Guitar Of The Month – April, 2019

Written by: Kevin Strom On: May 9th, 2019

Congratulations goes out to Randy K. for his guitar build, to earn him Guitar of the Month for April 2019.

Randy used our PRK-1 DIY kit to create his guitar.

“A little over a year ago I was doing an on-line scan of all the usual guitar shops in the Greater Toronto Area and was getting a little board with the same old things. So, on a whim I did a search to see if there was anything new – that’s when I found Solo Guitars. Until that point I had not considered building a kit guitar but after a visit and advice from Christian and Matt I decided to dive in and give it a try. My background was electronics once upon a time and I had no wood working or finishing experience to speak of. This PRK is my fifth build and first multi-color burst.

Inspiration for this build came from a desire to do a non-traditional burst highlighting red to yellow on a charcoal style or ‘burnt’ flame maple as the base. In total I used four colors to create the effect. Mahogany on the back and neck, transitioning to a red fade with a touch of yellow over the black. Each color was hand rubbed using Angelus leather dyes which I prefer over mixing aniline dyes or pigmented stains. Leather dyes are very vibrant and pop the grain well. I find that aniline dyes are not as vibrant and while stains tend to sit on the surface and don’t penetrate well washing out the grain – Just my humble opinion. To create the black flame base I made up several dilutions of the black dye and applied them starting with the lightest until the desired effect was achieved. I then did a very light sanding followed by applying a neutral dye to even out the color. Red and yellow was then rubbed in over top and faded in. A word of caution at this point – don’t lay down red first as part of a fade. It will set into the wood or veneer and won’t move well as you try to blend it over another color. Before any color touches the guitar I will practice on 6 inch swatches that I cut from lengths of like wood that a get from a local provider.

To seal in the dye I very lightly dust coat with Zinsser Bulls Eye shellac. A light sanding to smooth out the surface is done and then on with the top coat. For this build I chose to use a wipe-on poly to create a deep, durable high gloss finish without the need for spray equipment. The poly was applied in many thin coats, lightly sanding in between to remove any artifacts. I only stopped when I achieved glassy surface that only needed to be buffed out with mild polishes. I find that poly’s will not get back to a clear glassy finish if you progressively wet sand and compound to level the surface, unlike lacquer. My choice for buffing and polishing is Sonax in various cuts and gloss values, then Meguiar’s Scratch X2.0 followed by Meguiar’s Gold Class carnauba wax are applied. I use a Griots Garage 3” random orbital polisher. It works well, is much cheaper, more forgiving and takes up less space than a buffing wheel system LOL. By the way, I let the finish cure for about a week before I touched it with anything.

Normally I would put the guitar together at this point and see how it sets up and plays before deciding how much to spend upgrading it. However, once the first coat of Poly was applied the decision was made. This guitar needs the works. After consultation with the team at Solo I decided to try active pickups. I chose the EMG 57/66 because I like PAF tones and the brushed chrome finish. The set included the POTs and solderless wiring system to which I added the matching switch. There was ample room for the battery in the cavity. However, I did have to remove the connectors to feed the wiring through the body. This was delicate work but easily accomplished and worth the effort.

The guitar also needed an awesome set of machine heads. The guys’ at Solo showed me the Hip Shot open backs’ in chrome with brass gears and they were perfect for this build.

For the headstock logo I used inkjet water slide paper which you can get at most hobby stores. The process I use is to lay down a couple of finish coats to get a smooth surface, apply the decal and let it dry for several hours. I then continue to apply top coats and build up a couple more layers before sanding the logo between successive coats while merely scuffing the surrounding area. This allows the finish to build around the logo and level the surface.

With the guitar pretty much together I wanted to reduce the contrast between the black speed knobs to put more emphasis on the finish. So I powered up my Dremel and buffed off as much of the black as I could reach. The result was a mostly transparent knob with the white numbers remaining.

An important step in the final set up process is filing the nut slots. Particularly on a build I feel that it is as important as setting the intonation. To do this I filed each slot until the note played on the first fret is on pitch.

The guitar has great tone resulting from the mahogany body and set-neck construction. It weighs in at a modest 7.2 pounds. The neck is set with a very slight relief of 0.006” and action at the 12th fret is 3/64”on the low E, just a touch lower on the high e string. The result is very good playability without any fret buzz.

Overall, the last year and a bit has been a great learning experience. I have a new hobby that has taken my interest in music to a new level. Thanks to the Solo team including Christian, Kevin and Matt for their support. This PRK sounds great and plays quite well. I won’t say that I will never buy another production guitar but for the last while I don’t spend much time looking at guitars in shops or online other than to get ideas for future finishes on my own builds.

On to the next build…”

-Randy K.

6 Responses to “Guitar Of The Month – April, 2019”

  1. drdbailey drdbailey says:

    Thumbs way up!

  2. wbdokuchie wbdokuchie says:

    Great work, extremely nice guitar! *****

  3. rollie396 rollie396 says:

    Nice Work!Thanks for the write up as well. There’s some good tips in there.

  4. kevwack kevwack says:

    You did a wonderful job.The finnish is beautiful. Did you have to do any fret leveling or dressing?

  5. Randy K Randy K says:

    This neck was quite level out of the box. I did do some minor fret-to-fret leveling to even things out followed by dressing where touched and polishing. I always spend time on the edges to get them as smooth as possible. A fret-end dressing file is a must have for me. Using a sponge sanding box along the edges also helps smooth things out. Thank you.

  6. timjenandrews timjenandrews says:

    Really impressed. Just got two kits from them for my son and I and will try some variations with similar colors. Awesome work and appreciate the tips on final finishing!

Leave a Reply