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Finishing poplar

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by jrob3fz, Mar 25, 2020.

  1. jrob3fz

    jrob3fz TDPRI Member

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    Hey everyone! Second post here, and I'm still on my first build (well technically, my second; my first one ended up being a practice run due to some issues with the control pocket...), so I apologize for my lack of knowledge and misuse/lack of technical and proper terms.
    Anywho, I am at a stage where I have routed out the guitar, sanded it with 220 sandpaper followed by 320, drilled in the wiring holes, ferrule holes, guitar string holes, and holes for the bridge, made the neck pocket (fits the neck I'm using), and I have all of the hardware I need. At this point, I have not yet drilled holes for the neck itself. I have two questions, the first being a simple question, the latter being one that I'm sure has many different answers:
    1. Should I drill the holes to secure the neck to the body before or after finishing?
    2. I am using poplar again, and it is a decent piece of wood with little green staining. I am would like to do a butterscotch finish that maintains visual of the grain, but I am not against a solid butterscotch finish, given that from what I understand, poplar is particularly ugly with a clear finish. I also plan on using nitrocellulose spray on paint. My question is this: What is the best way to finish the guitar? Do I spray on the nitrocellulose lacquer straight on in many coats over the course of a week or so (sanding in between each coat and leaving a minimum of 90 minutes?), or should I use a sanding sealer prior to using the nitrocellulose lacquer?
    If I can have a step-by-step description of the best path forward (in very clear explanation, as I am a simpleton), I would greatly appreciate it!

    Thank you all for your input and please stay healthy!

    James
     
  2. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    Here is a poplar JM I did last year. First picture is just after fist assembly, second is about six or eight months later. You can see how the green went to brown.
    I might have centered the middle strip more had I expected the body to get used, I was testing out my CNC program. It worked well so I built it. Pickguard is 1.8th inch hardboard finished natural clear poly too.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  3. dented

    dented Doctor of Teleocity Gold Supporter

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    Here's mine in poplar, drilled before painting. Just starting it. This was made for me but I will attempt to do the rest.

    IMG_20200324_032340862[1].jpg
     
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  4. jrob3fz

    jrob3fz TDPRI Member

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    Wow, that's a beauty! Did you only use clear poly to finish it?
     
  5. jrob3fz

    jrob3fz TDPRI Member

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    I'm at a similar stage, just have the wiring holes drilled and waiting to finish! I'm looking forward to seeing how yours turns out, though!
     
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  6. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    Drill the neck plate holes before shooting finish.

    There are several different ways to approach finishing; here's what works for me. Poplar is not an open-grain wood, so no pore filler is necessary. But it will drink up your nitro and waste a lot of it, so it helps to seal the wood before you shoot expensive nitro.

    I like to use Zinsser Bulls Eye shellac (spray on or brush on...but I prefer spray) as a sanding sealer. Get the bare wood nice and smooth down to 400 grit, and then hit it with two light coats of shellac.

    This stuff is alcohol-based, so light coats are dry enough to sand in about an hour if the temperature is above 70F and the humidity is below 40% or so. Get a few light coats on, let dry, then sand smooth with 400.

    Take care on outside corners of the wood because you don't want to sand through shellac into the wood below. Repeat this process four or five times until you have a nice smooth surface, and you'll be ready for the nitro.
     
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  7. jrob3fz

    jrob3fz TDPRI Member

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    Thanks for the info! That definitely sounds like a solid process- just one question: Is it okay if the shellac runs? I have heard that it runs pretty easily, but I imagine with all the sanding, it should not be a problem.
     
  8. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Yeah Poplar has green stripes or parts in it. The good news is it's nice and dense and tight grain for finishing. Others better at finishing can answer those questions!
     
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  9. jrob3fz

    jrob3fz TDPRI Member

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    That's one reason I'm hesitant to go ahead and decide on a clear coat; I think I'm going to try on a piece of scrap wood that I've saved and see how it turns out before deciding on clear or a full paint.
     
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  10. sleazy pot pie

    sleazy pot pie Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

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    Great job so far-that will def darken up if left unfinished- I have a poplar body that was similar but on the back.
    You def want to use sanding sealer or some other type of sealer before you start your color coats. Shellac works great for this or you can even use straight clear lacquer.
    Sanding sealer (assuming it is nitro based) simply has a higher solidS content than straight lacquer. Which once dry, makes it easier to sand the wood flat- hence the name.

    The big question is- which butterscotch blonde are you shooting for? A more white, more yellow, brown?
    There are a million different versions and as such, just as many ways to get there.

    have you considered doing a translucent white finish with aged clear over that? It will somewhat , but not totally mask the mineral streaks and you can sneak up on the blonde you want.
    if you post a couple or even one picture of what you are shooting for people can point you in the right direction.
     
  11. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Yeah, a base coat of yellow to fill just wiped on and off might improve that.
     
