I’m building a Stratocaster using this beautiful one-piece ash body from GuitarBuild.co.uk. It is made from Phil’s special order only premium wood stock and weighs just 3½ pounds. I’m expecting the finished guitar to weigh in at about 6½ pounds (about 3kg). This premium wood might cost a little more but this is one of the nicest bodies I have ever used. I think it will sound amazing.
The grain is so strong that it would be a shame to cover it up so the plan therefore is to spray this body white blond and fit gold hardware and a one-piece maple neck, to make a “Mary Kaye” style guitar.
The reason this piece of wood is so light is that it contains a lot of air which incidentally will contribute towards its resonance. The air resides in the grain structure of course and this means lots of large pores. These pores are a challenge for finishers, as they must be properly grain filled before any lacquer is applied.
The other thing to watch out for on wood like this is that the open pored areas are considerably softer than the close-grained bands and tend to sand preferentially. It’s therefore very important to use a block when sanding to maintain a flat surface.
My first application of grain filler wasn’t sufficient to do the job so I reapplied and sanded smooth again with 320 grit 3M Sandblaster. There is quite a bit of grain filler showing – a little more than I would normally like – but this is necessary and will not be seen under the blond lacquer.
Well I didn’t manage to get this body painted over Christmas but did get the sealer coats done.
I used practically a whole can of sealer making sure that the surface is prepared dead flat with no low spots or pinholes. In all I did four applications of sanding sealer, flatting back each time. If I hit wood I stopped and sprayed another coat, repeating until I had no low shiny spots and a uniform flat base of sealer.
Don’t skimp this step, go over the body centimetre by centimetre and check that you have a smooth flat sealer coat with no pinholes.
I can’t stress enough how important this stage is for a good finish, it’s essential for a professional looking finish that this is flat.
Now is also a good time for picking out any stray blobs of grain filler you might have left in the cavities. Better to do this now than risk chipping your top coat when things don’t fit later on.
The next step is the White Blond lacquer. I sprayed front and back first, with passes along the length of the body until the opacity was about right. Next I sprayed the edges, taking special care to apply enough in the cutaways.
The White Blond is quite opaque so that it’s possible to achieve either a transparent or more opaque effect by controlling the amount applied. I used a single coat with only about four passes to get the degree of opacity I wanted. I certainly didn’t want to hide the grain.
The photo is taken in natural light (with room lighting and light through the window) and is actually a bit brighter white than it appears here so the next step will be a tinted lacquer to soften the white and replicate the natural yellowing of nitrocellulose lacquer.
I have now sprayed a coat of my Light Tint lacquer, giving a light-tan colour all over.
It’s tricky to get an even coat but spraying lightly is the key to success. The low dye loading of the Light Tint helps too as it reduces any risk of banding. It’s easy to get carried away and over do the tint, I sprayed one coat with three or four passes.
Unfortunately the different lighting conditions (due to time of day) mean that it’s hard to see the difference in the photos!
I have applied a couple of coats of clear gloss lacquer and it’s looking very shiny I must say. I think I might leave it there and not even flat sand.
The forearm chamfer looks paler but that is just the natural light through the window. It is difficult to capture the colour but once the white pickguard is on the contrast should be clear.
Here is the completed guitar, with appropriate “Mary Kaye” style gold hardware fitted, all genuine Fender from John at First Avenue Guitars. The pickups are currently a Don Mare Josie/Vaughan set but I might try something different as I have these earmarked for another build.
It is, as expected, a pretty light weight guitar at 3.1kg, that’s about 6 pounds 13 ounces in old money. The finish by the way is straight out of the aerosol can – no flat sanding, no buffing and it is very thin.