Poplar body - how to do a mirror opaque finish?

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by newuser1, Oct 17, 2019.

  1. newuser1

    newuser1 Tele-Meister

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    In the last 3 years I've made several guitar bodies and I even started making my own necks. While the guitars I make are playable, my body finishing work leaves much to be desired.

    I have this poplar body that I want to finish in solid color - red or black probably, and I need your advice on a good finishing schedule for poplar? I want to fully hide the grain, and have a mirror-like finish.

    1. What sanding schedule do you recommend (what grits)?
    2. What is the best way to fill small imperfections in the body - Timbermate, or epoxy, or bondo, or something else?
    3. I don't need a grain filler for ppolar, right?
    4. Do I seal the body with shellac, or something else prior color coats?
    5. Do I need to use sanding sealer, if yes which one would you recommend?

    Here is a finishing schedule for opaque color that was recommended for poplar from ardec.ca (bought some of the finishing stuff below from them):

    You need to use special a base such as the White base Proprime Pigment Sanding Sealer by Ardec. 2 - 3 coats then sanding with 320 grit paper
    followed by 2 - 3 costs of the EM65000 tinted in the color of your choice
    followed by the several coats of the EM9000 to obtain the "wet" look that you wish to have.


    Does this finishing schedule make sense?

    I'm planning on spraying the black EM6500 Water based Acrylic Pigmented Lacquer with HomeRight Super Finish Max C800971 Sprayer Power Painter. How many color coats do I need?
    How many clear coats of SuperClear 9000 WB Polyurethane do I need?

    Here is what I have finishing-wise:

    HomeRight Super Finish Max C800971 Sprayer Power Painter - until now I have only used spray cans for finisihing

    EM6000 Production Acrylic Lacquer (water based)
    EM6500 Water based Acrylic Pigmented Lacquer - this is tinted black
    SuperClear 9000 WB Polyurethane (water based)

    Timbermate Woodfiller – several colors
    Aqua Coat grain filler

    Bulls Eye Shellac Spray
    Zinsser SealCoat Sanding sealer (de-waxed shellac)

    EM1000 Universal Sanding Sealer
    Proprime - Pigmented Sanding Sealer (https://ardec.ca/en/p/609/proprime-pigmented-sanding-sealer)

    Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane Spray
    Watco Lacquer Clear Spray

    IMG_2289.JPG IMG_2291.JPG IMG_2292.JPG
     
  2. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    EM6000 is a popular water based finish that many guitar builders are using. Your finishing schedule looks reasonable - here is the StewMac version for the water born finish that they sell.

    I think that is the bare minimum number of coats - when I have used water born finishes I probably end up with 15 to 20 total coats. A couple of tricks in shooting water born finishes - when I finish and clean my gun with water (one of the big pluses) I then put some DA in the cup and shoot a little thru the nozzle, leave the rest in the cup. When you get ready to shoot the next coat do whatever sanding you think is needed (I usually scuff sand to about 320) then shoot a mist coat of the DA. Dump the rest out of the cup, poor your finish in and start shooting. The alcohol seems to soften the surface slightly and help the next coat blend into the previous one (water born finishes don't melt in like solvent lacquer does). Since I started doing the alcohol trick I haven't had any witness lines but I'll be honest, I mostly went back to solvent lacquer.

    The most important thing I can tell you is to take a piece of your wood and practice each step of of your finish on it before you ever get close to your guitar body. Learn the adjustments on your gun, practice your patterns until they are perfect, see how much sanding you need to do between coats. Even practice your final sanding and buffing.
     
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  3. eallen

    eallen Tele-Afflicted

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    Well, you no doubt have plenty of finish stuff. The ticket will be getting stuff that plays well together.

    Poplar does not require grain fill as a closed grain wood. As far as blemishes like small knots and pits. For really small ones I use CA glue. For larger ones I use epoxy. Either way, fill it in and sand it flush.

