I'm sure one day I'll look back and call this quest for the most amazing, stupendous, heart-stopping guitar build of all time as the time in my life when insanity had a firm grip on me. Until that day comes, I'm happy in my bliss.

  4. #94
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    PLEASE do NOT use that vinyl sealer unless you want your guitar to have a cold and lifeless look about it.


    what I use is 5 minute Devcon clear epoxy thinned out with alcohol. I did use this on my orange dyed Gretsch 6120 copy with no problems with the dye bleeding. But I urge you to dye some scrap and try it first because I don't know what the difference in your dye might be. I squirt a blob of the 2 part epoxy into a jar lid. A blob about the size of a silver dollar will do for a coat on your small solid body guitar. Add enough alcohol(the same alcohol you thin shellac with) into the lid and stir it with a stick until it is mixed. This only takes a minute or less. Thin the epoxy with about a tablespoon of alcohol OR LESS. Try less at first. Quickly determine if the epoxy is thin enough for you to brush,and add a little more alcohol CAUTIOUSLY. Don't try to add epoxy. You have a maximum of about 15 minutes to get the body and neck painted. I advise you to practice on some similar size object first.

    Be careful of using any plastic lids. Some plastics will melt on you. I use a metal lid and toss them out (this is why I just use disposable lids).



    Brush on the epoxy,working to get it all over your guitar in 10 minutes at most. The epoxy will start to thicken,and you don't want it to drag. It takes about 2 hours for the epoxy to get hard enough to sand with 220 garnet paper. At this stage,it will ball into little "footballs" and you brush them off. This stage is called "leather hard". Wait overnight and it will be terribly hard to sand.

    You should wait overnight to apply another coat so as to not trap the remaining alcohol in the first coat. On rosewood,it takes a number of extra coats,but you should be o.k. with 2 coats on maple. BE CAREFUL to not sand through. Nothing will melt the epoxy. It is an ideal filler for anything you put over it.

    I'd wait at least overnight to apply any lacquer. The epoxy will give a beautiful,warm appearance to your guitar just like the lacquer does. But,that vinyl will give a cold look regardless of any finish you put over it. You might just as well be painting thin white glue on your guitar.

    I have done this with every guitar I've made for the past 20 years or so. It allows you to make a thinner finish look like 20 coats,and an acoustic sounds a lot better with a thin finish. Too much finish can really kill tone badly on a flat top guitar.

    As I have mentioned, Behlen lacquer melted the colored inlay on a guitar I was spraying,and the color went bleeding onto the top. I had to strip it . This was the only lacquer I ever saw this happen with. So,it certainly needs to be sealed for more than just to fill the wood.
    Last edited by george wilson; 01-11-2014 at 11:43 PM.

  5. #95
    John, pau ferro is nice stuff indeed!

    I use vinyl sanding sealer on all my guitars, one coat. I haven't found them to be lifeless. I actually oil my solid bodies before they get hit with the sealer. Finishing is like a magic potion!

  6. #96
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    Too simplistic an explanation,Chris: What mostly makes a violin last a lot longer is it is an ARCH top and back instrument that is THICKER than a guitar and MUCH SMALLER. The smallness helps a lot on durability. String tension helps too. It has only about 29 pounds of down bearing force on its top. It can get away with a very simple neck joint,so small is the string pull. ALL the 6 strings pull up on a flat top guitar,with its thin top.

    The violin can get away with this heavier construction and less string pull because ENERGY is CONTINUALLY pumped into it by bowing. Made as thin and flat topped as a guitar it would howl uncontrollably. An ancient Rebeck is an example of a flat top bowed instrument. Old Spanish writings mention "El Rabe gritador"(The shrill rebeck) A guitar only gets the string plucked to excite it enough to produce a good deal of volume. To do this,the guitar has to be made more more delicately than the violin. The violin also has a sound post on the treble side that makes the back share some of the down bearing load,and a brace on the bass side that is shorter and stouter than a guitar brace.

