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Author Topic: Bettering a Beater  (Read 8583 times)
BenF
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« on: January 15, 2011, 04:42:18 PM »

I have a Fender beater, a DG21S.  It has a solid sitka top, and laminate rosewood back and sides.  I've posted about it before, but am now spending a few bucks on making it servicable.

It is getting new tuners (thanks to Ducktrapper for his help here), a bone saddle, new bridge pins, and some good strings.  

What else can I do.  The nut is plastic, but is not a problem.  It actually plays beautifully, just the tone is pretty thin for a dred.  It has a proper 'dipped in plastic' finish on it.  Can I do anything to improve that?  

Also, what would be the best method to 'satin' the sticky gloss finish on the neck?  steel wool, sandpaper???  I know nothing about finishes.

Any advice to get this thing singing better would be much appreciated.

Ben
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Ben
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« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2011, 04:55:39 PM »

Ben 0000 steel wool will satin the neck finish.You will need to repeat the process about every 6 months or so but no big deal.Each time you steel wool it it will only remove a very small amount.As for the other stuff try different strings and guage's till you get what your looking for.The only way to remove the original finish to thin it is to remove it completely and spray on a new finish.Which I hate to say either will or willnot help it.Any help you need just let me know.
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BenF
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« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2011, 04:59:37 PM »

Cheers Rob.  I'll just do the neck then.  I think that will make it much more playable.
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Ben
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« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2011, 05:54:53 PM »

Ben, one of my first acoustic guitars was a Fender model.  No matter what I did to it I could never make it "ring" or have any sort of decent voice (to my ears).  I don't remember what model it was.  It wasn't very expensive.   But for as a beater to take camping and such it worked just fine.   As you say,  a little thin in the tone dept.
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BenF
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« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2011, 06:02:39 PM »

Lynn, the DG21 is an all laminate version, which I have played 2 of. Mine is, in it's favour, vastly superior to both of them in tone. I guess the solid top does make a big difference. Perhaps you had an all laminate one. I recall it being close to £300 when I got it, so far from cheap for a student.  Icant help but feel it has more in it, if that makes sense.

It has a poor plastic saddle, loose fitting bridge pins and badly cut bridge pin holes. I suspect these improvements will make a positive impact on tone.
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Ben
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« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2011, 06:21:10 PM »

  Ben there is a way to improve it, but it is tedious. You strip the plastic off the guitar completely. Along the way you will probably melt some of the binding and lose the pick guard. (which I would remove anyway) You would have to buy some good stripper, good gloves, lots of clean up rags and a very good respirator. Once you have all the old gunk off, you can lightly sand the top down a little (not too far, being a laminate the grain under the top layer runs the other way).

  Then you can refinish with Tung oil. Which is a long slow process that takes about a week, BUT the tone will be very warm and the finish will look like french polish. If the wood hiding under all the stain is nice you may have a very pretty guitar on your hands, that sounds fine as well.

   If you really want to do this let me know and I can help with some tricks and some mistakes I learned from. I have an old Yamaha dread that I did this to and it sounds way cool now as well as looks way better. The back and sides are downright pretty. It had that old dark stain on it and I just let the mahogany show through. The top was more of a challenge and I gave it an aged toner look. I also changed the headstock shape a little.

   This was my first major guitar project 3 years or so ago I think. It has a thousand nicks and scratches on it, as well as names written into the top, so it was a challenge. In the end it became a family guitar that means something to us.

   Maybe later I'll post a pic of it.

btw Fender has made very few acoustic guitars that were much to talk about. Mostly they have sold their LOGO to others and were not involved at all in the build.

   I just noticed it has a solid top. That makes it easier to thin it down a little and get a bit more resonance. (at least that's what happened in my case)
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« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2011, 06:39:21 PM »

Thanks Danny. I don't think it's worth stripping the finish. I don't have a workshop space, so I do work in my living room. Such work, with two asthmatic kids, and myself suffering from some respiratory issues just now, I think it would be silly.

I like the idea of changing the headstock shape though. It's a horrible shape just now. I might round it off like a larrivee.  There are loads of dings in the back of the headstock that this would get rid of.

If I keep the finish, and amend the headstock, what is best for touching up the finish? Similarly, can I polish out scratches with anything?  I really know nothing about finishes at all.

Would some before pics be useful?
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Ben
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« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2011, 08:36:25 PM »

Right, here are some pics.  The old pickguard was peeling off, so i took it off ages ago, and put a new one on that I had anyway (my FIII came with clear and tortoise).  The tan line has faded a lot, and will go completely in time.

As you will see, its not a badlooking guitar.  It is well put together, except for the cheapest of cheap parts (i.e. tuners, saddle, pins). 

The picture of the back shows the scratches I would love to get rid of, but I don't know where to start with that.  Any advice would be much appreciated.



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Ben
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« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2011, 08:38:05 PM »

a few more

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Ben
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« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2011, 08:40:18 PM »

last three

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Ben
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« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2011, 09:16:23 PM »

Thanks Danny. I don't think it's worth stripping the finish. I don't have a workshop space, so I do work in my living room. Such work, with two asthmatic kids, and myself suffering from some respiratory issues just now, I think it would be silly.

I like the idea of changing the headstock shape though. It's a horrible shape just now. I might round it off like a larrivee.  There are loads of dings in the back of the headstock that this would get rid of.

If I keep the finish, and amend the headstock, what is best for touching up the finish? Similarly, can I polish out scratches with anything?  I really know nothing about finishes at all.

Would some before pics be useful?
  Lots of finishes and lots of ways to remove scratches. My old 66 Gibson had so many alligator crazes that it looked pitiful and some of them were chipping off. So I steel wooled it down to a super thin finish and then polished it out with compound and Mcquires. Also I just used amber pre-mixed shellac to cover the areas where the nitro had chipped out. It came out very nice looking and was protected from further damage. The finish was super thin after that though, so I didn't let kids play it anymore. I had a Gibson collector at my house before I sold that one and he was very interested in how I did that one.