  12. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Poster Extraordinaire

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    That is essentially Bullseye clear wax-free shellac. It's awesome stuff for both sealing and finishing and way more affordable and less cumbersome then buying, melting and storing reconstituted flakes.
     
  13. jrblue

    jrblue Friend of Leo's

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    Yow! What color changes! I would go with opaque or at most a translucent finish unless you're willing to roll the dice on how it end up appearing as time passes. It is a good, smooth-finishing wood which is why those who paint their guitars often favor it.
     
  14. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    "Is it okay if the shellac runs?"

    Well, it's best to avoid runs by using multiple thin coats. If I get a run when spraying, I swipe it away with a paper towel and hit it again with a very light mist. If you have a run in cured shellac, you can sand it out flat with a sanding block.

    Always use a sanding block. If you have a random-orbit 5" palm sander that takes hook & loop sandpaper disks, you need a few of these:

    https://www.woodcraft.com/products/5-foam-hook-loop-sanding-block

    It uses the same disks as the palm sander. Try it for five minutes, and you will wonder why you ever wasted time with the hard black rubber 3M sanding block with the metal teeth that shred your expensive sandpaper.
     
  15. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Back in the early 1970s, my dad and I did some large, open display racks in a contemporary style. The wood shapes, sands smooth like just about nothing else. I think we used a shellac but it could've been a lacquer based automotive sanding sealer. Over that we used Dupont Acrylic Lacquer and a fairly basic paint gun of the time. Everything went so fast. A couple of 50s Chevy pickup colors, the lighter one being almost TV yellow.

    Absolutely recommend a solid color for 99% of all poplar. If the wood looks tremendous with a clear finish, most likely you have mis-identified it as to species.

    They still look great, still front and center at my parents house in California.
     
  16. Fendereedo

    Fendereedo Poster Extraordinaire

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    Is poplar a hard wood. I've never seen it bare bones as a guitar body, but notice it is very green and streaky.
     
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  17. beerguy

    beerguy Tele-Meister

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    I have made a Poplar body from scratch, and finished it in nitro lacquer. Here are some tips & suggestions from my experience building & finishing guitars in lacquer.

    a) IMO Poplar is best used under a solid color, unless you like the variations in color and the green tint.

    b) I drill ALL holes and pre-fit everything first, so there are no surprises down the road.

    c) I highly recommend a sanding sealer before any finishing begins.

    d) I use either paste wax or melted birthday candle wax, dripped in the smaller holes, to keep the wet sanding liquid from swelling the wood during finish sanding. I also use foam ear plugs in the larger holes (like bridge studs & tuner holes) for the same reason.

    e) My finishing schedule:
    > Complete all woodworking operations, including drilling holes.
    > Figure out a way to hang or support the body prior to finishing
    > Wipe down the body with naptha to degrease
    > Sanding sealer; LIGHTLY sand with 320 when dry. You just want to skim off any fuzzies.
    > If doing a solid color, apply enough coats to make sure the body is evenly opaque. Dry overnite, and do not sand.
    > Apply clear coats, starting with a light coat first, then a little heavier on the following coats. Apply 3 coats per day for 3 days, with about an hour between each. Lightly sand if you have drips or fuzzies the following day.
    > Here's the hard part- you really need the lacquer to cure for 2 weeks (some say longer) before starting any finish sanding. That's always the hard part for me!
    > Start wet sanding with 600, then skip by 200 numbers (800, 1000, 1200, etc.) until you end at 2000. This assumes you don't have a mega-buffer and some serious compounds. I use water with a couple of drops of dish soap as a lube.
    > I use Meguier's Ultimate Compound on a Griot's Garage 3" orbital polisher for final polishing.

    I hope this helps, and I recognize others may have different ideas, but this has worked well for me.

    Here's a few photos of some I've done; the first two are the Poplar body:

    all holes drilled.JPG white Shark 2.JPG IMG_1015.JPG IMG_1351 2.JPG done front.JPG front, done.jpg body front.jpg
     
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  18. tubegeek

    tubegeek Friend of Leo's

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    That green spaceship is REALLY cool!
     
  19. 2blue2

    2blue2 Friend of Leo's

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    beerguy has laid it out pretty good.


    One full assembly mock up before painting is always a good idea. Really, put it together once.
    Compatible sealer+paint

    The Shark fin on the white one:)Super cool.
     
  20. AndyPanda

    AndyPanda Tele-Holic

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    I bought a cheap, poplar body (well it was sold to me as Poplar, maybe it isn't?) --- and when I asked about staining it, everyone told me Poplar is a boring grain and doesn't work with stains --- that I would need to paint it a solid color. But I ignored the advice and stained it anyway. When friends see it, they think it must have been expensive. It is also very lightweight and sounds really good (the Barden pickups probably have a lot to do with that)
    StainedPoplar.jpg
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
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