Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Jackson-Style Flying V: Poly and Shielding

The Jackson-Style Flying V was my first kit; a project that was not only a learning experience, and one that produced a great guitar, but which cemented new love for guitar building. All those months ago, in those naive early days of my burgeoning new hobby, my knowledge on the subjects of finishing, electronics, and many other aspects of the luthier's craft was sadly wanting. Consequently, there are a few things about the build that, with hindsight, I could have done a good deal better. Whilst the guitar came out remarkably well given my lack of knowledge and wood working skills, there were 3 key areas in which the guitar could have been improved.

The first was in the finish itself. I used Behlen vinyl sealer and nitro lacquer to apply clear coats over the automotive acrylic colour coats. Whilst this is not in and of itself a bad idea, my execution was found wanting. The clear coats were very thin and after sanding through a couple of times, I was too timid at the end of the day to polish them properly to give the mirror finish the paint job deserved.

Secondly, although the electrics were all professionally wired and soldered (I can at least wield a soldering iron with some confidence) the wiring was not properly grounded to the bridge and there was no shielding at all in any of the cavities. In my naivety I tried to solder the ground wire to a bridge post (which I eventually suceeded in doing) but the act of hammering in the post cut the wire. As far as shielding was concerned, I didnt even realize such a thing was done, let alone how important it was for noise elimination. Despite the noise introduced by the combination of these two factors, the Entwistle Dark Star pickups really sounded excellent. But alas the noise was there buzzing away in the quiet moments.

Lastly, although the action straight out of the box was impressively low and comfortable, I did not perform a fret level and re-crown on the neck. In addition, the neck was badly in need of a shim as the tune-o-matic bridge had already been reduced to its lowest setting leaving no room for fine tuning.

And so, desiring one of my beloved guitars to play and sound even better, I thought it high time that the Jackson-style V went back on the bench and receive the finishing touches that it so richly deserved.

First came the poly. Using minwax wipe-on poly, I applied around 15 coats, wet sanding every 2 coats with incrementally decreasing grit sizes: 1200, 1500 and 2000. The body now has a nice thick build up of clear on it, and the sparkle in the metallic auto paint is dazzling. After the wet sanding I went on to the polishing compounds, with Stewmac Medium, Fine and Swirl Remover called in to apply the final touches. The V now has a lovely mirror finish!

Second came the shielding. I used copper foil with conductive adhesive to coat both the pickup and control cavities. Even the plastic control cavity cover got the treatment (this is important if you want to create a complete Faraday cage around the controls). The shielding in each cavity was soldered to the next using joining wires, and the wire from the bridge post was correctly inserted (with vertically hanging bare wires this time) and the connection duly tested with a multi-meter.

The next step for this bad boy will be the re-wiring of the pickups and controls, as I had to completely un-solder all the components to remove them for shielding. After the body has been completely re-assembled and re-wired, the frets can be levelled and this baby can sing again. Stay tuned for the next instalment! I may even make a bone nut if I'm feeling particularly enthusiastic. Yes, I think I will. That's something else I've had experience with since moving on to other building projects and the V could definitely benefit from it.