What happened when Dave left his guitar at my house

smashed up guitar on wall

My brother Dave was dumb enough to recently leave his guitar at my house. 

Which means it got sanded down and stained, because that's what I do. This is no ordinary guitar however. 

It's one of those 'back from the dead' guitars that can still manage to carry a raucous sing-a-long to About a Girl by Nirvana

As you can see, it was once smashed up and placed on a wall of a student flat. I approve that it hung below a picture of Courtney Love getting her tits out at the Big Day Out. 


Someone eventually took it off the wall, banged some nails in it, taped the already taped down body even more and she was good to go.

After Uni was done and dusted Dave and a mate toured all over NZ and the guitar went from Cape Reinga to Stewart Island via a few dodgy hitch hiking adventures and the odd illegal jump on the back of a train trip.

Let's be clear. 

This guitar was beginner's guitar. It was probably worth 30 bucks on Trade Me in its prime. And its prime was before Trade Me was even an idea in Sam's mind. And after the smashing up incident, this thing was a piece of shit but it had a nice tune so it was with a lil bit of, "I better not fuck this up" and I started the project.

Taking off the Victoria Beckham, Olo Brown, Silverchair stickers and the sticky tape was pretty easy which meant it was obvious I'd fuck up pretty quickly and on the first sand I went with a very course grit which meant I took a massive amount of the veneer away, exposing an underlay of wood that was not supposed to see the light of the day. Crap.

But I kept going and then sanded the shit out of the guitar using finer grit sand paper. In amongst all of that, I glued the body back down and drilled some screws into the base of the neck in an effort to straighten it as it was a bit out of whack (indeed to compensate for that, the bridge had a popsicle stick placed in it to raise the strings up to compensate).

After that, some work on the fret board was required, so I went to MusicWorks where the Manager ordered me in some fret wire which I then cut up and banged into the fret board with a hammer. I then screwed up by trying to fill the holes with some plaster which fixed the hole but looked pretty ugly.

Fretless neck
Then it was on to the fun stuff, the staining. I looked on the  net for advice on  how to stain a guitar. It turns out that if you want to do a good job, you basically need 10 years of experience as a luthier or have access to a guitar workshop. But, there is always a cheat and I found an awesome cheat.

Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil Stock Finish is a kit for staining, oiling and finishing gun stocks and the internet suggested it could be used on guitars and given it was a fairly cheap all in one solution, I gave it a shot.

The stain was the classic 'walnut' but the guitar sure did not come up like that, more what I might described as a 'dirty beach tide' which looked awesome! I left the guitar alone for a week or two after that to let things settle and then I oiled the guitar with the Tru Oil which really added some life to the guitar. Here's the stained guitar:

If you have a look at the top picture, you'll recall the guitar was covered with stickers and twinked on quotes, including the lyric, "and I forget just why I taste" which grunge fans might know as a line from Nirvana's Teen Spirit.

So, to give the guitar back a little taste of it's heritage, I downloaded the famous Nirvana font (actually called Onyx), made a stencil and put it on the back of the guitar.

My intention was to use a highlighter as a style guide and then use the soldering iron to poker it in but I decided it looked pretty good so chose not to do the pokering. It was rough as guts but I think it came up pretty good all things considered:

and I forget just why i taste on guitar

After the oiling, I let the guitar have a few days to settle and then I applied the Gun Stock Sheen Finish. I had no idea if this was going to work and indeed I was a little bit scared of how it was going to turn out. Would it be too shiny? Na, it came out an awesome tone with no shine at all as the sheen was more of a conditioner than anything.


I love the non uniform look that resulted. See that writing on the inside of guitar? That's an old Shihad set list I found inside the body! 

After that it was a simple matter of adding the strings, putting the tuning pegs back in, tuning up (which was a b'arch of a job to do) and seeing how it played....

Overall I'm pretty happy with the result. For a piece of shit guitar that used to hang in pieces on the wall of student flat, it's come a long way even if it's no Red Special! The simple beers and whiskey drunk after were deserved! 

Dave, your guitar is ready for pick up!!


Unknown said...

*sigh* so many happy guitar memories! Dave, remember when Sarah cut her wrist when she broke a window at a Shihad gig trying to get backstage to see them? Then me and you stalked them after the show and followed them back to their accommodation and they were sweet enough to let us hang out and even shake Jon's hand?? Also, I'm sure I donated that VB sticker. When will they invent a time machine so we can go back and relive the glory days... the 90s!

Jimmy Jangles said...

Glory days in deed! Was it Sarah that managed to shut the car door on my head when we went to the Living End?

Asterix said...

Nice work JJ.

I'm sure if you put said guitar on TM and linked it to this article that you would get a lot of interest in it - I mean this guitar has history man.

Ahhh yes the old head in the car door, I remember it well - I was in the car at the time and the first commenter above was the perpetrator :-)