Fabric Stencil Guitar

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Introduction: Fabric Stencil Guitar

I patched up the neck and body that were mangled in my last project, (The Skateboard Guitar) and experimented with spray paint and the idea of using fabric as a stencil.

I used Dupli-Color Truck/Van/SUV paint, which I believe is a lacquer. I'm not sure if the chrome is a lacquer, but it seemed to be compatible with the black and clear on a test piece of wood.

Using this type of paint is good because it dries quickly, so you can add new coats within a half hour or so, but it takes months to really cure and harden, which means after doing the clear coats, it has to hang somewhere for a month or two before you can wet sand it to a shiny mirror like finish.

I'm at the waiting stage right now, I will let you know how it turns out.

The chrome isn't supposed to be clear coated, so it turned out kinda gray. I almost wish I had used red or purple or something, but that will have to wait for the next project.

Step 1: Prep the Body

Here is the body from the skateboard guitar. I have filled in the big hole in the front of the body with 2 blocks of wood and wood putty. The wood putty didn't work out so well, and I ended up using Bondo auto body filler to get it right.

At this stage I wasn't sure what this was going to turn into, but I went ahead and sanded the blue paint off, down to the factory paint or sealant.

After painting it with primer, all the remaining flaws really stood out, and I added more bondo, sanded, added more bondo, sanded, primered, more bondo, more sanding. This was the most time consuming part of the whole project.

If I had started with a used Fender or Squier body, I could have just roughed up the finish with 400 grit and sprayed primer and been ready to go.

Step 2: Do Some Tests on Cardboard

When I got the Idea to use fabric as a stencil, after finding a suitable piece of fabric, I tested it on cardboard.

This didn't turn out so well, but when I inverted the colors in Illustrator, I realized it would look better to use black as the base coat, and spray a thin layer of silver through the fabric.

Looking back on it now, I'm not sure what would look better. It would look cool either way. Using silver as a base coat would be awesome, but the clear coats would dull it to a gray. It would be funny if I made another identical guitar, but with the colors reversed.

The black paint I used was much easier to work with, as it dried quickly, I could sand it the next day to get it flat. The silver paint was just harder to work with.

Step 3: Black Base Coat

Here is the body after many coats of black paint and quite a bit of sanding with 400 and 600 grit wet sandpaper, to get it flat. The repairs are almost invisible at this point.

Details on wiring the pick guard can be found here.

The line around the filled in area on the back would always reappear though, and I don't know if it was due to temp changes or water getting in when I wet sanded it, so I filled in the string holes before continuing.

It really wasn't necessary to sand the black this smooth, I could have just sprayed it on (once the repairs weren't showing), and gone on to the next step, but at this point I was considering just leaving it matte black, and I was curious to see if I sanded it smooth, then left it for a week, whether the repairs would start to show again as the paint cured.

The one big mistake I made here was sanding through to the primer along the edges on a couple spots. That meant more coats, more waiting, more sanding, more coats, more waiting.

The important things I learned here are that it's better to build up many light coats. Be patient. Taking shortcuts usually meant screwing something up which would set me back a week. Be very careful sanding the edges.

After this I gave it a couple light clear coats, so that if I screwed up the silver pattern, I could sand it off with less danger of going through the black to the primer or wood.

Step 4: Masking

Here you can see where I masked the sides.

When I later removed the tape, it pulled up a quarter sized chunk of paint. I think I should have been more careful removing it. Using a better masking tape would have helped, and I also suspect there was some chrome paint left underneath that didn't bond well with the primer.

I think it would also look really cool to have the body be black with a white or light colored stripe going around the edges, where the masking tape is now. Maybe next time.

Step 5: Spraying the Pattern on the Headstock

When I did the test strips, I had the fabric taped down on all sides, but it made it too hard to remove smoothly, and the paint was already beginning to dry and stick.

So here you can see I only taped it down on one side, so I could flip it off in one smooth motion within seconds of spraying it.

The trick to spraying through this stuff was to do one or two quick light passes. Any more would make it build up in spots, which didn't look good (this happened in a couple places on the body).

Step 6: Spraying the Pattern on the Body

Here you can see I'm about to spray the body.

I was a bit nervous after all the prep work, I didn't want to screw it up. I only had a limited amount of fabric, and wasn't sure If I would get more than one chance.

I sprayed one or two light passes from one angle, then again from the other side. It still went on too thick in a few spots.

I did spray it lightly enough that was able to reuse this same piece of fabric for the front. A few of the test pieces I used got clogged up with paint.

For the front, I sprayed over the pickguard and pickups, so the pattern would cover the whole front of the body.

Now all I need to do is add clear coats, WAIT A FREAKING MONTH for the paint to cure, wet sand, polish, put it all together and see what it sounds like.

Step 7: Wet Sand the Clear Coats

Still waiting to get to this step.

Step 8: Reassemble, Setup, Plug In.

Still waiting to get to this step.

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    32 Discussions

    What harried to the project? It was coming along so nicely

    Couldn't you show us a picture of it reassembled?

    Awesome work! The fabric looks like a burnt out velvet. Pretty creative way to use that type of fabric. Gives it a real Steve Vai look, or a design you would see on one of his guitars. Love it!

    This is beautiful. The applications for this technique are endless!

    i've been using bondo on one of my project guitars here recently. if you get the stuff in the can, you can add a little less hardner and makes it last a little longer while spreading it. bondo can be VERY aggravating until you get used to it lol. i'm using what you've got in the tube to fill in low spots and chips. cool instructable though, i'll keep this one in mind.

    That fabric stencil idea is brilliant. Nice work. Have to try that! Not on my Les Paul though.

    it looks sooo cool but i dont understand how u use fabric as a stencil, i would love to do it though, so can u explain a little bit more??

    2 replies

    Some fabrics, like lace-y stuff, let the paint through in some parts and don't let it through in other parts. The fabric I used is called burnout, and is thick enough to block the paint in some parts, but thin like a screen in others, letting the paint through. It's almost like a silk screen. You put the fabric over it, spray through it, remove the fabric, and you're done.

    ohhhh ok!! i thought it might be something like that but i wasn't sure....
    thank u!!! i'll have to give it a try

    Can I see a picture of one of the guitars you built?

    Go for it. The hardest part is finding the right fabric to use.

    Damn, that looks mighty fine, I'm about to paint my guitar and this technique is pretty awesome, so maybe i'll use it!

    A guy I knew wanted to mod a Jagmaster to make it like a Jaguar. But after he screwed up the paint and the routing, he gave up on it and I convinced him to give it to me. That's not the first time I took over someone elses abandoned project. You can see what we did to it on my other instructable, 'the skateboard guitar'.

    Very cool. When i was a kid (when dinosuars ruled the world), this was a technique used on some hot rod paint jobs, it was called "lace" or "lacing." You could also do a "candy" technique by spraying a transparent color lacquer over the lace job. Where did you get the filters for your mask? I have the same mask but can't find filters anymore.

    2 replies

    Thanks. I got the idea after seeing someone use the technique on canvas for an art project. I haven't had to replace the filters for my mask yet, but since you mentioned it, I took a look, and the only place I can find them is eBay. Try searching for 3M cartridge 7251. Looks like 3M switched to making the more rectangular style cartridge.

    i might do this to my strat been thinking of repainting it but havent really chose how to paint it ....now i know