Last week we talked about custom finishes using hydro dipping or pattern water immersion as a couple of methods for custom graphics other than direct spray painting. Today we will go over the steps used for hydro dipping using paints on the water surface to create a swirl or marble like appearance on the instrument. As stated in Part 1, there are some steps needed to prep the desired graphic after removing all the parts of the instrument. Be sure to organize and sort individual parts so that they do not go missing or worse get mixed up with other parts. So here we go!
- To paint over the original finish, first fill chips and gouges on the surface with auto body filler if needed (if not, do not worry about this step). Then lightly sand the whole surface to an even, dull finish with 700-800 grit sandpaper. This will allows the new paint to adhere. Glossy surfaces do not hold a top coat, and tend to chip or scratch easily.
- Let fillers dry for at least 24 hours. They can produce gas causing bubbles if you paint over them right away.
- Thoroughly clean the body down with turpentine to remove grease, fingerprints, and other things left over. Dry completely before painting.
- Use painters tape to cover anything you do not want painted. You can leave this on till after its all done. Do not use an undercoat. Modern acrylic primer spray paint has the same formula as topcoats. Finishing paints have gotten past needing an undercoat to grip the surface. Just prep well and spray your color/s. Color is preference and some colors may accent better than others depending on the pattern. Experimentation is key so you will have to practice with scrap lumber to see how this pans out to find a combination that will work for you.
- Now fill a large container with water at about room temperature. I used a large garbage can lined with 2 large plastic bags to hold the tap water. Be sure that there is enough height to submerse the body with a few inches of extra space. We will get to the reason in a sec.
- Bolt a scrap neck or suitably sized piece of wood to the body and clamp it to the neck-pocket area (do this before the next step). This keeps paint or graphic from settling there! Even a thin coat can skew neck alignment and that would suck.
- While water is completely still, apply desired paints to water surface one color at a time. There is no limit on how many colors to use, so be bold and experiment. Spray cans can be directly sprayed on the surface of the water or can be “pooled” into the cap or a disposable cup. Some paints are not in a spray can and using a straw like a dropper can be applied on the water surface. The latter method provides a more solid color application.
- I am using different spray paints which do not mix with the water and keeps from diluting the color. Ready your colors and begin adding one color at a time by pouring small amounts. Keep adding certain colors to maintain a more consistent color theme. Eventually you will see what the “pattern” will look like.
- The colors will start to become “tacky” on the surface and will develope a film after a couple of minutes. After that, you can swirl the colors with a pencil or pen in the water for the swirl effect. Once your happy, its time to dip in!
- When dipping try to move the body slowly into the bucket. There is no wrong way other than dropping the body (then you would have to start all over, and that would suck). The paint will adhere to the body the way you dip. If you want zig zags, move the body side to side slowly while dipping. If you want the random swirl, slow dip without the side to side motion, the choice is up to you and again experiment with scrap lumber so you can find the right balance. Both achieve professional looking results. Same methods applies if you are doing the headstock.
- Once submerged the lingering paint will try to resettle to the center. Using news paper or (anything really), agitate the water and while agitated (the water, not you), pull the body out of the tub. Result should be the newly painted body. Do not wipe dry as the paint is still needing to dry. Allow a few hours for it to dry.
- Apply a layer of clear coat evenly over the surface. Be sure that whatever clear you use will work for the environment. Outdoor type clears work for things that need durability. Any standard wood clear will work as no one play guitar in the direct rain! Every clear coat is different and can affect over all tone if too applied too thick. I am going to do a couple coats as to not affect tone with a super thin coat and polish to a satin shine for a more natural marble look. Apply one coat at a time letting the previous one dry first before reapplying. Some sanding may be needed to help get to the glass like gloss and applying coats need to be scuffed up. 2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper will help adhere the newer coats. Be sure to read up on the best way to get your desired finish as every clear works differently! Be that Boss.
- When you have finished clearing, polishing (if you wanted a glossy finish) and drying, you can now put the axe back together and wail on your instrument that you have patiently been waiting or to be done. Now it will look and sound the way you want it
This method of hydro dipping paint on water surface is what I happened to do on the guitar. While there are some great graphics out there, I thought the paint would provide a more organic and original look to the guitar. Get out there, educate your self, and experiment to find your finish. I will probably do another so if it happens, you guys will be in the know! Be bold and as always, play well and play on from us here at Ant Hill Music.