Handmade Music Clubhouse

Cigar Box Guitar Headquarters - CBG HQ

(Please visit my new store at Wishbringer Hand-Made Instruments.)

(See my other guitar here.)

   10:30 Thursday night, October 1, 2015, I finished something I'd been working on for more than three months:   my own personal guitar, the Wayfinder SeaMist.

   This project started out as a simple "kit guitar" to build and sell, but evolved significantly from there into a major project.  By the time I was through there wasn't much of the "kit" left and it became my own, personal guitar.  Here's part of how that came about.

Here is basically what I started with:
   Yup, that's it.  A body, mahogany bottom, maple top.  Fairly rough.  Just basically cut out and all the finish-work left for me to do.   Of course it contained all the hardware, tuners, pickups, wiring etc that I would need... but by the time I was through with modifications a lot of that had changed.

    Oh the sanding.  Until you've tried a project like this you can't imagine the amount of sanding that is required using increasingly fine grits of sandpaper.  Start with 150 or so, then 220, then 350, 600, 800... well, you get the idea.   We are talking hours or even days just sanding the wood.   Kit guitars don't come all nicely sanded and ready-to-paint.   That's what you paid for the privilege of doing. ;D

    Next came the cutting.  I don't have a fancy router system, so that meant drilling and chiseling my pickup holes by hand.  Instead of just two humbuckers I decided I wanted four balanced pickups and a switch-set.   So after some base-coat painting, here's what I wound up with:

   Later I added yet another rectangular hole in the lower right corner for a set of instant-switches for the pickups.



   Why should it take me 3 months to build a "kit" guitar?  Well, because it was the first time I'd ever tried to paint a guitar.   Let me tell you all that is involved in painting a guitar.  First...

   No, nevermind.  We don't have that much time.   Let's just say that painting alone, having zero experience, was a several-weeks nightmare.  One would think that given a can of spray primer, spray paint and spray lacquer that painting a guitar would be 1-2-3 easy.   It is anything but.  It is necessary to allow paint to cure a full 72 hours to a week before switching to a different product.  So... primer... wait... paint... wait... lacquer... wait to cure.  Because not all painting products are compatible and if you happen to try to paint over primer or lacquer over paint too quickly, the two products might react to one another and cause bubbling, "burning", color changes, or any one of a zillion problems... all of which I have now discovered and dealt with.  I later found out I'm not alone in this.  I asked professional guitar makers in KC about their paint experiences... and got pretty much the same story.  Unless one has a professional paint setup, painting a guitar can be a real headache.
   In a word, don't rush the paint job.   It takes several coats, very lightly sanding it with really fine sandpaper between each coat, painting it again, repeat... about oh, 4 or 5 coats might do it.  That's per layer.  So first wood prep, then primer, then paint, then lacquer. By the time you're through, you're going to have about 20 coats on that guitar, minimum.  That takes time.  (Note: I hear you can save a lot of time by dying the guitar instead.  That is... if the wood surface is pristine.  Hard to find pristine wood surfaces these days.)
   This is not a "one day" job, by any means.   Are there "shortcuts"?  Yeah, if you have a nice clean pro-class painting environment.  If you don't, every speck of dust in the air will be attracted to your paint job, every bug within 50 miles will land on your paint job (that's if you do it outdoors) and if you do it indoors then no matter how well you seal off your painting area... overspray will get through.   Don't ask me how.  Let's just say a small corner part of my bathroom floor is now a lovely light-tint of seafoam green.

   Finally, after three months I got the guitar painted.  Now for the next part.



   The original guitar had a dark rosewood neck and two humbuckers.  I decided I wanted a maple-fretboard neck and two additional pickups.  So I procured a very nice unfinished maple neck and hand-pyrographed the fingerboard design and the Wayfinder name on the headstock (steady.... steady... don't burn through the neck...).  Fitted the guitar for two extra pickups.  Here's the fitting:


   The P-90 was a bit tight so I enlarged the hole for it, the lipstick tube was a pain to install because the screws were zinc rather than steel and both of them stripped on me (grrrrr).  The wiring had to be completely re-configured  because I now had four pickups and planned on balancing them into a Fender switch system; that way I could flick a set of switches and engage any combination of pickups I wanted.  I used a standard Telecaster volume/tone control set (nice that), and wired the system like crazy (barely had enough room for all the wire). 

