Spraying a Sunburst Stratocaster Body

I’m often asked to demo spraying a sunburst so here it is.

My starting point is a GuitarBuild body. It’s two piece swamp ash and very light at 3lb 4oz (<1.5kg).

My first step was to sand the body well to eliminate any scratches then grain fill thoroughly. There is more on grain filling in this post.

Grain filling a Stratocaster body
Grain filling a Stratocaster body

I was careful to pack the grain filler into the pores and wipe as much as possible off the surface of the body. I applied the filler using an old credit card in the direction of the grain and scraped off across the grain. Additionally I wiped the surface with hession. This is how the wood looked before sanding:

How it should look after grain filling but before sanding
How it should look after grain filling but before sanding

Inevitably I missed a few areas with my first application such as this, so I fixed them with another application of filler before continuing.

If you miss any areas, fill again
If you miss any areas, fill again

I carefully sanded off any grain filler residue on the body using 320 grit paper.

Once I was sure that all pores were filled, it was time for sanding sealer. There is a sanding sealer demo here.

Once sealer coat was nice and level, I applied the amber base coat. I used my Tinted Gloss/Vintage Amber lacquer.

Tinted Base Coat Applied
Tinted Base Coat Applied

Once I was happy with the colour of the base coat, I started on the sunburst using my Tobacco Brown aerosol. I’ve recorded some video to show just how straightforward it is:

I’m using one of the round pattern spray heads which gives a nice tight band. I’m probably rushing it here for the purposes of the demo. To avoid runs, I recommend that you allow one pass to dry before going over it again.

Once I’d done the band on front and back I sprayed the edges where the brown had not reached.

The completed sunburst
The completed sunburst
Closeup showing the fine transition
Closeup showing the fine transition

Once I’d sprayed the sunburst I locked it in with several coats of clear gloss lacquer.

Here’s the final result drying in my workshop. The colour is a better representation than the outside shots.

The finished body
The finished body

7 Comments on “Spraying a Sunburst Stratocaster Body”

  1. Hi bud, I was wondering how many layers of grain filler do you apply to this finish and how many layers of sanding sealant?
    Thanks in advance

  2. Hi, have you tried spraying the Vintage Amber base coat on to an alder body? Would this process be the same spraying a two tone 56/57 type alder body? I read that Fender dyed the “yellow” into the alder bodies opposed to spraying the colour when they switched from ash – whatever the difference is?

  3. Hi Steve, I finally plucked up the courage to do my first sunburst on a ’82 re-finned Fender Squier JV , using your Tobacco Brown as advised. It had a really wide sunburst before, masking the Sen ash underneath and had also got deep gouges from an object ‘falling’ onto it repeated times.
    I spend many anguished hours deciding what paint to put on , even trying black (!) first which looked very Woolworths! That came straight back off.
    I came across you web site , video and final pictures and decided to take the plunge.
    Having sealed and gloss lacquered the body, I put vintage amber on next, a couple of gloss coats then it was Tobbaco Time. I waited for a warm, calm day and started spraying. The round spray pattern nozzle was excellent at metering just enough lacquer for coverage even at an oblique angle, but enough to build up good colour after only a few passes. The colour density of the Tobacco brown was spot on for the mid-late 50’s 2 tone sunburst I was after – as good as black on the sides, moving to a blended brown on the front. Lovely. So, if this is the colour and effect you are after, then this is the colour for you!
    I have a couple of pictures I would like to share, but can’t put them onto this email.
    Thanks again for the guidance and excellent product.
    Rob

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