This is Blanche.
I got her in October of 2007 after I’d given up all hope of receiving Antiguo’s Telecaster, a guitar he’d said many times would be mine once he was gone. I didn’t want it because I desperately needed an electric guitar; I wanted it because it was his and he loved it. And I didn’t really need another electric guitar, as I already had my Epiphone, Ruby, but it seemed important at the time that I get a Tele, even if I couldn’t have his Tele. As it turns out, I’ve since sold Ruby, because the Tele is much more playable than Ruby was; lighter, too; those semihollows are heavy and like to dig a trough in your shoulder. And since I mostly play acoustic, one electric guitar is more than enough for me.
I picked up Blanche on eBay, which marks the first (and probably last) time I’ll buy a used instrument from eBay. It arrived filthy, and the “custom paint job” was half-assed at best. And the best part? The places he’d nicked the paint job, he covered it up with black Sharpie marker, slopping it on the maple neck for good measure. When the seller objected to my “neutral” eBay feedback with positive commentary about the sound of the instrument, I pointed out all these things to him, and he piped down.
Black Sharpie marker. I mean, honestly.
Because as you can see, this guitar is Sherwood metallic green, a car paint color, which I know because I ordered the paint touch-up marker in that color myself to fix the nicks properly. I cleaned the crud that had collected in the frets, wondering how a 2007 Tele could look like it’d been buried in someone’s garage for 40 years in October of the year it was made. I cleaned the black marker off the neck, and I replaced the yellowed pickguard with something a little more flashy, a little more me. Long live celluloid!
But I was always disappointed in the color, which had looked more blue than green on the computer when I bought it (and that’s what I wanted, having admired a deep blue-green paint job on my friend Beth’s Strat), and the paint job was pretty streaky. And then there was a minor incident a few years later involving a candle too close to the hanging instrument (before I made my cabinet for them) that bubbled the paint in one spot. So I decided the next time I had a G.A.S. attack, instead of buying a new guitar, I’d get this one painted instead.
G.A.S. comes and goes, but I haven’t had the guitar painted, because the kind of cool paint job I’d be interested in would probably run me more than I paid for the guitar in the first place. However, I recently did upgrade its appearance through the magic of vinyl.
The (very affordable) decal I picked out was going to clash with the original paint job, so I decided to paint up the back and sides with some gold spray paint I had in the shed. Is that optimal? No, but as no one sees the back of the guitar anyway, I didn’t really think it mattered. I just didn’t want it to clash where the decal met the paint job. And considering that the original paint job was half-assed anyway, I figured if mine were merely quarter-assed, I’d be ahead of the game.
I started by taping off the neck plate. (Actually, I started taking the neck plate off. I’d gotten one screw out, and it occurred to me that I didn’t know what the neck plate was doing, so a few minutes of googling later, I realized it did in fact have an important job, and I put that screw right back in, before I removed the whole neck from the guitar.)
The edges of the neck plate and the holes where the strings go through were hard to tape, so I picked up some masking film for those. You just paint on a few coats, letting it dry in between, and you’re good to go. When you’re done painting, you just peel it off.
Once I’d taped what I could and plastic-wrapped the entire neck, I did a wee bit of sanding on the back and sides to take the shine off and help the paint hold. A person interested in really doing it right would’ve primed the thing as well. I confess, I was not that person in this particular instance; however, if the paint job on the back doesn’t hold up over time, as I suspect it won’t based on its performance thus far, I’ll do that next time.
I set it up on the hot tub, out of the wind, which was no easy task, considering the wind we’ve been having around here lately.
It started going on well, but got overly heavy in spots, and drippy. So I had to drag it back into the house once it dried and do a bit more sanding.
The brand-new can of paint I started using after having issues with the partial can I started with began spitting drops of pigment in a decidedly non-aerosol manner. Everything I did to fix it and paint over it just created a new layer of the problem, so eventually I decided it was as good as it was going to get, and I gave up, because, once again, no one is going to see the back of the guitar.
That was the easy part, though I didn’t know it at the time. Despite all the commentary on the website where I bought the decal about how simple a process it was to install it, it wasn’t nearly so. There were no directions either, just a few YouTube videos linked on their site. So I watched them all once when I ordered it, and again right before I got out the Exacto knife.
First you have to take all the hardware, knobs, and pickguard off.
I started to take off the lower pickup as well, but there was one screw under the bridge, and since they were already set and I didn’t want to screw it up, I left it alone.
First you do a generous tracing of the guitar, face down, on the back of the decal.
Then you make sure the top is clean, and lay the decal on top. Fortunately for you, dear reader, I didn’t take pictures of every step of the process thereafter, which was torturous, putzy, slow, and maddening. I cut slits slowly, in stages, to get the electronics through, and then pulled off the backing in parts and smoothed it out, sometimes using a hair dryer to warm it up and get it to stretch more.
And finally, I put on a new sparkly gold pickguard, with gold screws to match, to match the new decal. Et voila!
Much better, no?