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I finally broke down and ordered an unfinished ES335-style kit guitar I've been looking at for a while.

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There is an abundance of sometimes contradictory information out there, and some questions come to mind. Any thoughts on transtint vs. analine dyes? This will be my first time using either. Since the guitar has plastic binding, I'm wondering if one type of dye is better than the other for not causing discoloration. Here is an idea of the finish I'll be going for:

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I plan on spraying lacquer. I have a spray gun, but I'm leaning towards rattle-can just because of the PITA factor of setting up and cleaning the gun for the multiple coats that will be necessary. Any thoughts on that?

And lastly, does anyone have any favorite how-to sites? Like I said, there is a ton of info out there, so I was hoping to draw on my fellow jocks' experience to narrow it down.

Thanks!
 

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With the plastic ABS binding you shouldn't have a problem with the dye bothering the plastic. ABS and PVC are essentially non-porous for our purposes so the dye can't penetrate.

If you have the ability to spray, (and are any good at it), you will be much happier with the finish.
I recommend using Nitro lacquer, it is more true to the original finish of the ES-335. It also has a better finish tone than the other types, although that could just be my personal preference.

On another note, what kind of pickups, tuners, and bridge does your have?
 

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I'm a far cry from an expert, but when it came time to finish the guitars I've made, I researched and asked the same questions you're asking…. the overwhelming (adamant) choice from the seasoned veterans was nitrocellulose lacquer, though some liked poly. A lacquer rattle can produced good results for me. Good luck, and please follow up with the final result!
 

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Charlie:
I recently built a guitar with this burst on it, sprayed on. It was a transtint Behlen Sea Blue. I needed to air brush it on to achieve the burst pattern.
Usually the only part of my guitars that are sprayed anymore is the headstock. That is because of the wooden raised logo which makes it almost impossible to put on a wipe-on coat. Sprayed with lacquer instead, easy and fast. I wipe on Tru-Oil the rest of the guitar, including the backside of the neck, and the fretboard also gets one or two coats then buffed to help fill and harden the rosewood.

FYI, I moved away from sprayed on nitro lacquer almost three years ago, after complaints on wear problems, especially on the area where the right arm comes over and picking area. I don't have that problem anymore.

When I went to spray the transtint which I had put on the headstock, the spray lacquer lifted it right off the wood. Tried both Deft and Valspar. Both failed. Had to start over. Then I put on a wipe on coat of Tru-Oil, and it stayed perfectly as shown in the pics. Ended up doing the whole guitar with Tru-Oil. To get around the raised logo, I had to use Q-tips to apply thin coats of Tru-Oil so I didn't have ugly buildup.

I also think you should think in terms of coloring this guitar without the binding. Although it is plastic, it is somewhat porous, and will take on some of the color. I hope you can remove it and put it on after coloring, before lacquering or coating with Tru-Oil.

Other chemicals and brands may blend well together, but this is my recent experience.
 

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Dallas's answer probably is all you need.

If you get into more ambitious builds you'll certainly
encounter situations where fillers and perhaps dyes
get where you don't want them. I use razor blades
to scrape until I get the crispest lines and cleanest
colors I can manage. When working with ebony
binding for example the dust from sanding the binding
can get into the spruce top and this I scrape out.
This happens around rosettes too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks, Guys.

Paul: Great looking guitar!

Dallas: All I know for sure about the hardware is that it supposedly includes Grover tuners. It's an inexpensive kit, so I'm sure the humbucker pickups are cheap. I'm not really expecting to have a Gibson ES-335 when I'm done. :)

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Pickups can make a huge difference in the sound, and might be worthy of an upgrade. Most stock pickups in a kit are pretty lifeless and make it sound like a million other cheap guitar clones. The right aftermarket pickups can give it life, and a unique and interesting sound. I was amazed at the difference when we ditched my son's China strat pickups.
 

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Charlie, Knotscott is right. Cheap pickups equal cheap sound.
I bought a pair of Alnico '57 re-issue pickups from eBay. I would have liked to use more expensive, but these changed the sound for the better by 1000%
If you have a multimeter, ohm out your pickups. YOu will be looking for 8.6 - 8.9 Kiloohms on the bridge, and 7.7 - 8.9 on the neck.

If the tuners are Grovers, they will say so on the back and be either 14:1 or 18:1 turns per revolution exactly, not 18.005 or 13.995 or anything else. They are very accurate.

It may not be a Gibson, but if the neck is straight and you have it set up right it will be a joy to play and give years of troublefree use.

Whatever finish you use, make sure you waste some practicing for several days on scrap. I can't stress this enough. The thin veneer on top of the monkey wood or bass wood or whatever they got from the supplier that day has a tendency to affect how much the dye and the finish is drawn into the wood.

I so far built 4 solid body guitars and 2 arch top hollow bodies. Most came out well. A couple went into the burn pile.
I am working on one now for my son. It is part of my blogs. It started out as a solid body epi clone. I burned everything but the neck and the headstock. I was surprised those pieces were so well built.
Everything else is either hand built or was excellent quality that I got from eBay cheap.
When I get the whole thing together, I will finish my blog on it and maybe even show burning the original body.
The new body is old mahogany that has been recycled from an old Carnegie library that was built 100 years ago or so.

(Edit), ohm out the pots. make sure they are a smooth transition through the full range and in the range of 500K ohms.
 

