The view from the distant farm: conditions attached | Columnists

I built a six-string guitar from a kit. It seems to take a long time and I know why. Instead just sand the body and spray on a nice clear coat. I decided to paint it. Painting an object reveals all its surface imperfections. Ask any body shop what is the most important step when painting a car? They will tell you it is the preparation and condition of the surface to be painted. The same goes for wooden guitar bodies. Finishing has been a big part of the learning curve for my guitar kit.

Wood grain will show when painted if not smoothed and sanded sufficiently. I paint this guitar body a soft yellow, more like a cream color. There were small gouges and blemishes on the front of the body so I used wood putty and covered every inch of the top. After painting it looked great except for one pass. I looked at the back and could see the wood grain through the paint. It became clear that I also needed to apply a layer of filler on the back.

Each of these steps takes time. Applying filler is quick and easy. Letting it dry enough is another matter, then it needs to be sanded. Once that’s done, you need to find any blemishes, fix them, and apply another coat of paint. The process of building multiple coats of paint is a time consuming part. You paint and wait. Sometimes I forget about the project and move on while waiting for an application of paint to dry. So I recently surfaced to breathe on this project and realized a month had passed for just three coats of paint. I admit that I am a bit of a perfectionist with this project. I think it’s worth the time and effort. It makes me marvel at what is accomplished in a guitar factory where the end product is perfection.

I recently replaced the neck of a Fender Squire bass guitar. While the neck came pre-finished from the factory, I decided to put decals on the headstock. Covering the surface with a clear coat required many applications to create layers. I sanded and repainted, then gave plenty of time for drying. I corrected the imperfections, then I sanded and repainted. I’m still not 100 percent satisfied with the results, but the neck looks good overall. I installed the neck on the guitar and I’m not happy with the fit. There were slight gaps on either side of the neck pocket. I plan to put the old neck back on and use the new neck to build another guitar.

If that sounds like I’ve been sucked into the black hole of hobby guitar building, I guess that’s true. Luckily I have most of the parts lying around to build this extra bass guitar. Do I need another guitar? No I do not. Right now I have about nine guitars of different types and sizes. I recently purchased hangers to screw into the wall so I could hang a few guitars for display. I thought the wall mounted guitars are just another item that will need some dusting. Regardless of what I end up doing, these projects always have strings attached. Hang it up and you have to dust it every week. Put it in a case and it’s just another case in a pile of cases. Good luck remembering which guitar is in which case, unless you put a big, ugly label on it. As I said, I fell into the black hole of guitar collecting, where there are always strings attached.

The Morning Almanac with Arlo Mudgett is heard Monday through Saturday mornings on Oldies Radio Stations KOOL FM 106.7, 96.3 and 106.5 and on Peak-FM 101.9 and 100.7.

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