    Your wood only needs to be sanded up to 320 grit max. From their all your components need to be compatible. After sanding follow that with a sanding sealer. Either of your opaque sanding sealer should work. You want a solid color such as gray, white,... black, brown. I like darker colors for darker opaques. A few coats followed by sanding to 320.

    Follow by as many coats of a black lacquer as it takes to fully cover. 3 should do it if done well. Don't hog your coats on. Do light even layers, 3 passes per coat.

    As far as poly clear over lacquer, I'm not generally a water based guy so some others might be able to chime in more, but I would check your color coat for recommended clear top coats.

    If I were doing water based under coats I would stick with water top coats. Keep lacquer under coats with lacquer tops. Watco is also not the preferred of lacquers in IMHO.

    Look forward to seeing progress!

    Eric
     
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  4. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I liked to use Oil Based Grain Filler, even on the hardwood species said to be closed grain. There's always a few imperfections in the wood and the filler takes care of those.

    That's Poplar all right. It is a soft wood, and so I wouldn't use it for a spectacular mirror style finish. All the poplar furniture my Dad and I made has accumulated little defects over time. We used automotive lacquer and I don't think it was the fault the acrylic lacquer - the wood just doesn't resist marring. I think doing this type of body in a black mirror finish is a recipe for heartache. Also, my Dad and I used poplar that he had air dried for almost 15 years. It just isn't enough.
     
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  5. PapaWheelie

    PapaWheelie Tele-Meister

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    I've made several guitars out of poplar and have found several methods that work for me. The guitar below was just finished with the simplest method to date. The body was sanded to 240 grit. Drill ALL the holes first/pickguard, bride, jack plate, etc. Let chance to screw up the finish later.
    I use the rattle can Zinsser BIN shellac based primer/ stain blocker. It's very thick and fills tiny imperfections. Sand the primer smooth with 240 and reshoot it you sand thru or not happy someway. It dries in 30 minutes so it's no big deal.
    The paint is several coats of Rustoleum in a spray can - Canvas White. After two or 3 days lightly sand the paint with 320 grit to smooth and remove any paint imperfections. It should be completely smooth. No pits. I let it set for a couple days just to be sure the paint is dry dry.
    The topcoat is General Finishes high performance water based polyurethane in a quart
    can. I have sprayed with the Harbor Freight 9.99 gun and my Earlex , both with great results. After letting it dry for a week, I wet sand and buff.

    This is not a purist's finish, I understand, but it's smooth and durable. And I can spray in my basement without much smell.
    058.jpg 060.jpg View attachment 647587 060.jpg View attachment 647587
     
  6. newuser1

    newuser1 Tele-Meister

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    What brand of oil grain filler do you use?
     
  7. Nickfl

    Nickfl Tele-Afflicted

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    That looks l great and it's very close to the finish method I've been zeroing in on during my last couple of builds. Water based poly can work well but it seems to really matter which brand it is. I've heard good things about some of the water based poly floor finishes, apparently they are spray well and are very durable.

    What was your process for wet sanding and buffing on that build? I've struggled to really get that wet look gloss with the products I've been using.
     
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  8. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

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    You don't need the EM9000 at all, IMHO. After you fill, sand smooth and then seal and prime with the EM1000, do your color coat with the EM6500. Use the EM6000 for your clear coats, either "out of the can" or with the crosslinker added if you want to get a harder, more durable finish. The EM6000 will "burn in" to the EM6500. (they are actually the same finish; one is just tinted) The EM9000 isn't really going to do much for you at all other than make your finishing cost more.

    As to coats...EM1000 probably 2-3 with light sanding, but it can go more if you need more minor filling. EM6500 (tinted) should be fine at two coats, but there's no harm in more if you feel you need it. EM6000...for a guitar...my opinion is 3-6 coats. Here's an example with EM7000 instead of the EM6000 because I wanted to try it. The color coat is EM6500 custom tinted by Target to a BennyMoore color. This is prior to buffing

    [​IMG]
     
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  9. eallen

    eallen Tele-Afflicted

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    This is a poplar build. I great easy wood to work with. The owner has had it probably 3 years and plays it regularly without a dent or scratch in the nitro.

