Basic Finishing Techniques

Most of us that have been using finishing techniques over the years have depended mostly on the good old “trial and error” method of finishing our stringed instruments. While this is a great way to learn and have methods sink-in, it is sometimes not a very pleasant experience as it can give you a lot of frustration. Some of my best experiences have come from experts in the industry and I will pass along those tips and techniques to you so you can easily and quickly build-up your base knowledge.
Finish Sanding Products:

Agreed that this is one of the most monotonous tasks there is in guitar finishing, but if not done properly, or adequately, or even by using the improper materials, you can really screw up your finish and you can make the process last much longer than necessary.

Application of Base Sealer Coats:

How to Apply Vinyl Sealer: Find out how to start out on the right foot with your finishing techniques with the proper installation of your base coats.

Thinning Lacquer:

In this article we will go over the proper proportions that you should use to thin the Nitrocellulose Lacquer that you will be using. While you can purchase over-the-counter lacquer products that are ready to spray, you will most likely go with a bulk lacquer product that will require some thinning. We will also review all of the thinning ratios that are required for many different applications. Lastly we will cover some of the problems associated with thinning and how to solve them.

Setting Air Pressure Of Your Spraying System:

Getting the correct pressure for the intended operation is very important. For instance spraying a 50/50 mixture of lacquer can have very different pressure setting than you would use for a touchup gun or spraying very small areas with an airbrush.

Spraying Techniques:

This is one of the more important aspects of laying down a finish to perfection. If you don’t have proper technique your finish coats can be too thick, too thin, contain air bubbles, have blushing problems, and many other spray-related problems. We will cover the best techniques of how to hold the guns, ways to hold the guitar, and the proper patterns to use when spraying to absolutely minimize your finishing problems.

Techniques for Sanding a Finish:

The techniques are many and each one has its own method and proper products that you should employ:

Scuff Sanding: Used to remove just the high spots, usually from raised wood fibers or air bubbles.
Level Sanding: This is the industrial strength sanding method employed to completely level a guitar finish to provide a great base for future finish coats.
Wet Sanding Techniques: This is the method that is used once the final coats of finish have cured and just prior to the buffing operation.
Dry Sanding Techniques: This is a technique that you will want to use at certain times to take down a finish and level it quite quickly.
Scrapers: Yes scrapers can come in very handy from time to time in the finishing operation.
Air-Powered and Electric Sanders: Find out how to properly utilize a power sander to maintain a quality finish and save a bunch of time.
Sanding Tips: Visit this section to pick up pointers on how to make your sanding chores easier and quicker.

Techniques for Buffing a Finish:

This is were you will see all of the rewards of all your hard work. Unfortunately, this is the stage were any minor mistakes become readily evident as well. So be sure to complete each of your guitar building tasks with the utmost care so they won’t be magnified after the buffing process.

Hand Rubbing Techniques: This one takes the most brute strength and you can really wear out your fingers, hands and arms totally hand rubbing a guitar finish. But – this is method that is the least expensive to employ as tools and materials are minimal, and it gives you a great way to dive into the finishing process.
Pedestal Buffing or Buffing With a Wheel: You will achieve the highest sheen in the shortest amount of time utilizing a buffing mandrel or buffing wheel. I still remember the first time that I used by wheel setup and it absolutely dropped by jaw how much time this thing saved!

Dealing With Finish Problems:

Air Bubbles: What they are, how they are caused, and how to eliminate them.
Blushing: Learn about blushing, what the likely causes are, and how this condition can be reversed and eliminated too.
Fish Eyes: Yuck! These are awful and you really don’t want a fisheye problems as you many have to strip down to the base coat of finish to eliminate them. Find out how to prevent them from ever forming.

Equipment Cleanup:

Learn how to properly cleanup all of your spray equipment to give you minimal problems the next time around. You will also keep maintenance costs of equipment to a minimum with proper cleaning techniques.

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