Maiden Lucan

Customised West Ham Steve Harris Iron Maiden bass

This is just a quick post (mainly because I think this is cool). I seem to have a lot of finishing work on lately which has made for a reasonably time-consuming run. There's quite a bit of work in finishing, especially in refinishing or doing cool little custom things like this. 

Steve Harris West Ham Bass

This one needed paint-on 'binding'— and believe me when I say that was time-consuming (I envy the skill of those pin-striper guys you sometimes see on the car-customisation shows). Then a Hammers decal was applied and lacquered over. 

Since I spent much of my formative years with Iron Maiden cranked on the stereo, it was really, really, fun to Steve-Harrisise this bass. 


I like candy—Refinishing

Candy-apple red refinish

Candy-apple red has been a Fender staple for a long time. These candy colours are achieved by spraying a clear lacquer that's been toned with a coloured dye over a metallic finish. It's a great-looking finish and I love it.

And I'm not alone. Which is why I'm refinishing the front of a P-Bass headstock to match the candy-apple finish on its body.  

Refinish - stripping original finish

Regular old P-Bass headstock. Nothing special. Let's get to work. First up, stripping. A liberal application of elbow-grease helps me to sand off that original finish and we're back to pale, raw, maple. Preparation is important at this point as we'll be putting down a metallic finish on this and that needs a flaw-free surface.

A couple of coats of sealer/lacquer next. These are sanded down flat before I apply the metallic. In most cases, I'll mix my own metallic finishes by adding bronzing powder (essentially tiny particles of metal) to clear lacquer. 

Metallics are tricky. I've got to be careful as any imperfections or runs mean removing the finish and starting again—it's not possible to hide any 'fixes' in a metallic. 

Candy apple finish and logo decal applied

Time for candy.

Some dye added to clear lacquer. By mixing and altering ratios of different coloured dyes, it's possible to match the colour on the body. Matching can be tricky and, once matched, it's important to remember that if you have to add another coat, that will shift the colour. Even clear coats can change how the colour looks. 

And let's talk about the clear coats. With a headstock, I have to apply some decals first, though. These will be covered over by a number of coats of clear lacquer. These coats will seal everything in and will give me enough 'build' to sand and buff at the end. 

That 'end' may be a while off though. Finishing in this way requires time. These finishes are evaporative which means they cure or harden as the solvents in them evaporate. That takes time. How long can vary with different finishes and even weather conditions but don't expect it to be less than ten days and a fortnight or more is safer. The final result can be compromised by rushing this. 


Candy apple bass refinish

Note: As I'll likely spark some extra refinishing enquiries with this post, it's only fair for me to mention that refinishing isn't an inexpensive process. There's certainly a place for it but it might be hard to justify purely because you're not keen on the colour of your guitar. Of course, if that's enough for you to justify it, brilliant. Give me a shout.  ;-)

Refinishing Gibson Les Paul Custom

Refinish Gibson Les Paul Custom

You know when you paint your sitting room and you break out the masking tape to stick around all the bits you want to prevent getting covered in that weird green colour that's going on your walls?


Well, I'm certain you know the wonderful curvaceous ins and outs of a Gibson Les Paul.

Imagine having to fiddle about, awkwardly trying to mask off all that beautiful, curvy, binding on the top before you spray it? How much effort and time must that take in the Gibson finishing department every day?

Well, none really. Gibson don't bother masking the binding here before spraying that sunburst or that Black Beauty. It's just too much work. It's far easier to spray over the binding and then scrape it off again.

This Les Paul is being refinished with a black top. I spray solid colour (after some surface prep and sealing coats) over the whole top, let it dry a little (not too much, though) and then scrape the new finish off along the binding. It's actually pretty easy to use a blade, with a knuckle as a depth-stop, to remove the finish cleanly.

Custom refinish on Les Paul guitar
Binding on guitar refinish

With that done, I'll let some of the solvents evaporate a day or two before starting on the clear lacquer top-coats (including a little 'antiquing' for the binding). This bundle of top-coats then needs to cure before being sanded and buffed out to a gloss—a gloss that I'll actually knock back with some gentle relicing to get things in keeping with the rest of the guitar.

None more black. None more beautiful.

By the way, you'll notice that the sides are masked. It's a lot easier to mask here than on the top and, often (as in this case), you'll want to keep the top colours off the side.

Cross-posted to Guitarless