Guitar Retrospective #8 (Pt. 2 The Headstock): “Landscape Les Paul”

Welcome to the 2nd installment of the “Landscape LP” project, where I will discuss the creation of the headstock. If you noticed in the first picture from Pt. 1, the guitar kit came with what they call a “paddle” headstock. Meaning, it’s just a blank, intended for the user to create their own style. They do this in these generic kits because the headstock shapes are patented by the company. So to cover their ass since it’s probably too expensive to get the license, they exclaim “you get to make it any way you want!” Great. Thanks for all that extra work. Well I turned some lemons into some some seriously delicious lemonade with this project, turning that square paddle board headstock blank into a perfectly fitted custom shape to complement the detail in the fabric print on the body, as well as match the print by finishing the headstock in fabric as well.

Here’s what I started with.

LP HS back

LP HS front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I set out designing the shape, figuring out what would get cut out. I didn’t want to stray too far from a tradition Les Paul style headstock design, so I used my little Jai face logo as a starting point to figure out the shape.

Traced a template to sketch ideas on paper, then transferred over to headstock when I was satisfied.

Traced a template to sketch ideas on paper, then transferred over to headstock when I was satisfied.

 

Cut it out using a coping saw, band saw, and a pneumatic sanding drum, if I remember correctly.

LP HS cut

Sanded smooth.

Sanded smooth.

Burnt it up a little, rough cut here. Maple is hard!

Burnt it up a little, rough cut here. Maple is hard!

 

Touched it up with sand paper and files to get the shape just right.

Touched it up with sand paper and files to get the shape just right.

 

Then I set about giving this headstock face a fabric finish. Same process as the body.  I chose the portion of the fabric from the back of the guitar, the night sky with a few birds. It was at this point I realized how well suited that shaped was, as it looks just like a bird flying if you’re looking at it head on.

After fabric has been glued down, and several coats of sanding sealer.

After fabric has been glued down, and several coats of sanding sealer.

After sanding the sanding sealer. Got into the fabric a little on the edges but that's ok, it's getting a paint burst.

After sanding the sanding sealer. Got into the fabric a little on the edges but that’s ok, it won’t really show.

 

Trim those fabric edges sharp and clean to the wood.

Trim those fabric edges sharp and clean to the wood

After clear coats.

After clear coats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polished to a lovely shine.

DSC00434DSC00438

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And all set up and ready to go.

Tuners installed and complete.

Tuners installed and complete.

 

I hope you enjoyed following the process of this guitar, it posed some new challenges which was why I was happy to choose this style and try out this kit. I expanded my knowledge and experience trying out some new things with this one, and I was pretty happy with how it turned out. And I know where it lives and get to visit it every now and then.

 

Creatively,

j.

 

 


Guitar Retrospective #8 (Pt. 1 The Body): “Landscape Les Paul”

I began this project in June of 2007. Since I was also in the middle of a couple strat projects, namely, the “Koi Flower” and “Wild Horses” guitars, I was ready for something different. I decided to try a Les Paul style guitar, with a curved top.  I picked up a Saga LC-10 LP style guitar kit.

Saga LC-10 LP style guitar kit

Saga LC-10 LP style guitar kit

After studying the kit, which was decent enough with the components (kit guitars like this usually benefit from upgrading some of the parts), I remember being impressed with the body. Nice figure in the top, nice binding, nice mahogany back. I thought, “Wow this is pretty good for a kit guitar…Ok, now which fabric will I use to cover this up with.”

Saga body frontSaga LP body back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had picked out a beautiful Japanese scenic landscape print for this guitar. I used this print because there were a lot of great options and a lot of surface area on this guitar with which to display it, with the rear routed control cavity, and the larger body size, you could see a lot of this fabric. This was the full panel I had to work with. Actually a little more than what is shown in this picture, since I got a full yard, there is more tree and hillside to the left. fabric full panel

I laid it out with my paper templates to determine which section of the fabric would be used for the front and which for the back. This is one of the funnest parts of the process, because you are deciding the look of the whole guitar, it is the decision moment of the design process, because once you cut it out, that’s it, you’re committed. Unless you have a bunch more fabric, which I never do. Fabric can get expensive, especially these fancy prints I always pick out, so I usually only get a yard.

Layout

Laying out fabric, template positioning of the back of the guitar.

So I’ve documented the material finish process on previous posts, so I won’t bore anyone (or myself) with every detail by describing it in words. But I will do it with a series of pictures, because pictures are fun and require MUCH less reading.

LP fabric front rough

Fabric glued down, rough cut – front.

