Help restoring a homemade "Johnnie Johnson" guitar

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Lexridge, Feb 28, 2008.

  1. Lexridge

    Lexridge Member

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    EDIT 2008-03-27: See page 2 of this thread for finished photos.

    Hi everyone,

    This is my very first post to this forum. There is probably a thread for first time posters, but I never look for those. I joined for a reason, and this first post is it. ;)

    I have an old strat replica which I built from individual parts bought for me for my high school graduation gift in April of 1983. It is a solid ash body, with a hardtail brige, maple 70s style neck with F style Fender machines.

    The hardware is all solid brass; bridge, pickguard, knobs and the three, 3 position switches for the DeMarzio FS-1 pickups. Only the machines and and strap buttons are chrome.

    The body was covered with 4 or 5 cans of clear polyurthane (by me) before assembly.

    Anyway, she has played like a dream for the last 25 years, and has been my main axe since until two weeks ago when I purchased a new (real) strat. I did this only because my old strat was showing some considerable wear, and in need of repairs.

    All the frets in the neck are pretty well worn from my heavy left hand, and need replaced (I'm told about $350 to have it done). The body has normal dents and scratches for the 25 years of constant use it has endured. The brass bridge saddles all have groves cut into them, as does the brass bridge plate from a music shop attempting to adjust the intonation by pulling the saddles back with the guitar in tune. Ugh! All in all, she still looks pretty good.

    Anyway, this guitar was signed by the late Johnnie Johnson in the summer of 2003 near his birthplace, in Fairmont, WV. It's a beautifuly done autograph too. AFAIK, it is one of a kind, since Johnnie was more a piano player, than a guitar player. A few days after he signed it, I added a few very light spray-overs of more poly-u, to help keep my right arm from rubbing it off.

    Anyway, the purpose of this post, I want to refinish the body. As I said earlier, it already has poly-U on it. I have already begun using 0000 steel wool on it (very carefully to not harm the autograph) to buff out the rough spots, and also condition the current surface covering to accept another finish. I do not want to go through the complications of using nitro-c lacquer, using standard lacquer instead. I intend to brush it on, with steel wool treatments between coats.

    Can someone please lend me some advice on the best way to do this? I still intend to play this guitar often, so it will get more damaged in the long run, but that's what guitars are for. :)

    If anyone is interested, I can take some photos of the disassembled parts tomorrow sometime and post them.

    Thanks all,
    Lexridge
     
  2. Lexridge

    Lexridge Member

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    Here are some pics of her I took this evening.

    Lexridge

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  3. Lexridge

    Lexridge Member

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    I stopped by an antique furniture store today and spoke with their refinisher person. He told me that I absolutely cannot apply Lacquer to a previously poly'ed piece of wood. He said the materials are not compatible, and the lacquer would not adhere to the surface. Bummer man!!! I guess I'll have to use poly again after all. He told me to use a water based poly, as it will not "yellow" like the oil based polys do.

    Any thoughts on this? What kind of poly could anyone suggest?

    Thanks,
    Lexridge
     
  4. mc5nrg

    mc5nrg Supporting Member

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    Except for the fret job or replacement neck and some more finish on the cool autograph, I'd leave it alone. There are folks who will refret that for less, especially since there is no binding to contend with and no maple fretboard to refinish. If you are really bent on a major redo you can take the poly off but its more work than I know how to suggest.
     
  5. Denny

    Denny Member

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    I'll do the frets for $125.00 go to: www.bluefrets.com

    contact Mike Forrester of Forrester Kustoms for the refinish.

    Denny
     
  6. Lexridge

    Lexridge Member

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    Thanks for the replies. I just ordered a new neck yesterday that I found on ebay. It's a rosewood fingerboard on birds-eye maple. I hope it fits!

    @Denny: I still want to have the old one refretted, and will most likely work something out with you later next month. thanks!

    I bought a can of brush on water based poly that I'm going to apply, perhaps as early as tomorrow. I'll be sure to post pics along the way.

    thanks,
    Lexridge
     
  7. Lexridge

    Lexridge Member

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    Here are some new pics, body is finished, but not yet buffed, so it's kinda satin looking ATM. I was trying to fit/align the new neck in these pics. The last pic was just for fun. I wanted to see what my own logo would look like on the headstock. A bit of the GIMP to create it.

