Tag Archives: guitar

Guitar Retrospective #11: “HB Adventure Strat”


It’s been awhile since I posted a guitar retrospective. There are still quite a few to go to get caught up to present times, so here we go!

This guitar started life back in early 2008 as a guitar kit. I had been looking into other means of obtaining guitars to refinish and after doing several Squier strats (“Wild Horses”, “Koi Flower”, “Miartisme”) I wanted to try these kits I had been reading about. I had done an LP style guitar from a Saga kit before, but I had tracked down some strat and tele style electric guitar kits made by Grizzly, which was a big woodworking and metalworking machinery company that had a local store, so I was able to go and pick a few up to try out. It wasn’t a typical place you would think to find guitar kits. Turns out the owner of Grizzly was a luthier himself, who made some pretty amazing guitars, so he offered these kits and other guitar parts through his company. You can still get guitar parts there, but it appears the kits are no longer available. It was your standard electric guitar kit, decent body and neck, with a blank headstock (the stratocaster and telecaster style headstocks are copyrighted by Fender so couldn’t be reproduced and sold), and probably lower end hardware and electronics.


I remember the reason I wanted to try guitar kits was because you started with a complete guitar, and the body was a blank canvas, you didn’t have to do any work to strip it down before you could refinish it. But it was wise to do a rough assembly of the guitar to make sure everything fit together ok, so there wouldn’t be any fun surprises at the end.

For the finish, I had this cool looking green fabric, I don’t even know how to describe it. If I were to free associate I would use words like; Celtic, hippie, natural, earthy, lavender, forest, green, free, peace, love, unity. I felt it was a great opportunity to use on one of these strats, and it really worked out for getting a good placement on the guitar to maximize the graphic element and still remain a cool subtle look. I started with the front and decided to finish the back with fabric also, with a more subdued section of the print, but it works to keep continuity. Here are some shots of the process. Pretty simple with this one, used the standard material finish process I’ve come to know: glued fabric on, sanding sealer, cut it out, more sanding sealer (a lot), sanding, paint, clear coats, final wet sanding and polish.

The Front:



The Back:



The Pickguard:

The kit came with a plain white pick guard, I didn’t feel this particular look required a matching pick guard, so I didn’t apply fabric to it, but I didn’t want to leave it stark white either. I  decided to paint it the same color as the edges and burst of the guitar, which was a seafoam green. I thought that color worked really well to compliment the graphic on the print as well as brighten it up overall, as the main color of the guitar was a dark green. Man I can’t believe I used to have time to think about stuff like that.



The Headstock:

As I said earlier, the kit came with a headstock blank, which looks like this.



It’s just a paddle, which doesn’t look very good. I didn’t feel like dealing with this again myself, like I had with the Les Paul style guitar. So I talked to some people on the guitar forums I visited at the time, and found somebody that would cut them out for me in the traditional “strat” style. I sent them off, and they came back all nice and pretty, ready to go.

Also, during the process of refinishing this guitar, it became apparent who I was making it for. Some very close friends of mine were getting married, and try as I might, they just wouldn’t push their wedding date back so I could get this thing properly done in time to give it to them. (I know right!? So selfish.) I thought about my options, and realized I would just do as they do, and go with the flow, and use the opportunity to make it really personal, so I hand wrote the name on the headstock and added a personal note on the back. I don’t think I’ve had to admit this yet, but I did this on the day of their wedding  before leaving my house. I was working on this thing to the very last minute. It is by no means fancy, but I think it’s fitting, and it works, and that’s what I tell myself.


HB Adventure:

You’ve been wondering this whole time, “What the hell is HB Adventure”? I purposely waited until the end to tell you, because I worry about your attention span and wanted you to earn it. Let me be the first to say, Congratulations! Here it comes. HB stands for Hannah and Barry, two very dear friends who I knew separately and then came together to create a beautiful life, incredible love story for sure. <humor>You see Barry was my ex-boyfriend and Hannah was a chick I knew in High School, at least that’s how I remember it. </humor> They really lived life proper traveling and had a blog to tell us all about it while I stayed home making guitars and checking in on their adventures. Life is still happening over at HBAdventure.com, to the fullest to be sure. I really admire my friends who have always seemed to do life right, exploring and capturing the very best life has to offer, and leaving the rest. They teach that now to their two beautiful daughters.

