Stay in Tune vol#38
By Luthier Patrick Podpadec
I have talked before about the way the way the seasons can play havoc on your instruments. Now that the cold weather has arrived and the furnaces are back on drying out the house even more than the cold dry air is, it is time to start using those humidifiers that either can be placed in your instrument case or can attach to the inside of your guitar‘s sound hole by clipping it onto the strings or the braces inside. This time of the year is when I start having guitars action dropping low and musicians bring them in to have the action adjusted. Generally this happens more in Jan. or Feb after the instrument has been exposed to the dry air for a couple of months. I strongly recommend that you keep the guitar or whatever instrument you have in its case as much as possible when you’re not playing it.
Last issue I spoke a little bit about holiday specials that I will have available for those presents you might be interested in for your favorite musician. I have a few real cool digital tuners, and nice inexpensive guitar cases to spruce up and protect those prizes guitars. I also have gift certificates available at almost any denominations for great savings. Please call for info @ 440- 474-2141 .
Getting back to business, I have been trying to finish up a lot of different repairs before the holiday so that I can start concentrating on building some new guitars. I have three or four archtop guitars that the bodies are almost completed and just need to finish the neck and fingerboards and put on a nice finish and they will be real nice. It seems as though I have been getting into a lot of small finish jobs lately. I have to spray about 6 or 7 different little jobs. Some are just touch ups with a small airbrush and others involve using my small 8 oz. detail guns. Sometimes it’s difficult to match the different colors that the instruments need to match up properly. There are many different pre mixed color tones that are readily available at the few different luthier supply houses and it’s always possible to mix variations or combinations of these colors to get the right match. That is where the fun comes in. There are times when you have to shade in or even spray a whole area to be able to blend in the new finish to the old. With the thousands of shades of “tobacco brown” or “red mahogany” or “vintage amber” it’s hard to get it perfect. Many times I had to spray the whole neck and stop it at the body joint or even spray a whole side instead of just trying to feather in a matching color on one small spot. It becomes very difficult when you are touching up a sunburst finish. Most sunbursts are created with one color shading into another so when you are trying to match it , it can be almost impossible. It really depends on the location of the repair that needs the finish whether or not you can make it invisible or not. I’m getting ready to spray a guitar from scratch with a vintage Gibson style sunburst with an amber yellow center shading out to dark red brown to a very dark, to nearly black outer edge. I will practice a sunburst finish on a used body so that I can show the customer the shading and if there is any adjustments to the colors they can be done on the second attempt. It’s important that I record the color intensity or make a color board with different shades of color ( that are recorded ) so that I can duplicate it again .I have in the past made different color boards but don’t have all of the different colors made or recorded for duplication. Its fun to try and make color boards. You start off with spraying some lacquer with 5 drops of red analine dye on a small 1”x 1”sq. and then another with 10 drops, than another with15 drops, and so no and so on. Each square gets darker and darker. Next to that column of red color you can start another column by adding 5 drops of brown to the red. Then add 10 drops and then 15, and then 20, so on and so on. Each time you change or add the drops you record the changes and you will be able to duplicate the colors again. Finishing guitars with lacquer can be very challenging but also very rewarding when the job is done right. I have learned a lot from trial and error over the years and expect to learn a lot more in the years to come. Next issue, we can discuss opaque (solid color) finishes. Until then try to stay in tune!
Patrick from Wood-n-Strings