    Lexridge
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  8. playon

    playon Supporting Member

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    I wouldn't mess with the body... leave it alone, it has nice grain anyway.
     
  9. Lexridge

    Lexridge Member

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    I just mainly want to bring out more of a gloss, and a little less satin. I thought of using a polishing wheel, but being I've not used one before, I will stick with the orbital polisher for now. :)

    Lexridge
     
  10. Lexridge

    Lexridge Member

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    Here are some more updates. Finally got the neck mounted. What a bitch that was!!! I had no idea how much difference one millimeter makes over the length of the neck!

    I will need to get another string tree. I don't care for the one I put on the headstock. I should have gotten a gold one. Oh well. Just one more setback.

    The logos are actually stuck on the headstock, but I printed several, and my fingers were rather dirty when I applied them. They'll come off easy enough.

    Next, I'll disassemble everything, again, and run an orbital buffer on the body. I'm also considering filling the bridge holes, and moving it one millimeter towards the top of the body, as the 1st string is a tad closer to the fret edges than I'm totally comfortable with.

    Anyway, until next time.
    Lexridge
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  11. OldSchool

    OldSchool Senior Member

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    Man he couldn't have signed that in a worse place. Very cool to have though. I'd leave it alone. Protect the autograph some more maybe but otherwise leave it alone. If you must have a new Finish retire the body and get a new one. Its just not worth it.
     
  12. Lexridge

    Lexridge Member

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    It's already been refinished. Very CAREFULLY!! I realize the pics do not do the finish job justice, but it really does shine very nicely. Johnnie's signiture is now protected. :) I just need to buff it to a high gloss now.
     
  13. treeofpain

    treeofpain Silver Supporting Member

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    Don't move the bridge. Move the neck over in the pocket. If it's just a minor adjustment, you can sometimes loosen the screws, push it over, then tighten the screws while holding it in place. Sometimes you have to block sand the opposite inside edge of the neck pocket to get a little clearance. Worst case is that you dowel the 4 holes in the neck and redrill.

    Looks like old Schecter parts, by the way.
     
  14. Lexridge

    Lexridge Member

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    Good call! They are Schecter parts. Well, the original neck and body are. The new neck is a Mighty Mite. I've heard stories of very bad MM necks out there, but this one seems pretty spectacular, and I've read on Harmony Central their quality has improved in recent years.

    The original bridge mounting position was about 1/2 - 1 millimeter off, compared to the string holes, so I can't help but think moving it would actually make it more true. I believe I'd rather dowel the body than the neck, at this point.

    Lexridge
     
  15. Lexridge

    Lexridge Member

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    A few more update pics. It's getting very close now. As you can see, all the parts fit again. :)

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  16. Lexridge

    Lexridge Member

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    Wow, finally, it's all put back together! It still needs a good set up, but she sure looks great, IMO.

    The replacement parts I put on are as follows:
    Seven Coats of water based poly, all dry, then wet sanded between coats
    Grover Mini Tuning Machines
    String Tree
    Graph Tech Bridge Saddles
    All Screws
    Neck
    Custom Headstock Logo

    Now presenting the one of a kind, Johnnie Johnson strat: :)

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    Lexridge
     
  17. Lexridge

    Lexridge Member

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    Twenty four hours and not a single comment. Wow, quite frankly I'm a bit surprised. I guess it's either the amount of pics (slowing load times) or it's just plain unimpressive. I hope the latter is not the case.

    C'mon guys, throw me a bone here. ;)

    Lexridge
     
  18. zzzezums

    zzzezums Silver Supporting Member

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    congrats. I like it! Hope it turned out exactly the way you wanted and it gives you many hours of joy.
     
  19. Trego

    Trego Member

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    It's funny how many people said not to mess with it, but in the end, you came out with a great product.

    It's beautiful. Great job with the headstock logo, also
     
  20. Lexridge

    Lexridge Member

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    Thanks for the "bones" fellas. I do appreciate it. The headstock logo is my grandfather's first name, and my middle name, Laco. Since he helped me when I originally built it 25 years ago, it was only appropriate I would use our name on it. :)

    I have never set up a guitar from scratch. When it was first built, I paid a music center to set it up for me. Now, I want to learn how to do this myself. Being there has been no setup whatsoever on this rebuild yet, I'm not sure where to start. Do I start with the bridge saddles, or the neck truss rod?

    Thanks,
    Lexridge
     

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