But back in August of 2008, they were just getting married, and I had made a gift for them. I had taken the neck plate in to be engraved, as I was known to do for special occasions. (Mostly this is so they don’t forget who it came from, I hope they don’t know any other “Joe’s”.) 😉







Dia De Los Muertos en Lego

In honor of the Mexican holiday Dia de los muertos, or Day of the Dead, I recently put together this Lego minifigure. The head, or “sugar skull” as they call them, is a custom creation by the incredible minifigs.me crew. Beautiful! (They also made their own pair of fully custom Day of the Dead minifigures which are pretty sweet!)

I thought it would go perfectly with the Mariachi collectable  minifigure from the most recent series 16. I think I was right. So cool! 


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.


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.


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


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.


Guitar Retrospective #6: “Wild Horses”

"Wild Horses" - Front

“Wild Horses” – Front

In 2007 I purchased a lot of 3 Squier Strats because I had a pile of fabric I wanted to use on guitars and some time on my hands. I also wanted to see what it would be like and if I could actually work on 3 guitars at once. I staggered the production so I could be working on different phases of the project for each guitar. I only had so much space so this worked well. While one guitar was being sprayed in the garage I could start prepping the next one on the table. Then one could be hanging in the closet while the second one was being sprayed and a third was being prepped or worked on, and the cycle would go like that until I had 3 guitars hanging in the closet at one point waiting to be finished. The “Wild Horses” strat was the first to  be completed from this batch.

Stripped Squier bodies.

Stripped Squier bodies.

I bought Squiers because they were cheap, they had all their components there, and I could get some really good practice and experience stripping and refinishing guitars. What I found was that stripping guitars is no fun! Depending on the finish it could be a real P.I.T.A. These wonderfully inexpensive guitars had a thick resin coating under a polyester finish. It took a great deal of sanding to get through the armor on these things, but eventually I could get them down to the resin dipped coating. What I finally figured out was that I didn’t really need to do a complete strip on these things, given this ironclad finish. There was no real reason to get down this far as it turned out, other than it looked good for a minute before I started covering it all up again. By the third one and subsequent refinishes, I would just do a good scuff sand and maybe prime. That was plenty good to glue a fabric down to.

After cutting excess fabric around the edge.

After cutting excess fabric around the edge.

Body painted, smooth transition on the edges.

Body painted, smooth transition on the edges.

So the new challenge to figure out with these strats turned out to be the curvy body shape. The Stratocaster body is so iconically sexy and smooth, made possible by the shape along with the rounded edges. The Ibanez bodies I had worked with previously have primarily flat tops with a defined edge. So it was easy to cut the fabric off at the edge and that was that. With these bodies, the rounded edge doesn’t provide an exact place to obviously end the fabric, and what to do about the new lip that the fabric edge creates?

I put that question to the great minds over at my favorite guitar refinishing forum, Guitar Reranchand while I waited for an inspiring response I took out my exacto knife with a fresh blade and took it to the body, carving along the top just before it dropped off the edge. I don’t know exactly who provided the answer but I was lead to something I wasn’t aware of at the time, CA-30, otherwise known as thick super glue. I use this stuff all the time now. I knew super glue existed of course, I had G.I. Joe action figures as a kid, and they had some tough battles, so I was aware you could glue your fingers together while attempting to fix the broken pieces while your mom wasn’t looking. But I didn’t know it came in thick. This turned out to be the key. Regular super glue was so watery it was subject to gravity (not so super at all really). The thick super glue could be applied like caulking around the edge of the fabric, running a nice bead that transitioned between the body and fabric. Then with some tedious (pretty hard stuff) and careful sanding, you would be left with a totally smooth transition. Once painted, you’d never know what lie underneath.

