Guitar Painting and Modifications

This post is a bit different than what I normally write about. This post is about my guitar that I’ve had now for about eight years. It was a birthday present and was basically refurbished by one of the guitar shops in my home town. The guitar, a Peavey Raptor Exp Plus, originally looked like this:

Peavey Raptor Exp Plus Stock Photo

This was fine and all, but after eight years and quite frankly wanting to upgrade the internals, I decided I’d take the time to first paint the guitar and also modify the pickguard. I have, for some time now, wanted to switch the pickups to H-S-H and with needing to route out the guitar, this was really the best time to make any other modifications (including painting.)

I first stripped the guitar and pickguard of all hardware and electronics. I then made a template from the current pickguard out of newspaper, which I then free hand cut out into a new design I had envisioned. It ended up being exactly what I wanted so that first template was later used to put the pattern on the real pickguard to cut out.

Original guitar without pickgaurd, all hardware removed, and neck also removed.

Just showing the guitar body totally stripped.

Original guitar with pickups, hardware, and neck removed.

The guitar with the original pickguard laying on top

Guitar with paper pickgaurd mockup.

The guitar with the new template pickguard laying on top

After I had this picture of the new pickguard template I decided to GIMP the image a bit to see roughly what I’d like the guitar to look like. I basically just traced over the pickguard to make it white and I colorized the guitar body to about the color I wanted. I was wanting to go with an orange body and a white pickguard. Basically it came down to me needing to use the existing pickguard so I didn’t have to buy a new black pickguard sheet to start fresh.

Guitar mockup

Just a quick mockup of what I wanted the guitar to look like.

Guitar mockup with two humbuckers.

Same as before, but this also has the H-S-H drawn it to kind of give me an idea if everything would fit.

At about this point I was ready to start. I don’t have the tools to route, sand, pant, etc, but my father does. So, I packed up everything and took it to my parents’ house so I could prep it, route it, paint it, etc. I unfortunately didn’t take any pictures of the process, but basically I started with the pickguard. After transferring the pattern to the pickguard with a dry-erase marker, the new shape was cutout with an air grinder/cutter. It was then ready to rough sand the edges to get it to the correct shape. A bevel around the top edge was put on with a sanding block. Then it was sanded smooth with a fine grit sandpaper. An auto body air buffer was then used to buff out most of the scratches it acquired from years of playing.

We then moved on to take the clear off the body of the guitar and also route out for the second humbucker. We ended up going a bit too far with the routing. If we had not done something about this, the pickguard may not have covered the entire hole. Thus, we were required to Bondo it a bit to reshape the area as well as filling the three holes where the pickguard used to be held down.

After this, we were ready to paint. I ended up cheapening out and not buying paint. My father had some automotive fire red paint around that I decide to use. We applied a couple layers of red, and then a few thicker layers of clear. This ended my first weekend and I had to go back home before we could finish.

After three weeks, I was able to return to a fairly shiny (albeit flawed) red guitar body. There were a few sags in the clear, a few small insects landed in the last clear coat, and a couple other minor things. My father went about teaching me how to wet sand the clear to get all (most) the imperfections out of the clear paint. This involved lots of water and lots of careful, air powered, sanding. (We used an air powered tool to wet sand, but you can do it by hand.) His one word of warning when he handed it over, “if you see the base paint because you went through the clear, stop immediately!” Luckily at I didn’t wet sand through anywhere.

With that, we were finally ready to finish buffing the clear coat to a high shine. First we did the front, then the back, and then the sides. It was along the sides that we first accidentally buffed through the clear and into the base. Luckily, this was right about where the strap button goes on the base of the guitar. Unlikely anyone would see it there. So we decided to move on with the buffing. And then, we burned through again, this time on the underside basically directly under the neck pickup along the edge. This one was big enough that we decided to go ahead and touch it up with a bit more clear. So after we finished buffing the rest, we put a bit more clear on and waited till the next day for it to dry (since it was around 6 at night by that point.)

After that dried, we did some light wet sanding, followed by very careful buffing, and then the second stage buffing and we called it good. I put the guitar back together and everything was as it should be.

 

A closeup of the front of the finished guitar

Fully assembled and painted guitar.

A closeup of the finished guitar's back.

The backside which was totally wet sanded and buffed by me.

Guitar Finished Angled

Look very closely, can you see where we had to touch it up?

Portrait of the finished guitar's front.

And this is what it looks like in full.

Portrait of the finished guitar's back.

And the back.

As you can see, it turned out very well. I’m extremely pleased with the pickguard’s shape as well as the colors. The red and white complement each other very well. It may not be the orange/white that I had wanted, but it is a huge improvement over the black. With the pickguard on, you obviously can’t see that the guitar is routed and ready to have a second humbucker put in. For this though, I’m either going to need to get a new blank pickguard to cut, or my father mentioned we may be able to plastic weld the two current pickup screw holes so two new ones can be drilled for the humbucker. In any case, that’s a bit down the road yet because I’m still not totally sure which pickups I want yet. I’m probably going to go with a less vintage sound than the TV Jones Classics that I want to buy to put in my Ibanez Artcore. After a quick search, perhaps something like the DiMarzio PAF Joe, but like I said, I haven’t given this guitar’s pickups serious thought. Perhaps now is a good time to start since the guitar looks like new again.


One thought on “Guitar Painting and Modifications

  • Ben

    I have a Peavey Raptor that I am modding as well. It was great to see what you did. I’m going to create a custom pickguard and change the color scheme on mine.

    Reply

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