Having previously prepped and primed the vintage style alder body – there’s nothing here which hasn’t been extensively covered elsewhere. If you want a more step-by-step description of my process – I’ve covered things before. Try this and this.
My replacement “62” body has been drilled for its’ tremolo, and the remaining fine pencil marks are removed with naphtha, and a paper towel. Once the body has been thoroughly cleaned and degreased with another general wipe over with a little more naphtha – the body is then lightly keyed with a coarse, red Mirla Mirlon sanding pad.
The body has taken the primer well, and the surface appears to be really smooth – with no obvious spray texture or “orange-peeling”. It’d be a shame to mess up the paint job now – so a thorough clean over after keying is absolutely essential. I re-fit my usual handling arm to the neck pocket, and then carefully clean out all of the dust and debris which collects in the routed cavities. An airbrush with a compressed air supply is useful to blow fine dust out of the tighter corners, and a tack cloth is always basic, recommended kit. Once the body is completely clean and dust free – I can proceed with the colour coat.
I’ve got a full can of Olympic White nitro from northwestguitars.co.uk . Normally – a full can should just about do the job – but I also happen to have about a third of a can, left over from a previous job. This spare paint will help establish a good base – but because it’s from a different supplier, (in this case manchesterguitartech), I’ll use up this spare paint first – before overspraying with the other, complete, new can. There may be a slight colour mismatch between the two paints. No point finding that out too late.
Since the primer has had plenty of time to dry and cure – it’s always best to apply any first coats of paint as a light “mist” coat. The primer is designed to be entirely compatible with solvent-based nitro paint, but it’s always adviseable to “introduce” overlaid paints to any existing coats anyway – gradually building up the coverage at first. This allows the new paint to soften up the lower layers and “burn-in”. This in turn helps promote the best adhesion.
Spraying white on white is tricky as well. You have to rely on good technique – since you can’t always easily tell how the paint is covering by visual means alone. Olympic White is actually a very slight off white. Slightly grey/green to my eye, and slightly different from the “flat” white of the primer – but even so – it’s hard to differentiate one on top of the other. I pay careful attention to how I cover the body with the first passes – trying to keep the coverage light and even. It helps to work into a light source, and watch the fresh, wet paint on the matt, primed surface. The spare third of a can gets me a first, light mist coat, and then a slightly thicker, second coat. Once the spare paint is used up – I continue applying the paint with the full can. Now that there are a couple of thin layers down, I can apply the main colour coat in thicker, more liquid passes, although care needs to be taken – especially in this warm weather – not to overload the spray, and cause runs or sags.
There are some days when the temperature and humidity are just right for spraying nitro. Today is perhaps a little bit too humid, (very slight blooming visible in the drying paint film) – but the temperature is spot on. The lacquer isn’t too thick and “claggy” when it sprays – yet it’s still viscous enough to resist runs and sags. It’s not too runny, and the ambient temperature isn’t so warm that the lacquer tends to dry into overspray, before it hits the surface of the body. You can almost hear it when the lacquer is landing right. To my ear – it sounds like the lacquer is “sticky”, and you can literally hear a kind of extended “splat” of the paint, as it lands on the surface. By working with the body angled into a light source, and concentrating on an effective technique – the paint coat is gradually built up in a sequence of liquid-looking passes. Each pass is given about 40 minutes to flash off, before the next is laid down.
This being an all-white guitar – naturally – all of the black dust and debris in the room seems to be attracted to the newly-painted surface. Although I’ve got an exhaust draught pulling relatively dust-free air past the work – there are usually a few specks of dust, or fine fibres to contend with after each pass. These are picked off after each layer of paint has had time to become touch-dry. (Careful – the lacquer is still soft underneath). Sometimes – they’ll just brush away with a clean paper towel. Other times – they’ll have become buried under paint, and will need to be gently rubbed back with clean grit paper. With my eyesight as it is – I’ll inevitably miss the odd speck or two – so I hope the smallest motes will get covered again with more paint, and will eventually “disappear” entirely. Once the work has been faulted – it’s dusted down and, if necessary, gently cleaned with another light wipe with naphtha. Then, it’s back to the spray booth for the next pass. Make sure that any sanding marks from faulting, get adequate coverage – but don’t be tempted to flood the areas, and cause yet more problems.
Since the lacquer is flowing well today – once all of the colour from the can has been exhausted – I continue to make full passes with the clear lacquer. I have three cans of clear gloss nitro, (again from northwestguitars), and I reckon I’ll probably need about two and a half to build up a full, gloss clearcoat. (It’ll leave me a spare half-can for faulting, if I need it). That should give me plenty to polish back into, and I should end up with a rich, liquid looking coating when I’m finished. All of my previous notes about dust contamination apply again, as the gloss coat continues to be built up in a sequence of full passes. 40 to 45 minutes between coats, in this weather.
Once the full clear coat has been applied – the body is removed from the spray booth, and the painting stick taken off. After a good, close inspection – I can see a few areas where the lacquer has slightly bloomed, but these should polish out without any trouble at all. There are a couple of tiny specks in the finish which I’ve missed – but I’ll just have to hope they’re close enough to the surface to polish out. Otherwise, the paint job looks promising. After a couple of months with the lacquer left to cure, and shrink back – I should be able to polish the body up with a somewhat truncated polishing schedule. Care taken in the prep, and an economy of paint have both contributed to a super smooth-looking surface already. There hopefully won’t be much need to flat-back before polishing, and I should be able to use the thickness of the clear coat to impart a really lush, liquid-looking coat. Hopefully – the coverage this time will have better adhesion, and will be a little less prone to accidental chipping and flaking.
Fingers crossed. The body should be fully-cured in about two months or so. It’s stored away safely in the drying cupboard, and a note made in the diary for early September / late October.