    The best way to a mirror finish? Love my 14" buffing wheels on my self designed and made buffer. A wheel for medium and a wheel for fine clay bars and you have mirror. I finish with swirl remover and glazing compound for new finish protection.

    I never wet sand over 1500 and can quit at 1000 if I want but like to reduce my buffing time.[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Eric
     
  10. PapaWheelie

    PapaWheelie Tele-Meister

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    Nick, after trying Minwax and Valspar with poor results I bit the bullet and bought the General Finishes High Performance Gloss Polyurethane at around $28 a quart from Woodcraft. Worth every penny and after thinning 10% with water it goes a long way. It really dries hard enough to take wet sanding and polishing.
    After spraying 3 or 4 coats,lightly sanding with 320 between coats, I let it sit for a week. Depending on the flaws I usually start wet sanding with 600 and could go all the way to 6000. A light buffing with a fine clear coat polish (I use 3M Finesse-it) and it comes out great. Really much faster than it sounds with water based dry times and cleanup and more forgiving than lacquer.
     
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  11. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

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    That buffer is really great, Eric!
     
  12. eallen

    eallen Tele-Afflicted

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  13. PapaWheelie

    PapaWheelie Tele-Meister

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    Here's another home built kinda. I bought a Shop Fox buffing head from Grizzly for around a hundred and built the stand. $3 dollar rummage sale motor and sized to fit an old v-belt I came across. Probably less than $200 total including wheels. Easily portable and stored and works awesome.

    100_1820.JPG 100_1824.JPG 100_1826.JPG
     
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  14. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    New, a couple more thoughts. First, my perspective - I am an amateur builder and finisher with 25 guitars to my credit. My finishing is good but not professional, but I have high standards for my work. I can relate to trying to do a good finish with minimum facilities and experience.

    I finish mostly in nitrocellose lacquer, simply because it works. I have tried two different water born lacquers, but not the Target product you are talking about. I want to like water born finish - it seems to eliminate some of the really troublesome aspects of solvent lacquer, but to date I haven't been perfectly happy. The two that I have used were an early StewMac product that is no longer available and KTM-9 which is somewhat popular with the lutherie community. Here is a guitar finished in KTM-9, obviously not an opaque color but I want to show the gloss that is possible

    Tricone 3.JPG

    - next comment, I have never finished a guitar in opaque black but from my old hot rod days, that was the hardest color to get a flawless finish (well, maybe candy apple red...). We used automotive lacquer back then, black required many many coats with lots of sanding, then the clear and lots of buffing. Just be aware that whatever product you use it will be difficult and will test your abilities to lay down perfect coats.

    I have a friend who is one of the best custom motorcycle painters in the world - frankly if I wanted a flawless black finish on a guitar I would take it to him and have him shoot two part automotive finish on it.

    - you talked about possibly doing red - I have finished a few guitars with red. It has always been a semi transparent finish - I use nice wood and I want to show the grain. If you are interested in something like this I can talk about my methods and schedule

    IMG_3421.JPG

    I do buffing both with a wheel like others have shown and with a foam pad in a drill motor. Both will work, for a single guitar I would suggest the pad and compounds.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
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  15. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    FWIW, this is the gas tank for my motorcycle painted by my friend. The paints are normal automotive two part finishes applied by a true professional. There is no way I could achieve this in my garage

    [​IMG]

    Sporty & 'bro.JPG

    I would call that a mirror like finish
     
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  16. PapaWheelie

    PapaWheelie Tele-Meister

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    Wasn't trying to turn this into a lacquer vs anything else thread, as I too have done more than a dozen guitars in lacquer with very nice results. And there is always that pride that comes with a well done, traditional lacquer finish.
    Living in Wisconsin however means most of my work is done in the winter. Summer is for golf and fishing. Spraying lacquer indoors in the winter with the house closed up, even with a fan by the basement window, is/was always a sure way to get on the bad side of my wife, not to mention all the brain cells I've already killed. After experimenting, the General water borne was by far the best, easiest way for me to get a nice gloss finish. And for someone without the good spray guns, paint booth or a lot of experience a decent place to start.
    Will it replace lacquer on my high end jobs, no. But the guitars sound great and 90% of people would believe me if I told them it was a lacquer finish.
     