   Installing the hardware and neck only took a day.  Rather more quickly than I expected, but that's because I didn't hit any major glitches (unusual to be sure).  I admit there were a couple of naps in there as my brain and system could only take so much complex wiring at one time.  But finally got it.  Here is the finished guitar:

   (Did I mention I had to hand-cut and hand-sand the pick guard, using a hot-knife?  Apparently they don't make them ready-to-buy for insane pickup layouts.  Go figure.)

   In the end rather than a gloss finish I decided to put a satin finish on the git.  It was a good decision.   The tone is terrific, ranging from 50's "surf" to the P-90 mellow blues to hard-rock humbucker, and any combination thereof.   The bridge and tremolo work great; I've become a real fan of this particular type of tremolo system.  The action is as near perfect as action can get.  Not bragging... that's just how it turned out... which is a main reason I'm a big fan of this particular bridge and tremolo system.  It makes it really easy to adjust string height.


   The four switches to the right of the guitar can be set for any combination of pickups (total of 24 sound combinations).   The final result is a guitar I decided to keep... at least until I make my next one. ;D


   It was a very educational experience, taught me a lot about painting and building, and provided me a guitar I could not have possibly afforded on the open market.  This is one of those projects that took a lot of patience, but is one I'm glad to have tackled.  It makes a real wall-hanger and with flat-wound strings installed, plays smooth as buttah.



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Exactly the reason I don't paint a body anymore like the old times.  On my Taser, I waited 3 months for the nitro to cure, while it hung from the ceiling where I could see it watching TV.  Strict recipe.  Sand paper up to 2400.  No paint, just clear wood finish.  But when finished it looked like a wood grain graphic under 1/4" of clear nitro (21 coats, 3 a day).  

BTW, I love Seafoam Green...

Love the Teisco type sliders.  

Great job man!  How do you do your name on the headstock?

I won't do a finish like that ever again, I prefer oil but sometimes needs a rattle can that dries in 15 minutes.


I printed wet slide decals on my printer, after 21 coats you couldn't tell, SMOOOTH...

I won't sell this one.  


(thanks for posting!!!

(this would fit well in the group Builder's Progress Blogs.

That's a gorgeous git Ted.  Beeoootiful.

OIL a git.  Now there's an idea.  Sand the finish absolutely smooth... then oil the dickens out of it.  I am going to have to try that on a scrap and see what I get.    What method do you use to do an oiling?  (Type of oil, how you apply, how many coats, how long to dry between coats, etc.)

The name on the headstock I do with a woodburner I got from Russia.  Found it on Ebay for under $40; it has a wire on the tip rather than a metal point.  It gets red-hot and after a bit of practice allows very nice pyrographics.  Basically the same method I use on the fingerboard.

I love the wet slide decals.  I have some but I haven't brought myself to use them yet.  You're right, they look great, especially under coats.

BTW Ted, something I've wondered, as I don't have a lot of wood finishing experience.

First, what's "Nitro" and how's it work?  See, not a lot of experience as I said.  And 3 months to cure?  8 {  

Second... I've noticed that even if I sand wood really fine, when I apply a coat of clear finish, whether from a can or brush or wipe it on, the wood grain reacts to it and swells, causing a very rough surface.  As a result I usually wind up soaking down the wood a bit (which takes quite a bit of clearcoat), then sand it and then start building up on top of the sanded clearcoat.

I was wondering if there is some kind of wood prep that you've had good experience with that sorta seals the wood first so that first coat of clearcoat goes on well.   I've seen several products that claim to do so, but don't know which is a good one that seals the wood without altering its visual properties.  (For example, I saw one that claimed to fill the grain on oak... but it filled it with a white paste.  Obviously intended for painting, not varnishing.)

In short, what would you recommend as a pre-finish wood sealer?

That is very nice. Is that what they call "loaded" ;-)  ?

Loaded, smothered, covered and basted.... repeatedly.  XD

Kid you not, I actually lost count of the coats of paint and clearcoat, I had to re-finish so many times.  My stock of sandpaper has increased dramatically.

Absolutely Amazing!!!!!!

But, I'm not surprised. I've see some of your other work.

