Sunday, April 01, 2007

Fingerprints get me down: Nera to Bianca conversion

Nera to Bianca

The 000-ECHF Bellezza Nera is the fourth of five signature models that Martin has produced in collaboration with Eric Clapton. It's a great guitar if you like playing blues; with it's rosewood back and sides, short scale for easier bending, and 1 3/4 inches at the nut. All in all, a nice box; though the glossy black finish turns out to be horrendous. After a short time finger prints and scratches scream at you.

Now they've come out with the 000-ECHF Bellezza Bianca, which replaces the black finish with a white glossy finish; problem solved - but wait! It's maple. Now some people love maple, but to me it's just a bit too bright. The solution of selling the Nera and getting a Bianca would solve one problem and create a new one.

Then I had an idea; why not paint it? It's a little unorthodox, but it's not like people don't paint their guitars.

A highly painted guitar

The good thing about this solution is that there's not a whole lot that needs painting; these guitars are sisters, and many elements are identical: the bindings, rosettes, even the perghead torch and background are identical (just as well, how would you mask that torch?)

The first job was masking out the parts that didn't need painting. This took some considerable time getting the tape in exactly the right position. Several times I had to pull off and reapply the tape to get it to wrap right. The 'real' painters masking tape works much better rather than 'regular' tape; it comes off much easier.

The Tools

I found it better to mask the back and paint it, then remask to do the sides, and then do the front. That way I only had to align the masking tape on one surface rather than trying to wrap and trim to cover both edges of the binding.

Masking the backstrip

For painting I tried brushing on an enamel coat on the back and then lightly sanding, but that did not work very well, so I then switched to aerosol paint. Using multiple coats you can build up the color without having to sand; you just have to be careful not to get dust in the paint as then you will have to sand to get the surface smooth.

Brushed coat

The painting job itself didn't take that long; and with the quick drying enamel it was possible to get three coats done in a day. Since I didn't remove the strings (just masked them) the guitar was ready to play by the evening; though I really didn't handle it that much until the next day when the paint had hardened.

Spray paint; first coat

The adventurous would remove the tuners while painting, but I simply masked them off; any paint that went on the tuners I just scratched off with a pick.

Unmasking the tuners

All in all I think the Nera-Bianca conversion is something a little unique. I know it's not for everyone, but that's not the point. It solves a problem and doesn't look too bad either. Also, with the enamel paint, I think this guitar will be less susceptible to humidity swings.

The finished "Nera-Bianca"

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