Day one. Spray an initial light misting or tack coat (Photo 10), followed several minutes later by a heavier wet coat. The tack coat gives the wet coat better adherence and lessens the chance of a run in the finish. Spray two to three wet coats (but not runny, thick coats) on the body, 90 minutes apart, and let them dry overnight.
Day two. Using a backing pad on the flat areas, lightly scuff-sand the body with 320-grit sandpaper to knock off the high spots in the finish. Sand just enough to open the finish—don’t try to sand out every shiny spot or sunken area in the lacquer at this stage. Clean off all the sanding residue. Spray two to three uniform color coats for complete coverage, allowing 90 minutes between coats.
Day three. Lightly scuff-sand the finish with 320-grit paper using care not to sand through your color coats, and clean off all the residue. Spray four uniform coats of clear lacquer, one hour between coats. Let the guitar dry overnight.
Tip: If you get a run or drip in the finish, let the surface dry for 24 hours and level-sand the problem area. If you touch wet lacquer, you’ll leave a deep impression that will be much more difficult to fix.
Day four. Lightly scuff-sand the finish with 320-grit paper, leveling out any imperfections in the process, and clean off all the residue. Don’t try to sand out all the shiny spots yet. Be particularly careful on the curves of the body. It’s easy to sand through the edges. Once again, spray four more coats of clear, 90 minutes apart. The guitar now has six to eight topcoats of clear lacquer. Let the finish dry overnight.
Day five. Scuff-sand the finish with 320-grit again. This time most of the shiny spots will disappear, leaving a uniformly dull look. Spray four more clear coats, 90 minutes apart, and let dry overnight.
Day six. Lightly scuff-sand the finish with 600-grit sandpaper, to help the solvent escape. The body should now be left in a warm and dry location for two weeks to let the finish cure.
Step 5: Fine sanding and buffing
Dry-sand the body to a flat, dull sheen with 800-grit sandpaper. Clean the residue from the paper often. Orange-peel texture caused by lacquer shrinkage as the solvents cure out of the finish should be removed, but don’t over sand. When all the little shiny low spots in the lacquer have been removed, you’re ready to go to the next step, which is wet-sanding.
To bring the finish to a smooth satin surface that’s ready for final polishing, wet-sand with 1200-grit micro-finishing paper and water (Photo 11). Excess water and residue should be wiped off the finish with a clean dry soft cloth as you work. Frequently rinse the sandpaper in soapy water to remove hard specks that can scratch the finish.
Tip: Soak the micro-finishing paper in water overnight before use. It will scratch less and last longer. Always keep it wet from then on.
Using soft cloths—a different one for each compound—polish out the fine wet-sanding scratches to a final gloss with medium and then fine liquid polishing compounds (Photo 12).
Once you’ve polished the body to a high gloss, reassemble your guitar (Photo 13) and get it back in action!