Kurt Cobain “Jag-Stang”. Quick decal update

As I’ve posted before – the only way to get decals to sit invisibly under lacquer, is to gradually bury them under a build-up of successive coats. It usually takes at least a few rounds of applying lacquer, sanding back and then reapplying – before the edges of the decals finally begin to disappear. This time of year isn’t great for lacquer spraying, but the areas to be treated are quite small, and I can usually heat up the workshop enough – so that the lacquer sprays reasonably well. Just before Christmas there was a single, unseasonal, warm and sunny day – so I took the opportunity to give the Cobain decals another coat.

Face decal after flatting back and respraying

Nothing here which hasn’t already been covered on previous posts, but it’s satisfying to see how well the decals are beginning to settle in now. The lacquer is shrinking back, and it almost seems to tighten it’s grip on the decals as it dries. Somehow they appear less “plumped up”, and the edges have become much softer after only a little sanding.

Today’s process involves an even flat sand with 600 grit, wet and dry paper. Once the front face of the headstock has been gently flattened, there are very few low spots evident. (Low spots are revealed as areas which remain shiny, after flat sanding). The only noticeable differences in level are around the edges of the decal, and even they are much more diffuse this time. It takes a little extra work around the main decal to feather-in the effects of the flatting-back, but gradually – all of the low spots are removed and the face of the headstock shows a consistent, flat-looking, matte sheen.

The entire headstock is then cleaned off – front, back and sides – with a little naptha and a clean cloth. The neck is laid out for spraying once again, and three coats of lacquer are sprayed over the front face. The first coat is a fine key-coat, the second heavier, and the third – a full coat. I generally leave about 30 to 40 minutes between coats. These are quite localised applications.

Headstock immediately after spraying

This time – after spraying – the edges of the decal have all-but disappeared. Even using a light to illuminate the surface doesn’t reveal any tell-tale, slight differences in level. There’s a little roughness and “orange peeling”, but this is exaggerated by the light, and it should eventually shrink back and level itself quite well, during curing. Ultimately – as long as the edges of the decal are invisible – it should only take a light sanding-back, before the face of the headstock can be polished up.

The neck is put aside to dry for a couple of hours. I don’t want to work on the rear decal until the face is dry. Soft lacquer damages easily.

Signature decal after flat-sanding

The signature decal on the back of the headstock appears to be printed on much thinner waterslide material than the Fender logo on the front. After flat-sanding – the edges of the decal remain invisible. Being thin – it has obviously settled into the lacquer quicker. Once the entire back of the headstock is sanded back to a consistent, matte finish – the rear and sides of the headstock are cleaned off with naptha. (I avoid cleaning and rubbing the front face for now. I don’t want to risk dragging the drying lacquer there). The cleaned neck is then laid out for spraying.

Rear, signature decal – immediately after spraying

Once again – it’s three coats of lacquer. Fine, medium and heavy coats, with about 40 minutes in-between. The applications are feathered-in, down the length of the neck a little way, and the spray is angled-in across the headstock, so that the sides and edges of the headstock paddle get a little extra application. Just as with the face decal – there’s now no sign of the edges of the decal even under a strong light.

The neck is allowed to become touch-dry, and is then put away in the drying cupboard. A Few weeks – maybe a month should do it. (Then again, I still haven’t ordered up the custom body from Warmoth yet. There’s no rush). Once the lacquer has had time to cure and shrink back, it should now be a relatively simple process to flat sand one, final time – and then polish the whole neck up to the desired finish.

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