Monthly Archives: December 2014

Telecaster project – step 4

I have 4 Telecaster bodies to work with now. Three are 100 year old barn wood, one is a solid ash body, but I’m still on project one, as I haven’t had the time to finish the new EZ bake UV cure oven (it is about half done), and the holidays are just busy with family fun, and family should always come first. I decided to make sure I did this first one “wrong”, ie: the way a rookie would do it. As I’ve never finished anything more complicated than a spice rack in Jr. High, this isn’t a difficult talks for me.

At this stage, I’ve sanded the Telecaster/Esquire/Barncaster down, and put about 3 days worth of aging on it. This isn’t much, just enough to get the grain to pop. I’ve done this with my old rig, 6 lights, 32 watts. I’m also using the exact WRONG lamp for the job, some prototypes of the Universal UV (ie: the A10R) which happen to have several hundred hours on them. That is ok, it will still cure, but it will take about 30 minutes instead of 10. This also means I can only do one side at a time. In this image, I’ve already done the front and most of the sides, here is the back and the sides again:
Telecaster ready to bake

Here is the guitar in the rig, very close to the lamps thanks to a sophisticated riser method (a styrofoam block I had lying around). I used a brush, which will produce a less than perfect finish, but the goal isn’t perfection, it is a bit of authenticity. I will sand it down a bit, and probably end up with 3 coats total, a very thin finish indeed. The goal is to allow it to age naturally. Also, even though Greg at Wahoo International (Solarez®) delivered a gallon of a new finish, I used the old surfboard finish on this one, to compare to. The new finish is thinner and can be sprayed, something that is hard to do with the old finish.
Telecaster is baking.  Smell that Fender goodness....

And more is planned. I have one more Esquire body, a full Telecaster body, and of course the Swamp Ash Telecaster. Ash is a hard wood, and will present completely new challenges. It is also my favorite wood for guitars, so if I’m going to do a project to show off what the lights can do, and I’m going to do it as a guitar, I’m going to build something that I really, really want: A very traditional sounding Fender Telecaster. I will use one of the spare Fender necks I have, put a thin finish on the Ash body, age it up just a little, and load it with 100% Fender electronics and hardware, including a set of Pure Vintage 1964 reissue pickups. I’ve even chosen a vintage bridge and notched it for my playing style. I don’t expect to use a full pickguard, however, as this wood is too pretty to cover up (this photo doesn’t do it justice)
Telecaster ready to bake
I just wet the wood down to draw up the little hairs, to further sand. This also lets you see what the guitar will look like finished. Wish I would have taken a photo, as the grain is much more striking when it is wet. I may put a very light stain on it just to make the grain pop. This is a lot of money to put into a project, so obviously I have a lot of trust in what the lights can do with the proper wood and some prototype finish. Time will tell.

Until next time, hope you had a great Christmas, and hope you have a great New Years as well!


Aging wood with the Universal UV, 4 foot FR32 lamp

Just pulled out another blank for comparison. These two blanks came from the same board. The one on the right has no exposure (ok, a little on the corners, I had it in the testing room in a corner and left it there overnight, but I will sand that out). The example on the left is after 10 days of exposure to the lamps.

Before and after 10 days of aging wood.

To do this with a full size guitar would take 6 of the lamps. I’m only running them at 32 watts, which is the lowest pressure we recommend. If you want to age them faster, you can use 40 watts or 45 watts….even 60 watts. The lamps can take it. Keep in mind that aging is a chemical process, so you can just cut the time in half by doubling it, but you can reduce it down. What I like about it is how it seems to darken the grain just a bit more than the whitest part of the wood, makes the grain pop. I need to do some shots in the studio, these were just taken in the lab. Still, you can see that aging the wood simply makes it look older, in a good way, and the color is genuine. Unlike the ugly “vintage” stain products, aging the wood with UV guarantees it will looks EXACTLY like it would from being 20 or so years old, because it is using the exact same processes.

It is why we call the Universal UV “Electric Sunshine In A Tube”. It really does simulate the sun almost perfectly, so your wood product looks naturally faded. If you are trying to match up old cabinets or just put some years on a new wood project, there really is no better way to do it. The examples you see here were sanded a bit, but there are no chemicals or treatments used except exposure to the Universal UV lamp.

I will note that the wood looked different every day. The first couple of days, it was ashy looking, not good. Then it turned a bit yellow, then it settled into the golden brown. This is part of the chemistry. Once you start using lamps for aging wood, you will quickly get a feel for it. What I recommend is that when you are aging something, bring in another board of a different type of wood, and experiment with it at the same time you are getting work done. Usually, there is room for another same, and even a 2″x4″x1″ blob of wood will get you a nice reference for later.

Aging is a process, and it will continue after you turn off the lights. What we do with the Solacure lights is simply rush the first decade or two. As long as you are willing to wait a week or two, you will love the results these lamps give to pine. I just bought an guitar body made out of Swamp Ash. We are going to crank up the lamps on the raw wood in January, and see what it does to hard, grained wood.

