Jun 30, 2014

How to paint a Squier Strat

     I decided to give my Squier Strat a new paintjob, since it was mostly collecting dust anyway and I wanted to see how I could make it look.  It's not 100% finished at the moment, but lookin' good anyway.

     Since it turned out so well, I decided to make a tutorial of sorts for those of you interested in doing something like it.

   Writeup and lots of pretty pictures after the break.

The first part of this endeavor is disassembling the whole thing.  So you'll start with something that looks a bit like this:

     And end up with just the body, maybe a small piece or two left that you cover up with tape and tuck inside the body.  There are plenty of step by step guides to disassembling strats, so I won't go into too much detail, but basically you remove the strings, then pickguard and bridge and electrical parts, take off the neck, and you're good to go.

     Now you've got the body - most likely it has a polyurethane coat that paint won't really stick to, so it's time to sand it up some.  If you want it to have a natural looking finish, you have to sand through all of the paint, and it's going to be a major pain because Strats have a coating like a tank.  It will probably come out a few pounds lighter as well.  If, on the other hand, you want to repaint, then you just need to rough it up a bit until it's no longer sticky and glossy.  I'd recommend ~ 220 grit sandpaper.

Sanded with a light coat of white primer

     After removing the glossiness, you would be well advised to put on some primer to make the paint stick a little better.  It will also help keep the old colors from showing underneath if your paint isn't thick enough.

     Start with very light coats and let them dry around 20 minutes before adding another layer.  The worst mistake you can make is going too thick and having drippy paint.

With the blue and silver coats

     Let the primer dry for at least an hour, I let mine go overnight.  Add your base color coat in the same way, carefully, with very light first coats.  Make sure they have time to dry and it should be good.  Keep in mind to have your area well ventilated, preferably outside.  Breathing paint is bad.  'Nuff said.

Taped and ready for black coat

     If you are planning on painting only a single color, you'll only have to put on enough of your color coat to make sure it covers everything and skip through the next steps.  But that's boring.  So, if you want a multi-color coat you'll need to let the first coat dry and cure overnight, and then add tape in the design you want.

     If it sounds like I'm going fast, it's because this is some simple stuff :)  Put painter's tape over all the areas that you want to stay the color of the base coat, then repeat painting as before.  You can also sand a little on the places between the tape where you are adding another coat to make it stick and keep everything flush and level.
With black coats added

     Make sure to let the paint dry long enough between colors.  If you don't, the tape might peel off some of the paint.  24 hours should be plenty.


     If you opted for a multi-color paintjob, now comes the best part!  Carefully peel back the many layers of painters tape to reveal the masterpiece within.  And, if you're like me, take a picture or two so you can relive the glory of unearthing this magic :D


     Now you're done!  Snap all you're pieces back together and rock out really hard!

Sike!  Sorry, the next step is pretty important.  You need to do something to protect that artwork, and that means more painting.  Get a good poly clear coat and get to work.  I'm still in the process of finishing this part, since it takes a while.  I added many coats of poly spray, but frankly it doesn't seem to be doing very much.  In that case, you may resort to a paint-on water-based poly finish, which I might.  In any case, if you're careful and take your time it should turn out alright.

Putting it together for a test fit

     After letting it cure for a while - 3 days to a week should work - you can finally put it back together and actually use it.  Just reverse the process of disassembling, that's all there is to it.  You can see above where I did a test fit, just setting the major components together to see how it looks.  At this point, I'm planning on replacing the pickguard with a custom black one with a single humbucker, Frankenstrat style, because frankly the white pickguard and stock pickups aren't living up to the looks now.

     So, questions, comments, concerns, complaints?

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