Rosewood Strat Build/Assembly

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Torren61, Mar 17, 2018.

  1. Torren61

    Torren61 Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    I've been super busy in the year since my last post about this project. Over the last summer, I did some major renovations to my back yard that required a backhoe, stump grinder, tiller and bobcat. I removed the horrible and haphazard landscaping the previous owners did, I repaired and added to the water drains, I removed old dilapidated fencing and installed new fencing, I installed hundreds of decorative border blocks, installed a new rose garden, reseeded my backyard lawn, installed new water trough/planters, removed the horrible front hedges and planted yellow hedges to go better with the color of my house, extended water lines, added rock and redwood for ground cover, completely redid the space between the back of my house and my spare unit/studio and planted lillies, ranunculi and dalia. On top of that, I visited my kids in Colorado and Mississippi ands worked the fires in Redding and Lake County California as well as the storms that we endured in NorCal (I build power lines).

    SO... I'm back to this project. I need to get it completed so I can get the guitar to San Francisco to get the neck Plek'd when I go there to get meet relatives flying in from Sydney, AU.

    At this point, I sanded the body down to 1000 grit and I've attempted to finish with tung oil. What I wanted was a semi-gloss oil finish. What I didn't know was that rosewood is a wood that is very oily and it won't take a tung oil finish applied directly to the body.

    After hours of research, I've learned that the body needs to be de-oiled with something like acetone or denatured alcohol and a barrier coat of shellac should be applied before proceeding to a top coat.

    My original plan was to shoot it with nitro and I actually have all the supplies to do that including a shower tent for a spray booth and a non-explosive exhaust fan for vapor extraction. I switched the plan to an oil finish after completing a pair of nightstand tables with a tung oil finish. That was how I learned about the issue of the oil in the rosewood.

    My new plan is to do the shellac barrier coat and... the next step is where I'm soliciting opinions.

    Should I do a French polish? The pros: Amazing finish, "relatively" basic task requiring only shellac flakes (on the way), denatured alcohol (got it), lubricating oil like olive oil or something else light and clean (got it), pumice (got it), linen (got it), wool (got it), non-toxic, easy to repair. Cons: Labor intensive and could be tricky to get it right the first time. The finish is not as durable as other finishes. i.e.: Great finish for classical acoustic where the person playing it might take great care with the guitar but maybe not so great for a "rocker's" electric. Heat sensitive. If left in the case in a hot car, the finish could melt a bit.

    Should I shoot it with lacquer? The pros: Another amazing finish when done correctly. More durable than shellac. Classic finish used on most classic electric guitars. "Relatively" easy to repair. Great patina and crazing over time for that "mojo" in years to come. The cons: Toxic and requires specialty precautions such as ventilation, PPE like a respirator (got it) and a clean and dust free area (got it).

    I don't think I want to do a poly finish.

    Any opinions?

    Btw, here's a couple pics of my Xmas present... a 1995 Martin Custom Shop HD-28.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Look at the back of your herringbone. Martin knows how to finish rosewood.
     
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  3. tigger

    tigger Tele-Meister

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    I'd go with lacquer. Last year I stripped tru-oil finished Tele I made about 8 years ago and refinished it in lacquer. Though initially amazing the finish wasn't aging well. Where lacquer darkens and yellows, the tru oil was getting lighter. And R&F Neck lacquer is the hands-down best feeling neck surface for me.

    After reading the thread I have a strong urge to write that something you didn't want to do is a really bad idea in my opinion.
     
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  4. Engraver-60

    Engraver-60 Friend of Leo's

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    What finish do the older Martins have? I have couple of older (57 & 68) Martins that need a little bit of attention, so I ask if French polish wouldn't work well.
     
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  5. Torren61

    Torren61 Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    Wow, I think that’s a question I’d pose to Martin. Those are too old, to me, to risk doing the wrong thing. I’ve spent SO much time researching the “what kind of finish for rosewood and rosewood guitars” question. I was very disappointed to not find a definitive instructional on rosewood guitars exclusively. Most everything I found was either “I’ve never finished rosewood but I think you can do so and so and it should be fine” or do a barrier coat of shellac. I did watch a YouTube series of the Martin guitar factory and they said they laid down a coat of vinyl polymer (I think that’s what he said) and then shot over it with lacquer but he didn’t go into more detail about any issues with rosewood.

