Building my first guitar #6: Ugg. Fininshing nightmares but now over the hump.

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Blog entry by daverose posted 11-25-2012 01:36 PM 1331 reads 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Starting the finish Part 6 of Building my first guitar series Part 7: It's done! »

Well, the finishing didn’t go so well. Did the BLO step and I liked the way it looked. Let it sit for about 10 days and then did my first clear coat try.

Most instrument guys like Nitro-laquer but I have a tiny shop, no spray equipment or adequate enough ventilation and am not big on toxic chemicals so I decided to go with a spray can of water based poly…..Why didn’t somebody stop me? That stuff does not flatten out at all! The can keeps clogging. At least it dries quick. 4 coats of that and I’m left with the worst looking pebbly finish. Crap. Pulled out my scraper and sandpaper and got that stuff off of there! I was too embarrassed to take pictures so try to imagine it.

Now of course I’m trying to sand this wood that’s soaked in BLO and the paper is getting totally clogged after about 10 wipes. Went through a LOT of paper. Anyway got the ugly WB stuff off and smoothed it out. There is still lots of BLO in the wood so I’m liking the look still.

I did a bunch of reading and asking around and decided to try wipe on poly which I gather is basically super thinned regular poly. I’d always had trouble with brush marks and drips in the past which is why I tried the spray can stuff in the first place so I thought I’d give it a try. Did some tests and it looked pretty good so on goes the first coat. Can says it should dry in about 4-6 hours and be ready for a light sand and second coat. Nope. 24 hours later it’s still tacky. 48 hours later, still tacky. WTF! Back to the forums and I realize that it probably reacting with the BLO that, in spite of the 10 days drying and scraping off a layer, is not dry and probably never will be. The only solution is a layer of dewaxed shellac to seal in the oil and then the poly on top of that. Out comes the scraper and sandpaper again and off comes that layer. I’m starting to worry that there won’t be any guitar left by the time I’m done.

OK, re-sanded again, lots of clogged sandpaper in the trash and I’m ready for try #3. Shellac first, which I love and is usually my finish of choice, then on goes the first coat of wipe on poly. 6 hours later back to the basement with held breath and it’s a little tacky but well on the way. 12 hours and it’s totally dry. Phew. Over the course of a week I got about 20 coats or so on. After the first 3 or 4 coats it was drying in about 4 hours so I was able to do 3-4 coats a day.

Got the finish built up to where I like it and then went on vacation to Brazil for 3 weeks! That let the finish cure well and kept me from being impatient about getting to polishing. Anyhow, back from holidays now and it’s looking pretty good! Minimal onion skinning, nice shine, should flatten out and polish up nice which is my next step.

Learned a lot in this process. There is so much black magic in finishing and so many theories and techniques. Sometime you have to just screw it up to get to the next step. Anyway, here’s how she looks now:

4 comments so far

View jumbojack's profile


1677 posts in 2648 days

#1 posted 11-25-2012 02:41 PM

I would sure like to see the completely finished guitar. It must look fantastic in real life, because I know how cruel the camera can be, not that it doesnt look great in the photos. It was a long painful process but you persevered and your labors are rewarded. Nice.

-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3182 days

#2 posted 11-25-2012 03:24 PM

Very pretty, Dave. It’s those types of problems that teaches more than anything else. But next time, practice on a board first. ;)

-- jay,

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2509 days

#3 posted 11-25-2012 03:45 PM

Experience is something you can only get immediately after you needed it. Looks damn nice to me.

-- Brian Timmons -

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2714 days

#4 posted 11-26-2012 02:24 AM

Wow! That finish was worth all the trauma and drama you went through.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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