Aug 3, 2017

Spray Painting a Guitar With the "Dish Soap" Trick

It's surprisingly easy to get this squeaky-clean guitar finish.  All it takes is spray paint, dish soap, a water bottle, and a guitar body you don't mind possibly messing up, just a little bit.

Starting out, I had this older Squier P-bass that I posted about once or twice a while back.  Not a bad bass, not the greatest, but due for some change, because plain black guitars lack personality *is assaulted by David Gilmour fans*.

First off, we gather our materials:
  1. Spray paint, one color if keeping the base (bass, heh) coat, two+ otherwise
  2. Dish soap
  3. Dish soap dispensing mechanism - if you like the nozzle on the soap you're using, use the bottle straight.  If not, you can do like I did and drill a small hole in the lid of a water bottle, then put the soap in that.
  4. Painter's tape (optional, depends on pattern)

Now, before getting too zealous it's usually a good idea to test on a scrap before committing the whole guitar.  This is nice to test whether the paint will be dry and not wipe off with the soap.

As you can see, the pattern I went with was a combo, half striped, half drizzled (and a very half-assed job of sanding first - sand with 400 grit sandpaper very well before getting ready to paint anything!)

After taking off the tape but before wiping it clean

Pretty neat pattern, huh?  I was going for something of a spiderweb look, and could've done better but could've done worse.  Part of the problem was that the "nozzle" on the bottle was a little too small and thus difficult to control, but another problem as seen on the edges is that the contoured body lets the soap run, creating splotches and unevenness around the edges.

Being not quite satisfied with the way that turned out, and also eager to practice a burst finish (before doing it to a guitar with a finish I was more attached to), I went for a hasty black burst finish with a rattle can.  Any sort of airbrush should be far preferable for the detail work of bursts, but it's still possible to get a decent finish with a rattle can.

Mistakes were made rushing this step - I used an elevated cardboard template to keep the burst from mucking up all the middle of the body.  Good idea (not sure if it's necessary, but probably safer if working with rattle cans), bad execution.  I was quick and imprecise about the shape of the template, figuring since it was a faded burst and not touching the template, it wouldn't need to be that precise.

That was wrong, the burst followed the template much too closely.  Maybe I should have distanced it a few inches farther from the body.  Anyway, the burst kept the exact sloppy shape as the cutout, and to make matters worse, one of the supports (cardboard and tape) for the template left an ugly mark that became obvious after the clear coat, and a bird even perched on the wet paint.  What luck!

Before clear coat - the scratches reaaaally show.  Not a good look.

After clear coat - the scratches are muted, if not quite gone, and the black is all the same tone, which is a big improvement.  However, the tape/cardboard mark left behind is now obvious, along with the pretty mediocre burst shape.  Lessons learned, and the next burst turned out much better (and this one got painted over) - more pics and info on those in the next post!

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