Natural World, Natural Instruments

Wind in the woods brings consequence. On the way up to the shop today the road was littered with leaves and boughs—nature’s way of cleaning house. Trees are all around us in life, and in what we do. Trees are the source of great instruments and home for countless animals. We’re always aware of the crashing of trees and branches when the weather gets a little rough around here.

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In the perfect reflection of my car’s hood I saw it fall towards me. I flinched instinctively, but it wasn’t a tree branch—it was a red-tailed hawk with a wingspan as wide as my windshield. For about a hundred feet we flew down the road together, the great bird just a few feet above the road a car length ahead of me. It was as though the world was in slow-motion and the space between seconds became like minutes, until the hawk banked off into the trees and disappeared.

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Once inside the shop, I mixed up some of the waterborne lacquer I’d been using on Anthony’s guitar and got down to business. We’d both decided that a satin finish was the way to go, so it will be interesting to see how the flattening agent works with this paint. After decades of pushing the envelope to create thin, yet glossy finishes, I’ve decided that I don’t care for them any longer.

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I’m the first one to admire a custom-car paint job, but the patina of age on guitars that have been played and loved speaks of  the experience that they have absorbed over time. There’s just something about the satiny sheen of an aged guitar that makes it a musical instrument, and not an appliance. Stepping away from my past obsession with ultra-shiny guitars feels good—like taking flight.

Vintage Butterscotch Guitar Color

While Jim was keeping himself busy building up a neck blank fore a new commission that we’re calling tentatively The Black Dahlia, I decided to get some color on the Tele we’re making for Anthony. Here, Jim is slotting Dahlia’s neck blank for the truss rod. The three piece, opposed grain system used to strengthen the neck is clearly visible. All three parts are sawn from the same board to maintain the integrity of the neck—the grain on the outside pieces are opposed to use the natural forces of the wood to self-stabilize. The center part is a neutral, quarter-sawn piece.

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Now, back to that guitar for Anthony. Most times, for color coats I use nitro with tints, or some PPG colors that are suspended in DBC clear. However, this time I decided to experiment with a waterborne acrylic. I’ve had the stuff for a while and thought it would be interesting to try. I got it for a window sill refinish project, and it worked so well that I thought it could be used on a guitar.

The first step was to mix some Golden Yellow Oxide and add a little brown until I got the shade I wanted. I did this into the clear waterborne directly, then cut the whole mix with good old H2O until the viscosity was correct for the gun. The color looked good on the test piece, so onward we go.

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I’m using a SATA minijet with a 1.1 tip which is my weapon of choice for most small jobs like sunbursting. I decided to use it for this full-body color job because the Minijet has a thumb-wheel fan control on the left side which would let me control the spray with the unfamiliar water-based material.

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I needn’t have worried. With the air pressure at 30lbs. the material sprayed like a champ. Very easy to control and the build was good. I can see if I had used a bigger tip it might have been prone to sag—after all, it is water. The clean-up was a breeze, and the stuff is almost odorless. I’ll let it set up for a day, then I’ll continue with the clear coats.

Butterscotch

The color is classic Butterscotch, and on the body it looks great. The only question is whether to use the nitro as I usually do, or continue with the waterborne…