    Chris,haven't you noticed how "cool" recent rosewood Martin guitars look. They use vinyl sealer,and it takes the richness out of the color of the rosewood.

    Julie,you should listen to me. I have been building since about 1954,and was a paid master craftsman for many years in the competitive atmosphere of a World class museum. Vinyl is a quick way for commercial makers to make more money,nothing more. The old rosewood Martin guitars look so much better,if you have an example of one to look at. I suggest pre 1969. Older Martins look like the finish I am applying to my last built guitar,seen below. Newer ones look grayish by comparison.

    Oiling will help,but the vinyl will mask some of the richness even though oiled. The finish will suffer loss of visual depth also. BTW,I don't oil rosewood as SOME OF it can turn black if it is dark enough to begin with. Certainly mine will turn as black as ebony. It depends upon your selection of rosewood. My rosewood is from the late 50's.

    Observe the pictures: You will not get this richness with vinyl sealer. Once you put it on,it will be murder to get it off when you see how it looks. The inlaid ebony strip monogram that I designed for the customer is RWM in 17th. C. style. The Viola daGamba is still being played today by the professional.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by george wilson; 01-12-2014 at 10:16 AM.

  7. #97
    Personally I don't use vinyl sealer either. If I use anything at all under the nitro, it will be a wash coat of shellac, and then a quick, light wipe sanding to cut back the fuzzies and anything else that happens to be standing up. As I mentioned in another thread not too long ago, as far as I can tell the typical sanding sealer or vinyl sealer seems to negatively impact adhesion. I've NEVER seen nitro over bare wood or shellac come off in big sheets. I've seen it just delaminate from the sealer, though. I'm not even talking about looks because just this alone is a non-starter for me. If you search around, you'll find others that have seen the same thing. I know Howard Klepper has written about this. I believe Frank Ford has written about this too. Robert Benedetto also just sprays directly onto wood. There are many examples of amateurs online that have had similar problems too.

  8. #98
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    Correct,John. Vinyl sealer is,as I have mentioned,like thinned out white glue pretty much. You had might as well spray your lacquer over Formica. Over time,the lacquer will get drier and drier. It takes quite some time for it to truly get fully dry. When it does get real dry,it can begin to lost its grip. An example of true lacquer drying time: Back in the 60's I made a rosewood guitar,relying on lacquer sanding sealer to fill the rosewood as an experiment. I rubbed it to a pore free,perfectly smooth finish. 6 months later,I saw pores. I rubbed it again. 6 months later,I saw pores again. That was a full year of the lacquer drying!! When the epoxy sets,it is not going to keep shrinking like that. It is DONE. Shellac will also take a long time to really fully dry. It dries by evaporation just like the lacquer. This is why I have been using the epoxy method.

    A sanded finish over dewaxed shellac or epoxy will give a "mechanical" grip. Vinyl sealer is pretty slippery stuff.

    I,as I said,have been using the epoxy method since the 80's. The 3 arch top guitars I posted here before were made back then and I still have them. None have had any delaminating problems. My favorite electric,the orange Gretsch repro,has been played a lot over the years without any problems with the finish coming loose.

    If Julie decides she is afraid of trying the epoxy method,because she hasn't done it before, or for whatever reason, I encourage her to at least use a few coats of de waxed shellac instead of the vinyl sealer. The finish will look so much more deep and interesting if she stays away from that vinyl.

    Julie,if there is any doubt about what I have said,make a dyed piece of the same wood your guitar is made of. Put the vinyl sealer on it,and spray lacquer over it. You have been very organized in your approach to building your guitar. This extra trial will show you what I mean about a "cool" and lifeless finish.

    Chris's guitar is shaded so dark it might not make a big difference to the looks of that Tele he just posted. A lighter colored,or,especially a natural finish,will show it up real big. Your blue color will show it too.

