1st Tele build, finishing schedule

JPTeleinNC

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1st post, 1st build, 1st finishing job, 1st Tele

The Subject
I have always wanted a Telecaster. I have owned a few Strats, but I am mainly an acoustic player. I have never finished a guitar before and I was hoping I could get some help with the finishing schedule. I am not super picky about the finish being perfect, and I think slight imperfections give a guitar character. That does not mean I will rush the finishing job or cut corners. If you are going to do something, do it right the first time. I bought the below Alder Tele body for $40. Probably not the best candidate for a translucent finish but like I said perfect is not what I am striving for. However, I thought it was a good subject for a first build. Knots were filled by the previous owner. I would have preferred them not to be filled to help them come through the finish. Adds character.

tele.JPG


The Finish
I'm going for a Mohawk Blonde Toner finish. No white wash underneath. I'm looking for it to be as translucent as possible. There is a Klingspor within walking distance of my house. I'm planning on getting everything there.

Finishing Schedule
  1. Prep sand the body with 240 grit; wipe down with Naptha
  2. Sanding sealer with Mohawk Sanding Sealer; lightly level sand with 320 grit.
    1. 1 or 2 coats
  3. Grain fill using Mohawk Grain Filler. As it dries use rubber spatulas to scrape it at a 45-degree angle to the grain. Sand down after each coat with 320 grit.
  4. Nitro base coat using Clear Mohawk Nitro.
  5. Color time using Mohawk Blonde Toner. Spray 3 VERY light passes per coat. Build slowly until extremely even transparent coverage.
    1. The first 3-4 coats should not look completely smooth
    2. Will not sand between coats
  6. CLEAR COAT using Clear Mohawk Nitro
  7. Sand using finishing pads
  8. Buff using fine buffing pads

Questions
  1. How many cans of the Nitro, sanding sealer, and Blonde should I need?
  2. Is there any sanding in step 6 with the Nitro?
  3. I can use the Nitro as a finishing lacquer, correct?
  4. How do I get a satin finish as an end product instead of gloss?
  5. I don't know, what I don't know. Pro Tips? Opinions?
 

Freeman Keller

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You should be good but you might want to look at the StewMac lacquer finishing schedule too


Their suggestions are
How many cans do you need?
Electric guitar neck: No sealer, 2 to 3 cans lacquer
Solid body electric: 1 can sealer, 3 to 4 cans lacquer


Note that alder is NOT an open pore wood and does not need pore fill. You might, however, decide it needs grain fill.

I apply lacquer three coats per day and level sand to 320 each day. I'll typically do three to six coats of any color or tinted lacquer until I am happy with the color, then six or so coats of clear.

Satin finishes can be done with satin lacquer (duh) or by lightly abrading gloss lacquer - 0000 steel wool or a scotch bright pad. Experiment to see what you like.

I highly recommend doing all your experimenting on a scrap of the same wood before you commit to the actual guitar body
 

JPTeleinNC

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Electric guitar neck: No sealer, 2 to 3 cans lacquer
Solid body electric: 1 can sealer, 3 to 4 cans lacquer
Thanks for this

Note that alder is NOT an open pore wood and does not need pore fill. You might, however, decide it needs grain fill.
I'm still going to do one grain fill just to be sure it comes out smooth

Satin finishes can be done with satin lacquer (duh) or by lightly abrading gloss lacquer - 0000 steel wool or a scotch bright pad. Experiment to see what you like.
I found the Mohawk Nitro Satin. I guess I should have looked for that first.
 

eallen

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As Freeman said. I would echo no need for grain filler on alder as their are no open pores on the grain to fill. Block sanding sanding sealer coats to flat perfection is the best for closed grain woods. Only after flawless follow with color coats before clear.
 

JPTeleinNC

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As Freeman said. I would echo no need for grain filler on alder as their are no open pores on the grain to fill. Block sanding sanding sealer coats to flat perfection is the best for closed grain woods. Only after flawless follow with color coats before clear.
I've seen videos where they called Alder "semi-porous." Between Basswood and Ash. I am nervous about leaving it out as I know it can make or break your finishing job, and it seems like an easy step in the process. I am rethinking it though. Possibly just go heavier on the Sanding Sealer and sand down even
 

Freeman Keller

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I've seen videos where they called Alder "semi-porous." Between Basswood and Ash. I am nervous about leaving it out as I know it can make or break your finishing job, and it seems like an easy step in the process. I am rethinking it though. Possibly just go heavier on the Sanding Sealer and sand down even
I did an article on the pore filler that I like and use and explained some of the reasons that I use. Note that I do not build with wood like oak that has the big grain lines running thru it (I build furniture out of oak but not guitars). Your body seems to have some of that but it is not dramatic, the pore filler that I use will also enhance grain and figure but that is different than filling pores.


