Luthier Tips du Jour Mailbag - UV Systems

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In this episode, Robbie O'Brien answers a question about UV systems and their application in lutherie. 

Video Transcription

[on-screen text reads: Luthier Tips du Jour Mailbag]

Mailbag question: Can you recommend a good manufacturer of UV curing equipment?

Robert O'Brien: Today's Tips du Jour Mailbag question comes from a viewer in New York. "Robert, I've been considering investing in equipment for doing UV-cured finishes. Can you recommend a manufacturer of these systems? Keep the videos coming, Dave in New York." Well, Dave, most equipment for doing UV-cured finishes is cost prohibitive for everyone except factories. However, just like CNC routers, over the years, the cost has been coming down, and is now accessible to us independent luthiers. Let me show you the unit that I use in my shop for curing the UV finishes that I've put on some of my guitars. It's made by UV III Systems.

UV III Curebuddy

This is the UV III Curebuddy from UV III Systems. It is a 1200-watt, handheld, portable unit made from aluminum, and with its 12-inch square curing footprint, it's ideal for curing small and medium-sized objects, like guitars. It retails for about $1,700 bucks, and comes with a face shield, leather gloves, a UV resistant shirt, and curtain, which allows others to safely watch the UV operation.

What is UV curing?

First of all, what is UV curing? Ultraviolet curing, or UV curing, is a process that uses ultraviolet light to quickly dry specially-formulated materials applied to a substrate; in my case, a high gloss finish on a guitar. Why use it? The main reason is time. You can pore fill, seal, and spray top coats in one day. Traditional finishes like lacquer can take weeks. Another reason is UV-curable materials are often low in VOCs, and usually environmentally friendly. Also, UV-cured finishes are very durable. Some say they are darn near bulletproof, but I proved that wrong in my previous video on the subject [video plays showing Robert shooting a guitar body with a pistol].

How I use UV curing

For the cocobolo guitar you see here, I'm using UV-curable products from a company called Simtec. They make a product that is a UV-curable pore filler and seal coat, or adhesion promoter, all in one. This eliminates a step from the process, saving me time and money.

One of the things I like about having UV in my shop is that the pore filling process is a breeze. It is worth having a UV system for this, even if you decide to spray traditional top coat later. Once the pore filler is spread on the guitar, all you do is wave the UV lamp over the surface and it dries instantly. I can then sand this level and apply a second coat if needed. Once the pores are filled, I begin applying the top coats. I spray about three coats at 20 minute intervals, and after waiting for an hour or so, I then wave the UV lamp over the surface to cure it. It once again dries instantly, allowing me to level sand and get right back into the spray booth, where I spray another two or three coats. After curing with the UV lamp, it is now ready to wet sand and then buff to a high gloss.

The results

As you can see, the results are truly amazing, allowing you to achieve a very shiny and durable finish. If done properly, it is also a very thin finish, which is important for tonal reasons. Like any finish product or application method, there is a learning curve, but the results are worth the time, money, and energy invested. So, Dave, thank you for your question, and I hope that you, as well as others, find this information useful if you're considering using UV-curable finishes on your guitars.

[on-screen text reads: More Luthier Tips and online courses available at]



Robbie O'Brien

Luthier and Instructor, Lutherie Academy