accurate vintage Fender 3 tone sunburst

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by Greg M, Jun 18, 2019.

  1. Greg M

    Greg M Tele-Holic

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    I've Googled it and Youtubed it, and all I'm getting is how to do a sunburst with spray cans. First of all, I tried that years ago and it turned out very poorly. Poorly enough that I bought a compressor and spray gun. Secondly, part of what I want to know is how to get accurate colors for the old sunbursts. Specifically, I'm going to do a SRV "first wife" build and want it to be as accurate as possible.

    Do any of you know if there is a tutorial here or elsewhere that goes through some detail on the colors and order of procedure?

    And Ron Kirn, if you're listening, would you do a thread on this? lol (not really LOL, I would love to have such a thread if you ever need a subject for a new one).

    Thanks for any advice.
     
  2. Crafty Fox

    Crafty Fox Tele-Afflicted

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    Try 'Guitar Finishing Step By Step' by Stewart MacDonald. They have a recipe for 3TS on page 163 (Recipe 33) for pre '64 on alder, and page 164 (Recipe 34) for post '64, also on alder.
    Its a very useful book and I often turn to it when finishing my guitars.
     
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  3. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    What kind of "compressor and spray gun" are you using? If it's a conventional air spray gun it's VERY hard to get enough control over the fan pattern - plus there's a ton of overspray to deal with. Many made the mistake of buying a compressor and a cheap gun at Harbor Freight labeled "HVLP" thinking they had an HVLP rig - but not with a standard compressor unless it's a huge one and there's been training in how to run it with high CFM and pressure if 4-10psi. Anything higher is not HVLP.

    If it's an HVLP, it's not a "compressor" - it's a "turbine". And there should be a large hose (over an inch in diameter) and a special gun. A good one is a "non-bleeding" unit, where the air is triggered along with the material - at 4-10psi. Very low pressure but high CFM. It should have a .8-1mm needle/air cap combination for lacquer, and with that setup you have superb control (a bleeder has air running all the time and is more difficult to control - but still exponentially better than conventional spray.

    As far as colors, many combinations have ben posted and published over the years but none are precisely what Fender used. However, one common mistake is the color for the outer edge of the early 2 and 3 color sunbursts, which is a VERY dark brown with some lamp black added - but not pure black!

    BTW, the Stewmac book mentioned is mostly applicable only to their products - the Colortone line. It's an unusually slow-drying lacquer that has a high naphtha content (almost like standard paint thinner). They also mention "curing", which is incorrect - conventional lacquers only "dry" - all by evaporation. There is no chemical reaction.

    And with most conventional lacquers each coat (if properly applied) dries in 30-60 minutes. and you can buff the day after the final coat is applied.

    Whatever product/colors you use, be sure to practice the application of the ENTIRE system - from sealer to buffing - on scrap. Refine your technique and figure out how all the different coats work together as they melt in. Do this and get the shole process down pat before working on the actual guitar body.
     
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  4. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    Another vote for the Erlewine (StewMac) book. Advocating the use of their products is just fine with me - when I follow Dan's instructions I get good results. In addition to the recipes mentioned above, read the section entitled "Fender sunbursts, according to "Yas"" for some of the history of Fender's finishes.
     
  5. Greg M

    Greg M Tele-Holic

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    I think I'll buy that Stewmac book. It seems like it would be a good investment for the future. I'm always spraying one "vintage" looking finish or another it seems. Besides, I like looking at guitar porn :rolleyes:.

    BTW, I've sprayed several sunbursts (Les Pauls) and was happy with them. They were more transparent colors though, and the dark brown/black of the Fender is what was concerning me. The pancake compressor and Harbor Freight gun have been enough to do them very well. I've had good results. Maybe it doesn't work that way for everyone else, but it's enough to give me good results.

    Thanks for the advice guys.
     
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  6. DrASATele

    DrASATele Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'll add to the Stew Mac finishing Book chorus, also add the Bob Flexner finishing books too, more for technique.

    I did the pancake compressor and HF guns too for a while, it has it's limitations but I think it's a great way to start.
     
  7. Preacher

    Preacher Friend of Leo's

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    I like this guys technique

     
  8. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

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    Which sunburst? Which year? Which paint?

    From early sixties sunburst was poly covered with nitro then all poly from about 67.

    And apart from early 54 bursts, a lot of later ones through 3 to early 60s were 3 colours where the red faded. So it's almost impossible to say what the 'real' colours were. I'd bet the brownish blacks started as black which as the surface has lost it's lustre and aged (and the lacquer has aged) there's a certain opacity in the clear causing the colours to be less vibrant.

    And as numerous books have noted, while Leo to early CBS era the specified colour chips were Du Pont they actually just used equivalents from whoever had stock at the time so the paint could another brand and 'close'.

    The bodies themselves again apart from early 2-burst Strats were dyed yellow in a vat, not painted. That would be nearly every alder body in particular. Regardless of topcoat body was dye-dipped as standard because it was quick and cheap and simple.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2019
  9. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    Here's the problem... Spray Cans. ... they suck under the best of conditions.....

    You simply do not have the control using a predetermined tint out of a spray can, you must be able to add and/or mix your colors and the intensity, to get it anything like correct...