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  17. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

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  18. newuser1

    newuser1 Tele-Meister

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    Thanks Freeman,

    Yes, I'm interested to hear about your red finishing schedule?

    Just for the record when I said mirror-like finish I was just trying to describe what I'm aiming for, but I'm well aware that I won't be able to do factory quality finish - just want to get a decent finish without big flaws...

    I'm in the process of testing on scrap the finish you described above now. The only difference will be that I will clear coat with the EM6000 water based lacquer and the EM9000 poly on 2 testing pieces to compare how it looks.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2019
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  19. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    OK, by "mirror like" I assumed you just wanted a deep high gloss smooth finish - that is always my goal too.

    I've done two ES335 style guitars in red lacquer but I would use basically the same finishing schedule with water born finish. Sand to 320, wet the wood to raise the grain, sand to 320 again. Apply any stains you want - I used red and amber to pop the grain of the maple, you probably won't do that. Seal with whatever is recommended by the manufacturer - for lacquer I would use vinyl sealer or possibly just the lacquer diluted 10 percent or so. Shellac might also be a good sealer - I follow the recommendations.

    Sand to 320 and spray enough color coats to get the look and color that you want. I added a few drops of red dye to my lacquer before spraying - it kind of looks like red fingernail polish. It is translucent rather than opaque - I want a little bit of the wood to show thru.

    IMG_3369.JPG

    Then mixed lacquer is in the little glass jar.

    I shot about 6 medium coats, three a day, sanding to 320 after 3 and 6 coats. I then shot one more trying to get the best flow I could. Scrape binding if necessary (you don't want color on binding but you do want clear). Followed with probably a dozen coats of clear, three a day, sanded to 320 each day. Heed my warning about witness lines - EM6000 is supposed to be better than other water born finishes.

    I let the finish cure/dry for two weeks or more, wet sand starting at 800 or 1000 and going to 1500, then buff with medium and fine compounds.

    IMG_3393.JPG

    And yes, do your tests to make absolutely sure it is going to work for you.
     
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  20. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    In light of the pictures of the red guitar I went back to your original post and will address your specific questions.

    1. I simply go up thru the grits to 320, not skipping any. I also use a cabinet scraper a lot. When I reach 320 I'll wet the wood which brings up more fuzzies, let it dry completely and sand again

    2. For a flawless finish there should be no imperfections. I want the wood to show thru, any filler would also show (and many of them discolor the wood). I do use a finishing epoxy for pore filling and grain popping on certain woods, I would not use it with poplar or an opaque finish. I have used small amounts of bondo on a repair that was going to be finished opaque black and my friend the motorcycle painter uses it under his finishes. I will also drop fill some imperfection is some woods with either CA or epoxy mixed with powered wood - I use that when I'm doing inlay.

    3. I don't believe you need a pore filler with poplar. My red guitar is maple which does not require pore filling but the neck was mahogany which does. In the picture there is a small container of paste filler which is what I used in that case.

    4. Shellac is kind of the universal sealer but I would go with whatever Target recommends. In my red guitar schedule I used lacquer sealer made by the same manufacturer as the finish itself. It might be that you just want to shoot a couple of coats of your finish but dilute it.

    5. See 4. Some of the "sanding sealers" contain a high percentage of solids which helps you build some thickness that you can sand back as you level the finish. My motorcycle friend would shoot a couple of coats of primer compatible with his final finish both to help bond and to give some thickness for sanding.
     
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