I’ve already prepped, primed, and given my Jazzmaster body a metallic gold undercoat. The weather is now perfect for spray painting. It’s gone from winter to spring in a matter of days. If anything – it’s probably now just a little too warm and dry. Too much warmth and a dry atmosphere means the spray can seem to almost turn to dust, before it hits the surface. This can make building up a liquid clearcoat difficult. A dry atmosphere also encourages dust and all sorts of bugs, seeds and fibres to take wing. Nevertheless – I’ve cleaned out the spray booth again, and have all my air filters running, to try and create a relatively dust-free air flow across the work. The body is cleaned and dusted down, before it’s rehung. The Shoreline Gold finish has dried nicely, and the result is smooth, with a deep metallic lustre. It’s almost like a bronze colour, rather than a “true” gold, and should produce a deep, wine-tinted red, with almost scarlet specular reflections and intense highlights.
Because the gold basecoat has already cured a little – I need to begin applying the colour coats extremely thinly. A light, mist coat should allow the colour coat to begin to key, and melt back into the surface of the basecoat – but without blending with it. I’ve got about three-quarters of a rattle can of Northwest Guitars’ “Translucent Red” nitro left after painting a jaguar headstock. Normally – I should easily be able to coat the body with a full can, but I don’t want to make the colour coat too opaque. In fact, I want to try and apply the “Candy Apple Red” just as thin as I can get away with. Because the Shoreline Gold is so dark, to begin with – it’ll be easy to negate it’s metallic, reflecting quality. I want the colour to “pop” over the top of the metallic – especially under strong, ambient lighting.
So – the plan is to apply as few colour coats as is practical. Ideally, since I’m looking for consistency, each coat should be as even as possible all over the body. With these translucent paints – especially from a rattle can – the spray tends to land in a series of small specks, rather than in an even mist. Given enough coats – the effect will blend and become consistent, but too much, and the colour coat can become too opaque. I just want to achieve a consistent, translucent coat in as few passes as possible. If I go too far, I can’t go back a step – so I’ll need to evaluate each coat as I go.
To keep the overall passes as even as possible, It’s also important to have a rough plan for each coat. I plan to spray the radiused edges of the body first – holding the spray at a slight angle to the main faces. By allowing the paint to land on the sides of the guitar, and then feather out over the curved edges and onto the faces, and also by dealing with each side in turn – I can ensure that the edges get two, overlapping coats, with the faces initially having just a faint, “sunburst” sort of coverage. I can then even-up the faces, by spraying a series of slightly overlapping passes, with the spray applied almost straight-on. Since this may leave some slight suggestion of directional marks – with each successive coat, I’ll change the direction.
The first, light mist coat provides just a touch of red warmth over the gold. Despite my attempts to keep the coverage as even as possible, there’s still a little “blotching” evident – but it’s important not to get hung up on it at this stage. This should even out with successive coats. If I start “filling-in” at this early stage – I’ll risk flooding the body with paint, and it’ll build up too quickly.
On a warm day like this, the paint takes well under half an hour to become touch dry – but I wait 45 minutes and then repeat the process, with a second coat of translucent red.
The second coat evens out the coverage – but the consistency of the colour is still just slightly “patchy”, here and there, with a little spray texture still visible. That said – the effect is already getting close to where I envisaged it. Clear coats of lacquer will probably darken the overall effect slightly – so I don’t really want to go with too many more coats of colour, if I can help it. After an hour to dry, the body is cleaned again and dusted down. The atmospheric conditions mean it’s proving harder to keep the body free from absolutely all floating debris in the atmosphere. Fortunately – applying thin coats makes it easier to spot and remove anything caught in the finish, before it gets buried by subsequent coats. A third coat is applied, in the same manner as before, but with extra focus given to applying a flat, even coat. I’d like this to be the last colour coat, if it works out.
