Note from GuitarAttack:  This is a great story.  Cool color and relic job! (Photos at bottom of for full-size)

BTW -- Is this a familiar story:  Former rocker....married with kids?

From David Higgins

Hello Guitar Attack,

I am 41 years old and have played guitar since I was 14. I have been in numerous bands since high school through college, and in my twenties…I played in a hard rock band that signed to a small indie label in Denver during the 1990s. We released one CD and had begun work on our second, when our third drummer left. It was time for a change. Fast forward 12 years…I am now married with two young children living in Florida.

Since I am no longer relevant in the hard rock scenes (Don't sell yourself short, Ed.)…I play mostly old classic blues style guitar and work in my digital recording studio when I have the time. I have a number of very expensive acoustics and my old Les Paul that still rules! I was looking for a “beater” guitar that I could leave on a stand in the house, and if one of my beautiful kids were to knock it over…it wouldn’t send me into a fit. The Saga kit seamed like the perfect answer. After Googling the kits, I came across your Web site and found loads of great suggestions.

Basically, here is my “saga”. I received the kit and quickly assembled it Friday evening after the kids went to sleep. As others have suggested, one should always assemble it first to work out any kinks you may come across. It had a number of issues and some still need to be worked out. I played it for a few weeks, then took it apart and began the process. I left the “ballistic” coating on the guitar, cleaned it and started with a basic spray primer and color from one of the big-box hardware stores we all know and love. I chose this type of paint because I wanted a specific “retro” color that looked like it came out of the 50s – and I am cheap and have no patience. I wanted to get started right away.

The primer went on easily and I gave it three coats. Then I started on the color coats. They had a tendency to run and I had to go back and sand it down…then repaint. I think I did three to four coats of the color. After doing a few clear lacquer coats, I noticed that the final appearance had the “orange peel” texture that people have mentioned. I tried to sand it down, but in the process sanded down all the way to the original finish. Damn! But then I started thinking about the “relics” that are all the rage now, and I thought a relic look might be kind of cool with the retro color I wanted. What other option did I have but to start completely over…or do the relic? I can always start over later! I smoothed out the orange peel appearance with steel wool which took away the glossy finish and dulled it to a convincing matte finish that looks like it was nicely used over the years. Next I took some fine sand paper to certain areas where it would be conceivable that it was worn by daily playing and misuse, and then buffed it out with more steel wool to make it smooth.

I was more careful with the neck and used Tru Oil – about 5-6 coats. I replaced the stock pick guard with a pearloid Fender pick guard, and set the neck pickup with screws from to top so that I can make adjustments without taking the strings and pick guard off – just like others have suggested. Everything else is stock at this point. I think it came out nicely and it plays great - other than some issues with buzzing frets that causes me to have a little higher action than I am used to. I’ll pay the pro to fix that issue!

During this process, I read an article in a guitar magazine that talked about fixing up old hi-fi, radio or TV amps (from the 50s) and rebuilding them into an all-tube, Class A, point to point wired guitar amp. I found an old hi-fi (mono) console for about $40 (on Ebay) that had two 12ax7 tubes for the preamp and two EL84 tubes for the power output. I paid the local tube amp guy $125 to rewire it for guitar…and it sounds great! I built a rough-cut cabinet for the amp and painted it to match the Saga. Hey…why not! I am pleased with the outcome of both, and I have an amp/guitar set-up that is completely original.

All in all, it was a fun project, and sounds great for the $100 I spent on the guitar and the $160 for the amp head. If either of my children want to play guitar in a band when they get older…this will be their first set-up. If not…no biggie…I had a great time and might end up doing a Saga kit for my father-in-law for Christmas. The gift of music is always appropriate!

Thank you for letting me share,

PS: The paint brand is Valspar Primer and Valspar Premium Enamel (Satin) in the Everglade color from our Lowes in Florida. The lacquer I chose to use was the Minwax Spray lacquer, but I probably ended up sanding/buffing out most of the lacquer. I wouldn't recommend using these paints unless you really know what you are doing (which I don't, and thus...the reason why a chose a $100 guitar kit), though for my purposes I feel it turned out pretty cool. There's no accounting for taste...or the lack there-of as they say!


Great job, David -- Very cool color!

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