This one, however, seems to be the innocent little kit project that came into your home and quietly took possession of your brain. It's like that plant in Little Shop of Horrors calling to you "Feeeed meeeee, Feed Meeeee"

I know about this stuff. I've had more than one project take over my life for a period of time and become an obsession. I think that is one of the reasons we do these little projects. They allow our imagination to take flight.

By the way, your Pyrography is getting better and better. That neck is just beautiful!!

Congratulations of yet another amazing guitar.

Thanks Tom!   Yeah, it started out as a "well that looks easy enough to put together" but when I got the kit in I realized it had a lot more potential than the kit presented up-front.  It was a good kit, but once the imagination gets triggered... you know how that goes.

Was a much more involved project than I first anticipated, but I learned a lot from it too.  That's the main thing.  The finished guitar is icing on the cake. :D

I've wanted a git like this for a long time, but never could afford the sticker price.  Closest I've ever seen to this design is the Fender Jag and the out-of-production Ovation Viper 3 solidbody-- which is near impossible to buy these days.  So being able to make one is priceless. 

I am glad I decided on four pickups rather than three.  That lipstick tube plays a unique purpose in drawing just enough power to tone down the other three if I want a bit more "mellow" in the mix.  That wasn't the purpose I intended, but it sure worked out nicely; it wound up balancing and buffering the other pickups.  One of those great things about experimenting-- discovering the unexpected bonuses.

it was certainly worth the work. That is a great instrument that you will hang on to fo ra long time.

NitroCellulose lacquer.  What the ancient Egyptians used to finish their first Strat & Les & Danelectro bodies.  I followed a recipe that was 3 coats a day for 7 days, with 2400 grit/wet/dry/mineral spirits every day.  Then cure 90 days.

I was young...


I do an insane smooth final sand with fine wet sandpaper and mineral spirits.  Anytime you wet the grain, in your case a finish, it raises the grain.  I prefer mineral spirits over water because it ain't water - it raises the grain to sand off, then it's dry quick and the grain is stable.

I usually never sand after the first coat of clear, I use 0000 steel wool every couple of coats, then mineral spirits wipe downs.  Then the final 'sanding' is with a coffee filter/mineral spirits.

My favorite natural wood finish is Tru-Oil.  After sanding prep, I wipe down with mineral spirits (when I remember), let dry and put too heavy a coat of Tru-Oil.  Then wipe off as much as I can after 15 minutes.  If the grain behaves, soft steel wool or 2400/mineral spirits.  The next few coats apply kinda the least you can put on, then wipe/wool again.  Thin coats dry quick, and you can get 5 a day, then  always take a rag with Tru-Oil on it and wipe a final finish when everything is ready to play/ship.  5 coats is enough, but you can build Tru-Oil to be a thick clearcoat.  Too much for me, looks like fake woodgrain under a layer of plastic.

With about 5 coats, it's still wood and as a bonus it will show wear if it's a player.

(related note: I use Nitro to pot my pickups...

I usually never sand after the first coat of clear, I use 0000 steel wool every couple of coats, then mineral spirits wipe downs.  Then the final 'sanding' is with a coffee filter/mineral spirits.

That entire post is going in my "essential notes".  Thanks for the info Ted; that is truly valuable stuff there.

Thanks, alls ya gotta do is ask ;)

about anything!


I love explaining a bunch of HOW DO I's?

DANG, I been online with all y'all whackadoodles every night since 2003 - holycrap




Check out my Mad Scientist Lab for a rush.  Plus, I THINK Groups works, 'cept for FaceBook lately.  But there is a method to the madness about Groups.  Especially since we have search.  Facebook is minute by minute, no organization, no memory. Lots of folks see the Clubhouse as a community.  A home.  And a place where it's easy to find many answers to a question.  Even if it was answered 5 years ago...


Oh don't even get me started on FaceBook.  I know it's great for a lotta people but... I don't have enough hours in the day to get hooked on that fishing pole.

Definitely going to check out the Mad Scientist Lab.  Since 2003 you been doing this?  Wow, that's as long as I've been doing virtual worlds.  We're both addicts in our own space.  But oi' got bett'r.  ;D

Challenge you eh?  Hmmm... you don't know what you've just invoked.   I'll have to start thinking on that... 

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