   Sorry about the story. btw I would not do that to a rare Gibson. Those you just leave alone or you ruin the value when you refinish anything.

 About your guitar though, the process can be similar. I use a synthetic wool now instead of steel wool. But steel wool still would work.
  First odf all any deep scratches will need to be drop filled with crazy glue. Even large chips of finish can be replace with it eventually. The real big chips of finish I have filled with clear "top coat" automotive finish. You can get a very small touch up bottle of this that has the brush in the bottle. It will cure to a very hard finish and works better for larger chips. Also "gap filling" superglue works, but it doesn't dry so well sometimes and needs to be fresh when used.

   Once you fill all the scratches and chip outs and they are dry and hard you can make a small scraper out of a razor blade and some cellophane tape. You turn the edge of the razor to make a hook and the tape will lift the blade off the top of the finish slightly. The middle of the blade is left uncovered to scrape off the excess crazy glue.

   Wet sanding is probably best next. There is a dry sand method cutting small strips of progressively finer paper and lightly reducing the crazy glue fill in finish. I use "Micro-mesh" for this. And use it after the next step as well to touch up areas that are not coming out just right.

You can skip the above steps and start with whats next and it will reduce a lot of visible scratches

    Next you can 000 steel wool the entire back or just the area you want to remove scratches from.
Any scratch that you feel with your finger nail has to be reduced before it will disappear.
In the end of the steel wool process I would switch to 0000-synthetic wool and polish out the whole back or sides etc. 0000 wont' leave bad scratches if it is not picking up something that would scrape the finish, due to being lodged in the wool.
    Next if you are happy with the appearance so far you can compound out the sanding scratches. 3M makes a silicone free medium cut that will get you started and then proceed with other polishing/buffing liquids until you achieve the finish desirable and finish out with a swirl remover or even better "Micro-Gloss".
    Micro-Gloss has one micron abrasives that really remove any haze or fine Micro-Mesh scratches.

    Turtle wax makes silicone free compound polish that can be bought at an auto parts store that will work fairly well.


    I think I can forward some of this from the internet when you decide to get started. Some articles have pictures as well, which help out a lot.
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BenF
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« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2011, 09:25:16 PM »

Thanks Danny, that is really really helpful.

I have much of the stuff i need for the replacing parts stuff now ordered.  Duck is sorting me out with a set of Ping tuners, I have a new saddle plank, sand paper (every grade imaginable) and some OOOO steel wool for the neck.  There is a decent auto parts store in the town, so I'll have a look in there next week for silicone free polishing stuf.

I think this is going to be a fun project.

Cheers again.
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Ben
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« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2011, 09:27:20 PM »

  If the scratches are deep get some crazy glue and single edge razors blades. If you go that way I'll find the article to email you.
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« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2011, 10:26:13 PM »

Ok, so if I go this route, I guess it thins the finish. If I am slightly more aggressive with the first stages of wet sanding, surely I will thin the finish further, thereby reducing it's deathlike grip on all tone wishing to vibrate in the wood.  But I guess it would be impossible to do this evenly across the guitar?? The aim here is purely to make it look good, right?

To improve tone, you would have to strip it and refinish it 'properly' with a varnish/shellac type finish, which would be pretty pointless on a laminate guitar.

Since I have limited funds/equipment, I wonder what the difference is between steel wool and fine wet and dry sandpaper. Could I fill the scratches, sand with progressively finer sandpaper across the back (400-800-1200-1500-2000 grit) and then finish with the OOOO steel wool I have on order, then polish with turtle wax?

Thanks for your help.  Looking forward to this now.
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Ben
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« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2011, 10:34:24 PM »

"Since I have limited funds/equipment, I wonder what the difference is between steel wool and fine wet and dry sandpaper. Could I fill the scratches, sand with progressively finer sandpaper across the back (400-800-1200-1500-2000 grit) and then finish with the OOOO steel wool I have on order, then polish with turtle wax?"

                                          YUP... and you can thin it somewhat evenly with a flat rubber sanding block.
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« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2011, 10:38:46 PM »

Perfect, I'm with you now. The back is a mess of scratches, so if I do it and it turns out good, I can do the top too, as an attempt to open some more tone out.  If I make a mess of the back, it's no biggie, and I'll leave the top as is.

Thanks again Danny, appreciate it.
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Ben
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« Reply #16 on: January 15, 2011, 10:45:36 PM »

  Let me know the messes you get into. I may have some fixes as you go.
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« Reply #17 on: January 15, 2011, 10:47:20 PM »

  Let me know the messes you get into. I may have some fixes as you go.

Ha ha, you know me well!!

What's the P-09 #3 (really) in your signature? I'm stumped???
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Ben
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« Reply #18 on: January 16, 2011, 12:02:50 AM »

Ben, danny has given you great information. The only thing I would add is when it comes time to polish it out after the steel wool step, if there is anyway you can obtain (beg borrow or steal) a 6" orbital hand sander with a Velcro pad (hook)    (you can order 6" buffing pads with Velcro backing (loop)).  The vibrations from using this to polish with will probably do more to open up your guitar than removing the finish. You can pm me if you want details. Also you don't need a super expensive sander to do this work, just one with the hook and loop disk for attaching sanding or polishing pads.
This is the model I have.
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« Reply #19 on: January 16, 2011, 12:12:38 AM »

I could probably borrow one. I have an orbital car polisher that I've never used. Got it as a free gift years ago for buying something else. Can't even remember what now???

I guess that would do a similar thing, albeit probably slower.

Thanks for the input.
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Ben
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