There are lots of different products and methods of filling pores and as I said before, some woods don't need it. The reason it might hurt in your case is that both sealing the wood and applying a filler may make your transparent finish less effective. I would never take on a project like this without experimenting on scrap.
 

JPTeleinNC

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I did an article on the pore filler that I like and use and explained some of the reasons that I use. Note that I do not build with wood like oak that has the big grain lines running thru it (I build furniture out of oak but not guitars). Your body seems to have some of that but it is not dramatic, the pore filler that I use will also enhance grain and figure but that is different than filling pores.
can you point me to that article? I would like to read it.
 

JPTeleinNC

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The reason it might hurt in your case is that both sealing the wood and applying a filler may make your transparent finish less effective. I would never take on a project like this without experimenting on scrap.
This is good info. I do want the grain to show through
 

JPTeleinNC

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I highly recommend doing all your experimenting on a scrap of the same wood before you commit to the actual guitar body

As @Freeman Keller mentioned above:
"I highly recommend doing all your experimenting on a scrap of the same wood before you commit to the actual guitar body

I would never take on a project like this without experimenting on scrap.
Klingspor is cutting me a piece of scrap Alder this afternoon
 

Freeman Keller

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Klingspor is cutting me a piece of scrap Alder this afternoon
Excellent. Ironically in another discussion about finishing the poster wanted to know about what to do with his mahogany body but didn't have any wood. I cut up a bunch of scrap for him and sent it off so he could experiment.
 

stratisfied

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I don't think grain filler will be necessary. I would make an attempt to remove the existing filler in the knot at the guitar's waist and replace it with a filler more neutral in color. It looks like latex drywall spackle was used there which would be easily removed if wetted and wiped away. If not, I would use the tip of a sharp Exacto knife or hobby knife blade to carefully scrape enough filler out to allow a wood tone filler (matching the natural color of the knot) to cover it.

As far as seal-coating, I would apply a a few light coats of clear lacquer or sanding sealer and sand lightly before applying the toner. It will provide more uniform coverage and also serve as a barrier layer. In the event you are unhappy with evenness of the toner or go too heavy and wind up with a color deeper than desired, the barrier allows you to remove the toner with a light wipe of lacquer thinner. You can then lightly sand and start over without having wiped the pigments in the toner down into the wood.

Apply multiple clear topcoats with clear gloss and wet sand only after you have built up a sufficiently thick topcoat. I like to use gloss as you are able t see low spots and defects easier since they stay glossy until leveled out by additional coats. Every 3-4 coats of clear, wet sand lightly with a flexible block for the top and back and use the side of your hand on the sides of the guitar and around contours. Always sand with the side of your hand, fingertips perpendicular to the direction you are sanding, to avoid "fingertip grooves". Wet sand your next to last coat like you are prepping for buff and polish. Your surface should look like matte glass. Use Satin Clear for the final coat, without sanding or buffing. By the time you get to that point you will have sprayed enough coats to lay down a reasonable finish coat without runs or excessive orange peel.
 
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JPTeleinNC

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I don't think grain filler will be necessary. I would make an attempt to remove the existing filler in the knot at the guitar's waist and replace it with a filler more neutral in color. It looks like latex drywall spackle was used there which would be easily removed if wetted and wiped away. If not, I would use the tip of a sharp Exacto knife or hobby knife blade to carefully scrape enough filler out to allow a wood tone filler (matching the natural color of the knot) to cover it.
will Naptha take it out? I have a knot on the back I want to expose too.

I got everything I needed to run a trial on a piece of scrap for the first step at least. I want to take a look at the grain after the Sanding Sealer. Not 100% sold on the blonde. I may want to keep this thing au naturel

test.jpg
 

old wrench

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Klingspor - nice to have a store like that nearby!

I use the Mohawk blond toner myself - one can should be enough for a translucent finish on one body

The spray tip that comes on the can is OK - nothing special, but it works just fine

If you warm the can of blond toner (or most any aerosol can) up in a bucket of hot water, it will spray out and lay down a little better than a cold or even room temperature can - it doesn't need to be hot, just so it feels warm in your hand

The trick to getting a nice-looking translucent finish lies in laying down light and very even coats

Laying down light and even coats will keep the "blond" tone looking nice and consistent, instead of splotchy and uneven - get your technique worked out on your test piece

The Mohawk lacquer sealer, toner, and finish all work very nicely together

Here is an Ash bodied Tele I did with Mohawk blond toner and Mohawk finish lacquer -


1669935694561.png


1669935743718.png


.
 

Silverface

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Grain fill using Mohawk Grain Filler. As it dries use rubber spatulas to scrape it at a 45-degree angle to the grain. Sand down after each coat with 320 grit.
With that body you'll need 4-5 passes of grqin filler, each progressively thinner. You can't fill big knots in one go.

