Monday, September 3, 2012

Dawn of the Final Day - 24 Hours Remain -

Before I go anywhere with this post, I have provided appropriate background material to enjoy whilst you read this blog post. If the previous link does not suit your taste, then enjoy this instead.

I woke up on Labor Day morning with an overwhelming sense of trepidation. The day before, I had decided that the guitar body was completed, and the only step that remained was the assembly of the guitar. This was the final step, and after 3 months of (sporadic) hard work, it had all culminated into this final moment. Kicking off my blanket, turning off the alarm that had been ringing since 11:30 AM, and rolling out of bed onto my dog-eared climbing magazines, I was ready to take on the morning.

Well, then I decided I had to eat lunch.

After lunch, the day finally started. Figuring out the proper course of action, I sat the guitar in my lap and started working. The first part that had to go on was the pick-guard, since it sits underneath the neck of the guitar. Mounting this meant I had to thread the output jack wires through the v-shaped hole connecting the output jack cavity to the electronics cavity. This ended up being the most frustrating process, since the wire kept on getting stuck somewhere in the hole. After 30 minutes of random poking, I managed to finally thread it through by pre-bending the wires and then grabbing them from the other side with a pair of tweezers. With this out of the way, I screwed the pick-guard in place, then soldered the output jack to the wires and then mounted that too.

The bridge came next, because why not. After aligning the bridge and screwing in the screws, I put the claw on the backside of the guitar and attached the screwed that hold the bridge in place. Now, when I use the tremolo bar, a.k.a. the whammy bar, the springs will snap the bridge back into place. Next the guitar neck was mounted. With the assistance of some clamps that I still had not returned to the robotics lab, I attached the neck without too much difficulty.

Now, all that was left was the cathartic stringing of the guitar. This was literally the last step. If you don't know how to string a guitar, here's a basic rundown: You thread the string through the bridge and then up along the neck to the head of the guitar where you string it through its appropriate tuning key. Then, you pluck the string as you tighten it, to make sure you don't tune it too far, and to loosen the string up. So I sat there stringing my guitar, and listened to each string as they slowly started singing their song. One by one, each string began to play the right notes and then before I knew it, they were all singing in harmony together. After 3 months of hard work, the guitar is finished.

Fuck. Yeah. 

The Final Step in Painting.

Obviously, I did not update the blog last week. I was unfortunately busy and didn't have time to put on the additional coats of lacquer that I wanted to. Putting on lacquer is a time consuming process because of setup and clean-up. On top of that, I have to wait two hours between coats to properly give it time to dry. But lucky me, I was able to make up the lost time with a 3-day weekend! Thanks, Labor day!

So, on Saturday, I setup the garage like before and sprayed the guitar a second time for that additional coat of lacquer. After two spraying sessions, I decided that I wasn't making any significant improvement by adding more lacquer with the spray-gun. The trouble was is that the spray-gun was spraying a very 'coarse' coat. The lacquer was going on smooth, but not completely smooth as what would be ideal. After giving sanding a try, I realized I was rubbing off the thin coat of lacquer in areas when I wasn't careful, and it still wasn't enough to make it smooth. Clearly the spray-gun wasn't working out, so I had to think of some other way to apply the lacquer smoothly. I decided to call it a day and sleep on it.

The next day, I woke up with the brilliant idea of putting on some lacquer using a paintbrush that I had purchased a long time ago (remember when I was going to do the rose?) Using a paint brush, I coated an area around the electronics cavity as a testing area to see if my idea had any merit. I checked back two hours later and amazingly, my genius plan.... didn't work. If anything, it still had that 'coarse' texture in the test area, only now it was thicker.

I sat there next to my incomplete guitar wondering what I could do to possibly to smooth out the body. As my gaze wandered around the body though, I realized that the 'coarse' texture was actually very consistent across the body of the guitar. I decided that using the spray-gun was the original genius plan and that this was the design I was going for from the very beginning. So, reasonably satisfied with how the guitar looked, I concluded that it was ready to be assembled.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Putting on the Lacquer.


This whole project had been going so well. The lacquering turned out to be a bigger pain than I had even imagined. I started the process the same way that I had started all the other painting sub-steps. I set up the garage in a similar way as before, with the cardboard on ground and the guitar body hanging above. Then I sprayed it, like I had done dozens (?) of times before that and left it to try.

