Stay in Tune vol #99
By luthier Patrick Podpadec
Recently I have been doing some refinishing and building of some new guitars that require a little extra care and protection from scratches and nicks that seem to show up at the worst time. (That would be as soon as you notice them)
Whenever I'm concerned about finishes on an instrument I always take the time to completely clean my bench of all of the little stuff that seems to accumulate after a couple of repairs. That can include various small tools (i.e. screwdrivers, small chisels , x-acto blades, etc.) any small screws that were lost and replaced . I make sure that I take the time to thoroughly vacuum up the carpeted bench to remove any and all small debris from the surface. One thing that I also do is run a strong magnet over to pick up all of the fine steel wool fragments that get left behind after I use #0000 steel wool to give my fingerboards a final polish. This material works great , but leaves behind the smallest dusting of fine steel wool. I'm always afraid that a new finish may be unintentionally scratched by this type of debris.
There is always the static electricity that seems to attract every speck of dust from everywhere. When I use a paper towel, the the lint in the paper starts to stick to the statically charged finish and then it just gets more frustrating to try to keep a brand new flawless finish to stay that way! So you just go about your business of doing the final adjustments and touch up and at the very end you try to clean and lightly buff out all of the very fine swirl marks that are inevitable to every repair that you lay your oily (you thought they were clean ) hands onto . The trick is to know how to rub out or sand out a scratch when you put one into a guitar .Of course it's not intentional, but it happens . It's Murphy's Law. It has to happen! When you first notice a big scratch that you just accidentally put into a guitar you get his pit in the middle of your stomach that makes you want to hurl, but you know that won't solve your problem . It might even make it worse. So you take a deep breath and start to figure out your options. You have to start out by sanding the finish evenly with a flat block starting with 320 sandpaper. If it's real deep you may have to use 220grit. You then work your way thru the grits of 400, then 600, then 800, then 1000,1200,1500,1800,2000,2400 by this time you should be at a very Clear and glossy finish. If any where along the way of your sanding you happen to see a fine scratch you must go back a couple of grits to make sure that you completely get the scratch out. It can become quite a arduous task at the very least. This is of course something that you had not planned to have to do from the beginning so it makes it that much more less enjoyable when you have to fix something that you did because you were fixing something else. Does it ever end? At least you gain experience from your mistakes and as we all know there is nothing that pays the bills like experience. Wait a minute... experience doesn't pay the bill does it? And either does mistakes for that matter. Well maybe all I learned is not to do that again. That's it! I knew I learned something.
The thing that I like most about my job as a luthier is that I always have room to learn ,grow, and create . I learn better methods of achieving certain goals, I grow with experience everytime I duplicate a procedure (because repetition is the 'Mother of Perfection”) and I get the opportunity to create new ways of doing things, maybe faster or more efficient. I 've always said that I wanted to build guitars (and I most certainly do!), but I have to admit that repairing them is in many ways more gratifying. Having to match someone else s creation can bring out skills that may otherwise have never been explored. Trying to duplicate a color can be very challenging . It's often a trial and error situation. But the whole time you must be recording your findings and log them somewhere in your noggin so that you can add a small drop of red here or two drops of green there so that I can achieve this color here, and “that drop of brown definitely does not work there!” and so on and so on . It can be a lot of fun, especially when you get to the right color. I know there is a market for finishers to try to
create a “distress” look. Or maybe a “vintage' look. I'm not saying that is bad if that is what the customer wants and is willing to pay for it. I don't agree with trying to fake a finish and try to sell the “distressed” finish under false pretenses. As long as everyone knows that is the way the finish was intended to look. Years ago I sat in on a forum at a guitar symposium and the subject was about repairmen being paid to fake guitars so that the owner could pass them off as “vintage or all “original” The question was “Do guitar repairmen have a moral responsibility to report these types of repairs”? We all decided that having a database somewhere so that any and all repairs could be documented along with serial #'s and models of the instrument and dates, of completion along with a detail description of the repair. This would allow the concerned buyer the opportunity to see if his or her new purchase was in any way faked or misrepresented. It would be setup very much like the “Car Fax” that is popular in the auto industry today. Though it is a good idea, I have not seen or do I know of a place or website where all of this data can be accessed. I know it would be a very difficult task to undertake to compile all of that different info into one easily readable website. Many repairman may not agree with the idea because it may expose their “shoddy workmanship. Some might not have the extra time to take pictures, and compile all of the data that might be involved. Until someone has a legitimate web sight for all of this info players, collectors and musicians will have to rely on the old “Buyer Beware” concept and hope that your buying something from a reputable dealer.
Well, as always I have guitars waiting to be fixed, sanded, glued, and polished so off to the bench I go. Remember to “Stay in Tune and we'll see you in the next issue!
Thanks Again! Patrick from Liam Guitars/Wood-n-Strings