Different tools that help you achieve an even coat of finish
Just as there are an infinite number of unique guitar finishes, both vintage and new, there are as many odd tools and secretive methods and recipes used to make them unique, whether it’s something special in the formulation of the paint mix or a special tool used to apply the final coat. Along the way, painting sticks and various other spraying tools can prove very useful, freeing up the hands so you can focus on achieving the highest quality results. And just when you think you’ve seen all the painting gadgets available to mankind, along comes one more goodie—the new Freehand Holder from Stew Mac.
To show off this handy new tool, I decided to attempt a refinish on an original ’59 Fender Telecaster. I also decided to resurrect a painting table I built that was influenced by a similar design used by Fender in the 1950s called the “Lazy Susan.” Before we start, though, I need to point out a few dos and don’ts. When it comes to a ’59 Fender Telecaster, paying attention to simple yet very important details is a must!
Fortunately, the pencil date [“59”] was still in the bridge pickup pocket route. At the bottom surface of the control pocket route was the original impression of the 1/2" router bit. On the inner side of the body, where the lower cutaway meets the flat surface of the neck pocket cut, there is a “convex surface,” which is prevalent on ’59 Teles. By inspecting the top of the stripped body, I could see holes for the four 1/16" nails initially hammered in by Fender at the factory.
Before spraying the body with black nitrocellulose lacquer, I preserved the penciled date in the bridge pickup pocket route by putting tape over it. I also hammered nails into the four nail holes under the pickguard and bridge area, which will later be removed once the finish is applied. This will keep the nail holes clean and free of any paint, which is exactly how they were when they left the Fender factory in ’59.
The original “Lazy Susan” is a spray carousel, or turntable, that Fender used for spraying its guitar bodies until about 1962. This type of spraying apparatus is still commonly used in the furniture industry today. Fender’s version consisted of a circular piece of plywood with three caster-like wheels attached to it, which would then be pinned down through its center to a bigger work surface, or table. Fender finishers would then spray the top of the guitar body while rotating the carousel for even coverage. Once the top was done and flash dried, the body would be flipped over and made to stand on the nails that were previously hammered into the body. They would then finish spraying the back and sides for complete coverage. Fender used this method until the end of 1962, when it switched to using 1" electrical conduit pipes flattened on one end for use as “paint sticks.” These sticks were attached to the bass side of the neck pocket using two neck screws threaded to the neck mount body holes. The difference is that the neck pocket in this ’59 Tele will have complete spray coverage, whereas the neck pockets of Teles made after the end of 1962 would have an area on the bass side void of any paint.
Brown Guitar Factory’s “Lazy Susan”
For my “Lazy Susan,” I used materials I had laying around the shop. For the flat work surface I used a cut down tabletop. To make my carousel, I used an old shop stool that had a swivel seat. I cut off the lower portion of the stool then attached the stool seat bracket to the underside of the carousel work table—quick and easy with no wheels or center pin needed. My “Lazy Susan” also attaches to my new shop stand that supports the new Freehand Holder from Stew Mac.
The New Freehand Holder From Stew Mac
I just have to tell you about the new Freehand Holder (Stew Mac # 6130). This tool really makes spraying guitars very easy, and definitely gives you another option if you don’t have your own Lazy Susan. The Freehand holder eliminates having to use ceiling hooks or fastening the body to a stick and holding it up until your arm cramps up. It comes with two attachments (# 6131 and 6132), one for acoustic and the other for a traditional four-screw application. In the picture you can see a 1963 Fender Jaguar body attached to the Freehand Holder waiting to be sprayed. This particular body required a special two-hole attachment that we fabricated out of 1" electrical conduit and steel bushing, in order to achieve the correct area void of any paint on the bass side of the neck pocket—just the way it looked when it left the Fender factory in 1963.
John Brown, of Brown's Guitar Factory, is the inventor of the Fretted/Less bass. He owns and operates a full guitar manufacturing and repair/restoration facility, which is staffed by a team of talented luthiers. He is also the designer of guitar making/repair tools and accessories that are used today by instrument builders throughout the world.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
Adding to the company’s line of premium-quality effects pedals, Missing Link Audio has unleashed the new AC/Overdrive pedal. This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal – the only Angus & Malcom all-in-one stompbox on the market – brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
The AC/OD layout has three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone. That user-friendly format is perfect for quickly getting your ideal tone, and it also offers a ton of versatility. MLA’s new AC/OD absolutely nails the Angus tone from the days of “High Voltage” to "Back in Black”. You can also easily dial inMalcom with the turn of a knob. The pedal covers a broad range of sonic terrain, from boost to hot overdrive to complete tube-like saturation. The pedal is designed to leave on all the time and is very touch responsive. You can get everything from fat rhythm tones to a perfect lead tone just by using your guitar’s volume knob and your right-hand attack.
