Tuesday, August 16, 2011


It's been a while since I posted but I've been working on the guitar a lot.  I try to work on it a few hours during the week, but most of the work is done on the weekends.  I've started the sanding process and I gotta say, it sucks.  It's just not a fun task and it takes an incredible amount of patience to do it properly.  I started off by purchasing a cheap orbital sander to remove the polyurethane coating from the uncarved areas of the body.  That was a great purchase and it saved me hours of tortuous work sanding down the coating.  Using the sander, I was able to pretty much remove all the poly-coat in about 1 1/2 hours.  Here's me with the orbital sander:

Once the poly-coat was removed, I started the process of manually sanding down the carved areas.  I don't have any pictures of this yet, but needless to say it is super slow going.  I want to make sure to remove as many tool marks and scratches as possible because those will show up big time when I apply the finish.  In fact, so far I've really only finished sanding the areas around the carving and the deep flat areas.  However, those are the hardest part.  The hair & body will be much easier to sand because they aren't flat.  The contoured shape will actually make it easier to sand down.  Here are some of the tools I'm using to do the manual sanding.  Basic stuff (sand paper - many grits, sanding pads, mini-files/rasps, fingernail files, steel wool, sanding sticks, and a few others):

I've also made many trips to Woodcraft and talked to a guy named Jerry that works there to get advice on how to finish the guitar.  He gave me a lot of good ideas and the final verdict is this:

  • Sand it all completely smooth, up to 600 grit
  • Brush on a shellac diluted 50% w/ denatured alcohol - this will seal up the pores in the wood and help prevent blotching when I apply the oil
  • Apply two coats of the Watco Danish Oil with Medium Walnut dye.  The Danish Oil is basically a mix of boiled linseed oil, varnish (polyurethane), and mineral spirits (1/3 parts each).  This will give the wood a darker tint, a little more brown.  I don't like the yellowish look of the wood, so I wanted it to be a little more brown and this should help with that.  I'll sand between coats with 600 or 1000 grit sandpaper
  • Apply Danish Oil Natural (Clear) as a final coat
I chose the Danish oil finish because it leaves the wood with a natural look instead of the film look that polyurethane leaves.  I tested this combination out on a scrap piece of wood and I think it looks great.  

Another thing that I've been working on is making an inlay for the back of the guitar.  I made a logo using the letter "D" for my initials.  I bought a piece of 1/8" thick Honduran Rosewood from Woodcraft that I'll make the inlay out of.  The rosewood (see pic below) is a dark wood so it will contrast with the guitar body nicely.  So here is where things didn't go so great.  I spent a bout 4 hours on Saturday working on the inlay, all for nothing...I ended up breaking it and ruining it.  So that sucked.  I didn't have the right tools for the job.  I tried cutting out the pieces using my Dremel and a 1/8" drywall bit, but it was just too hard to make the cuts and the bit was too big to get into some of the small areas.  So, alas, I'm going to cheat and hopefully use a CNC mill to cut the pieces.  I bought a 1/16" carbide end mill bit to do the cutting and I've modeled up the logo in SolidWorks, so it should be easy to get the perfect cut.  I was originally going to have the inlay made by a professional Luthier out of Abalone or Mother of Pearl, but I  decided on the rosewood inlay instead because I wanted to make it myself.  I'll post pics later on when I finally get the inlay pieces cut.
Beautiful piece of Honduran Rosewood for the inlay logo

Cutting the logo using a Dremel 1/8" drywall bit = not good

Self explanatory
Well, that's it for now.  I'm hoping to have the bulk of the sanding done this weekend, and then I'll start applying the shellac and Danish Oil.

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