Thursday, December 10, 2009

KTM-SV - The Bee's Knees

As I'd hoped, the top coats of Grafted Coatings' KTM-SV went onto my OM beautifully, particularly after I'd added some distilled water to the finish prior to spraying. The advice I'd read suggested adding 1 ounce of distilled water to a quart of finish which equates to around 30ml for us metric types. I used approximately half of my quart tin which should leave enough for the Australian Blackwood/Sitka Spruce triple-0 waiting in the finishing queue.

Other than it being an opportunity to become better acquainted with my spray equipment, I learned that acceptable results are probably more likely when the temperature is lower and the humidity higher than it was on my first day of spraying. With the temperature climbing to around 35C through the day and the relative humidity sitting on 20%, I was probably foolish to have proceeded and it was difficult to achieve the wet coats I wanted. I'm sure my inexperience played a large part in the less than perfect results I had with the initial coats too. Although it didn't dry with the gritty appearance that suggests that the finish has dried en-route, between the spray nozzle and the guitar, I suspect it was dry very shortly thereafter, before it had a chance to self-level completely. As a result, some "orange peel" was evident after the first couple of coats. With more practice, the addition of the distilled water and cooler, more humid weather on the second day of spraying, however, I was pretty happy with the appearance of the later coats straight off the gun.

I waited a couple of days to level sand and a few more days before attempting to polish out the finish. Without a buffing wheel at my disposal I use a random orbital sander and Surbuf polishing pads purchased from Lee Valley Tools in the U.S. The polishing compounds I used are made by Autoglym and are branded 03B Fine Abrasive and 02B Ultrafine Renovator. They replace the Meguiar's products I used previously which I found unsatisfactory for my purposes. After a week, the finish on this guitar is HARD, and it's a slow but satisfying process sanding through the grits then rubbing out to a high gloss with the polishing compounds. Perhaps as I hone my skills I'll think about building a buffing wheel, but I feel there's less chance of buffing through to the wood with my current method, which is certainly slower but much less prone to burn-through.

Having progressed this far, I'm increasingly confident that the KTM-SV is the safe, environmentally-friendly finish I've been looking for. Those who've used it for some time and have had instruments out in the real world for two or three years have reported no issues with it which strengthens my belief that this is the ultimate finish for the the health-conscious amateur luthier with limited resources and a less than ideal working environment. For an even more low-tech approach, I understand it can be brushed on which makes this product suitable for even the rawest of beginners.

I'll post glamour shots soon - minus the scantily-clad model - when the guitar is strung up and ready for delivery!