Refinishing a ‘60s Blonde Tele
This has been a busy month. We’re getting
our instruments ready for the NAMM show
that’s held every January in Anaheim. During
this time, our repair department continues to
busily push the envelope and do repairs that,
at times, seem impossible.
It was during one such time that the phone
rang. “Since the Vegas show has been cancelled, you guys should now have enough
extra time to finish that blonde Tele body.
Can you get it back to us in ten days?”
Calls like this tend to keep the blood flowing.
The non-original black finish was carefully
removed with a spatula and some stripper.
We were very careful to not strip and alter
the body cavities since they still had the
original blonde finish intact, along with the
original pencil marks. This patch of original
finish is important since we’re spraying color
and toner to match what it originally looked
like in 1960.
Once the ash body was taken up to 280 grit
sandpaper and prepped, it was time to spray
a light coat of vinyl sealer before filling the
wood pores. Easy to apply water-based grain
fillers can be used, but our choice for this
particular project was an oil-based filler. After
applying both kinds of filler to a scrap piece
of ash, we sanded and then sprayed a transparent white overlay. It was then determined
that the oil-based natural grain filler gave
a more accurate shade of blue-gray visible
through the transparent white top coat. We
filled the pores with the oil-based natural
grain filler, and then the body was left for
two days to dry thoroughly. Afterward, we
sanded with 280 grit sandpaper in preparation for spraying color. The body cavities
were carefully masked off to protect the
original finish and pencil marks.
When people think of a blonde Fender, most
of the time butterscotch comes to mind. But
the original finish on this guitar was definitely
the later, lighter white-blonde that Fender
began using in the mid-‘50s, and it had
aged over time. A great book for referencing various blonde Teles from the early ‘50s
and ‘60s is titled Norman’s Rare Guitars:
30 Years of Buying, Selling & Collecting by
Norman Harris and David Swartz. Not only
does it chronicle how the finishes went from
butterscotch to white, but it also shows how
some finishes were more transparent than
others. They all looked great, but this project
is about giving our customer’s Tele a period-correct finish.
I mixed a nitrocellulose clear with a white
Color Tone liquid pigment. The end result
had a look leaning towards the opaque side
with a very slight transparency, allowing
some of the wood grain to show through.
Once the white color had been applied
and cured overnight, we were ready to age
the appearance with a tinted clear. Rick
Pavlik made the mix for me with yellow and
medium brown Color Tone stains and nailed
it, once again by using a scrap piece of ash
wood and comparing it to the untouched
body cavities as a reference point. After
applying a couple thin coats of the perfectly
blended tinted clear in the spray booth, we
were finally there – the body was ready for
additional coats of clear that we would later
sand and buff out.
I would like to thank my team: Adam Meyer,
Thomas Calhoun, and Rick Pavlik. They all
had an important hand in this project. We
will cover the final two days of our ten-day
project next month.
John Brown, of Brown's Guitar Factory, is the inventor
of the Fretted/Less bass. He owns and operates a full
guitar manufacturing and repair/restoration facility, which
is staffed by a team of talented luthiers. He is also the
designer of guitar making/repair tools and accessories
that are used today by instrument builders throughout