    For instance... the darn edge.. its not a one or two coat application .. it get the blend correct you apply several thin transparent coats, with coats of clear in-between to blend the darker shades.... try that with rattle cans,,,

    same for the interim red band... several very thin coats of the red, until the color builds to the intensity you want.... then I give it a couple of shots of a very thin amber to yellow the center..... then more clear to blend" everything as they melt together... '

    you have to practice and its darn near impossible to achieve superior results with rattle cans.. get a compressor, a couple of spray guns.,.. and buy bulk lacquers and aniline dyes.... then practice.... practice, Oh, yeah, then practice some more..

    r
     
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  10. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Imho, this looks nothing like it should.
     
  11. SacDAve

    SacDAve Poster Extraordinaire

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    I do same method as Ron described I've even used an airbrush adding tints to clear. The few I've done I just did pattern I wanted not trying to follow any certain burst design. I think trying to copy something makes the job more difficult.
     
  12. jrblue

    jrblue Tele-Afflicted

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    I really appreciate Ron Kirn's emphasis on practice. I do lots -- lots! -- of painting and finishing of all kinds, guitars included, and have very good results (even vintage goldtopping) but still have not and do not expect to do a burst of the kinds and quality I would want because I do not have the spray equipment or the practice (!!!) to achieve the results I would want. Loads of people on this forum believe that if you have good directions, you can do anything. No. Yes, you can do many things, but there are operations that are touch sensitive, require real-time visual analysis, and demand the ability to project in advance how work being done it the moment will look when other operations are done over it. Most bursts are not great. Gibson had its clownburst era. Ti this day, people argue over the nature and quality of the production bursts they buy. Either a great mass production line or, best, a really skilled individual seems to be the way to get good results. And even then, as Ron says, you have to have the knowledge, skill, and practice to adjust on the fly to get a masterful result. I would love nothing more than to be able to do great bursts, but unless I find myself with the time to be able to practice and see if I can even develop the proficiency, I'm not going to try to pull a one-off miracle. Good luck. Practice. Even my single-color finishing skills took years to hone -- patience and skill are hard to come by. Most people don't get there.
     
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  13. SacDAve

    SacDAve Poster Extraordinaire

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    I think a good goal would be to get set up to spray you could find a compressor on CL pretty inexpensive spray guns are reasonably priced. I think what you would find you have a new level of control of the finishing process
     
  14. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    to support jr's comments... I encourage guys to learn to walk before they take off on a Marathon...

    Often I see guys asking for information on how to do some of the most difficult finishes, Metallics, Candies, require basic knowledge of what’s happening when the paint hits the wood.. NOT just how to spray paint, but what is happenings it leaves the gun tip.. so you can. Work with that to achieve the even effect those finishes are capable of..

    Other colors for the Novice to stay away from is Black, unless you have a spray booth, there is no way to get it applied without “trash” fouling the finish…. Same for pastels…

    My suggestion . . A good old tinted amber… if you don’t like it… do two things, change your mind.. and practice….

    The practice will help you achieve that polished finish your’er looking for… its like putting is to golf…. You can drive ‘em 320 yards dead solid perfect off the Tee, but if you can put for bunk, you’re still gonna be a 30 handicap..


    R
     
  15. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Be aware that the Stewmac book - and Dan Erlewine's finishing directions on their website - apply to Colortone lacquers.

    Colortone lacquers are unlike 90% of the lacquer products on the market - closer to Deft than anything else. They dry VERY slowly - each coat in hours, while conventional lacquers like Mohawk, ReRanch, Rust-leum, Behlens and most others dry in 30-60 minutes per coat. This is due to high naphtha content -a VERY slow drying, "paint thinner" type solvent.

    Erlewine also incorrectly uses the term "curing" - and conventional (even slow-drying) lacquers DO NOT CURE! They dry ONLY by evaporation of solvents. So while Colortone products might take weeks to dry fully before thy can be buffed, most lacquers can be buffed the day after application is completed. The only products that "sure" are catalyzed lacquers.

    He also *specifies* surface sanding, which is necessary only if application is uneven. This is prevented through proper practice. With enough practice you refine your technique, and can move straight to buffing. If sanding is required at all it should not require anything rougher than 1500 and take 15-20 minutes at most. his recommendation of starting with 220 almost guarantees many beginners will sand right through their finish!

    And DO NOT sand between clear coats - if the clear is severely uneven there's something wrong with the overall spray technique that should NOT happen and will need to be fixed after ALL clear coats are applied - sanding between coats can introduce all sorts of contaminants.

    Last - unless there has been an update regarding spray equipment since my 2008 publication date, the only non-aerosol spray system and method shown is a conventional air spray system - not a modern HVLP (which is a self-contained unit with a turbine, large air hose, and special gun with a cup). Air spray wastes more than half the material through overspray and i a messy, hard to control method; HVLP sprays at 4-10 PSI with most of the material smoothly staying on the surface, and with excellent control of the fan. some pros still use air spray, but it's best suited foruse in spray booth locations by experienced painters.

    Again, practice application, applying thin coats and patience are the real keys to a good finish.
     
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