I’ve finally finished what felt like the neverending project. I was so excited to have it finished that I literally couldn’t wait more than two minutes after I arrived in town to unveil it to the recipient (I’m being entirely truthful, I didn’t even wait to get into the car)
I work best under deadlines, and so I realize that the reason this project was so drawn out is because I started it about four months before I needed to finish it. The majority of the time the guitar sat while I worked on other projects that I felt were more interesting or needed to be done in a shorter timeframe. Don’t get me wrong, I loved this project. It’s been the most frustrating yet rewarding thing I have ever worked on.
So, when the deadline finally arrived – I realized I might have let the project sit for a bit too long because I had so much to do before the big reveal!
I spent hours and hours and hours sanding all that red paint off and then sketched out a template design for carving purposes.
The next few months were spent with a few hours here, a few hours there chipping out that design in the wood. When it got to about a week before my girlfriend was scheduled to arrive back from Europe I realized that I really needed to grind my gears to get the project done.
I was a bit past this point at that time and had to spend an entire day and a bit pretty much exclusively carving, blisters and all, to get the carving stage finished. The thing that made the carving a bit more difficult than normal was the fact the the body was made up of layers of different types of veneer. Some were harder than others, so I found myself putting enough pressure on the veneer to slice through one layer then skipping as it hit a softer layer beneath. Chipping was an issue as well. About half way through when an entire branch of the tree chipped off, I slammed the guitar down in frustration and walked away with the intent of giving up. But I think one of my favourite things about carving is the fluidity of the project, you can always fix it. With that in mind, and after a temper tantrum with my pillow, followed by a relaxing cup of tea, I picked the gouge back up and redesigned that section of the tree.
When the carving was finished, the finishing work needed to be done. I remember saying at one point that I loved the sanding stage, but because I was pressed for time, all those little grooves took quite some time and I was worried and a bit stressed that I was never going to get done, but lots of hours of Netflix and sanding later and the sanding was finished. The thing about finishing, especially on a project that has taken this long is the fact that finishing is pretty permanent. Okay, yes, you could re-sand and repaint and re-stain, but when you are on a deadline that redoing could easily push you well past it.
So, I’m always a bit nervous once I have the sanding finished to put that first brush of stain or paint on. My first step was to stain the face of the guitar and sides of the guitar. At first, I wanted to stain the entire guitar, but the wood on the back of the guitar proved to be less than appealing so I decided to spray it a glossy black instead. The stain was relatively easy. I loved the way it made the deeper sections of the carving darker, and the foreground pop out. I also unfortunately noticed once the staining was finished that the detailing I had done on the snake’s scales showed through once I had stained. This would have been great – had I done detailing on the entire snake. But once I had finished the head and neck portion of the snake, none of the detailing really seemed to be showing up, so I sanded it and gave up on that idea.
I did the back of the guitar with a black paint. Once the paint had dried I realized that it didn’t really cover the imperfections in the wood – so, like I feared – some more sanding needed to be done. Lots of thinking during this sanding stage allowed me to decide to be a bit more ambitious with a gold speckled paint on the back of the guitar.
Finallllyyy, the paint on the back of the guitar seemed to be coming together. I thought I was finished with the painting at this stage, but when I checked the sides of the guitar, the stain looked aweful!
What I came to realize is that the colouring that, I believe is a result of staining from the glue that adheres the different veneers together caused the stain to appear dappled and discoloured in places.
After all of this was dry, I put several coats of clear poly spray on to seal everything and the finishing work was complete!
So, now the real fun begins. Remember in my original post when I said I got to snip a wire when taking apart the guitar? Well… turns out the wire did not need to be snipped and I actually created a lot more work than I needed to. So, time to bring in the big guns in in the form of my buddy who actually understands something of electronics. (thankfully, because even though I looked up countless diagrams of the inside of a guitar I could not figure it out)
It was a relatively easy setup. But I royally messed it up by pulling things and snipping things that shouldn’t have been snipped. We spent hours twisting different wires together, soldering things back on and testing and retesting the connections. I think one of the happiest moments of my life was hearing that sound coming through the improvised amp. It was heavenly, untuned, rather hard on the ears, but like the voice of angels to me.
Never would have been able to do it without the help of my buddy. I would have probably given up the electronics as a lost cause given the abuse that I heaped on them, but we kept at it and the final result is a perfectly functional guitar (I can’t speak to the sound quality of said guitar, that’s the job of the musician that it went to).
After the electronics were fixed, all that was left was replacing the hardware and stringing the guitar up. This was my first time stringing a guitar, and it wasn’t without a few mishaps. I snapped a string, and had a bit of trouble with threading the wire through (I swear it’s because I’m old and my eyes can’t seem to focus on something that thin.)
And then it was finished! All the frustration and hours and hours of work for that moment when the guitar was completely strung and the first, untuned notes rang out over the apartment. I was ECSTATIC.
In the end it was an eye opening project. Exciting, at times frustrating, but entirely rewarding in it’s conclusion, and I’m really happy with how it turned out!