Thursday, January 14, 2010

In Pursuit of a Glossy Finish

Without access to a buffing wheel, it's a case of gritting my teeth and rubbing out the finish on this guitar using more tedious methods. It's a good workout if nothing else!

I was careful to level the finish thoroughly as the spraying of the 12 top-coats proceeded. As a result, it was a relatively easy task to carry out the final levelling with 800-grit wet-or-dry paper and water once the finish had been allowed to cure for a few days. To allow for the curvature of the guitar's surfaces - including the domed top and back plates - I wrap my abrasive paper around a small rectangle of cork floor tile. The cork provides a solid backing for the paper but has just enough flex to conform to the curves. I've had better results since I began sanding with the grain, the significance of which is that by sanding in one direction, the sanding scratches seem more easily removed by the grade of paper to follow.

Other water-based finish products require that mineral spirits (turpentine) be used when wet sanding, however, I detest turpentine for any application and it's a blessing that KTM-SV can be safely wet-sanded using water as the lubricant, - the proviso being that it's been given time to cure. It's become very clear to me that a little extra time spent sanding thoroughly through 800, 1200, 1500 and 2000 grit papers to remove sanding scratches before the polishing compounds are brought into play makes a high gloss much, much easier to achieve. If you noticed the large gap between 800 and 1200, it's only because my usual local sources seem to have run out of 1000-grit paper temporarily. Sanding is a tedious task, but I found that reaching for the polishing compounds too soon invariably saw me return to wet-sanding soon afterwards when polishing revealed remnant sanding scratches - there are NO short-cuts!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I use Autoglym's 03B Fine Abrasive and 02B Ultrafine Renovator once I'm done with sanding. With limited experience with sprayed finishes, I'm still pretty tentative when it comes to levelling and polishing for fear of rubbing through the layers of finish to the wood and, although a random-orbital sander equipped with hook-and-loop Surbuf pads helps with the polishing to a degree, I've been careful to stay away from the perimeter of the guitar's top and back plates as well as the edge of the soundhole, the area of the side soundport and the cutaway region while using it. As a result, I'm left with the option of a cork-backed sanding block wrapped with a polishing cloth to rub out these areas. It's not a difficult job, but patience and persistence are valuable assets - ones I wish I had in greater measure!

Click on any of the photos for a larger view.