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Spraying a Les Paul Junior Vintage Sunburst

The reason for doing this job was that I have not been able to find any other information about recreating this particular finish.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to examine a number of mid/late fifties Gibson guitars to see how they were painted and here I’ve attempted to re-create that using aerosols (of course!)

The first step in any finish is to sand the wood well, then fill the grain. I’m using Rustins grain filler but have darkened it by adding some burnt umber pigment to replicate the dark filler found on these guitars.

 

The trick to grain filling is to pack it well into the pores by applying with the grain then remove as much as possible from the surface by scraping across the grain. Hardened filler is very difficult to sand off, so it’s best to remove as much as possible from the surface.

Once the grain filler has been sanded smooth, the next step is sealing the wood. I like to quite a lot of sanding sealer on, then once dried overnight (or longer) sand it back good and smooth.

Once the sealer coat is good then the fun begins.

The base layer of the burst on the front is a bright yellow. I’ve used, appropriately enough, my Bright Yellow lacquer for this job. I masked everything but the face of the guitar and got a good few coats on there. Once dried, i feathered the edges at the edge radius, to give a nice smooth transition. Where I sanded through the sealer coat I applied more sealer. Once dry I masked the fretboard edges and face ready to spray the burst.

For the edge of the sunburst, I’ve used a colour very similar to my Tobacco Brown, but containing a touch more red to replicate the transition of the burst found on some fifties juniors. The actual colour seems to vary between original guitars from reddish to practically black.

Spraying vertically (or maybe outwards a little) leaves the sides almost untouched. The bass side of the neck heel gets a bit of brown and maybe this is why the heel of these guitars is almost always sprayed with this opaque brown. Or maybe it’s to hide a less than perfect neck joint. Either way, I did the same.

The back and sides of the body and the back of the neck are sprayed in a transparent brown. My Medium Brown is a good match.

The next step is to blacken the peghead face. I close masked the edges of the headstock and sprayed a few heavy coats of black. Where the masking tape peeled away slightly I scraped the edge to a nice clean line.

The final step is clear coating. I’m using a Vintage Amber Tinted lacquer to replicate years of aging.

I’ll let the lacquer harden for a week or two and then post pictures of the finished guitar.

 

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