Brian May Brian May Red Special Replica Build Part 53: Finishing Progress

I grain-filled and stained the neck and body of my Brian May Red Special replica guitar in fourth quarter 2018. After grain filling, the veneer turned out to be a rich chestnut brown hue so I revised my plan to stain with an 80:20 mix of red and brown Rustins mahogany wood stains and used 100% red mahogany Rustins wood stain to offset the brown colour. I did not abrade the veneer surface after grain filling to avoid sanding through the very thin (3/128″, 0.6 mm) marquetry veneer surface.

Before working on the body, I applied layers of Rustins Plastic Coating (RPC) to the neck and fretboard beginning on 5th January 2019. Although this was generally satisfactory, I experienced some setbacks including an inadvertent stripping of some lacquer layers when removing masking tape and some minor sand-through to the wood. I used two workarounds to rectify this including tinting of an aliquot of RPC using mahogany spirit power dye in the former case and re-staining the wood and re-lacquering in the latter. I also experienced difficulties retaining the black paint on the top edge of the fretboard and in retrospect, I wondered if a pre-stain of the oak with a compatible black dye (which absorbs into the wood rather than adsorbs to the surface) might have helped alleviate this issue.

I posted an article about the precautions to exercise when applying RPC. The method I deployed was to apply one coat and allow it to dry for several hours at room temperature before transferring the neck to a warmer place (domestic hot water tank cupboard) for three to four days before applying the next coat. This ensures that each layer is fully cured before applying the next. I flatted back several times with 3M polishing papers or 1500 grit wet and dry paper (used wet) after not less than five coats had been applied. I did not encounter any Rustins-specific problems other than the tendency to apply too much in one coat resulting in runs and uneven coating thickness.

I made up the RPC in 100 ml aliquots using graduated pipettes and stored it in a closed glass or polythene container in the refrigerator when not in use. This ensures that it will remain usable for several weeks. I masked holes using rolled up strips kitchen paper to discourage pooling. At this stage (22 Jun 2019), I have applied two layers of RPC to the guitar body and the neck is shown with the lacquer flatted back all over.

Captions for upper left, upper centre and centre right photographs above:
Making up a 200 ml aliquot of Rustins Plastic Coating (RPC) and hardener using graduated pipettes. Each aliquot was stored in a closed glass container in the refrigerator at 4°C when not in use. In this way it remained usable for several weeks. I took it out of the refrigerator to allow it to warm up to room temperature before applying it with a quality watercolour brush.


The back of the guitar body showing the desired orange-brown hue and dark grain after the first coat of Rustins Plastic Coating (RPC) has been applied.

A close up photograph of the vertical grain of the quarter cut mahogany veneer on the side of the guitar body. Despite a clean rout of the binding rebate, some remedial work at the join between the veneer and the binding was required. I filled most gaps with Milliput white epoxy resin but this region trapped stain and had to be cleaned up with white spirit and then touched up with white Plasti-Kote aerosol spray. I sprayed this into a small plastic pot, waited for it to thicken slightly by allowing the solvent to evaporate off before applying it with a quality detail watercolour brush in the same manner as a vehicle coachwork painter.

Next article:
Part 54: Fretwork
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Part 52: Test Assembly