Operation Plaid Hammer: Buffing One Out

SO! Operation Plaid Hammer has been successfully Taos Turquoised (Turquoisified? Turquoisinated?), plus clear coat, so after sufficient drying time, it's time to make it SMOOOOOOOTH 'n' shiny!

First step - wet sanding! Seems counter-intuitive to soak down a perfectly good guitar, but that's more or less what happens. Using a mixture of water and hand soap in a spray bottle (just a little soap to a lot of water), the painted surface is spritzed down. The water and soap mixture act as a lubricant for the sandpaper, and keep the paper from dragging and scratching. First, I hand-sand the edges with a sanding sponge dipped in the water/soap mixture.

 Is Operation Plaid Hammer sponge-worthy? Better believe it.

Is Operation Plaid Hammer sponge-worthy? Better believe it.

Next, the palm sander is run on a high grit, with the body sprayed down and lubricated by the water/soap mixture. The white visible is a slurry of sanded clear coat, water, and soap.

 A light touch is key. No digging in!

A light touch is key. No digging in!

 Contour touch-ups with a piece of sandpaper wrapped around a pink eraser. You can actually see the suds here!

Contour touch-ups with a piece of sandpaper wrapped around a pink eraser. You can actually see the suds here!

Wet sanding handled, it's time to head over to the buffing station! There are a pair of buffing arbors, each set to run at a different speed and torque. Essentially, each side has a buffing wheel made out of a bunch of flannel circles bolted together in the middle. A buffing compound, which comes in a bar, is applied to the spinning wheel, and then the body is moved back and forth under the spinning wheels. This must be done VERY, VERY CAREFULLY, because the wheels are more than capable of digging in and flinging a fresh guitar body halfway across the shop. I never lost a guitar part, but it yanked the buffing compound bar out of my hands several times. 

 Easy... EASY... NO GRABBING...

Easy... EASY... NO GRABBING...

 Doug makes a Yoda face, I wear a fishbowl on my head.

Doug makes a Yoda face, I wear a fishbowl on my head.

That whole process puts a beautiful shine to the guitar, and this one buffed out neatly and easily. One final thing we noted, though - Project Plaid Hammer is...

 DAVE CAN FRAME PICTURES DAVE DO GOOD CAMERA WORK

DAVE CAN FRAME PICTURES DAVE DO GOOD CAMERA WORK

...EXACTLY the same color as the neoprene pad that lives at the buffing station.

SO! How's it look?

 With the original planned pickup layout of two Lollar Regal humbuckers.

With the original planned pickup layout of two Lollar Regal humbuckers.

 Heloooooo, you gorgeous thang. The guitar's nice too.

Heloooooo, you gorgeous thang. The guitar's nice too.

Next up? Time for pickups and wiring! Turns out it's really hard to make soldering look cool, so I apologize for the following pictures.

 Classy.

Classy.

Ben solders through a tear in an old t-shirt, which keeps the occasional stray solder gob from landing on the guitar's finish. Ben's soldering work is very tidy. Mine, less so. So he did it and I took pictures. Good division of labor.

 THREE pickup wires? What could it be...

THREE pickup wires? What could it be...

Time to zip it all up. Custom laser-cut cavity cover, complete with Operation Plaid Hammer logo, serial number, etc.

 Too cool.

Too cool.

So what pickups went in it? What's better than two Lollar Regals? THREE CHARLIE CHRISTIANS. That makes me three times as good as Charlie Christian, right? Cap it off with two vintage 'cupcake' knob off a 1960 Harmony, and take a look.

 Look at that happy dork.

Look at that happy dork.

So that about does it! That's Operation Plaid Hammer all wrapped up! How's it play? How's it sound? FANTASTIC. It's a HUGE sound, a great tremolo, a fantastic neck, and an outstanding color. Absolutely killer. I couldn't be any happier with it.

On a personal note, I have to offer up a huge, huge thanks to my good friend Doug Kauer. This has been an incredibly generous and kind wedding gift, and fantastic learning experience - and above all, a great excuse to spent time with a hugely talented friend. I have nothing but respect for the art, craft and skill shown by Doug, Andrew and Ben. Guys - THANK YOU.

Last I'll do is leave a few cheesecake shots of the finished product for you to drool over. PROJECT PLAID HAMMER OUT!

-- Dave Segal

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