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Old 04-08-2009, 01:38 PM   #1
CorduroyEW
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Finishing tutorial (how I do it) and a tele kit build

Due to popular request I'm going to show you all a step by step on how to hand rub shellac bursts. A key thing to remember when using shellac on guitars is that you can not use premixed stuff off the shelf of a hardware store. You need to buy dried lack flakes and mix them with denatured alcohol or methylated spirits. There are lots of french polishing instructions online that will let you know what mix to use and I can't really help you on proportions of shellac to alcohol because I just mix it until it looks right.

To start off we need to prep the body by sanding it down or scraping it. I like to work from the idea that less is more. Many years ago guitar manufacturers didn't sand the guitar bodies with 1500 grit sandpaper and spend hrs getting every nick out of the body. They simply went over the body with a cabinet scraper to level it and smooth it and they called it good enough. Using this method will not give you a perfect finish, but it does give you a different character that I really like.

Here is the body of the guitar before I've done anything to it. You can see that it's a 4pc body and there are several small knots in it. The knots won't take colour very well so rather than go with a regular burst I decided to do something a bit different. I'm going to use purple, green, and blue for the main body of the guitar and then it'll fade to black around the edges. The blue, green, and purple will have a folded together look rather than a blended look. Doing this will make the spots that don't take colour well look less out of place.



To prep the body I run over it with a cabinet scraper.



Now I'm ready for colour. I start by soaking the whole body with alcohol and then I dump the powdered colours into the middle of the guitar. With these particular colours the blue turns green when it is really thinned down with alcohol and I have to mix red and blue for purple so I am dumping red and blue into the middle of the guitar and then I start rubbing it it.



I add colour in blotches until the whole guitar is way darker than I want it and then I go around the outside edge with black . Finally I start thinning the dye down by adding alcohol directly to the middle of the guitar top, rub the guitar down by hand, and then start wiping off the extra. I always work from the middle out because that is what gives the burst effect.



Now I've finished with the colours and I'm ready to get some clean racks and start with the shellac.



Now I'm still not done removing finish, but I want to start sealing in some of the colours so at this point I go through a lot of rags. I add a very thin layer of shellac to the whole guitar and then I start buffing the top where I want to remove colour until my rag gets too dirty and then I get a clean one, dip it in shellac, and go again.



Here I'm about half done buffing the top down and evening out the colours. When I finish with this I may or may not end up sanding it a bit before I start adding clear coats.

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Last edited by CorduroyEW : 04-08-2009 at 01:41 PM.
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Old 04-08-2009, 01:40 PM   #2
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[img] tags aren't working. Pretty sure the img's have to be in caps, like IMG.
But still, great tutorial!
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Old 04-08-2009, 01:41 PM   #3
deftonesordie
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Agreed.

Cap the IMG and you're set
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Old 04-08-2009, 01:42 PM   #4
CorduroyEW
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^didn't need caps, I needed to add http://
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Old 04-08-2009, 01:44 PM   #5
Baby Joel
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Much better now, thanks.
I love the third picture (Looks like an ink blot). The last picture looks very nice as well!
Did you just do this thing, today? And exactly how many rags did you go through?
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Old 04-08-2009, 01:50 PM   #6
CorduroyEW
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^I started at about 2:00pm today and I've used 3 old shirts and an old bath robe.
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Old 04-08-2009, 01:54 PM   #7
deftonesordie
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love the deep colour on that. Great job.
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Old 04-08-2009, 02:19 PM   #8
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Sweet Stain!
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Old 04-08-2009, 03:06 PM   #9
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I really like the look of your staining technique, very spiffy!
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Old 04-09-2009, 11:08 AM   #10
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Old 04-09-2009, 01:40 PM   #11
CorduroyEW
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Tried them but don't like 'em. With the amount I do this stuff I don't need gloves to be safe so I opt not to use them.

More pics should be up tomorrow. It's turned out very cool and the domonate colour actually changes colour so it can either look blue, green, purple, or black which was unexpected and very cool. Hopefully when I take pics in the morning I can captures a few of the colours and not just have it look black.
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Old 04-09-2009, 01:41 PM   #12
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Old 04-09-2009, 03:27 PM   #13
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does this technique work well with bright colors as well?

i am interested in trying it with a deep cherry sunburst type of finish.
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Old 04-09-2009, 03:33 PM   #14
CorduroyEW
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Yes, as long as the wood you are using can take bright colours. This is a hard ash body and it doesn't take colour all that well so it needs dark colours if you are going to use them at all. If this were alder or maple it would work great with lighter colours.
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Old 04-09-2009, 07:47 PM   #15
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thats good news. i should be getting my one piece alder tele body soon, but don't know if i trust myself enough to try this.

thanks.
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Old 04-09-2009, 08:35 PM   #16
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where do you buy these dry lack flakes? i want to do this on my next project. i like this method, from your idea, i used a plane blade to do my final "sanding" on my body, just lightly rubbing over it before staining and it came out smooth as glass. i was having trouble before with only 400 grit paper getting it this smooth.
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Old 04-09-2009, 08:52 PM   #17
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swell. All tags work fine in lowercase too guys
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Old 04-10-2009, 03:58 AM   #18
CorduroyEW
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris024
where do you buy these dry lack flakes? i want to do this on my next project. i like this method, from your idea, i used a plane blade to do my final "sanding" on my body, just lightly rubbing over it before staining and it came out smooth as glass. i was having trouble before with only 400 grit paper getting it this smooth.



400 grit paper simply isn't enough for finishing. Chances are that on your 1st seveal guitar you finish with shellac you will still need to sand the finish down to level it out and to do this you need 600 gritt for all your agressive sanding and you will need 1200 and 1500 for your less agressive sanding.

In the USA and Canada the dried shellac can be perchased from www.lmii.com and in the EU it can be gotten at www.axminster.com there might be better places to get it but these are the places I know about.
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Old 04-10-2009, 07:28 AM   #19
CorduroyEW
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So I decided to sand the finish to level it out a bit so here are some pics after wet sanding it with 600 grit sand paper. Shellac doesn't like water so when you wet sand shellac use oil. These pics have the guitar still covered in oil and I went at lots of angles hoping that the colour change effect might be able to be seen. I don't think it picked it up that well but you can kinda tell.

















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Old 04-10-2009, 08:54 AM   #20
CorduroyEW
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Because I want this guitar to actually look new I've now started polishing it. The method I'm using is a french polish. To do this I leave the oil on that is already there and I get a very diluted mixture of shellac. I keep my rag almost dry and quickly buff the surface of the guitar. If I slow down or stop it'll ruin the finish and I'll have to do more sanding so it's important to move quickly in circular and figure eight motions. Doing this applies hundreds of very thin layers of shellac over the guitar in a 10 minute session. After a session I let it sit for an hr and then do it again and I'll continue this over the course of a day. The best french polishes are done every few hrs for months. After I finish polishing the back I'll let it dry for a day or two and then polish the front the same way.

Here is a pic after the 1st polishing session

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