    I realized I won’t have time for the finish to cure if I want to have the Strat Plek’d in mid May so I have to either do the finish and have it Plek’d later or do the assembly first, have it Plek’d and then disassemble it, shoot it, let it cure and then reassemble it.

    I’m leaning toward the latter option just so I can get it together but I need to run it by the shop in San Francisco to make sure that won’t bugger of the Plek job.

    Yeah, I’d suggest contacting Martin before you do any refinishing on those vintage Martins.
     
  6. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Martin has used nitrocellulose lacquer from at least the 1930's. Nitro is easy to repair, but there is strong feelings in the vintage guitar world that finish repairs (over spray, refins) devalue a guitar significantly. Your guitars are in the age where they are becoming valuable - particularly if they are rosewood because that is the end of the Brazilian era.

    I build and repair guitars, mostly acoustics, and I own a couple of Martins from your era. When mine needed work (neck resets, some structural issues) I knew I could do the repairs but I had it done by a very good Martin tech - it was fairly expensive but that way I have paper trail that maintains the value if I ever want to sell them ("recent neck reset by Martin technician Joe Guitar..."). It kind of ironic, Martins are about the easiest dovetail necks to reset, yet I don't do them because I think the owner needs that paper trail.

    My suggestion before you do anything is at least joint UMGF and ask some opinions there.
     
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  7. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Torren, I'll give you an opinion about your guitar, but remember what they say about opinions. I'll preface this with a couple of comments. First, that is a beautiful hunk of wood and I think it needs the best possible finish. Its worth taking the time and doing it right.

    Second, I'm an amateur finisher, I've only done a couple of dozen guitars to this point. But I have very high standards for my finishes - my goal is something you would see on a PRS or a Benedeto or any of the fine hand made guitars I see at the lutherie shows I attend.

    Third, I realize that there are finishing systems that are out of reach to me. I don't have a spray booth or UV lights, I can't shoot any of the fancy modern finishes. But I actually don't want to - I don't like the dipped in plastic look so traditional finishes are OK.

    Forth, I build some furniture from time to time and finish it with furniture finish (duh) - usually tung oil or varnish. Looks fine on a book shelf, not what I want on my guitars.

    Fifth, polymerized tung oil (TruOil) is a popular finish for electric guitars - mainly for people who don't want to, or can't, spray. I tried it twice on a couple of barn wood guitars - found out that to get an acceptable finish its really a lot of work. Twenty or thirty thin coats, 30 or 40 days of cure and it still wasn't the finish that I was hoping for. One of those guitars got stripped back to bare wood and shot with lacquer.

    Sixth, I haven't (yet) done a FP but the next classical will get it. I built one classical some years ago and finished in lacquer - that really wasn't the right finish for that style guitar. FP is a huge amount of work, takes some very definite technique to get it to look good, is wonderfully thin and relatively fragile. Perfect for a classical that you are going to baby, not for an electric.

    That brings me to my finish(s) of choice. Nitrocellulose lacquer is the gold standard for many reasons - it is pretty easy for an amateur like me, the results are stellar, if I'm careful I won't blow up the garage or kill the cat. I really want to like waterborn lacquers and keep experimenting with them, but I come back to nitro. If I had your guitar in my shop, there is no question of the finish I would use - finishing resin for the pore fill and nitro on top.

    These are both rosewood, Brazilian on the left, Mad on the right. Nitro over zpoxy

    IMG_2974.JPG

    This is cocobolo (in the rosewood family)

    IMG_4410.JPG

    End of rant.
     
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  8. Torren61

    Torren61 Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    I appreciate your input. You did a great job on those guitars! I think you’re right, it’s gotta be lacquer. I have everything to do a good job, including some experience. I’m going for it. :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2019
  9. esetter

    esetter Friend of Leo's

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    LOL dubious? Get real dude! :rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:
     
  10. Torren61

    Torren61 Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    Lol, I forgot about that guys post. I ordered the decals a few days ago. I’ll post pics when they get here. I could tell you what and why I chose what I wanted to put on the headstock but the pics should be pretty obvious.
     