    For porous woods like mahogany or rosewood,I put down as light coat of my epoxy. Then,I fill the grain with dark walnut paste wood filler(Or you could use the newer water based filler). I fill twice. The first coat of epoxy is to keep the oil from the filler out of the wood,which oil will turn it extremely dark on my very old wood. Next,another coat or 2 of epoxy,sanded 220 grit to leave an abraded surface for the nitro to bite into.

    Frankly,the reason I use the old,oil based filler is simply that I have it on hand. And,it is REAL DARK,not showing up on rosewood at all. It lasts forever if you keep the can closed. The new,water based stuff might really be easier to deal with as it will sand off more easily. Just so it does stay in the grain,and does not get pulled out by the sanding. And is dark enough to not show.
    Last edited by george wilson; 01-12-2014 at 12:33 PM.

  9. #99
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    Thanks for the heads-up George. I've never used vinyl sealer before. I had read something from a luthier recently that recommended using it. Trying to cram in all the information I have these past weeks, I still don't have the confidence I hoped to have about the direction I take in every step of this project. Of all the skills and knowledge I have in the area of woodworking, there's little doubt in my mind that finishing is the most deficient.

    Watching videos from professional guitar finishers, I gathered that you need to grain fill porous woods and you need to seal before the final finish. Jewitt recommends spraying a washcoat of sanding sealer thinned with equal parts of lacquer thinner as a sealer but he doesn't say what the sanding sealer product is. There are so many different products on the market, how do you know which to use? It seems he's saying grain filler, sealer, finish - in that order. Is that right? There's so many different ways to do this but is there one right way to finish a guitar?

    So let me ask you George, would you take the Behlen Instrument Lacquer back? I'll take the Vinyl Sealer back but what about the rest? I want to do this right. But I want to keep it relatively simple. The epoxy concerns me because there seems little room for error. I don't want this project to become my opponent.

    I have guitar building books by Melvyn Hiscock and Martin Koch. I have a guitar design book by Leonardo Lospennato. I have finishing books by Jeff Jewitt and Teri Masasachi. And I've read practically every page in their books and learned a lot. They all have a lot of great information in them but all of them leave me still asking questions. That's why I said before, the finishing part of this seems to be the holy grail. I'm forever searching for it.

  10. #100
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    Julie,I just finished adding info to my above post. Go back and read it again. There is full info about sealing.

    I sensed that you might be a bit cautious about the epoxy. I had no trouble with it my first time out,but I am very experienced and good about getting out of slippery situations.

    Then,go ahead and use a few coats of de waxed shellac. Give it a few days to dry and sand it with 220 paper. Put on enough shellac that you will not be in danger of sanding through and wiping off your blue stain. Leave the 220 grit surface on the shellac to give a mechanical grip for the lacquer.

    Since you are not spraying directly onto naked dyed wood,I would go ahead and use the Behlen's lacquer since you have it. The lacquer cannot melt the shellac to get at the dye. The vinyl sealer can be returned. You will screw a longish wooden handle to your body where the neck goes,won't you? You need some way to hold and rotate the body while you work. Drill a hole in the end of the handle to hang it up,of course. You cannot just try spraying 1 side of the body at a time. Overspray will get on the unsprayed part. Spray it all. And,work fast so your lacquer doesn't start getting dry where you first started.

    You could also put a narrow handle on the bottom of your neck,where it screws to the body.

    How do you plan to rub the lacquer? I'd wait at least a few weeks. They wait a LOT LONGER in factories to rub the finish. They wait months. I also did,last guitar. The longer you way,the better it will polish. Plus,it will shrink less subsequently. Many,many are the guitars I have spent 40 long hours rubbing by hand. Most of my life,actually,save for the 16 years I was in the historic area,using varnish and French polish. Now,I made a slow speed buffer to use with those large muslin wheels StewMac sells. I took a 1725 motor,and slowed it to half speed by pulleys,to the shaft with the wheels on it. Too fast,and you will melt the lacquer and ruin it. Still,be careful of heat build up when buffing. Put your hand often upon the place you are buffing. It can get pretty hot. Too hot,and the guitar finish will get ruined.

