Shaftesbury Les Paul: Finished

I could bear it no longer so, during the week I flatted, T-Cut and polished the body. On Thursday evening I assembled everything and fitted most of the hardware. On Friday I wired it up and today I finished setting it up by cutting the nut.

So I’ve reached the end of my first guitar refinishing/upgrade project. And was it worth it? Oh, yes. Before starting out on this it always played beautifully. Now it looks and sounds as good as it plays.

Shaftesbury Les Paul: Shielding

The guitar’s control cavity had previously been unshielded. This is not always an issue, particularly for a guitar fitted with humbuckers. Now, whilst to start with, I’m going to refit one of the old humbuckers, it will eventually getting some variant of a P90. Because single coil pickups are much more susceptible to noise, I decided to make sure the control and pickup cavities were well shielded.

I found just the stuff on eBay; slug repellent tape! This is 30mm wide self-adhesive copper tape, which is supposed to (but doesn’t) deter slugs and snails.

I ran a quick test first to see if two pieces of tape, stuck together, would allow a flow of current. Unfortunately it didn’t. Luckily the copper tape solders very easily.

I cut strips of tape to length, peeled off the backing paper and lined each of the cavities. I then put small dabs of solder to join each piece to it’s neighbour. Once that was done I used the multi-meter to check that each piece of tape was properly connected.

If you’re doing a similar job, don’t forget to shield the cavity cover(s) too. I made sure that the lining of the cavity folded over the lip, so that it’ll contact the shielding on the cover. Hopefully the screw running through should provide the electrical connection. I’ll test this by checking that, once assembled there is a current flow from screw head to one of the other earth points on the guitar.

I used two rolls of the tape and, at less than £2.00, it worked out much cheaper than I’d expected.

Shaftesbury Les Paul: Applying headstock logos

By this morning, all of the materials for creating the headstock logo had arrived so I set to it.

First, finishing off and tidying up the logo design I was going to use.

I then printed this onto the water-slide decal paper.

Coloured the lettering in with the gold and silver inks.

I left them to dry for an hour, trimmed them to size and dropped them into luke-warm water.

These were carefully applied to the lightly sanded headstock and left to dry.

A light coat of lacquer.

This was followed by three heavier coats, each of which rubbed down with well soaked 1200 grit wet and dry paper. Here’s the headstock just prior to the final coat.

And following the last coat of lacquer.

That brings me to the end of the painting phase of the project. There are a few flaws, but loads fewer than I expected there to be. All in all I’m delighted with the result. All that remains is to store the neck away with the body for a couple of weeks and then finish off with a light rub down with 2000 grit wet and dry, T-Cut and a final polish. That’ll just leave assembly, wiring and the setup.

Shaftesbury Les Paul: Logo for the vibrato

When I had a test dry fit of some of the components at the weekend I noticed that the unbranded Bigsby style vibrato has a space where the logo would normally appear. This got me thinking… I set to with Inkscape and The GIMP to see if I could come up with something that I could print on to water-slide transfers and fill the hole. There are the two designs I’ve come up. The first is somewhat hubristic. The second, and probably my favourite, is dedicated to the fine folk at the Six String Bliss forum, whose own guitar refinishing projects inspired me to take on this job in the first place.

I also spent a minute or two properly sorting out the jack socket. Many guitars I’ve seen have the socket bolted tight into the plate, meaning that the shank of the socket sticks out. This sort of annoyed me and struck me as easily damaged if it gets a knock. I tracked down a second nut to place at the rear of the plate, ensuring the face of the jack socket aligns perfectly.

Of course, none of this really matters, but I’m desperately finding small finishing jobs to fill the next three weeks, whilst the lacquer hardens to the point where I can start the cut and polish. Better to harness my impatient nature, rather than set it free on soft lacquer!

[update 1st Sept, 22:25]

Water-slide transfer paper arrived today, so have given it a go. Pleased with the result!

Shaftesbury Les Paul: Cleaning the old parts

There are very few parts from the old guitar that are going to be reused, but the ones that are, if only temporarily, need to get cleaned up ready to go back in. The only old parts I’m going to reuse are:

  • The neck plate and neck screws – The plate gets a bit of a polish with brasso and, whilst it has lost most of the original plating, has come up OK. The screws will be a different matter, especially the two I used for securing the 2″x1″ to the body which are now well primered, painted and lacquered. If only I’d been thinking ahead I could have used something else or at least masked them off. I’ll drop these into paint stripper and then mount them in the drill and run them up against some 600 and 1200 grit wet and dry, which should return a shine to the heads;
  • The bridge pickup and pickup ring – Neither of these will make it into the final build but will just be temporary fitments until Searcy String Works are back up and running and I can get one of Clint’s hand-wound specials dropped in there with a new cream ring. The pickup ring was washed in warm soapy water and then left to dry. The pickup was tested and then given a good going over with brasso;
  • The pots and capacitor – I’ll test the pots before they go in and clean up the old tarnished solder, but they were all working fine before the strip down and so I’ll just more or less leave them as they are.
  • The cavity covers – They’re already in pretty decent condition. They have a couple of light scratches but I’ll have a go at polishing them out with the rubbing compound;
  • And that’s it. Aside from the neck and body, everything else going on the guitar is new.

Here’s the pickup before cleaning.

…and again, with the other parts after a quick clean.

Shaftesbury Les Paul: After the lacquer

I’m delighted with how things have turned out now that the lacquer has had a chance to harden. It is already a glossier finish than I had hoped for and I haven’t had a go at it with the finishing compound and polish. It’ll get stored away until weekend of 25th/26th Sept. The waiting is going to be the most difficult part of this whole job!

Just to satisfy my impatient streak, I popped on a couple of the key parts, just to see how it looked and for a couple of quick pictures.