To paraphrase William Congreve:
Hell hath no fury like a luthier whose finish has been molested.
To say that I’ve been struggling with the finish on the blue guitar I’m working on would be an understatement. I’ve removed the lacquer 3 times now and had another setback last weekend. I pretty well had it all polished up but decided there were still too many imperfections to let it go out the door. I’d resigned myself to taking it back down to bare wood and starting over yet again. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate going backwards, but I approached it with a pretty healthy attitude, knowing that I wanted to build the best guitar I’m capable of building. I spent a day removing all the lacquer and getting it ready for another finish. Well, Monday night I experienced the biggest blow-up I’ve ever had in the shop.
I got home from work around 6:15, ate a quick dinner and headed out to finish prepping the body. I spent quite a bit of time sanding and scraping to make sure everything was perfect. Then I carefully and patiently wiped on the blue dye and got things exactly where I wanted them. I mixed up a batch of blue lacquer and started shooting the color coats. I took my time and had a really nice color/burst laid down.
Now, keep in mind I do all of this in my garage, and I had the garage door open about 3′ to help evacuate the fumes. I set my spray gun down and stood back to admire my work. I rotated the body face-down in case anything dropped from the ceiling. I could live with a few imperfections on the back rather than the front.
Then it happened. Mothra himself flew in and dropped to the floor just under the body, where he briefly surveyed the scene in order to determine how he could best deal out the most damage. Then, with surgical precision and the destructive force of a 10 kiloton nuclear blast, he decided to fly straight up into the freshly lacquered top which I’d rotated down to avoid exactly this kind of situation.
I stood there in disbelief for a few seconds while the immense torrent of anger welled up inside me. I felt the hot rush of neuro chemicals wash up through my neck into my face and head. It was like the scene in Star Trek II where they showed the wave of energy racing over the planet surface as it was regenerating the ecosystems. Only this wasn’t a beneficial, healing energy. This was pure, unadulterated, irrational-behavior-inducing anger. It was coming. Krakatoa would have nothing on the eruption that was about to happen.
I had to get out of the shop before it was too late. If I stayed in there, the guitar body would certainly meet an horrific, bloody fate. It would resemble a scene from a Friday the 13th sequel with wood shards strewn about and blue lacquer taking the place of blood. Every second that ticked by, I could feel the pressure building. I stumbled toward the door to the house, barely able to see. I gripped the doorknob, yanked the door open and walked inside, slamming the door behind me. I gazed around the entry. Crap! The kids are home. Somehow, in my altered state, I was able to have that rational thought. “Mustn’t… let… kids… witness… this…” The pressure getting ever more intense, I quickly moved to another room. My sanctuary — the office. Dammit! The wife’s in there working. Grrraaaahhhhh!!! The pressure! Too much!! My only hope was to get out of the house. It had to be fast! The event horizon was upon me! I exited the office and was walking toward the front door when it erupted. I stood in the doorway to our kitchen and unleashed several intense, close-range punches on the door frame, all while spewing an incomprehensible string of expletives like some Quentin Tarantino version of Yosemite Sam. I couldn’t think of anything except unleashing my fury.
Somewhere deep in my mind — in the oldest, most basic region that deals with survival — my brain told me I had to eliminate the cause: the guitar body. It must go if I’m to regain my sanity. It had to die. The distance from my kitchen entry to the garage was no more than 5 steps. As I jabbed my foot toward the door, my wife stepped out of the office to see what was going on. She knew. In an instant she knew. Somehow she steered me out the front door and guided me down the street — all while I was still raving like a mad man. The neighbors peeked out of their blinds; some ventured onto their porches. Who’s this crazy guy? What’s this about a moth? Was the moth sent FROM hell, or was it going TO hell? Is this some kind of performance art?
I’m not sure how far we walked by the time I regained some semblance of rational behavior. The anger was still burning, but it had subsided enough to leave room for coherent thought. We turned around and headed home. To save myself some time, I had to get the lacquer off while it was still wet. As I walked briskly back to the house, my wife reminded me — “breathe.”
I went into the shop, grabbed a putty knife, and scraped off all the lacquer I could get. It will still need another lacquer thinner bath, but it survived. And so did I.