The finish idea was lead by this fabric I had picked out of one of my mother’s fabric catalogs she would get periodically. I finished it front and back with the fabric since I had it, and decided to just use white for the edge and burst color, I think because all the components (knobs, pick guard, pickup covers) were white. After painting the burst, that white fade, I had an idea for a nice finishing touch. It looked like it could be a foggy morning on the plains where these horses were running. To do this, I ordered a can of Mary Kaye White spray paint from the Guitar Reranch, and sprayed over the body until I was happy with the look. This paint is very translucent, meant to be used over natural wood with good grain, like an ash, so it sprayed very faint and gave the perfect touch.

Mary Kaye White gave the look of fog.

Mary Kaye White gave the look of fog.

This was a fun project and lead me to some new discoveries and techniques that I continue to use. This project also started a trend where I would not know what to do with all my new guitars, so my answer was to give them away to friends as gifts! (Whoa what a guy, right?) I was a groomsmen in a good friends wedding where we even played some original acoustic music we had written together for the ceremony, very special and very good memories, so I decided that this guitar belonged with them, the new happy couple. That reminds me I haven’t been to their house in awhile I need to check on it and see if they have it properly displayed or not. 😉

I’ll wrap this one up with some pictures of the guitar below, thanks for checking this one out.


Close up of polished fabric finish.

Close up of polished fabric finish. Like a MIRROR!

Wild Horses - Front 2 Wild Horses - Back Wild Horses - Full Front Wild Horses - Full Back Wild Horses - Edge 1 Wild Horses - Edge 2

Guitar Retrospective #5: ’52 Blackguard Replica Tele Body

I remember around this time I was thinking it was time to try something a little more “standard”. Maybe I was sick of looking at complicated fabric prints all the time and the thought of doing something more well known, a classic really, was appealing. I also wanted to see if I could do it, a more fundamental paint and finish. Since I had been primarily focusing on honing my material finish skills, I had also been learning some universal finishing techniques that I wanted to put to the test, as well as add a new skill to my repertoire (<– spelled it right the first time, no red line BOOM!), grain filling.

I should also mention this began as a project that I was going to keep for myself. I wanted a classic guitar and as a lefty they’re tough to find, so I was going to make myself one that looked like this Fender ’52 replica.

Fender '52 Replica

This particular configuration was known as a “blackguard” because of its black lacquered pick guard, and the finish associated with it is butterscotch blonde. Butterscotch for the color, blonde because it is slightly transparent to show some of the grain of the wood.

So I headed to eBay to see what kind of guitar bodies I could find. I found a seller that made very nice quality bodies and purchased a left handed Tele body made from Ash.


Ash is a more porous wood that would require additional prep before it would take a finish. Earlier I mentioned grain filling. This is exactly what it sounds like. Take a grain filler which is a paste that you rub onto the guitar and pack it into the pores. Along with some sanding sealer coats and block sanding this will give the guitar body a completely flat impenetrable surface with which to lay your paint and clear coats upon. Without this important step, your finish would sink into the wood and look horrible, thereby embarrassing you in front of anybody that saw your guitar. Your grandmother would probably say “good job sweetie!” But under her breath say “I would have grain filled it for sure.” Here are a couple shots after grain filling.



You can see how there’s a nice sheen to it and it’s completely flat and level, ready to accept paint. Prep work is so important to the finished product. Difficult to have the patience sometimes because you’re excited to get to the painting which makes it look like you did something but I promise you that anything that isn’t perfect prior to painting or clear coating will show through and bum you out down the line. Cutting corners = bad times.

I was gonna do this one right with an all lacquer finish so of course headed over to the Guitar Reranch for the paint. They have this color perfectly dialed in. And in easy to use spray cans! After shooting it to my desired grain show through I was left with this.