Before we start aging the swamp ash guitar

Here is a color corrected image of the guitar as I bought it on eBay. I haven’t even received it yet, but it has some really interesting grain, and should make for a great experiment.


Stratocaster project

As the year ends, I take on a new project with the curing lamps. Greg at Solarez® is sending me a gallon (yes, GALLON) of a new curing resin he is making for spray applications on wood, a thinner but quick setting resin. I expect to use it on the Telecaster project, but I also want to test it for patching ding. Part of the problem with the existing resins is how thick they are. This is great for many apps, but repairs and such need something that can get into cracks and harden, to reduce the white lines. So, out of sheer dedication to my task, I hit up the local pawn shops and brought home a 1999 Fender American Standard Stratocaster with a couple of typical dings. I know, it just shows how self-sacrificing I can be when it comes to a tax deductible expense account ;).

In all seriousness, it does show that I’m willing to take what is normally a $1300 guitar when new, and poke, prod, coat and bake it with UV. I probably won’t get it perfect simply because (honestly) I lack the skills. Like many of my other projects, the goal is to show luthiers how handy the lights and resin are. If I can do a halfway decent job, then YOU could do an excellent one. I’ve still never put finish on a whole guitar before (I’m still sanding on the Tele project, and it is Christmas time, so family has me tied up). But I’m confident I can make it look perfectly fine from a distance of 4 feet, which is about as close as you want someone when you are swinging the ax.

1999 American Standard Stratocaster with dings
1999 American Standard Stratocaster with dings

Image left is the whole guitar as I bought it, rusty strings and all. Upper right is the small ding next to the pickup selector. Lower right is the big ding, just below the input jack. These are going to be challenging for a rookie like me. First thing is to clean it, inspect the cavity to see if it is HSS or HSH routed, while I talk to the CPA and see if I could justify writing off a Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates trembucker. I’m putting a fresh set of 09-42 gauge guitar string on it on as my old arthritic hands have a time with 11s and even 10s now. Gibson Brite Wires is my brand of choice for my Telecasters, we will see how they do with a tremolo that I don’t expect to use much.

I’m a Tele guy, so didn’t expect to be repairing a Stratocaster, but the deal was too good, and the neck on this guitar just melted into my hands. I was shocked at how “right” it felt. I had been looking for a Telecaster like this to repair, but pretty happy to find the deal I found on this guitar, and the end results will be the same.

One advantage of this project is that I can leave the strings on during the repairs, and of course, the cure lamps means that each layer will cure in about 5 minutes, so there is a lot of down. Might have to drag up my Fender Super Sonic 60 amp, which needs the tubes broken in anyway. In time, we will see if a fool (me) can make this guitar look a lot better.


Telecaster project – reprise

UV curing - guitar in progress
I’m still sanding away on the Tele slowly during the Christmas season but I took a picture for the website, and thought it might be worth viewing here. The two “mini me” Teles in the foreground are test slabs I use for the lights. Yes, I could use square boards, but this is more fun. The right side is a lightly sanded pine piece, the left is unsanded but coated and cured with a thin layer of surf board curing resin. Then I aged it into the sunburst pattern by cutting out a mini tele out of paper, then suspending it half way between the lights and the guitar, that made it so it wouldn’t have a hard line. This was my first attempt, and as far as first attempts go, I thought it was a success as it proved the concept was valid. It also shows how aging the wood with the lights doesnt’ turn it grey, like you see outside in the rain, but a golden brown that makes the grain pop in spectacular fashion. And this was done through the finish, not before. This looks so much better than that fake orangey stain they put on guitars, there just is no comparison. Best of all, doing it is easy, you just flip the light switch on and walk away for a day or three.

Telecaster with new neck
I did make one change on the spec. The fancy new Fender neck just looked completely out of character for this built, plus I’m not willing to modify it. This means I needed a sacrificial neck that I wouldn’t mind sanding down, aging out, then refinishing. So I went shopping on Craigslist and found a fairly clean Squier 51, which is the little brother of the Fender Pawnshop 51, a guitar I already own. A quick drive north of town to the parking lot of Hardees and $100 later, I have a neck. The guitar ended up sounding AMAZING, I almost hate to part this one out, but duty calls, and the body with pickups but without a neck will fetch $100 on eBay pretty easily, so I do the work, and I have a free neck. Hard to walk away from that. The neck is pretty white, no aging or tinting of any kind (the photo makes it look darker than it is because everything in the shot is light yellow…). I’m going to use some stripper to get it down to bare wood, then age it hard with some Universal UV 32w lamps, the same as the pine body. They will age differently, but want both to looks old without using that fake stain junk.

Basically, we are still at level Prototype 1.5. I’ve also ordered a different pickup, a Fender 1962 Custom Shop reissue, which should have a more authentic sound. Like all projects, this one has a few bends and twists, but at the end of the day, I think we are going to have a better end product than what I started with.