Thursday, July 30, 2015

Another Olympic White Strat Relic

Just finished up this beautiful guitar - came out better than I expected. Looks and plays amazing with Bare Knuckle Irish Tour Pickups. The guitar was stripped to bare wood, re-shaped to early 19060's body contours and re-finished in Nitro Olympic White. The body was then aged for 15 hours under UVB light to age the finish to the yellow/amber look of vintage guitars. Finish checking and wear patterns were applied prior to ageing the finish. It turned out to be a very convincing relic job.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Olympic White Strat Body Relic

I have been working on this for a while now - a Customer sent his Tobacco Sunburst Strat in for a re-spray and relic job. I have photographed much of the process (I have left out a few "trade secrets"..)
The guitar started life as a standard Strat with the really thick modern polyester finish:

Stripping off this finish takes elbow grease and a heat gun. I have tried all available paint strippers (even aircraft stripper) with no luck - I find the only way to remove this modern finish is with a good quality heat gun, taking your time not to scorch the wood:

Looks really rough right now but only the top coats have been removed - Fender seals the wood with a wickedly hard product as shown below:

Lots of hand sanding will get you back to bare wood, ready for a bit of Vintage Fender body shaping and some grain filling:

After a final sand to remove excess grain filler it's time for a coat of primer (hand flatting as needed):

Several coats of Olympic White Nitrocellulose are applied (hand flatting between every other coat):

Body now painted (sorry about the poor quality picture):

At this point I relic the body in accordance with the Customers instructions - I would call this one medium / heavy - The basic relicing has been roughed in, along with the aged hardware:

More work is done to smooth out some of the wear - then its time for my light box to blast the nitrocellulose with some UVB-313 light for 17 hours:

This gives a nice aged yellow finish to nitrocellulose - the finish checking applied earlier is also enhanced by this process:

To give us the final reliced Olympic White Stratocaster Body:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sky Art's Guitar Star Show in Cardiff

I am going to be at Sky Art's Guitar Star show in Cardiff on Thursday 9th April - it's being held at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Castle Grounds, Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3ER.

I am obviously not entering (for all who have heard me play will understand!) but I will be there with a few guitars from my collection on view for the production. There are two sessions - 1.00PM and 4.00PM - should be a great day out and lets hope to see some local talent (Dude! NO STAIRWAY!)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

New Light Box for Relicing Nitrocellulose Finishes

Just finished making this light box to relic nitro finishes on guitar bodys. The 2 fluorescent tube are specialized to output UVB light at 313nm - this is the band of light that ages nitrocellulose to that nice vintage amber. Its my first try at this technique but from all my research its the way to go - much more authentic than applying a slight amber tint over existing finishes.

The guitar will be featured in a long post I am putting together detailing the relicing process. I am keeping a few secrets to myself though.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Used Guitar Buying Guide

What to look for when buying a Used Guitar
When it comes to buying a used (or sometimes new) electric or acoustic guitar, especially if you are a beginner you want to get a guitar that is not only right for you in terms of look etc. but also that it does not have any issues that may not only impair its playability, but also not have any hidden issues that may be expensive to correct.
Most experienced guitar players know what to look for when buying a used guitar, but beginner guitar buyers run the risk of making a bad purchase if they don’t know what to look for
Used guitars for sale in your local music shop (i.e. My Shop!) tend to be far less risky than buying a used guitar from a stranger or online auction or website. Ebay can be risky but with the joint eBay/PayPal buyer protection you are pretty well covered – just make sure the seller has a decent amount of feedback. I personally would never buy on eBay if the seller has less than 50 feedback with a score of 98% +
When buying from strangers via online websites like or via Forums, Facebook etc. it is more risky as once you have handed over your hard earned cash, that’s it – no comebacks, no warranty etc. There are many honest people out there selling good used electric guitars, there are many who aren’t so honest. If you are buying a used electric guitar in person, or have just received your guitar from an online auction please use the following tips to evaluate the guitar and hopefully decrease the chances of making a bad purchasing decision.
Please keep in mind that some problems like action, intonation, neck relief issues will occur in every guitar at some point. Environmental conditions like heat, cold and humidity will affect your guitar. Fortunately these issues can almost always be corrected with a few tweaks if you know what you are doing, or just get it set up by a professional. I believe that any time you buy a used electric or acoustic guitar, it’s a good idea to have it serviced.

Here we go – Hopefully I have not missed anything out.

Lets start at the top and work our way down:

Check the tuners are working correctly – check the tuning pegs are straight. Also take a look on the back of the headstock for any holes which will indicate that the original tuners have been changed (this can be a good thing if the stock tuners were inferior).

Check the nut for correct placement – it should fit nice and tight. The nut slots should be clean and spaced correctly. Check that the two outer E strings are spaced comfortably from the edge of the fretboard. The most important thing is to check that the slots have be cut to the correct depth. Too high and you will have intonation issues (pressing the strings too hard to fret the note will bend the string sharp). If the slots are too deep you will have string buzz on open strings.

