Clear coating the Jaguar body

I’m using a high gloss clear coat lacquer from Steve Robinson at www.manchesterguitartech.co.uk/. This will act as a protective coat, and also show off the fabulous paint job I aspire to achieve.

The finish on the body has dried, and the paint layers seem to have shrunk back nicely. There are a few flecks of solid, which may have flown off the spray nozzle, sitting up on the surface – otherwise apart from the usual, slight orange peel sort of texture – the colour looks flat and consistent. The slight flecks, which need taking care of, are quickly rubbed down with a bit of naptha and fine wet & dry – but when sanding the colour coat – take care you always sand flat, and press lightly. You don’t want to create dips in the surface, or rub down through into the primer – or worse – the wood below.

Clear coating with nitro lacquer involves a similar schedule to painting. Three passes to a coat, three coats a day, each two to three hours apart. Three days on – three days off. On a warm day like today – two hours between coats is fine, but if it’s cooler, or if there’s any moisture in the air, it’ll take longer – so don’t rush. Building coats up too quickly will create problems like bubbles and pinholes – where the lacquer doesn’t have time to outgas the solvents properly – or it can lead to a cloudy look, where moisture is trapped in the coat.

First coats, as always, should be light – but once the application has built up a bit, you can shoot quite liquid, wet-looking coats. The finish builds up gradually, as each subsequent coat melts into, and liquefies, the coat below – so if you notice any fibres or dust contamination at any point – let that coat dry and then remove them, before continuing. If you keep looking over the job properly, you should be able to spot any problems when they’re just under the one coat – rather than finding out they’re sitting just above the paint, below a weeks worth of lacquer. Of course, when you’re working on a white guitar, all the black dust and fibres in the world will conspire to foul up your spray job. Tiny black flies, which seem to love the solvents, will travel miles to crash land on your pristine paint job. 19th nervous breakdown? – it’s beyond that now!

Of course, a DIY approach is never going to be able to get rid of every fibre and mote of dust from the spray environment – so I realise I may have to, eventually, live with the odd imperfection – but if I take my time, and keep things as clean and dust-free as possible – then I’m more than confident I can achieve a half-decent result. A tack-cloth is a useful thing to have, and a going over just before each coat can be invaluable – just check the quality of the cloth before use. I’ve had some in the past where the adhesive seems very grabby, and it appears to leave contamination on the surface. If you find an approach which works – fit it into your routine, and carry out that same routine for each coat.

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I chose to clear coat the body on it’s side this time, rather than hanging. It seems much easier and quite thick, liquid looking coats can be achieved without obvious sags. It also means the edges get a good coverage. They’re the most likely to suffer from sand-through when polishing, later on. However – it does seem that I get more contamination than when I’ve sprayed with the body hanging. It’s a bit trial and error at first – until the best approach can be found. Prepare to go through a lot of clear coat!

After a few days, (and several cans of clear coat) – a good inspection shows a pretty even-looking result. I rub out any imperfections and, where necessary, make sure there’s enough clear coat left over these spots. The whole coverage – paint and clear coat – now needs to fully cure before I can get onto polishing. Most people seem to recommend at least three weeks to a month for drying and curing. I’m sure I’ve laid down way more paint and lacquer than most experienced painters might – so I’m going to leave it for two months. I don’t want to mess it up for the sake of a few weeks wait. I’ve got an airingĀ  cupboard where I can safely store the body – so I hang it up with a bent coat hanger, through one of the drilled screw holes.

And that’s that for the Jaguar body, until October.

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