- Three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone
- Die-cast aluminum cases for gig-worthy durability
- Limited lifetime warranty
- True bypass on/off switch
- 9-volt DC input
- Made in the USA
MLA Pedals AC/OD - Music & Demo by A. Barrero
Energy is in everything. Something came over me while playing historical instruments in the Martin Guitar Museum.
When I’m filming gear demo videos, I rarely know what I’m going to play. I just pick up whatever instrument I’m handed and try to feel where it wants to go. Sometimes I get no direction, but sometimes, gear is truly inspiring—like music or emotion falls right out. I find this true particularly with old guitars. You might feel some vibe attached to the instrument that affects what and how you play. I realize this sounds like a hippie/pseudo-spiritual platitude, but we’re living in amazing times. The Nobel Prize was just awarded to a trio of quantum physicists for their experiments with quantum entanglement, what Albert Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” Mainstream science now sounds like magic, so let’s suspend our disbelief for a minute and consider that there’s more to our world than what’s on the surface.
I recently spent a day filming a factory tour of Martin Guitars in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. After we wrapped, we discovered that Martin has this amazing museum that showcases more than 170 historic instruments. We decided to meet at the museum at 7:45 a.m. the next morning to film a few choice pieces before catching our flight in not-too-near Newark, New Jersey, that afternoon.
These were not ideal conditions for a performance. Neither my brain nor my fingers work well before 10 a.m., plus I hadn’t slept well the night before. Even so, we loaded into the museum, met the curators, set up the shoot, and began rolling by 8 a.m.
The first guitar was an 1834 gut string, perhaps the oldest Martin in existence. It was beautiful but had some tuning issues and did not project very well, so playing it felt more like work than music.
Next was a prewar D-45 worth over $500k. The strings were ancient with that rusty feel, like you’ll need a tetanus shot after playing it. I’m sure it sounded great, but I was tired and thinking more about making our flight than playing guitar. Wonderful instrument but uninspired performance on my end.
Then, I played a 1953 D-18 coined “Grandpa” by Kurt Cobain. I picked up the deeply sacred D-18, and my hands went to an A minor. This sounds like hype, but honestly, I closed my eyes and connected with a deep, beautiful sadness. The feeling was palpable as soon as you picked it up. This guitar pretty much played itself, leading me to a sad version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” I don’t know if it was any good, but I know I felt something deeply. That’s why I started playing guitar in the first place. I don’t have to play well to feel moved.
I later talked to the museum director, who told me the D-18 was given to Cobain by his 1991 girlfriend Mary Lou Lord. Cobain played it on tour before and after Nirvana’s Nevermind. It was returned to her after Cobain married. Shortly after that, Mary Lou loaned the guitar to Elliott Smith, who played it until his death.
When I’m sad, I make myself play guitar to feel better, because it usually works. This 70-year-old guitar spent a lot of time literally pressed up against the hearts and chests of two artists who were so tormented by their emotions that they ended their lives. That’s heavy. You can’t explain those feelings that make the hair stand up on your arm, or when you feel like crying for no reason … but hitting that A minor made me feel it.
We had to split for the airport, so Chris Kies and Perry Bean started packing up. As they did, I saw this cute little 1880 Martin 000 that belonged to Joan Baez. In the photo next to it, Joan looks like my mom in the ’60s. I asked the curator if I could play it, and Chris grabbed his phone to do a quick Insta video. I swear there was a happy vibe coming off this tiny guitar. It felt like watching my mom dance—like a warm hug I needed after Cobain’s D-18.
In Chinese culture, there is a superstition that antiques may hold evil spirits, and chi (energy) transfer can bring this negativity into your home. Feng shui is all about objects carrying good or bad chi. Here’s how I see it: All matter is made of atoms. Atoms contain energy. Ergo, everything contains energy, or, more aptly, everything is energy. Ever walk into a room and feel powerful emotion: joy, sadness, fear, tranquility? That’s energy. We all have felt energy coming from people, places, and things. But that’s what I love about old guitars: Their atoms spent the first few hundred years as a tree in the forest connected to nature. Then, they’re turned into an instrument that makes people happy or consoles them when they are sad. That’s the kind of chi I want around me.
The Saddest Martin Ever? A 1953 D-18 Owned by Kurt Cobain & Elliott Smith
Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.