    I found, last guitar,that I could get a much higher gloss with some bright yellow bar of buffing compound I got from Gesswein some time ago. I don't know the number off hand,but it is as yellow as a Piper Cub airplane. I have the German stuff,but this yellow just did better,leaving a "wet" gloss. Draw up a Gesswein catalog on line and order the bar of bright yellow compound to use after the finest German polish. Even if it is stated that this yellow compound is for metal,try it out. I can't recall its stated use right now. I CAN tell you,the yellow stuff removed hardly any lacquer,not even 600 grit wet sanding scratches. Get rid of those first with your other compound.
    Last edited by george wilson; 01-12-2014 at 1:05 PM.

  11. #101
    Personally, Julie, if I do any sealing at all, it's before pore filing and the only reason I seal is to keep any dye in the filler from staining the wood. At a minimum, I'll seal around any wooden binding, but I often just wipe on a coat of shellac on the whole guitar. Most of it gets sanded off anyway. I'll also put down a "sealer" coat over bare or dyed wood before I start spraying color. Again, it's really being used as a sealer to protect the wood from colors bleeding. That's usually lacquer, because I'm spraying anyway so why not. The seal coat before filling is just wiped on shellac, strictly for convenience.

    If you use the epoxy method of pore filling, there's no need to seal anything unless you dye the epoxy. Personally, I would use a Pacer product called Zpoxy Finishing Resin for that. It's available in most hobby stores, has a long working time, and sand like a dream. I personally pore fill with thinned Timbermate, often mixed with transtint liquid dye to get the color I want. If I don't seal with shellac first, the dye will discolor the wood.

    I just lent Koch's book to a friend's son. It's a good book.
    Last edited by John Coloccia; 01-12-2014 at 1:00 PM.

  12. #102
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    I'll have to find some of that Zpoxy,John. Easy sanding is always helpful. Afraid every hobby shop near here is long out of business. Apparently the only hobbies are video games these days.

    I just watched a Timbermate video. Looks good. I had some water based filler at my shop where I worked,but did not have the opportunity to use it as I was making maple guitars at that time. My stuff was from Luthier's Merchantile. I'm only planning to use maple for the foreseeable future,too. It makes a great sounding guitar and is just easier to deal with in finishing.
    Last edited by george wilson; 01-12-2014 at 1:57 PM.

  13. #103
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    Quote Originally Posted by george wilson View Post
    Julie,if there is any doubt about what I have said, make a dyed piece of the same wood your guitar is made of. Put the vinyl sealer on it,and spray lacquer over it. You have been very organized in your approach to building your guitar. This extra trial will show you what I mean about a "cool" and lifeless finish.
    I had begun the previous post before reading the last two posts made today. But to let you know, I am heeding your advice.

    I had planned on doing two grain fillings, a washcoat of shellac then spraying lacquer over that. When I was at Woodcraft yesterday, I had picked up a quart of Behlen lacquer. Then I saw the Stringed Instrument Lacquer. Of course! This is it! When I read the directions it said:

    1. - Surface should be finish ready (properly sanded and clear of oils, dirt or dust). Note: If applying over filled and stained woods see those Behlen product labels proper application and drying times.

    2. - Apply ONE COAT of Behlen Vinyl Sanding Sealer

    3. - Allow to dry 1 hour and scuff sand to 320 - 360 grit smoothness. Clean well the surface of any dust.

    4. - Apply one wet uniform coat of Stringed Instrument Lacquer at ready to use strength. Allow at least ONE hour dry time. Scuff sand with 360 grit. Clean the surface of any dust.


    5
    . - Repeat the step (#4) above 4 more times to give a total of five (5) Lacquer coats. & after each coat: Allow at least 1 hour dry time. Scuff sand to 360 grit. Clean the surface of any dust.

    6. - Allow to dry 24, or better, 48 to 72 hours.