LP fabric back rough

Fabric glued down, rough cut – back.

 

Post-Sanding Sealer coats and cut out cavities. Front of guitar.

After sanding sealer coats and cut out cavities – front.

Post-Sanding Sealer coats and cut out cavities. Back of guitar.

After sanding sealer coats and cut out cavities – back.

 

After sanding, before paint - front.

After sanding, before paint – front.

After sanding, before paint - back.

After sanding, before paint – back.

 

After paint - front.

After paint – front.

After paint - back.

After paint – back.

 

I interrupt this series of beautifully laid out sequential pictures to say, holy cow was it difficult to find this shade of navy blue that matches PERFECTLY with this print. I tried at least half a dozen different shades of the usual brands I use, only to find none of them blended well with this fabric. I eventually went to a store I never go to, I believe it was a Sebo’s hardware store in town, and found a construction spray paint that looked promising. When I shot it and saw this result, I was ecstatic, I could finally stop buying blue spray paint.

 

After shooting clear coats - front.

After shooting clear coats – front.

After shooting clear coats - back.

After shooting clear coats – back.

 

For the detail oriented like myself, the paint I used had a hint of sparkle, which again matched PERFECTLY on a deeper level with this print, as it also has a little sparkle in the print, which I’ll show soon in a close up pic.

After clear coats, side of guitar, notice sparkle in paint.

After clear coats, side of guitar, notice sparkle in paint.

 

After wet sanding and polish - front.

After wet sanding and polish – front.

After wet sanding and polish - back.

After wet sanding and polish – back.

 

Yes I did get a few sand-throughs along the edges on this one, I was really bummed. It’s a learning process, and I’m always learning new tricks to avoid this terrible eye sore that is very easy to allow pop up.

And hey, I’m a man of my word, here’s that close up where you can see the sparkle detail in the print.

Close up of front, notice the sparkle in the print.

Close up of front, notice the sparkle in the print.

 

As you can see if you look closely in the neck pocket where I sign and date the guitar upon completion, this guitar was finished in August of 2007, it was intended as a wedding gift for a close friend. I remember now I was kind of rushing to complete this towards the end so it could be ready to give away after the long drive to its new home, which might explain the lack of completed pictures with it all strung up and full body/neck shots. By the way, the headstock was a completely custom design, and will be featured in its own post. Here are the shots I have of the completed body all put together. I show these with slight embarrassment, as guitar players will know, one of the pickups is backwards. (Ooops! so embarrassing!!!) Hey, it was my first experience with a Les Paul style guitar in person, I hadn’t come across pickups like these yet, and like I said I was rushing to get this out the door. But yea, I feel stupid seeing these pics now, so try to ignore everything I just said. :-/

LP finished front 1LP finished back 1

 

You might have noticed the custom neck plate I had engraved to commemorate the event, very special detail. I gave a big heartfelt speech during the rehearsal dinner where I presented the happy couple with the unique gift, explaining how the creation of the guitar represented what a good marriage might require: patience, love, attention to detail, hard work, more patience, etc. I said I hoped it would hang on a wall inside their home to remind them of this. Well, they are now divorced. It must have been sitting in the closet or something.

Seriously though, I hope my buddy forgives me for my commentary if he reads this. The guitar is with him now and that’s where I intended it to be all along, so mission accomplished. I should probably go visit him and replace that neck plate though. ;-) Love you buddy!

LP finished front 2

LP finished sides

LP finished front 3

LP finished back 2

 

Thanks for checking this out and remember there’s a part 2 coming where I go through the process of designing and creating the custom headstock on the neck of this guitar.

 

Creatively yours,

j.

 

 


Lego: Mini-Fig Myself

I freakin love Lego! To celebrate the DVD release of The Lego Movie, I thought I’d share the custom Lego mini figure I had made of myself by the fine folks at minifigs.me.

20140617-152704-55624422.jpg

The body has a custom decal of my first album cover. It came out really well! Pretty impressive considering how small these things are. Recently they upgraded their equipment to print directly onto the Lego pieces themselves, so they can make some pretty amazing and super custom stuff now. Check out some musicians and bands they have already created here. To name a few you can get Lego versions of The Beatles, Queen, Metallica, and a few brand new ones including Jimi Hendrix, Prince, and The Boss himself Bruce Springsteen!

I also put together another mini fig using standard Lego parts for my shaved head era. Here is a look at what I was trying to copy.

20140617-092636-33996287.jpg

Now that there are two of me, I can jam with myself!

20140617-085908-32348599.jpg

The Lego guitars, cases and amplifier I got from Firestartoys. They have a huge selection of mini figure parts and custom accessories. Huge.

