Finishing guitars is an artform in and of itself and a task to master on its own w/o having to worry about all the other aspects of guitar building. As w/ the rest of this project thus far, I'm pretty much jumping in head first and seeing what happens. In an uncharacteristic burst of forethought though, I did test several finishes out on scrap before hand to see what looked best:
The one I went w/ is in the very upper right. It is a MinwaxPolyshade finish coated w/ another couple of coats of a Minwax wipe-on gloss poly finish. The color is called Bombay mahogany and it really does look fantastic. It's not a perfectly smooth, mirror-like finish like you normally see on guitars because I did nothing to fill the grain but it has a beautiful hand-rubbed luster that gives it a real quality but still homemade kind of look.
The rig I'm using here (which is at the home of one of the most famous artists in Chicago) is just a bunch of coat hangers through the neck holes on a wooden bar I put across a couple odds and ends:
I had it hanging because every picture I've seen of people finishing guitars has it hanging. Unfortunately, the difference between when they did and what I'm trying to do is they're spraying and I'm brushing. Consequently, the body kind of swung around as I tried to put the finish on and I'd have to steady it as best I could by holding onto the coat hangers up top w/ my free hand (which didn't work very well):
This stuff is a combo stain/finish and before I applied it, I sanded it down to 400 grit, cleaned it w/ mineral spirits to get all the dust off and applied some pre-stain conditioner which is supposed to help the stain absorb more evenly. It worked OK on the front (and I do still really like the color):
But the back is streaky as a all get out:
I ended up deciding to sand it down and I'm going to have to redo it:
I think that ultimately, I'm just gonna end up making the back and the sides somewhat darker than the front. I think it will look pretty good regardless. I'm going to try to blend it into sort of a ghetto sunburst w/ the front. I'm sure there will be worse looking guitars in the world.