So, imagine my horror when I came back later to find that the first coat I put on was far too thick, and the lacquer had actually dripped a bit on various parts of the guitar. I tried to rub off the drips with my finger, and while that helped just a little, it actually ripped part of the base coat of paint off, revealing the white primer underneath, as well as a gaping gash across the guitar body. It's made even worse because this gash highlights how many layers of primer/paint that I put on there. I even tried to sand off the lumps with my extra-fine sand paper. No dice. Sanding actually just ended up sanding off the freshly sprayed coat of lacquer around the lump, but not the lump itself. I had to stop from fear that I would sand off the base coat before I sanded off the lacquer itself.

So what to do? I decided to fix up the areas where the primer was revealed by using a black marker to color it in as a quick fix. Looking back, I guess I could have just taken the old base coat and tried applying that with one of my paint brushes, but my panicked brain must not have been functioning properly, probably because the lacquer fumes had gotten to my head. For the gashes, themselves, I didn't know what to do, so I decided to trudge forward and keep on applying the lacquer, with thinner coats this time.

Funny enough, I actually spent the whole weekend doing this. I started Saturday morning and stopped applying the lacquer Sunday evening. And I guess I took the "thinner coats" mantra to heart, because at the end of all this, I don't feel like there's enough lacquer on the guitar. I can see parts of it that look pretty glossy, but they're not as glossy as other parts of the guitar. This likely happened because of one of two reasons: 1) The guitar was hanging, so part of it likely dripped down to the lower part of the guitar and 2) I didn't spray a very even coat. The trouble with point 2 is that it was difficult to tell where I had sprayed and where I had not. I started using a headlamp to help identify the 'wet' areas, but apparently that wasn't enough.

So, I don't think the lacquer coat step is finished yet. I'll try again next weekend, and maybe I'll think of something to do.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Once you go Black...

I will admit right now that I was a bit more productive this weekend than my last blog post would have led you to believe. The work depicted in the last one was actually completed on Saturday, and while I wrote the blog post on Sunday, there was more work that was completed in the early mornings of Saturday. As the title may have led you to believe I have successfully applied my base coat of paint. 

Unfortunately, the frantic cleaning that I had done at the end of Saturday was not good enough. While the black coat went on beautifully, the paint gun would occasionally (some might even say frequently) spit out large flecks of primer. These specks were coated in black paint and were rather large. I thought that once it had dried, I would be able to sand off the large bits. Unfortunately, it led to the side effect of just scraping off the layer of black paint on the ball of white primer, and this was only the first coat! I kept on spraying more coats with the hope that the primer specks would eventually stop coming out, and while the frequency of the little balls of white evil slowed, they just kept on coming. 

But then I happened to have an absolute stroke of genius! Or rather, knowing me it was probably innovation breeding from laziness. The white specks that were appearing all over my guitar will now be my new design! Of course, I will also take a toothbrush and some of that white paint I purchased when I painted the rose (hah, remember that?), and using that technique I learned back in high school art class - read: kindergarten - I used the toothbrush to fleck white paint all over the guitar. So now, with the black background and white specks... I have achieved..... SPACE

Or a space like a effect, rather. And what a perfect accident it is! With the recent landing of Curiosity on Mars, and my involvement in the space industry, this design really makes quite a lot of sense. And if anyone really doesn't enjoy the space theme, I can always write it off as being 'artistic.' And... here it is!

The paper bag is to keep it from being stuck on the carpet. 
So now the final stretch of painting awaits me. The lacquer. It's terrifying not just because breathing it in is extremely toxic, but because this is the final, irreversible step. Once it's coated, I have to be happy with what I see, because if I'm not, I have to sand the whole thing down back to the wood layer, and that would be a pain, which is undoing 2 months of (intermittent) work! Okay, I'm making it a bigger deal than it actually is. But painting is almost over, and I'll update you all this coming weekend. Wish me luck. 

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Applying the Primer

The day has come. 

The part of the project that I have been dreading has finally arrived upon me. I can no longer make up excuses like "oh, I need a right angle drill before I can paint" anymore. All I can do is bite my tongue, close my eyes, and jump head first into my paint cans. Literally. 

As I've said many times before, the first layer of paint that needs to go on is the primer. It basically seals the wood, and preps it for the base color of paint (in my case, it's black). The first I had to do, aside from opening my paint gun, was make sure the viscosity of the paint was at an appropriate thickness. If it was too thick, the spray gun won't work properly, and I risk causing permanent damage to it. You test the viscosity using a nifty tool that they package with the paint gun. It's basically a little cup with a hole on the bottom. You dip it in the paint, and time how long it takes to empty out. If it takes too long, you have to thin it out with the appropriate thinner. Luckily, I didn't need to thin out the primer, as it was at just a thin enough viscosity to be used in the paint gun. 

