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Review: Spray Finishing Basics by Dan Erlewine and Don MacRostie

Review: Spray Finishing Basics by Dan Erlewine and Don MacRostie

Reviewed by John Calkin

Originally published in American Lutherie #61, 2000 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Six, 2013

Video: Spray Finishing Basics
Dan Erlewine and Don MacRostie
Stewart-MacDonald, 1999

This video is broken into two distinct segments, each of which covers the complete finishing process in its own manner. In the first portion, Dan Erlewine finishes an ash strat-style body in a Fender blonde color. This is a white finish that allows the wood grain to show through. In furniture work it’s usually called a pickled finish. In the second segment, Don MacRostie paints a bound alder tele-style body pink on the face and black on the back and sides. All colors are mixed in the shop from a clear lacquer base, and a good amount of time is expended demonstrating the process. Alder and ash require different prep treatments, and this is also a feature of the tape. Builders of acoustic guitars shouldn’t feel left out, since the color coats are followed by clear finish, and working with clear is the same, regardless of whether it goes over sealed wood or colored lacquer. The idea was to pack as much information into the allotted time as possible.

The application methods used by the two men differed drastically. The three basic steps of wood finishing are wood prep, finish application, and sanding/buffing. It often baffles beginners to find out that if any step is less important than the others it’s the second, the application. The acquisition of a compressor and a quality spray gun hardly guarantees a good finish, but a talented luthier can do a good job with the unlikeliest gear. To prove it, Erlewine finishes his guitar entirely with aerosols.

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