My son (12 years old) this summer was bored. He plays the electric guitar. He owns 2 electric guitars, a Fender Starcaster electric guitar and a Gibson SG Menace electric guitar.
The Fender Starcaster was his first electric guitar. The best thing about it was it’s price. It was cheap. We purchased it at Costco. It came with an amp that stopped working after a year of use. Several years later we purchased the Gibson SG Menace electric guitar which is his main guitar for both practice and preforming. A bad ass guitar for a 12 year old. Did I mention that he is a great kid?
Early this year, he gained an interest in Van Halen. Specifically Eddie Van Halen and his guitar playing. He has been practicing tunes from Van Halen and has gotten pretty good at it. While watching Van Halen videos on YouTube, he decided that he really likes Eddie Van Halen’s guitar which happens to be a Fender painted by Eddie Van Halen himself. It is red with black and white stripes. He called it “Frankenstein”. See Eddie Van Halen and Frankenstein below.
So, my son decided that his summer project would be his very own customized “Frankenstein” Fender Electric Guitar. With his own touches! My son decided that he would take his Fender Starcaster electric guitar apart. He asked for my help. Not only did this seem like a great father and son project, but it was just too much fun to pass up.
Taking the guitar apart
Only four tools were needed, a small screwdriver for the scratch plate and rear plate that covers the springs, a large screwdriver to remove the neck and a wire cutter to cut three wires from the electronics from inside of the guitar and needle nose pliers to remove the springs from the rear. We first took off the guitar strings. The off came the neck, only 4 screws. The scratch plate and the rear plate. Off came the three springs, the three wire cuts and the two screws that hold the tensioner on the back. We placed everything into zip lock plastic bags and set them aside. All we had left was the body, completely empty.
We drove down to the local hardware store to pick up some supplies to get the guitar body prepared for paint and to pick up some paint. We decided to use spray paint since I don’t own a paint sprayer. Instead to Van Halen’s red, he decided to use only two colors, bright yellow with black stripes. So, we picked up the following:
- Painters blue masking tape
- Krylon Gloss Black paint
- Krylon Gloss Sun Yellow paint
- Krylon White Primer
- MinWax Clear Gloss Polyurethane for a clear coat once we were done painting
- Sanding block
- 3M dust mask
- Tufpro Tack Cloth
- 800 and 1500 grit wet/dry sandpaper
- 100, 150, 220,330,400,600 grit sandpaper
Work area preparation
I took a wire coat hanger and cut at the split below the hook and straightened the hanger out by hand. At the non-hook end, I bent a square hook that would fit through the hole where the guitar neck was normally attached. This would be our guitar body hanger. This hook would allow us to hang the guitar from the garage door rails and allow us to easily paint the guitar body. We also taped newspaper to the floor of the garage and placed newspaper over everything in close proximity to where we would be painting. Just to make sure everything but the guitar body would stay paint free.
Sanding, lots of sanding
My son (wearing the dust mask) started with the 100 grit sandpaper and sanded the front, back and sides with the sanding block. Once the dust slowed down, he moved to the 150 grit. Again, once the dust slowed down, he moved to the 220 grit, and then the 330 grit. He did this sanding outside. It was a mess. I must assume that on these cheaper guitars the manufacturer must dip these things in paint. There was a lot of it. He tried not to go to the raw wood, but it did happen in spots. When he was done, it looked like this:
If you look closely at the back side, you can see the raw wood breaking through. Please note that on all these photos, a larger version of the photograph is visible by clicking on the photograph.
Paint and even more sanding
After all that sanding, he carefully cleaned the surface with a slightly damp rag. He let it dry for about 15 minutes and wiped the guitar body down with a tack cloth just to make sure all the particles were removed. We masked off all the parts that we did not want paint on. especially the area where the neck attached. We also masked off the area in the cutout where the strings pass through and the electrical wiring passed through just to make sure there would not be any trouble when assembling the guitar later due to paint residing in places we did not want it.
My son then hung the guitar body using the wire hanger hook we created. While wearing the dust mask, I made the first pass just to show the technique for painting with a spray can. We took turns and covered the entire guitar body with the Krylon white primer. We waited as the instructions required and added a second coat of primer. Once the guitar body was dry, he sanded the primer coat with the 330 grit sandpaper, cleaned it with the tack cloth, hung it and painted another coat of primer. He sanded it again lightly with 330 grit and put the first coat of Krylon Sun Yellow Gloss and let it dry over night.
The next day, he sanded with 400 grit, cleaned with the tack cloth and added a second coat of Krylon Sun Yellow Gloss paint. He repeated this over several days until he got a nice smooth and deep looking Sun Yellow coating.
Next, the blue masking tape. He started adding tape to get his desired effect. He ended up cutting some of the tape lengthwise to get thinner pieces and even cutting out some shapes for what could best be described as a “cat scratch” effect along the bottom. It ended up looking like this:
He then painted it with three coats of Krylon Gloss Black paint with a light sanding after the first coat, no sanding afterward. He waited a day for it to completely dry and then put three coats of Minwax Clear Coat Polyurethane.
He waited a week before handling the guitar body. We then assembled the guitar. We had to solder three of the wires back to where they belonged. We restrung the guitar and tuned it. This is how it ended up: