Friday, March 21, 2008

Advanced Finishing

The year is going by so fast before we know it Advanced Finishing class will begin. I created this class through the customized training division at Southeast Technical. During the regular finishing class in spring students learn the fundamentals of fine wood finishing.

For our guitars we use nitrocellulose lacquer and traditional paste wood fillers. Generally we have the final 2 weeks of the semester to apply the finishes and with the number of instruments being sprayed, using color on the acoustics isn't an option.

With Advanced Finishing however students can create custom colors and use different coloring, filling & spraying techniques to take what's in their mind and put it to use on their electric guitar or archtop instrument.

We also do several different project boards using urethane and polyester finishes and spray bronzing powders used for "gold top" finishes or "candy apple red" colors made popular in the 50's and 60's.

I believe most guitar makers will tell you the finish is one of the most challenging aspects to get "right" and buffing to a high gloss certainly presents its own set of challenges. By the half way point of Advanced Finishing the acoustic guitars have had the necessary time to cure and are ready to be buffed which completes the process of taking raw wood, cutting, planing, scraping & shaping them into musical instruments and gives the look and feel customers expect.

As a graduate of the program in 1994 it has been an honor to come back and teach starting in 2000 and being a part in how the program has grown. We have an all new facility from the labs, power tool room, finishing area and spray booth. Being able to see the students go from the first day of school through to completing their first instrument never gets old for me. Seeing the process unfold and their creations take shape is inspiring and this class has given me ideas for finishes on my instruments!

(Below) This student chose a spalted maple cap and their idea was to give it the look of coming out of a swamp. He could picture it in his head and I was part of teaching him what finishing materials to use and how it can be applied but this was his creation and when it was completed he told me "It's exactly how I saw it in my head!".

Here (left pic) a student hand applies the color to his f-style mandolin he built in the archtop construction course and then the (right pic) clear coats have been sprayed:

This 50's inspired finish was done spraying the color with pigment based toners to get a super cool retro look on a classic design. Left to right: The guitar body sealed, the first stage of coloring, the final burst, and fully assembled. (Subtle color differences in the pictures are from different light sources when pictures were taken)

This is a classic "Lake Placid Blue" that inspired the finish for a recent guitar I built. Here the student did a phenomenal job of using bronzing powders added to lacquer to achieve this very challenging finish. For an added "pop" he applied the color over a white primer. Here in Minnesoooota this is a "Lake Pepin Blue" finish.

Stay tuned for pictures from Advanced Finishing 2008. I can't wait to see what the students have in mind for this years batch of excellent instruments.