FINISHING: Lacquering

Ha! I'm finally there--lacquering! The end is in sight...

Actually this part seemed pretty intimidating at first, since I have to actually apply a mirror-like finish to the instrument that I've been building for a solid year now. There are actually a few different lacquering products and techniques to choose from, but given my modest circumstances I chose to brush on a waterbased finish. Presently I've completed the entire lacquering stages and have to say it actually went very smoothly and is far less complicated than it will initially seem to the beginner.

If you're interested in my trials and tribulations using KTM-9 Waterbased lacquer with a Brush On Application, click here to read my detailed account.

I thought I'd start lacquering (practicing) on the headstock first since it's small and flat, and I was pretty confident that I could correct any mistakes I might make. I'm using a $0.54 foam brush from Home Depot, moving slowly so as to avoid introducing bubbles into the finish. I'll end up applying around 12-15 coats, slowly building up thin layer by layer, and sanding level every 2-3 coats. This stuff dries very quickly so it's possible to brush on all the coats in just a couple days. Ultimately, I'll allow the lacquer to cure for 3 weeks (as it shrinks and hardens) before sanding it all level with 400 grit paper, progressing toward a super fine 1200 grit or so, and finally polishing the whole thing to a mirror like shine on a buffing wheel.

Here's the headstock after the final coat--the fine brush strokes will all be sanded out after the finish is allowed to cure and harden for 3 weeks:

Since lacquering the headstock went well, I decided to sand smooth the guitar body's surfaces and proceed with the real challenge:

In order to manipulate and clamp the body while brushing on the finish, I made this super nice wooden handle and bolted it on to the guitar (which I actually had the foresight to complete before taping the soundholes closed...)

The lacquer is applied one surface at a time and tacks hard in about 20 minutes, so I could continually rotate the body and keep applying coats at a full coverage rate of about an hour. Brushing on the sides and avoiding drips and runs kind of reminded my of the way the hardshell chocolate ice cream cone thingys are dipped at Dairy Queen...

Fast forward a few days and 15 coats into the future, and it's done! The final 3 coats went on without sanding, and now I just have to wait 3 weeks before sanding and buffing. With the exception of two hiccups (see next post) it all went off without any major setbacks.

Since I still need my vice to build a bridge, I summoned all of my MacGyver skills together to transform a door, a bar clamp, some cable ties, an ethernet cable, and a towel rack into a highly sophisticated drying rack...