Check the nut slot depths quickly fret each string on the 3rd fret and then while still fretting, press the string down lightly onto the 1st fret – there should be a very small gap between the top of the fret and the string. If the string is touching then the slot is too deep – if there is a gap larger than a thin plectrum then the slot is too shallow. Shallow slots can be fixed – deep slots will require a new nut, or apply a shim under the existing nut to get more height.
Check the neck for cracks, especially along the neck and the area between the neck and the head, which is the weakest spot on an electric guitar – this is especially important for Les Paul style guitars or guitars that have a similar style headstock with the back angle. See the picture for an example

Cracks in the finish are cosmetic and are not a big concern unless you find them too unsightly. Structural cracks could result in the neck completely breaking. Structural cracks tend to follow the grain of the wood. Scratches, dents and wear to the finish are normal if it’s a used guitar.
Check the guitar’s neck to make sure it isn’t warped or bowed. The way to do this is to hold the guitar at eye-level, once with the guitar’s body closest to you and again with the neck head closest to you - look down either side of the neck. The neck should be straight. The neck may be slightly bowed or warped, so adjusting the truss rod should fix the problem, but not always. If the warping or bowing is really bad and has been that way for some time the neck may need to be replaced.

Check the frets for wear – a little bit of fret wear is going to be there if it’s a used guitar. Just make sure the frets still have plenty of height left as excessive wear can always be stoned out (about £25 in a repair shop). Also check the fretboard and inlays. In rosewood/ebony boards on older/heavily played guitars you may find grooves worn into the fretboard – especially the first 5-7 frets and sometimes 12-15. This is not going to affect the playability too much but is a sure sign of a heavily played guitar. On maple fretboards this wear can go down to the bare wood (also the edges of the fretboard) If you find this unsightly the fix can be expensive as the job involves stripping the old finish, cleaning out the dirt, and reapplying finish.

Inlays should be flush with the fretboard although most will be slightly raised. Also check the fret ends – you should not be able to feel them too much unless they are jumbo – just check for sharp edges. Sharp edges are common on older guitars with rosewood/ebony boards. The wood has dried out over time leaving the fret ends slightly exposed. A good lemon oil treatment and some fret end filing will cure this issue. A problem I have found on many used and believe it or not new guitars is loose fret ends – you need a good eye to check for this although the best way is a fretting hammer (any small hammer will do if you are careful). Using the hammer, LIGHTLY tap each fret end – it should have a nice solid sound – if you tap one and it sounds muted compared to the others, than it’s a loose fret/fret-end. This can be repaired but will add to the cost of getting the guitar to play correctly. Ever played a guitar that gets the E string caught under the fret ends?

Check the intonation. This can be difficult for beginner guitar players. Play a harmonic at the 12 fret and then on the same string, play the note at the 12 fret and compare. If one sounds higher or lower than the other, the intonation is off. Do this for every string – it is best to use a guitar tuner to compare. Intonation is an easy fix on most guitars although I have often seen guitars from some well-known manufacturers that have incorrectly positioned bridges which make it impossible to intonate correctly. Also acoustic guitars may just have a straight saddle – you can swap it out for a compensated one to help with intonation.

Check the action. I measure a guitar’s action from the bottom of the string to the top of the fret at the 12th fret area using a string action gauge - you won’t be able to judge this with your eye, so just check the strings should do touch the frets, or they are so high it hurts your hand to fret the notes. Again, action can be fixed in most cases on electric guitars – but it may be more work that you think. Bolt-on necks may need to be shimmed to get better action (adding to the expense) Set necks cannot be shimmed so the only way to reduce action is via the bridge and truss rod adjustments.

The strings should not rattle, buzz, or mute when played, no matter if the guitar is plugged or unplugged. Guitars with a fretboard radius of less than 10” (especially 7.25”) will probably buzz when bending the E,B & G strings above the 12th fret – this can be fixed with a good setup.

Plug in the guitar to test the pick-ups and the pick-up selector switch as well as the tone and volume knobs. There shouldn’t be any pops or humming, nor should the sound cut in and out. A common problem is input jacks – they can go at any time on any guitar regardless of price etc. Its an easy fix – usually just a quick solder unless it’s a barrel style jack (popular on Ibanez) which will need to be replaced. Check that the electronics cavity is clean and the soldering looks professional and/or original.

Scratchy sounding pots can also be fixed in most cases – replacing pots in relatively inexpensive and a good upgrade for cheaper guitars.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK:Always research the make and model of the guitar you are looking to buy. Is it still made or has it been discontinued? Get the serial number and check it out on the manufacturers website. Check out customer reviews. Search e-bay (search for completed listings) You may see a few guitars advertised for much more money – remember a seller can ask what they like for a guitar – its value is what someone will actually pay for it. Gumtree, and other classified venues are good places to see if anyone else is selling the same make and model and for how much. This will help you decide if the seller’s asking price is too much (time to negotiate), too little (it does happen) or at market value.
Finally, remember used electric or acoustic guitars are going to show varying degrees of wear and may require minor or major adjustments. Hopefully this guide will help you make a more informed guitar purchase.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Guitars for Tygers of Pan Tang

I did a couple of guitars for Robb Weir a while ago and have finally gotten around to posting some pics. If you are not familiar with the Tygers of Pan Tang check out the website here

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hofner Verythin Fretboard - 2

Finished up restoring the fretboard on the Hofner. The inlay had shrunk and lifted, the rosewood had lots of wear, and the frets were lifting.

I resurfaced the rosewood and inlays and sorted out the frets with a bit of re-seating, filing, crowning and polishing. Finally some lemon oil and it looks brand new. Next step is the headstock and inlays- I will post some pic's and info in a few days.

Tim Ellis