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Home : Trade Secrets Archive : Issue 76, Using a foam buffer in a hand drill on Junior Brown Guit-Steels®
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Texas tip: Great results with a hand-held buffer! Photo: saddle and Guit-Steel
Michael Stevens and the Junior Brown Guit-Steel®
Photo: Junior Brown
That’s one unusual guitar!
Or is it two?

The Guit-Steel idea came to guitarist Junior Brown in a dream. Junior took his idea to Michael Stevens, the rootin’ tootin’ cowpuncher/guitarmaker from Alpine, Texas.

Dan Erlewine signature Dan Erlewine, December 11, 2008

Photo: Guit-Steels in production

Photo: Mike Stevens
Here are the first Guit-Steels ever built for anybody other than Junior Brown.
Hanging in Mike Stevens’ shop, they look great. But just before finishing, Mike’s hand-held automotive buffer bit the dust. “I can’t buff them on a pedestal buffer because of their shapes,” he says. “For odd-shaped jobs, I've always used my old Skil buffer with a lamb’s wool pad.”

He called StewMac to see what else is available, and we set him up with some Finesse polishing pads, the simple foam buffers that work with a handheld drill. “I’ve never used foam pads,” he said. “Are they worth a try?”

Yep!

After wet-sanding up to 1200-grit with Micro Finishing Paper, Mike used two foam pads with coarse and medium ColorTone paste polishing compounds, buffing the Guit-Steels on a padded bench. The padded ledger board at the rear of the bench is for the body to bear against as Mike works. After buffing with the medium compound, he used the fine compound by hand in the corners, then final-polished with swirl remover using a fresh foam pad.
Order your 2009 shop calendar!




To check out the Guit-Steel, search “Junior Brown” on youtube.com
Photo: Guit-Steel detail
The Guit-Steels buffed out great, meeting the high standards expected of Stevens Guitars. Michael’s opinion:


Finesse Polishing Pad
“Those foam pads and polishing compounds are the cat’s meow.”
Photo: buffer block

Photo: tiny buffer block
He shared a
Trade Secret, too:
Photo: shoe with crepe sole
Mike buffs the tight spots and corners using shoe soles!
“I buff the corners by hand with a soft rag wrapped around a backer block,” says Michael. “My most recent blocks are made of thick crepe sole material from the shoe repair shop, sanded into specific shapes. This was inspired by the success of these Finesse pads: since foam rubber buffs so well, I started using crepe rubber glued to a piece of wood or acrylic with #20 super glue. I use these for buffing directly — without a rag. The edges are tapered back so only the surface of the crepe reaches into the corners.”

Stew-Mac Super Glues

Finesse Polishing Pads are 5-1/2" foam buffers for use in your hand dril. They’re more gentle than a large buffing wheel, which helps prevent “burn-through” damage from over-eager buffing!

Use separate pads for your coarse/medium/fine polishing compounds — you don't want coarser compound on your fine-compound pad.
Photo: polishing pad


Photo: polishing a mandolin

Photo: polishing on a drill press
In my own shop, I'm as likely to use the foam pads as a big buffer because I do more repair and touch-up finishing than complete re-fins. They’re less messy: I’d rather wash a shop apron than sweep and vacuum buffing compound off the floor and walls around a pedestal buffer!

In a drill press, it’s easy to buff smaller things like this bass neck. I padded the column with protective felt, held with repair magnets, to keep from dinging the workpiece.

Photo: fretless bass detail
I converted this neck to fretless by widening the fret slots with a Dremel tool, inlaying them with pieces of .040"-thick black plastic binding, and spraying four coats of clear gloss ColorTone aerosol lacquer — sanding lightly after the third coat.
Protective Felt



ColorTone Aerosol Guitar Lacquer
Photo: right-angle adapter
After talking with Mike about his burnt-out Skil buffer, I got the idea to use a right-angle chuck in my 1/2" Milwaukee drill. It has a lot of weight and power, and although it doesn’t produce any better results than a smaller drill, it gets you there faster.

ColorTone polishing compounds
Photo: Stevens ridin' and ropin'

Photo: Mike Stevens

Mike Stevens is the only cowboy luthier I know – a Texan who loves to work cattle.
Thanks for the Trade Secrets, Mike and... Happy Trails!

Dan Erlewine signature

Problem-solving products mentioned above:
Photo: Finesse Polishing Pad Photo: ColorTone Polishing Compounds Photo: ColorTone Aerosol Guitar Lacquer
Finesse Polishing Pad
Low cost buffing pads for your drill that will give you professional results.
ColorTone Polishing Compounds
High-quality polishes used by professionals around the world.
ColorTone Aerosol Guitar Lacquer
The easiest way to spray a professional finish!
Buy Now
Buy Now
Buy Now
Photo: Micro Finishing Papers Photo: Buffing Arbor Photo: Polishing Cloth
Micro Finishing Papers
Superior to traditional sandpapers, these micro-grit finishing papers are preferred by finishers worldwide.
Buffing Arbor
NEW! Our exclusive professional buffing outfit, for gorgeous "factory" finishes in your own shop.
Polishing Cloth
Super soft cloth safe for all instruments.
Buy Now
Buy Now
Buy Now

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