The next thing I had to deal with was finding a suitable location to paint. I ended up choosing the garage, because it was indoors. Being indoors meant that I didn't have to deal with the wind or other elements of Mother Nature's wrath, and it is one of the lowest traffic-areas in the house, meaning I wouldn't disturb anyone else in their day-to-day activities. So, using all the newspaper and cardboard boxes I could find in the house, I covered up as much of the garage floor as I could. Then, to deal with the guitar, I bought some clothesline and strung it from one side of the garage to the other and suspended the guitar over the newspaper platform in the middle.
The finished product. Looks pretty damn good if I
say so myself!

Operating the paint gun ended up being a lot easier than I thought it would. After turning it on and being surprised by how similar it sounds to a vacuum cleaner, operating it is simply a matter of pulling the trigger, and fiddling with the dial to control the amount of paint that comes out. So, all I had to do was paint. 

Many thanks to my house-mate, Mike, for helping me out with the painting. He basically stood behind the guitar with a sheet of wood in order to catch whatever flecks of paint flew past the guitar. Otherwise, I'd have to explain to my land-lord why I decided to cover parts of the house in a new coat of paint. To protect himself, he wore an old sweater, and a skirt that he fashioned out of bubble-wrap. I ended up spraying 3 coats of primer about 1 hour apart from each other. Each coat went on like a charm, so I have to say that I'm ultimately incredibly satisfied with my purchase. The finished product was smooth and evenly-coated. 

The day had gone off perfectly without a hitch, but knowing me and my luck, I had to screw it up somehow. What did I do this time, you ask? I realized I didn't have the proper means to clean out the primer from my paint gun. Primer, being slightly different from regular acrylic paints, can't be cleaned with just water. It needs either paint thinner, or even better, denatured alcohol (and before you ask, it's completely different from isopropyl alcohol). 

Of course, I didn't have either of those. If I didn't properly clean out my gun though, I would again risk permanent damage to the gun, so I had to get some of those cleaners as quickly as possible. So, I hopped into my car and drove off to the nearest paint store as if I was re-enacting a race from Need for Speed: Underground. 

30 panicked minutes later, I was back at home frantically cleaning out my spray-gun. I did the best that I could, but unfortunately, a lot of it had dried out by the time I got back. Hopefully it won't affect the finished product too much. 

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

It Finally Happened...

I have finally received the right-angle drill! After about a month of intense life-changing events - wedding, comic-con, and a funeral - I have finally gotten around to reminding my co-worker that I needed to borrow this esoteric tool. Of course, when I borrowed it, the stars decided to not align properly (or maybe they did? )and I realized that the battery was close to dead and I had no charger. So I ended up having to wait another day before I could drill the hole. But one more day, relative to the 2 months of inactivity, isn't really that much. So, on a balmy August afternoon, I raced home after work with the charger and plugged in the Drill of Special Purpose +2, and prepared to work on the final step before painting.

Oh the irony though. It turned out, that the tool I had waited for was STILL too big to fit into the electronics cavity. Basically, my two months of activity was for wasted on false hope. However, a hole still needed to be drilled. As a spark of ingenuity (more of a "Why didn't I think of this sooner?"), rather than drill one hole straight across, I drilled two 1/4" holes at a slightly downward angle from both sides. They meet somewhere in between, and now I have a connected passage between the two cavities! Unfortunately, I also managed to scrape the drill up against the body of the guitar, so now there's a small blemish on what was once a perfectly smooth surface. That was probably karma for neglecting the guitar for so long.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How Quickly Time Flies...

Ah, I have finally made my return to this blog. I apologize, but it has been a long time since I've updated. Unfortunately, that is also the reason that my blog had remained so devoid of activity. Three weeks ago was my cousin's wedding, 2 weeks ago was Comic-Con, and 1 week ago I had a lot of household chores to catch up on due to my absence. Since weekends are the time that I devote to working on the guitar, very little progress had been made.

I know that last time, I said I was FINALLY ready to paint. However, like last time I realize yet another task must be completed before the guitar can be primed and painted. The output jack and the electronics cavity needs to have a connecting hole in between them to let wires pass through. Due to the size of the cavity and their location, however, this can only be achieved by a right-angle drill since a regular hand-drill can't fit in properly. Luckily, my coworkers have come to the rescue again and rode forth on shining steeds bearing a right-angle drill in their hands. Or at least they will when I finally remember to remind them at work to actually bring it to me. :/

So until I get it, all I can do is wait until I have the proper tool to get the job done. And then... painting? I shouldn't say that. I might jinx it.