Guitar Of The Month – February, 2020
Congratulations goes out to Randy K. for his guitar build, to earn him Guitar of the Month for February 2020.
Randy used our SGK-20 DIY kit as the basis to create his guitar.
“When you think of a classic SG style guitar they are typically finished in red mahogany, black pickguards and sport humbucker pickups. At least that was what I always thought I would end up with when I got around to buying one. Enter the SGK-20 kit. With its flame maple top over mahogany I could see an opportunity to go beyond the traditional look and build a more interesting one. “Why not green”, was the suggestion from the guys’ at Solo when I purchased the kit. So green it would be for this project.
I particularly like the way the maple veneer sits over the mahogany on the top of the body of this kit. This provided a great opportunity to highlight the green flame and have a natural transition to a mahogany finish around the sides and back. And, to make this build a little more unique I decided to try and cap the headstock with a piece of similar veneer finishing it in the same green.
Gluing that veneer on the headstock was the first step in this build and turned out to be easier than I thought. Titebond, a piece of 2×4 block, some wax paper and four clamps was all it took. I was prepared for the worsted outcome and pleasantly surprised when the clamps were removed. Setting the neck came next. The quality of the fit out of the box was excellent so the process was straight forward. Preparing for the finishing process was the big job because I learned from previous builds that the quality of the final finish is directly proportional to the quantity and quality of the sanding – and I still hate sanding – so the process began, sand, color dye application, seal, grain fill, more sanding, more filling, more sanding and sealing. For this project I used Crystalac Grain Filler and sanding sealer which had just been stocked at Solo. The filler is clear and goes on easily with an old credit card and blue shop towel. It took 5 coats to completely fill the mahogany and a couple of coats to smooth out the veneer. The sealer has an amber tone which worked well over the color dyes.
To punch out a 3D effect from the curly flame maple I first applied a diluted coat of black dye carefully sanding it back to leave the color in the end grains and not sand through the veneer. To lay down the green I first applied a 50/50 dilution of green followed by full strength green and some yellow for highlights. The back and sides were done in chocolate. My preference is to use Angelus leather dyes because they penetrate well and have a very vibrant color.
For the top coat I decided to try Crystalac’s Brite Tone gloss finish. I normally spray lacquer in the summer and wipe-on Armor Seal in the winter but wanted to see how this water based finish works. The plan was to apply the finish with a sponge brush LOL. To get started I prepared a number of swatches with the color application as mentioned above to practice on and learn prior to touching the guitar. After much trial and error I learned that the finish is best applied by warming it in a hot water bath and diluting as necessary with the retarder and viscosity reducer. Slowing down the drying process helps level the finish and improves its clarity seeing that my work area is cool and dry this time of year. In the end the top of the guitar received about 9 coats and the back ended up with 12 coats – a few more than necessary because I scuff sanded and recoated layers that I was not entirely happy with. After letting the finish cure for 10 days it leveled and buffed out to a very smooth high gloss shine.
To be sure that the guitar will sound and play the best that it can, I installed a Graph Tech TUSQ nut, Gotoh bridge as well as tail piece and the new Solo locking machine heads.
The choice of electronics and pickups was a lot of fun. For this guitar I wanted something other than humbuckers. I like the classic crunchy tone of P90’s so to be a little different I chose a Gibson P94 for the neck position and the Seymour Duncan P-Rail in the bridge position. All four combinations of the P-Rail were wired using two push/pull POT’s. The combinations include the P90, rail, series humbucker and parallel humbucker modes.
This guitar was a lot of fun to build. I learned a lot more about finishing along the way. And, it is green…”