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Thread: Upgrading a guitar

  1. #1
    Slothstronaut Slothy's Avatar
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    Default Upgrading a guitar

    So for the time being building my drums will be on hold. Probably until Christmas (money issues), but I'm busying myself with a late fathers day present being funded by my mom.

    See, I have one of these:
    epienjrhsch1_8.jpg

    It's an Epiphone Les Paul Special II. There's nothing particularly remarkable about it. I bought it a number of years ago with the intention of learning, never really got around to it, and now that I am trying to learn again my dad is letting me use his $5,000 Les Paul. Suffice it to say that I don't need this anymore. So I thought about just giving it to him, but the man has enough good guitars that he does not need one I paid $150 for.

    So the obvious thing to do was take it apart, refinish it and make some upgrades. Of course it occurs to me that it was probably only obvious to me.

    So I've taken it apart, removed all of the hardware and I've got it sanded down now. No pics yet because my phone was charging when I sanded it, but I'll get some next time I do some work. But I can share the upgrades I'm doing until I get some progress pics.

    To start off, I don't care for the control knobs on the guitar. They're not bad, but they could be better. Perhaps a little something like these?
    Ebony_Dome_Knob.jpg

    Of course the plastic nut at the top of the neck had to go. Fun fact, it came off with only a modest amount of pressure applied with one thumb. Instead we'll be adding on a better Tusq nut for it:
    Black_TUSQ_XL_Nuts.jpg

    Word on the street has it the wiring in these guitars is trout. So that'll have to go:
    Premium_Wiring_Kit_for_2-pickups_with_Toggle_Switch.jpg

    And since the guitar can't hold its tuning worth a damn, we'll add in a set of these for good measure:
    Grover_Original_Rotomatics_102_Series_3and3_Tuners.jpg

    As for the actual finish, I plan to paint everything but the top (and fretboard of course) black and seal it with some coats of the high gloss topcoat I bought to finish my drums (I have plenty). The top of the guitar is going to be veneered with some Maple burl I have from when I was building my arcade stick:
    MapleBurl.jpg

    And I plan to dye that a blue burst colour. The closest approximation I can find for the colour I'm shooting for is this:
    CS356_Blue_Quilt_Burst_CS102853_1.jpg

    I got the colour idea from a conversation we had recently about his favourite colours for cars and the fact that he has no blue guitars. Plenty of black and red, but not a whole lot else. It's time for some variety.

    No new pickups sadly since I don't know what he'd even want in it, but if decides he wants to change them after the fact I'm happy to switch them out for him.

    So that's everything so far. I want to get this done in the next few weeks so I should be either updating frequently, or posting major updates soon.

  2. #2
    Slothstronaut Slothy's Avatar
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    Been a bit sidetracked by some work my sister found me. It's temporary but it pays $18/hour so it kind of comes first right now. Haven't had time to do much since sanding the guitar as a result. Just experimenting with applying veneer to some scrap wood really.

    Things should wrap up within the next week or so and I'm going to dive headlong into this with testing the finish out, then finishing the guitar.

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    Slothstronaut Slothy's Avatar
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    Who wants an update? I'd say I probably owe you guys one.

    Let me say up front that refinishing a guitar probably takes longer than every other step. Seriously. A few days to apply multiple clear coats, then a minimum of 100 hours for the stuff to cure? Sweet zombie jesus it takes some time.

    Anyway, I never did take a picture of the guitar body when it was sanded so here's the neck with some screw holes filled on the back of the headstock:



    I was just planning to spray paint it black originally so I didn't bother going all the way down to the wood.

    Here was a test application of some veneer:
    You can't see it, but I learned that I just can't apply enough constant pressure to get the stuff to lay flat so it bubbled up in some spots. No good, so let's just dye the body instead.


    A quick test of some blue dye on some scrap wood to get the concentration right. Only one application but looking good.


    This is the body after I applied the blue dye. I have no idea what they sealed that wood with but the dye didn't absorb at all.

    When all else fails, spray paint it:


    Now it's hard to tell, but sadly a drop or two of sweat from my forehead landed on the wet paint and kept it from drying. Evened it out as best I could but there are two spots where it's clearly uneven up close. Note to self, hang the thing next time I paint a guitar so my head is never directly over it. Still, for a first ever attempt at spraying a burst finish I'd say it turned out really well, minor mishaps aside.



    This was the guitar following the first application of clear coat. It's still wet. For those who are curious, I hung it from a cymbal stand using a coat hanger I cut and put through a hole where the neck bolts in. Simple and effective, though I had to weigh a leg down with a kettlebell because the body will easily tip it otherwise.


    Didn't paint the neck black after all. Figured the blue would break up the black nicely, especially since I had to paint a bit more black on the front than I had intended to even things up.



    Almost impossible to see in the first picture but I stenciled the outline of a logo I'm slapping on it. Hand painted it with black after. A little shaky (painting relatively straight lines on a flat surface is surprisingly foreign to me), but it does the job. It's a picture of an atom, stemming from a time I told a friend that once I'm able to start building drums as a hobby I plan to call my drum "company" nuclear powered beats. Since I was working on this guitar I joked that I should have a guitar division called nuclear powered shred. Stopped being a joke once I decided I liked the idea too much so here we are with nuclear powered shred's first logo.

    So that's where things stand. I'm going to get the guitar body polished in the next few days, and clear coat the neck at the same time. The neck has been going much more smoothly with everything I learned from the body. Makes me think I may have done those two in the wrong order.

    Once the guitar body is polished up I can get most of the hardware back on and wire it. Since I sprayed completely around the holes for the controls though I decided the Ebony knobs won't really work since they'll be damn near invisible over the paint job. Decided to get some chrome Telecaster style knobs instead:

  4. #4

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    Wow man that is one massive project. Shame the dye didn't stick. I hope the spray paint stays nice! Good job on the gradient and blue bright middle spot. I dig the logo and the idea of becoming an instrument manufacturer too!

    Can't wait to see the final piece in action

  5. #5
    Slothstronaut Slothy's Avatar
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    I think the paint will hold up. I've got about six coats of the clear coat on the body and I'm going to do the same on the neck so it'd better hold up.

    Plus I did test the spray paint under the clear coat on some scrap wood and there's been no change in how it looks so it seems pretty stable.

  6. #6
    tech spirit
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    hey that's a cool keyboard

    oh, and also a really cool project
    everything is wrapped in gray
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    can you hear me in the void?

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    Till we meet again! Christmas's Avatar
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    I know nothing about guitar but I am really interested in seeing the final product!

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    Very VIP person Tech Admin Rantz's Avatar
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    Cool project! I can't wait to see the final result. And hey, those sweat drop marks truly make it your own, eh
    My name is , I am God , and wine, and a pool of cancer -century Arab rantzyen

  9. #9
    Slothstronaut Slothy's Avatar
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    That's one way of putting it Pantz.

  10. #10

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    I've done similar projects like this before and they require a lot of patience and time! the work looks nice! please post pictures when you finish! love the les paul body!

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