Before spraying I sanded the neck again, checking that everything was clean and wiped over with a tack cloth to remove any dust. I then sprayed another couple of coats of lacquer to seal before moving on to the tinted coat.
You can spray with the neck hanging vertically, but I like to spray with it in a horizontal position. I spray the headstock face, sides and fretboard then flip the neck over to spray the back. It rests on the nut and last few frets so, exercising care, this can be done while the lacquer is still wet.
I used my Light Tint Gloss lacquer as I am trying to replicate a ’69 neck which tends not to yellow very much. I’ll be spraying the headstock face a darker tint later.The reason the for the colour difference is that in the late 60s Fender was moving towards a polyurethane finish which was cheaper to apply than nitrocellulose. Fender had also changed to using Meyercord Type C decals which were designed to be applied under the finish rather over the top as previously. Unfortunately for Fender, the decals were incompatible with the polyurethane so Fender had to retain a nitrocellulose finish on the headstock face over the decal. For this reason, although finish on the necks yellows very little, the headstock face does yellow to varying degrees as can be seen on vintage instruments from the late 60s and early 70s. Walter Trout‘s ’73 Stratocaster is an excellent example!
See Vintage Guitars Collector and search for “1968 Stratocaster specs”
Once I was happy with the colour, I sprayed several coats of Clear Gloss lacquer to build up finish thickness. I didn’t sand at all between coats as it isn’t necessary unless you get sags, or dust in the lacquer. I’ll flat sand at the end before buffing.
Because I’m trying to get as close to a ’69 neck as possible, I wanted my headstock logo to be spot on. Although I’m comfortable with “tribute” guitars, I don’t agree with unscrupulous people passing off replicas as the real deal. For this reason, although my logo is otherwise accurate, it contains a spoiler. On the ball end of the decal, where the Fender had the legend “Original Custom Body Patented” mine says “Obvious Custom Copy Pretend”.
The decal was supplied (like all computer printed decals) on a rectangle of decal paper so the first job was to cut it to shape. In the picture you can see my copy of The Fender Stratocaster by A. R. Duchossoir which I used as a reference.
When applying decals I always smear some diluted (about 25% in water) white PVA glue onto the area where it’s going to be applied. I’ve found that waterslide transfers fixed like this will always stay put, even if not lacquered over.
I floated the decal off the backing paper in a bowl of luke warm water and slid it into position. Although the decal was very thin, it seemed very tough and I was able to re-position it several times until I was happy without any fear that it would break apart or stretch.
Once I thought that the decal was in the right place (referring to Duchossoir) I dabbed it into position with kitchen roll, smoothing out any wrinkles and squeezing out air bubbles. I left it overnight before lacquering.
Next day, I used a damp kitchen roll to remove any PVA glue residue from the headstock then the decal was ready to be oversprayed. I masked the fretboard to avoid heavy overspray on the first few frets.
Enough lacquer needs to be applied to ensure that the finish thickness is greater than that of the decal, so that it can be flatted back without sanding the printed surface.
It’s often a good idea to spray a few light coats first to avoid wetting the decal too much and after that, heavier coats are okay. When I’m doing this job I normally leave the neck outside and every half an hour or so spray another heavy-ish coat of clear lacquer. I check for dust between coats and wipe with a tack cloth if necessary to minimise any contamination. I think I applied about ten heavy (quite wet) coats in total until I was happy that the lacquer was thick enough.
I then left it for a week for the lacquer to harden and shrink back before the next step.
Before the tinted lacquer is sprayed, the headstock face should be levelled as there will be a raised area where the decal adds thickness.
I block sanded with P400 wet or dry paper, using some water as lubricant. The water has a little washing-up liquid added to help avoid clogging the paper.
I took care not to get water in the tuner holes as this can cause the wood to swell. Any water that did get in the holes was taken out quickly with kitchen roll.
I sanded carefully until no shiny spots were left, so I knew that the headstock was completely flat. You can see in the next picture the halfway point where the high spots have been flatted but the low spots as yet untouched.
Once the headstock face is flat the tinted lacquer can be sprayed. I gave it a few light coats of my Tinted Gloss lacquer. You can see the contrast with the much lighter fretboard. I didn’t worry about getting overspray on the edges of the headstock as this is all historically accurate!
You can spray as much tint as you like (cf Walter Trout’s guitar) but I didn’t want to over do it so went for a medium yellowing.
The next job is to give the headstock a few more coats of Clear Gloss lacquer, then leaving another week before final flat sand and buffing.
Before the final polish however it will be time to dress the frets. To be continued…!