Les Paul double re-build project (Day 1: Stripping and grain filling dilemma)

So, this is it. Day one. No turning back now.

Step one for me was to remove as much as I could from the first Boiled Linseed Oil finish on both guitars. I used average thinner for this. Soaked a cotton rag in it, placed it over both guitar for a couple of minutes to let it do its thing and then proceeded to apply more by rubbing the rag all over the guitars. Then I removed some more with steel wool, although it did leave some residues which were a small pain in the butt to remove…

Now, based on the color tonality of the cancharana and how I know looks when its completely raw, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t (and probably never will be) able to remove the oil finish completely. But based on what I’ve researched I don’t necessarily need to for lacquer addition purposes. My goal was basically leave the color and surface of the wood as close to completely raw as possible. I think I got pretty close.

Of course, already on day 1 I had my first “can’t wait ’til the next phase” moment and I prepared a tiny bit of grain filler to test it out on my Les Paul #3 which, as I mentioned on the intro is going to serve as a testing ground for everything I plan to do on Les Pauls #1 and #2.

The grain filling experiment was quite disappointing. As I mentioned in the previous article, my plan was to use the traditional grain filler recipe from 50s Gibson (Boiled linseed oil, pumice powder, solvent and aniline dye). I prepared it to the consistence similar to mayonnaise as I saw on many online examples, but the thing just didn’t wanna cling to the wood. It basically turned translucent the moment I started laying it on the wood and it seemed to turn into colored sand when I try to rub off the excess, leaving only an oily stain behind. No color, no grain filled.

I then realized that I probably must have sanded the wood to 220 before I attempted to do this, but in all honesty I think that even doing that, this grain filling method is not gonna work for me, so I started thinking of alternatives.

I remember doing some experiments with a bass guitar body made out of Paraíso, which is a local wood here in Argentina fairly similar to ash, with the same kind of open grain. The first thing I did was an attempt to paint it by hand with black water-based acrylic paint but I wasn’t too happy with the results, so I sanded it off. The cool accident about this was that as I started sanding, the black paint stayed in the deep pores while the surface level went back to raw wood color, giving it a great stained effect. In the end I choose a different color for that bass, but I think I can replicate that effect with these guitars using the appropriate color of acrylic paint.

I had the idea of testing with red-ish color for the ’59 and with a TV Yellow-ish for the junior. The idea is to keep the natural reddish brown color of the cancharana at surface level and leave those other mentioned colors within the grain for contrast.

And yes, this adds color and contrast but doesn’t exactly fill the grain. My new (and potentially expensive if it goes wrong) idea is to apply several coats of my sanding sealer which is very heavy in solids and try to fill the grain with that. I know its not ideal, but I probably trust that method more than the traditional pumice-oil thing which I’m clearly not dominating. We’ll see how it goes.

So this will be my next of work. See you all then!

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