Go mini fig yourself.

j.


Defining artist…

Art is the projection of ideas which, just as water, present themselves in different shapes and forms. Artist is the one, who is not but a conduit reflecting what has always been, into a new subjective form of an experience, a unique contribution to the Universe.

This, is the cycle of life, the reincarnation of a creator.
– Agah Bahari

At its core, this blog is about creating, which I believe to be what life is all about. I document various personal creations on here,  music, guitars and the like, since it is, in fact, my blog. But I wish to promote and encourage creation in general. After all, the most important aspects of life are based in creation. Creating relationships, creating love, creating life, are of course deemed more important because they bring us the most emotional experience of living. But also, creating art is important because it is an expression of us taking place in the creative process, which is very God-like, and puts us more in touch with the Universe. So I’m always interested in finding ways to describe what this is that we feel we must do, as creators.

I saw this recently, and wanted to share because I love this definition of art and artist. It popped up on my Facebook feed the other day from my friend Agah Bahari, an artist of many forms, including music, film, photography, and writing. He first grabbed my attention while happening upon his first album, “The Second Sight of a Mind” from 2008. This is a progressive, instrumental rock guitar record that really impressed me. It’s an amazing and beautifully complicated work of art. After reaching out and talking to Agah a little I learned that he, like myself, was a left handed guitar player, so naturally my affinity for him was written in stone from that point on. ;-)

I believe this to be a very accurate definition of what an artist does when creating art. It’s not creating something from nothing, but rather interpreting what is already there into a new representation, their art. We see different kinds of art, in different mediums yes, but look at all the variation within particular mediums. How come there are so many different styles of painters, or musicians, or photographers even? A dozen different photographers could take a picture of the same island sunset and they would look different. It is the artist, the creator, that is the key here. The art is a product of how the individual experiences that thing at that particular time and place, which is unique every time.

Anyway, I find it interesting and thought it was worth sharing and speaking on to others that find this stuff interesting. And thanks Agah, for the intellectual stimulation!

Click here to find links to download Agah’s album as well as get info on his other music projects. Or visit agahbahari.com

 

j.


Guitar Retrospective #7 (Pt. 2): “Koi Flower”

As I mentioned in the first installment of this project, this guitar fell victim to the stand it was displayed on. Just when you thought it was safe right!? And frankly, I didn’t do a very good job on the first attempt, so having the sides of the guitar completely melted down to the wood where the guitar rested proved to be an excellent excuse to give this guitar a facelift and correct some things that went wrong the first time.

Where the stand melted the finish.

Where the stand melted the finish.

Close up of damaged area.

Close up of damaged area.

Damaged area and horrendous sand thrus.

Damaged area and horrendous sand thrus.

The pictures above show the damaged areas and the sand thrus along the edges. All of this needed addressed, so I busted out the random orbital sander with some 60 grit and went to work taking it back down to the paint/fabric level. Once I got close I switched to a higher grit so I wouldn’t rip through the fabric completely. If I wore into lightly it was no big deal, that could be built back up with no issues. You can see below the faint areas behind the pickups, that’s a good example of sanding into the fabric. That happened to be where the bridge was gonna sit anyway. But I still wouldn’t consider it an issue, creates kind of a cool accent to the look.

Sanded back down to fabric.

Sanded back down to fabric.

Sanded down to fabric on back.

Sanded down on back and sides.

Masking template and paint.

Masking template and paint.

At this point I was ready to move forward again being extra careful with each step of the process, especially with making sure I built the sanding sealer coats up enough to fully cover everything. There was one spot on the front where an air bubble had developed (from not using enough glue in the beginning), which I addressed specifically by cutting the fabric, applying some super glue in the bubble, and flattening. With sanding sealer coats and sanding that area down repeatedly, I was able to completely flatten that spot out and remove the bubble. Can’t even find that spot now. Once a solid foundation was established again, I could repaint the sides and burst. I was able to get the same paint as before, so I could get the same look as before which I was very happy with, as I had matching pick guard, pick up covers, and knobs.

Using the cardboard template to paint sides and a burst.

Using the cardboard template to paint sides and a burst.

