Friday, 11 December 2015

GBG is Back in Black

So, where has GBG been? I'm sure my avid readers (all three of you) have been wondering about the progress of the black guitar.

Well, as I have now explained to M why his guitar has been delayed and decided that it's not really good enough to only blog the good parts of the project I will explain.

The black finish is proving very tricky, to say the least. On my first attempt I installed the rosette first and polished it up before applying the stain, knowing it would scrape off the rosette componants. Unfortunately, in polishing the rosette I damaged the grain of the spruce. This was only evident once the black stain was applied because the timber around the sound hole wouldn't take the stain in the same way as the the rest of the top. After several attempts to fix this I also realised that getting the finish back off the rosette was much harder than I had thought. So, I started again. I routed the green malachite back out of the top and put it aside.

I stained and finished top number 2 before routing it. I planned to create the rosette in another piece of board, polish it and then insert it in the new top complete. The finish came out very well. Then whilst routing the rings (and despite taking every precaution I could think of, vacuum suction, masking tape, sheets of paper between all surfaces) I managed to scratch the black top. I may have become a little frustrated at this point! 


I also googled for any tips from fellow luthiers who have completed similar projects. In the top 3 search results was MY OWN BLOG! I'm sure there's a moral there somewhere...

So, after trying to repair the top and failing I completed the routing, removed the finish and started the finishing process AGAIN this time with the routed circle in place. I used the same set-up on the circle cutter to rout a channel in which to create the rosette for installation as a complete unit.

At present the rosette is complete and ready to be inserted once the top finish is complete. I have to leave it 48 hours between coats of finish so it's taking sometime to prepare.

I am hoping the mahogany back and sides will be rather easier to finish, they at least don't have a rosette to worry about!

As for future projects I think I will stick to natural coloured guitars unless the customer can be persuaded that a 'distressed' finish is the height of cool. So don't worry M, when you finally get your black guitar it will truly be one of a kind.

On the positive side I have completed the fret-board fox inlay. When the guitar has a body I'm sure this little fox will set it off beautifully.

In other news, I am just putting the final touches to my second album. Perhaps surprisingly it does not contain a song called 'Black Guitar Blues'. Maybe for album three...


  1. Glad the project continues - thought you might have sat on it (in the sense of sitting on the guitar). The fox looks stunning against the black setting. Hoping this comment will not increase any frustration, I have just bought a new Chinese copy of a Fender Telecaster for £250. It is immaculate and plays like silk. Keep the faith!

  2. Don't larf, but I'm going to try my hand at guitar-building (I said, 'Don't larf!). Nothing as swanky as your accomplished efforts - and using a Telecaster kit (of course) which I've already bought. Some advice please: best on-line shop to buy tools which are of an acceptable standard. Most seem to do with the fretboard - which I understand.
    Fancy a race to the finish (pun intended) with you having a start? :-)

    1. Oooo how exciting! A race to the finish sounds good. What finish do you plan on using? May I advise against black!
      For tools I'd recommend either this eBay store or StewMac The latter means importing from the States but it's worth it. They have the biggest selection of tools I've seen.

  3. Thanks for that.
    I'm probably going for an amber stain and building up layers of shellac and wax. I've followed several YouTu vids of the guy from this site: They have their own brand of tools - look professional: but expensive.

    1. I hadn't come across Crimson Guitars, just had a look through their tools. Some useful bits there that I haven't seen elsewhere. Thanks for the tip. Any small hammer will do the fretting and a concave fret file is much easier to use than a three corner file. Also for fret levelling a fine grade oil stone works very well. Clean with white spirit and lubricate with 3 in 1 oil.

  4. Good tips, thanks. And I think I've got a suitable stone. If oil is involved, I'll have to mask the frets, then? The vids I've seen show a hand-held dry fret leveling file. The fretting seems to be a particularly weak aspect of these kit guitars - uneven heights and incorrect angle of end bevel (right term?). A guy said the defects made the guitar unplayable. Thinking about it, with a metal straight edge and the stone, I should be able to correct most defects. I've got to look into how a truss rod works. This project is to test whether I have any aptitude/patience/skill to build electric guitars. I'm fairly practical and there's a lot of woodworkers (boatbuilders etc) among my ancestors. Do you mind me prattling on, on your blog?

    1. I don't mind at all! It's great to discuss this stuff with someone who's interested in it.
      You oil the stone and let it soak in, it doesn't let much back out. Yes you can correct all fret problems with a stone and straight edge. The truss rod adjusts the relief in the neck, how concave it is lengthwise. You need to adjust it to flat for working on the frets.
      The neck angle is adjusted by careful filing of the neck joint. Try to find a good book on it. I have a great one on building acoustic guitars that I refer to at every stage. The instructions that come with kits are usually lousy.

  5. Well I just know you've been pining to discover how my path attempt at guitar building is coming on. I'm the proud owner of several books re: luthiering (hate the word) and wood working and I've bought a scraper, fret leveller, fret file, neck checker and (today) a router (after agonising over the choice). What cutters do I need? More agony! The plan is to practice on the kit Tele guitar - install binding, add a trem, maybe even some inlays (getting the hang of the terms now, you see). You've been quiet recently. Could it be that you have been a little diverted? :-)

  6. I am delighted to see another female in this business. Keep after it!