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Charlie:
If you do decide to upgrade the pickups, GFS, otherwise known as Guitarfetish, sells great pickups, and they have OEM pickups that most people believe really are made by Duncan. The OEM units can be bought for $34 a pair, are a matched set at 10K Ohms for the neck, and 14K Ohms for the bridge. They are four wire plus a ground, and obviously use the Seymour Duncan wiring system. I've used a number of them in my guitars, and they simply rock.
Here's the link: http://www.guitarfetish.com/Chrome-Humbuckers-Matched-Pair-Overwound-BLOWOUT_p_160.html

Also, not that many people know that GFS signed a pickup contract with Armstrong a few years back, so a lot of the GFS pickups are actually Kent Armstrongs.

If you have Grovers, as you look at the back of the tuner it will have a raised GROVER in the upper body, as Dallas indicated. Great tuner for the most part, but they do make a cheaper OEM model that most people don't realize is a bit cheaper and you can't tell the difference. Early on in my builds I used a couple sets of these, and they don't hold tune anywhere as well as the real Grovers. If you do have 18:1 tuners, they are the better ones. The cheaper models only come in 14:1. Actually, have not seen a set in a while, but I know they put them on guitars like Samicks, some Epiphones, etc.
Overall, things look pretty nice. Where did you score the kit?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for the heads up on the pickups, Paul. I've been watching kits on eBay, and this one looked a little better than most that I see on there. It's a bit of a crap shoot, but what the heck…

Charles: Thanks for the offer of help. You are the finishing man for sure, so I'll keep you in mind when I get started!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Okay, Guys, here's where I am now. I decided to make my base color coat by mixing TransTint dye with Danish oil. In a small sample batch., I achieved just the color I was originally looking for. However, when I started adding dye to a full pint of oil, I could never get back to that same shade. It was just too light. On a lark, I decided to mix in some black oil-based enamel I happened to have on hand, and ended up with something that I wiped on sort of like a glaze. As I said, the color is not what I originally intended, but I still think it will look good once the high gloss finish goes on.

Now my question: I'm going to spray with Deft rattle-can lacquer. Would it be a good idea to spray a seal coat of clear shellac before I spray the lacquer? I'm just a bit concerned how the lacquer might react with my chemistry-experiment finish. For the record, I did try spraying some lacquer on a sample piece with no ill effects, but I'm thinking the shellac might still be a good precaution. What say you all?

Here is the guitar with the color coat applied:

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DON'T USE DEFT! It never fully hardens like a "real" nitro lacquer will. I have done a guitar or two in it and have sworn it off forever. Even after curing for a couple months, leaving it on a textured surface would deform it. If you insist on spray canning it, either get a preval sprayer with something like Sherwin-Williams Hi-Bild, or cough up the cash for something like Behlen's, Mohawk, or Reranch nitro in a can. The total cost difference to the project might be upwards of $20, but it will result in a much better finish.

As for sealer, vinyl sanding sealer is good stuff. The Deft sanding sealer will work well for you. Just don't use the Deft lacquer. Please. Just don't.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks for the heads up, Brian. I never considered there would be a big difference in brands. I don't mind paying more for a product that will give better results. I actually own a sprayer, but I've never taken the time to get real comfortable with it, and I'm a bit intimidated by the thought of the whole thinning and spraying process with lacquer.
 

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If you have the ability to spray I would go with a pre-cat lacquer or even a water base, and rub it out . Either will give you a quicker build and a more durable finish, Sherwin Williams, makes a high build pre-cat lacquer
I am fond of, as well they have a water base product Called Kem Aqua Plus. The issue will be if your store has it or will get it. However any reputable pre cat or water base will be about the same.

I agree with Ripthorn , Deft is a much softer finish, it makes for a gorgeous finish, on items that will not see hard use.
If I were doing this
I would get me a quart of a good precat, and spray the thing, you could get 2 possibly 3 coats on in one day, then because lacquers shrink back, I would let it dry over night or even a day or 2 and then do a final coat. If it looks good, your done, if you want more sheen you can rub it to a super high gloss oir whatever. However one of my quick tricks is to use the higher solids quart or gallon lacquer to get a build up and get it sanded back with some 600 to a smooth surface, then using the thinner and quick drying rattle can, I just go over it a time or 2 to restore the sheen and call it done.
BTW, as to cleaning the gun, I leave lacquer in my guns all day and often over night, (not post cat) , and then just clean the air cap and end of the nozzle with some lacquer thinner before reusing, having a soft bristle brass toothbrush to hit the tip helps as well. Lacquer is one of those finishes that can be dissolved by the thinner pretty easily, so breaking down and do a full clean between each coat is not needed, Water base is a little different, it is not easily dissolved , so cleaning it if its going to be left sit for any period of time is needed. if its just between coats, drape a wet cloth or use a sponge and rubber band to cover the nozzle.

Rattle cans with exception to deft are all about the same, its nitrocellous lacquer, nothing fancy, the issue is they are usually very low solids and it wil take numerous coats to get a good build, sanding sealer can be used, but its basically finish with some sterates in it so it sands easier, Vinyl sealer is much tougher.
 

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I have used the Emtech EM6000 and it is okay, though when wetsanding, any residue left standing for more than several seconds will begin to eat back into itself. After doing 4 or 5 guitars with it, I decided to call it quits and went to nitro. I don't love nitro, but it's cheap and readily available. I would love to try something that requires fewer coats, but am too cheap/lazy.
 
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