I still had the body template I had made the first time for painting. This is a great simple tool to make as you begin the process. I make one for every guitar I do. Since I just do one-offs I use spray cans and a cardboard cut out of the guitar body I’m working on, which I just trace at the beginning when I have the guitar in pieces. It can be manipulated for curves in the body, like the bottom left corner of the pic on the left, where it’s just bent over to follow the curve of the body to keep the spray uniform. I start by placing the template flat on the body to get the sides painted, shooting at a downward angle so most of the paint hits the sides and doesn’t sneak underneath. Then to do a burst, where the paint fades into the body from the edges, you can place items between the template and the body in the middle to give it a little lift (like shown), and spray at various downward angles while moving the template around as necessary. It masks the body while leaving the edge open enough to get a nice natural fade. It takes some practice and going a little at a time and checking often to see where it needs more paint. But you can get a very nice looking burst with this method with some practice just using spray cans!

Paint complete. Burst on front.

Paint complete. Burst on front.

Paint complete. Burst on back.

Paint complete. Burst on back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I finish the paint process by very lightly sanding the faces of the guitar to remove any paint dust that may have settled in the burst process. Usually just a rough rag will suffice. And always wipe down with naphtha after each step to remove dust and finger oils! There was also the headstock component to this which I apparently didn’t get pictures of along the way the second time through. The finish had sunken a little revealing the outline of the decal, and it was just a little rough overall. I gave that the full treatment as well, minus the paint, while I did the same steps as the body. So after a long and slow process of applying clear coats, sanding down (the clear was going on quite rough and orange-peely), more clear coats, letting it cure, and then the final wet sand and polish, and not encountering a SINGLE sand thru, which was cause for much celebration!, I could call this guitar fully restored and complete. I waited for a sunny day and got some final pictures. So here you have it, in all its glory. :-)

j.

 

Koi 2 - Front 1 Koi 2 - Front 2 Koi 2 - Back 1Koi 2 - Front 3 Koi 2 - Back 2Koi 2 - Horns Koi 2 - HeadstockKoi 2 - Front Full Koi 2 - Back Full

Me and the Koi-caster.

Me and the Koi-caster.


Walter White: Guitar Salesman?

20131005-155320.jpgPerhaps while he was getting his chemistry degree, prior to co-founding Gray Matter Technologies and subsequently bailing on them and regretting it for life, or perhaps in the interim while getting his teaching degree, Walter White did time as a Guitar Center salesman. I know this for a fact you see, because I have proof in this receipt I recently found while looking through some old records. In the summer of 2000 I headed down to Seattle to the Guitar Center to pick up the first guitar I ever bought, a Black Fender acoustic guitar (left handed of course). I didn’t notice at the time, this nobody taking my money, since this was prior to his meth-cooking hay day, but as it turns out, it was Walter White that sold me my first guitar. (See bottom of pic).

Just a cool little tidbit for ya, be a good trivia question. ;-)

j.


Sanding Blocks

NEW SANDING BLOCKS!!!

Acrylic sanding blocks.

Acrylic sanding blocks.

That’s right folks, a post that only those that work on guitars could appreciate. You’re welcome.

For years I’ve been using a combination of a basic 3M sanding block and a small art gum eraser.

3M block and Artgum eraser.

3M block and Artgum eraser.

To be honest I barely used the larger 3M block, usually for dry sanding during prep with lower grits. When it came to all the rigorous wet sanding, I would primarily use the art gum eraser, for years! Recently, after noticing my small eraser starting to fall apart, I finally wised up and realized maybe there was something better I could be using that might speed up the process. It takes a long time to cover a guitar front and back with a thing the size of a 9V battery. It’s still handy when I need to just focus on a small area, and it has a bit of flex which comes in handy going around the curves and sides.

My brother built a CNC machine from scratch this past year and always has handy materials around, so I thought to ask him for some acrylic. He had a small piece of scrap that would be perfect, 1/2″ thick, 2″ x 5″. So he cut it into a couple pieces for me. I thought it would be nice to have a couple options, so he cut a 2″ x 2″ square and a slightly larger 2″ x 3″. The picture on the left shows the pieces as he gave them to me. I just took the palm sander to the edges, rounding them out and flattening the sides, giving them a more “finished” look, as seen on the right.

Rough cut of new acrylic sanding blocks.

Rough cut of new acrylic sanding blocks.

Acrylic sanding blocks with polished edges.

Acrylic sanding blocks with polished edges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acrylic sanding block in action.

Acrylic sanding block in action.

These work marvelously. With a perfectly flat, hard surface, not too big, not too small, I feel like I’m getting a much better use of my energy, time, and sand paper. Super easy to clean and dry. And it covers the surface area of the guitar really well. I find I lean towards the 2″ x 2″ one more often, just more versatile I think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I still use the old blocks, but it’s great to have a combination of sizes and materials to choose from now.

Sanding block collection.

Sanding block collection.

Happy sanding!

j.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,145 other followers