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  11. otterhound

    otterhound Poster Extraordinaire

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    Talk about returning from the dead .
    Martin currently uses a catalyzed lacquer . Skip Beltz , the step son of a local woman was primary in designing their spray booth setup . Skip is a good guy and if you get him on the tour and ask , you just might learn more about their spraying operation than you can digest in one sitting .
     
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  12. otterhound

    otterhound Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'll ask them the next time I am there . That will be in a couple of weeks . Being where you are located , you should be able to get your answer fairly easily .
    If you care to , Dale Bartholomew should be able to answer your question . (610) 759-5287 is his phone number . Dale ran the finishing department for quite a few years and has sprayed lacquer for me twice , once while I was alongside him . He taught me everything that I know about prep and finishing with lacquer . I am still a squid . He is far from it .
    My guess is that Martin was using Stewart-McFadden lacquer during this period , but that is only a guess . Seagrave is claimed to be an exact match for the Stewart-McFadden lacquer and vinyl sealer . After , they did buy McFadden out .
    If you still have concerns John Arnold is in the Johnson City area and is a good source of info in your neck of the woods .
    Point being that Martin has changed lacquer suppliers more than once over the years , Mohawk , Cardinal , Stewart-McFadden ...... and compatibility is important .
    If you do call Dale , say hello for me , Richard Eyman .
    Also , over at the UMGF , you may be able to find your answers .
     
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  13. Torren61

    Torren61 Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    Not dead, comatose. I’m determined to have results soon. Waiting on incoming supplies and the end of our rainy season. :)
     
  14. otterhound

    otterhound Poster Extraordinaire

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    By the way , one of my most common brain farts is mixing this up . The lacquer was Lawrence-McFadden and is now Seagrave .
     
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  15. Torren61

    Torren61 Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    Well, I've made some progress. I have to say that I've learned a couple of lessons with this project. First, I'll never do another rosewood guitar. This wood is a mutha to finish. Next, French polish is much easier in the videos than it is actually doing it... at least on rosewood. It's just so oily. I think if I wasn't trying to do the Hendrix guitar, I'd consider just oiling the entire guitar with fretboard oil periodically and let that be it.

    It's been too cool and wet to shoot lacquer but I've been able to work the shellac in my breakfast nook. I didn't have a spare piece of rosewood so I had to learn on my project. It's been frustrating. I had a really good finish until I broke through the shellac. I used pumice but that left noticeable grit in the finish of I had to strip it and do it again. Grrr!

    At this point, I'll be trying to level out the hardened shellac and get ready for a bit of warmer and dryer weather as soon as it gets here so I can shoot the lacquer.

    Here's a couple of shots. Remember, I still have to level the shellac before I can shoot the lacquer.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This is the decal that's going on the headstock. I hope it satisfies the one guy who thought I was trying to fake a Fender Custom Shop Hendrix Strat.

    [​IMG]

    I looked up guitar manufacturers and, as far as I can tell, there's not a company called "Electric". James Marshall Hendrix died in 1970, hence the JMH1970 model.
     
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  16. Torren61

    Torren61 Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    We had some really good weather over the last few days so I set up in my tool shed to shoot the rosewood body. It seemed things were going well until I brought the body in after four coats to sand. I noticed some crazing around the bottom edge of the body. I thought I might have scratched it but it's definitely crazing.

    Grrrr! I regret the whole rosewood concept. There. I said it again. Now, to a solution.

    Frankly, I'm tired of the whole thing. I'm pretty sure I can French polish it because I actually had a lot of progress with that just to see if I could but I want a nitro finish. So... I'm gonna outsource that job and just do the assembly.

    I've finished several guitars and even did a REALLY good job on my first nitro refinish with a Les Paul but it wasn't rosewood. The neck seems to be taking the lacquer so far but this is only the second coat and, yes, I shot both with lacquer sanding sealer before I shot them with just the clear lacquer.

    I'm looking for a shop to do the lacquer. Anyone have an especially good shot to recommend?

    [​IMG]
     
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  17. Scatter Lee

    Scatter Lee Friend of Leo's

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    looking good, you really don't have to finish rosewood,
    I did one like jimi's, one of the best sounding guitars I've built

    [​IMG]
     
  18. Torren61

    Torren61 Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    They finished Jimi's, didn't they?
     
  19. Scatter Lee

    Scatter Lee Friend of Leo's

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    probably, I sprayed a few coats of nitro on mine too, no problem
     
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