    7. - Wet sand with 400 grit wet / or Dry Paper & Mineral Spirits, clean surface & remove sanding residue with denatured alcohol on a clean white cotton rag. Allow at least ONE hour for drying.

    8. - Apply one Final coat at a 1-to-1 ratio of Lacquer & Behlen Lacquer Thinner 631 (this assures better flow and leveling of the final lacquer coat.)

    9. - Allow Stringed Instrument Lacquer to Air Dry for 48 to 74 hours prior to final rub out.


    Special Note: (For the BEST Result, when polishing out to a high sheen, the finish should cure for at least 21 days prior to any polishing operations.)

    And so there it was, simple, easy to understand instructions for applying a finish to a stringed instrument. And it coincided with what I had recently read. I had a stringed instrument, a product designed for that and easy to understand, step-by-step instructions. The clouds parted and the sun shone brightly!

    I have come to believe Behlen is highly regarded by many professional finishers. In fact I thought it was their go-to product. Now I'm back to to where I was - still unsure.
    -----------------------------------------
    I just read the latest posts. Thank you guys! I don't feel so lost now.

    Taking what I have read here and elsewhere and throwing in some of Behlen's instructions, tell me if I have these steps right (this will be for the sapele body, not the blue-dyed maple body):


    1. Wet the surface to raise the grain and let dry
    2. Sand the fuzzies to 220
    3. Apply the dye
    4. Apply a shellac washcoat to seal the dye
    5. Rub in grain filler, allow to dry, sand, apply a second coat filler and sand to 220
    6. Apply a shellac sealer (I want the garnet shellac to impart its tone to the wood)
    7. Apply one wet uniform coat of Stringed Instrument Lacquer at ready to use strength. Allow at least ONE hour dry time. Scuff sand with 220 grit. Clean the surface of any dust.
    8. Repeat the step (#4) above 4 more times to give a total of five (5) Lacquer coats. After each coat: Allow at least 1 hour. Scuff sand with 220 grit. Clean the surface of any dust.
    9. Allow to dry 24, or better, 48 to 72 hours.
    10. Wet sand with 400 grit wet / or Dry Paper & Mineral Spirits, clean surface & remove sanding residue with denatured alcohol on a clean white cotton rag. Allow at least ONE hour for drying.
    11. Apply one Final coat at a 1-to-1 ratio of Lacquer & Behlen Lacquer Thinner 631 (this assures better flow and leveling of the final lacquer coat.)
    12. Allow Stringed Instrument Lacquer to air dry for 21 days, or more, prior to final polishing.
    13. Wet sand the finish with soapy water through progressively finer grits - 800, 1200, 1500 and 2000 cleaning and checking progress along the way.
    14. Apply rubbing compound with water and bring to a high gloss.
    15. Apply wax if desired.


    I do want this guitar to look good but at the same time I don't want for the process to become so laborious that it becomes self-defeating. There's been a lot of skill learning along the way and I'm enjoying that but for skills that have a deep learning curve, I'd rather not make that part of the first build. So if these steps will work, I'm fine with that for now. I'll dive into epoxy later. But if there's something I need to change in those steps, by all means, please let me know.

    You guys have been great! I only hope I can absorb all the information you've provided and apply it correctly.

    George: I built a rotisserie kind of holder for the guitar body finishing. I posted a pic in the Telecaster thread. I'll be using that for this body too.

  14. #104
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    All looks well,Julie,except I would sand wet and not use mineral spirits on the guitar. Water will dry off better and leave no residue.

  15. #105
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    Quote Originally Posted by george wilson View Post
    All looks well,Julie,except I would sand wet and not use mineral spirits on the guitar. Water will dry off better and leave no residue.
    Great! Looks like we got a plan!

    I'm running some dye tests today. That figured sapele looked amazing when it was a big slab. But since I turned part of it into the smaller format of a guitar body, it's lost some of that pizzazz. I'm trying to get it back.

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