Saturday, June 05, 2010


I like to tinker with my guitars, this is well known, but I'm never really done any refinishing. The closest I've come is the very silly artwork I doodled on a guitar a while ago, but that wasn't so much refinishing as messing around. I've decided to take the plunge today, after umming and erring for a while. The instrument that is getting the treatment is my 1980 ibanez Studio ST-50. It's a nice instrument, but its age is showing badly. The pots are worn and crackly; the hardware is filthy; and the finish (none more black) is covered in cracks, chips, dents, and weird blistered patches (it looks like a previous owner spilled some kind of industrial solvent on the back).

I bought a load of sandpaper, a few cans of spray paint (white primer, racing green paint, and clear laquer), and decided to have a go with it. Firstly, I had to dismantle the electrics and take off the hardware--which didn't take very long, but did leave the guitar looking very weird.

After that I started sanding off the paint. I'd done a fair amount of research on my guitar and figured out that it was one of the last of its model line made. It was probably cobbled together in 1980 out of parts left over from the previous year's models. While it is ostensibly an ST-50 (the entry level-model), it has a few features (the swanky tuning pegs and brass truss rod cover) that only usually featured on the more expensive models. This meant that I wasn't certain what I'd find when I stripped the paint off. I figured it was worth a look to see if it would look good with just a natural finish.

As you can see from this, the wood doesn't look that great. I'd guess it's a maple cap on the top and bottom with a core of laminated mahogany. It confirms something I'd figured out a while ago -- if a guitar has a solid opaque finish, then it's there for a reason. This guitar, with its mismatched laminates and big ugly join, would not have made the natural finish cut. That's not to say it sounds bad, or it's generally bad wood, it's just not very pretty. I did a quick test with the white primer on the back of the guitar and it doesn't seem too difficult to do (famous last words) as I'll probably only do a plain solid finish. I've run out of daylight today though (hangover stole most of the daylight hours) so I'll have to continue my experiments tomorrow.