Kurt Cobain “Jag-Stang”. Body prep, and primer coats

A rare sunny day, at last! Little tasks are stacking up here, but things keep getting in the way. I’ve had to abandon any fiddly assembly tasks because, quite frankly, my eyes aren’t up to it any more – so my custom CAR Jaguar is sitting, waiting until I can see well enough to solder. Other projects are waiting for other, various finishing tasks – and with an eye operation coming up in just over a week’s time – I’m keen to get any lacquer and paint work done, so it can dry and cure while I heal and adjust to the new implant. I’ll have to wait and see what my close-up vision will be like. With healing, follow-up, and fitting for new close-work lenses – I reckon I’ll be out of action for at least six weeks or so. That will, however, be an ideal time period for paint to dry, and for me to source a few outstanding components to complete projects. With luck – I should then be able to push on with my two active Jaguar projects, a Jazzmaster, and the JagStang…

Of course – that’s if I can get all of the prep, paint and lacquer work done in time for the lay-off. I just need to take my opportunities on any suitable days, and push through as much as I can. There’s more poor weather forecast over the next couple of weeks, but there’s an immediate window of two warm, dry days. I’ll start by prepping and priming this JagStang body.

JagStang – Attaching the painting stick

The body has already been prepped after sealing, and rubbed smooth with 400 grit paper, and a 350 grade “Mirlon” pad. Since the weather’s better today – I can get the piece out into the daylight and have a better, closer look for imperfections. There are a few areas here and there which need light attention – but soon, the whole body looks smooth and consistent, and I can’t spot any more obvious flaws or defects anywhere. I’ve cleaned out the recesses with a tack-cloth – everything looks good to go.

I’ve used the same painting stick for a while now, and it carries the tell-tale signs of the translucent red from my recent Jazzmaster paint job. I’ve begun to slightly shim the stick away from the neck pocket, with a few thicknesses of thin card, before tightening the screws. This, I’ve learned, allows a little overspray to wrap over the exposed edges of the neck pocket, and it seems to aid paint adhesion at the exposed edges – helping prevent damage when the finish is rubbed back, and the neck is finally attached. Since the stick also effectively masks the bulk of the neck pocket area – there’s no need to mask the pocket off with tape, at this stage, either.

JagStang body – Ready for primer spraying

The spray booth is cleaned out, and the fan is turned on well in advance, to help clear the area of any dust and loose overspray from previous work. The painting stick and body are hung from a convenient hook in the ceiling, which helps me angle the work slightly – so that the spray doesn’t hit the main faces head on. I’m using a white spray primer from manchesterguitartech.com, and I’ve got one full can – which should be more than enough to give the JagStang body a good base for the colour coat.

JagStang body – After two light coats of primer

The sealed and prepped body is primed in the usual manner – paying attention to the tight curves around the insides of the neck horn cutaways, and ensuring that the sides and edges of the main body get as good a coverage – if not better than – the flat faces. The first passes are light. The spray primer is heavy with pigment, but it still takes a few coats to become fully opaque. There’s no point rushing things. Adhesion is the key – so careful, light passes help gradually build up a good coverage. The primer becomes touch-dry really quickly – so after the first, light pass, the body is checked over for any small defects, (there are none), and is then given a second light pass. This makes the coverage virtually opaque – although some of the darker grain still, just, telegraphs through. The body is left to hang, and dry, for an hour.

JagStang body – Rubbing-down and re-keying the surface

After an hour – the primer is dry enough to rub back. This is done with a red, 350 grade Mirlon pad. A gentle rub over smooths out any loose specks which might have got caught in the spray, and ensures the overall coat is smooth – but is also lightly keyed – ready for the next coat. The primer has the appearance of a kind of satin acrylic paint – but it’s solvent based, and so I expect it will partially “melt” into the previous coats. Keying the surface should help with adhesion.

After rubbing over, the primer has rubbed through in some places – but only just. Considering the first passes have been quite light – there’s already a good, opaque coverage – and there’s more paint yet to come…

JagStang body – Full primer coats

The body is cleaned down fully with a tack-cloth, and is hung in the booth for the next coat. This time, a fuller coat is applied. The spray is kept moving across the surface, but a slower action lets a slightly heavier load settle on the surface. A full pass is completed, and then the work is left for an hour again, to dry. Once again – it’s rubbed down with the 350 grade sanding pad – but this time, any obvious spits, spots or other flaws are rubbed out with 320 grit wet and dry paper, and then smoothed over again with the 350 pad. Once the body has been carefully checked over – it’s cleaned over again fully, and then returned to the booth for a final coat.

The primer top coat is thick and consistent – applied so that the delicate edges are given a double-coat – by spraying the edges, “onto the faces of the body”, at an angle. By doing this both ways – the edges effectively get a double coating, and the spray nicely “feathers-in” to the main surfaces. The faces themselves get a double application. After the final, full coat of primer – I still probably have about a quarter of a 400ml can left spare.

Primed JagStang body – after final rub down

After the final coat has had a couple of hours to dry – I work over the surface again with a fresh 350 grade sanding pad. This is the best chance to ensure the surface is super-smooth, and any surface flaws can be easily removed before the body even gets to see colour. The coat needs to be as flaw-free as possible, and with absolutely no pin-holes showing from below. With the primer coat looking smooth, and with no obvious drags or defects anywhere – the body is left for 24 hours to cure.

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