Forget "can counting."

You need to practice the entire process from prep to buffing on scrap before even touching the guitar. Otherwise you'll be posting questions about what to do next, or how to fix this or that. "Cans" depend on your working area and ventilation, your technique, the weather conditions, and what brand and specific product you use.

Work everything out first, have you jigs made so you are sprayi g 90-degrees to the piece and always from top down - and THIN coats that don't cover like paint - it takes 3+ coats to get coverage and flow with lacquer, so you have that generally right-

But if you have done a decent job with prep, fill and application there is NO sanding unless you need to fix small runs - if using Mohawk the dry time is 30-60 minutes per coat. You buff it hours after final coat application and you're doe - buffing removes small amounts of orange peel(buffing on a verticl wheel with stick buffing compounds). Lacquer dries only by evaporation so there is no "cure" time. Extended dry time is only caused by overly thick application.

You have the general procedure in order - but not the technique. And technique is what kills most beginners. It takes *practice*.

The single most common cause of finishing problems with new folks is impatience. Don't give in - get it right on scrap *first*.

Good luck!
 

stratisfied

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will Naptha take it out? I have a knot on the back I want to expose too.

You can try it and see, but if it is latex based probably not. I would just try a Qtip wetted with water first to see if it is water soluble. That knot wood is very hard so if you have to pick the filler out, it won't harm anything.

An alternative and less invasive method is to apply a bit of penetrating stain to the filler with a Qtip. Minwax Pecan or Dolden Oak are about right color-wise. If it is latex filler, it will absorb the stain. If it is Vinyl latex based, it won't penetrate.
 
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JPTeleinNC

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Klingspor - nice to have a store like that nearby!

I use the Mohawk blond toner myself - one can should be enough for a translucent finish on one body

The spray tip that comes on the can is OK - nothing special, but it works just fine

If you warm the can of blond toner (or most any aerosol can) up in a bucket of hot water, it will spray out and lay down a little better than a cold or even room temperature can - it doesn't need to be hot, just so it feels warm in your hand

The trick to getting a nice-looking translucent finish lies in laying down light and very even coats

Laying down light and even coats will keep the "blond" tone looking nice and consistent, instead of splotchy and uneven - get your technique worked out on your test piece

The Mohawk lacquer sealer, toner, and finish all work very nicely together

Here is an Ash bodied Tele I did with Mohawk blond toner and Mohawk finish lacquer -


View attachment 1057145

View attachment 1057146

.
that is just a beautiful finish. I hope to do half as well as you have. I'm between blonde and an au naturel finish I think. I want to see what the knots and grain look like behind lacquer. I am not sure blonde will be the best thing to use with knots, but I will test it out on my scrap. There are a couple knots in it
 

stratisfied

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People say the knots add character and that’s fine if a “rustic look” is your thing. On the Fender Butterscorch Blond, translucent white undercoat is applied (basically a Mary Mary White) before the Butterscotch color. The purpose is to obscure knots and grain miss-match on multi-piece bodies. It does a pretty good job of muting defects while still allowing a bit od wood character to peek through.
 

old wrench

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that is just a beautiful finish. I hope to do half as well as you have. I'm between blonde and an au naturel finish I think. I want to see what the knots and grain look like behind lacquer. I am not sure blonde will be the best thing to use with knots, but I will test it out on my scrap. There are a couple knots in it

Thanks!

You can get a very good idea of how your body would look with a clear lacquer finish by simply wetting it by wiping it down with naptha

A naptha wipe-down won't harm the wood or cause a permanent color change, but the look of the wood under the wetness of the naptha will give you a real good idea of how the piece will look with a clear or natural finish

The naptha will evaporate, and won't leave behind any problem causing residue


I've seen some good-looking finishes where the knots are filled with either clear or black or colored epoxy

.
 

Beebe

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I tried a blond finish once on knotty pine. I didn't use dark grain filler and the knot was the only thing that really showed through. It didn't look good.

So your idea to keep it translucent is a good one. You can find some nice examples of knotty wood finishes if you search for Knotty Pine guitars. The knotty wood looks great with oil and/or tinted clear finishes. IMHO.

I'll also go against the crowd and say, go ahead and start finishing on the body before practicing. Any steps that you mess up can be sanded back and will only give you a flatter surface when you redo it. Plus its a $40 knotty body, so have fun. Just mask off the inside of the cavities if you go this route. Your mistakes will build up in there if you don't.

And don't change the shape of the wood with all that sanding. The Tele is two parallel planes with a perpendicular surface wrapped around them, and consistent roundovers.

Also enlarge the neck pocket now if needed. I find most bodies come with a tight neck pocket, and finish builds up in there and on the neck. It's ok if the neck is a little loose in the pocket. It'll give you room to shim left or right to get it perfectly straight from bridge to nut.
 




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