After another 45 minutes for drying – I think that’s just about done it. But that’s when I spot the dark fibre, buried in the dried paint film – right in the middle of the lower bout. Sanding-back the translucent finish isn’t a desireable option – but I’ve really got no option. The fibre is in the top coat of paint – so it sands out relatively easily. However – the translucent red now isn’t consistent, and you can see where it’s been sanded. Nothing for it – I’ll have to gradually build up the red colour over the general area, until the coverage looks more consistent. I don’t focus just on the rubbed-back area, but around the general area – gradually building up the coverage with a series of light, mist coats. The lower bout gets most of the application, and I vary the angle of spray, so that the coverage has a chance to feather-in to the rest of the colour coat. By the time the flaw is finally hidden, The lower bout is slightly darker than the upper bout – but I’ve tried to develop the coverage so that the darker area covers the lower curves of the guitar body – leaving the upper horn and arm cutaway, still with a good deal of fire from the gold showing through. By the time the scratchplate is on, and the body is polished up and fully fitted out – I think the slight contrast in colouration will be acceptable, if barely noticed.
There’s still a little paint left in the bottom of the can – so I reckon I’ve used about two-thirds of a can, in all, to get the desired effect. Apart from the slight darkening towards the bottom of the guitar body, and down towards the lower curve – the colour appears reasonably consistent to me, (given my vision restrictions), and out in the sunlight – the body just gleams. A really impressive amount of “fire” reflecting from the metallic base coat, where the coverage ermains thin. The finish seems to be blemish free. (Admittedly, my eyes can’t always be trusted with fine detail – but there’s nothing jumping out at me). I give the body another clean over with a little naptha, whilst I inspect it. Then it’s returned to the booth to dry out, ready for the clear topcoat.
The clear lacquer top coats are applied in much the same way that the colour coats were. Thin – but consistent. If anything – once the the first couple of light mist coats ahve been applied – I can begin to make each pass a little thicker, and a little more “liquid”. There’s very little texture built up on the surface from the spray, so I hope I can get away with fewer coats of clear than I normally use. I have about a can and a half available, and I’m probably looking to use it all, before finally leaving the job aside for a while, to cure.
I’m still focusing on getting as few bits of dist or fibre caught in the finish, as I possibly can. Once there’s a bit of a build up of clear lacquer – sanding back slightly, to remove troublesome elements, tends to be much safer. There’s less chance of cutting back into the translucent colour coat. However – with conditions as they are – I’m finding it increasingly difficult to keep on top of spotting absolutely every fault. As the air gets drier – dust and small fibres appear to be everywhere. Even dried overspray in the booth can sometimes get airborne, and can be blown back onto the wet lacquer by the pressure of the paint spray. This can create a sort of dusty effect on the finish. At least loose overspray does tend to melt into the overall finish as subsequent layers are built up – but it’s often impossible to distinguish overspray from actual dust – and dust, once sealed under clear coat, will remain trapped and visible, unless it can somehow be sanded out.
I don’t normally like using tack cloths – since the cheap ones can sometimes leave a sticky residue. This time, however – I think I need to resort to a quality tack cloth to guarantee all of the dust and fibres are trapped, and are away from the work. I’ve used Liberon cloths before, and although they tend to cost a little bit more than the generic “Autoshop” kind – I halt the spraying for now, and put an online order in for a dozen. They’ll be with me in a few days, and I’ll finish the clearcoating job then.
There’s sufficient clear lacquer on the body now, to act as protection for coloured finish – although the coverage does still appear slightly heavier in some areas. The colour has darkened slightly under the clearcoat, and the finished effect promises to be a rich, dark, almost wine coloured, translucent red. Once a strong light is shone on the body, the metallic glows subtly from below, whilst the specular highlights on the radiused edges glow scarlet. The effect of the paintjob is so much more dramatic than the original, Antique White. Underneath a glossy, thick-looking clearcoat – I think I’m going to be more than happy with the finished result.