After finishing with clear coats, waiting for the lacquer to cure (about 30 days), my least favorite part of refinishing wet sanding and finally polishing, I was rewarded with a very acceptable butterscotch blonde ash Telecaster style body made for a lefty.


As it turns out, this is where the project ended for me. I decided not to complete the guitar for whatever reasons, most likely financial or realizing I had too many guitars anyway. So I sold this as a replacement body for someone else’s project, all finished and ready to go! Never saw what came of it though, sadly. Always tough to see them go! 😎


Guitar Retrospective #2: “Black Floral”

My 2nd guitar project began, unusually, with a quilt! My mother is an amazing quilter, and her first quilt for me was also her first queen-sized quilt, so this was like, special. Though I trusted my Mom completely, I wanted to have a small say in how the quilt might look, at least color or print-wise. So after a mother-son shopping trip to the fabric store, we came up with a cool color scheme, based around a floral print with a black background. It had some greens, white, khaki, and pink accents in the flowers! Needless to say the quilt turned out AMAZING, I completely loved it, and for years hung it on the wall of my bedroom so it was always on display, it was perfect for me.

Ibanez RG470L

A year or two later, sometime in the fall/winter of 2004, I had an idea. I wanted to take another shot at refinishing a guitar, only this time, I wanted to do something completely unique. In my mind, it had never been done before. I had never seen it before at least. I soon came to find out that it had in fact been done before, and even found a rough tutorial of the basic steps on how to do what is known as a material finish. I asked my mom if she had any of that fabric left over from my quilt, which she did, obviously wondering what I was going to do with it. I told her I was going to put it on a guitar. “Whaaaat??? How are you going to do that??” I simply said, “glue” and headed home with my fabric. Working from that tutorial, I set to work on my second custom guitar finish. This time I decided to refinish a guitar I already had instead of doing another kit. I started with an Ibanez Rg470, left handed, in boooooringblack. 🙂

As with any new thing you try, you don’t really know if what you’re doing is correct. I was going through a fairly involved process with the attitude of “just do it and see how it turns out, don’t worry too much about it, do what makes the most sense right now, and you’ll learn a lot and improve on the next one.” I had an outline of the basic process to follow, but I ended up having a lot of questions regarding what kind of materials and tools to buy. (As I later came to find out, I hadn’t even scratched the surface yet in regards to proper finishing techniques.) I was almost clueless. But, I finished it with what little I knew. I think it took me probably 4-6 weeks or so, and what I ended up with was something definitely cooler than what I started with.

It had its flaws to be sure, but that was to be expected, and I was very pleased with it. Everyone I showed it to couldn’t believe it was fabric underneath, it looked like it had been painted. (Kinda the idea.) For awhile many thought I had a hidden talent of being some genius painter, and the reason I hadn’t produced any paintings of any kind up to this point was because I had simply not found my canvas of choice yet. Sadly that’s not the case.

The experience gained from attempting something like this has proven to be invaluable, as it lead me to new resources and knowledge that would shape the rest of my projects to come. And the difference in quality between this guitar and the next, was staggering.

I’ve contemplated re-doing this guitar over the years, as I still have some of the original fabric left, but I kinda like what it represents. It reminds me that you have to start somewhere, and there’s no shame in that. That nothing great ever starts out perfect (except for babies ;-)). It reminds me of the mistakes I made, the reason I use a certain product over another, and that the reason for doing something isn’t necessarily to create the most perfect thing. I did this to flex a creative muscle that was just beginning to grow. I did it because I had an idea come to me out of nowhere, and because it’s important to pursue your ideas and practice making them a reality. I did it to create a bond, between something my mother created and something completely different that I created using the same cloth, literally, which of course created a bond between mother and son. We now have a reason to continue fabric shopping together.

And for all those reasons, despite the poor paint job, despite the bumpy, orange-peeled finish, despite the fact that it’s yellowing because I used the wrong product  — this guitar is exactly perfect.

Guitar with matching quilt.