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Buffed Bods

 With enough lacquer applied and enough time for it all to dry sufficiently (at least 3 weeks), it's time to finally buff out the finishes on the guitar bodies.

One small problem I had - no buffer.  It can be done by hand, sanding using finer and finer grits until you reach a point where you can use a polishing wheel, like perhaps a lambs' wool bonnet or foam pad for my DA.  The process is fairly labor intensive, but certainly doable.  I had another idea...

About 10-15 years ago, I built my own drum sander.  I didn't know if I wanted to spend too much on a factory unit (besides not having enough cash to do so at the time), so it was a good way to see if I would actually use one enough to warrant purchasing one.   It worked well enough, I used it for 4 or 5 years - enough to wear through the formica top sliding things under the drum to the point it needed replacing.  I replaced it with a Performax 22-44 drum sander.  I tore apart the old sander and was never quite sure what I was going to do with the drum: 

Many luthiers use a series of 12" cotton buffing wheels charged with a dry compound.  The buffing arbors sold for this purpose (and the subsequent buffing wheels) usually use a 3/4" rod as their base.  It just so happens that's what I used for the drum - so, I cut the plywood drum off of the rod:

 The rod already had keyway slots cut into it (by a friend), so mounting the pulley would be simple.  After that I got a hold of a 3/4"die and put some threads on one end to mount the wheels.  I picked up a couple arbor plates from LMII for the job and ordered some cotton buffing wheels.  All I needed was a motor to run the affair.  The 3 hp motor I had used for the drum sander would have worked, but was actually too powerful...  An arbor like this works best with about a 1/4 hp motor, that way the buffs can drag down the motor rather than power through - which could burn through the lacquer.

The only 1/4 hp motor I have on hand is this old warhorse:

 It's an old Wagner Electric repulsion-induction motor (no capacitor), complete with oil ports for the bearings.  It's probably 60 years old, and may be even older.  I got it out of a pile of motors dad had years ago, I think he said it originally powered a band saw of some sort.  I cleaned it up, re-oiled the bearings and pressed it back into service.

 It's a wonderful old motor, it works perfectly.  I now have a buffer setup - at least for the time being.  I'll have to make a more permanent assembly at some point, but for now, this works.

For the guitar bodies, I started off by wet-sanding the finishes to remove the orange peel:

 I worked up through the grits, starting at 600 and going up through 1500.  I worked until there was a nice even sheen on all faces, being careful not to cut through the finish, especially at the edges.

 Then it was over to my "new" buffer with each body.  With each I started with Menzerna "Fine" grit compound, followed by "Extra Fine", then finally used a Meguiar's swirl remover.

 Each grit got its own wheel, so not to cross-contaminate.  After all was finished, I polished each with paste wax.

 For the life of me, I can't take a decent photo of the black body.  Here's as good of a one as I've been able to get it:




 Next up is to install nuts, then sand and polish the necks and install them.  Then I can install the hardware and string these up....




Morn'n Leif,
You are doing a fantastic job on those guitars. Equally impressive is how you go about getting it done with what ever seems to be just laying around. Reminds me a lot of how my Dad built his little sawmills. I remember seeing lots of car parts such as transmissions and rearends and even an old gas engine out of a 1936 Chevy that he wrecked. He gutted that old car and used anything that wasn't bent. 
How many mils thick would you say the Lacquer is on your guitar bodies? Being able to do all that sanding and polishing indicates how tough Lacquer actually is. 
Thanks for posting your progress. I'm really enjoying it. 


Thanks, Marv!

I wouldn't even hazard a guess on the thickness of the finish... I know they shoot for 40 mils or so, I would imagine mine would be north of there as I've got several more coats on it than an experienced finisher might - but I really have no idea.

As to my working with whatever I have handy - I'm not as bad as some, but - I grew up 100 miles from anywhere without a great deal of money and in that environment you always had to make due with what you had...  I guess its kinda stuck with me over the years.

It's interesting you should bring up a 1936 Chevy... my grandparents had one, that dad and my brother subsequently restored back in the early 1980's.  I think my nephew has it these days - it's a cool old car.  I think it was 1936 that motor above might date to, as (I think) the band saw dad was talking about was the one and only power tool my great grandfather ever used, and I believe this motor might have been from it  - which would have been right around 1936 (I'm not sure, though - it might have been something entirely different and up to 15 years later, and I have no real way of knowing anymore).  1936, however, seems to have been a watershed year for many things...

Thanks for posting!