This 1990 Japanese-made Ibanez RG550, originally metallic red, was badly damaged in a bizarre plumbing incident. What better subject for a complete transformation? Huw Price rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.
A matching maple headstock veneer would give this guitar a real touch of class; sadly the old refinish had left the front surface uneven and rounded towards the edges. Rather than use paint stripper, we began to sand off the gloss black using a flat sanding block. As the wood started to show it was easy to see the low spots (Pic 9), so the sanding was continued until the black had almost disappeared. This reduced the depth of the ledge that the locking nut sits on, but that depth will return when the veneer is applied (Pic 10).
David Dyke provided a lovely piece of maple veneer and once again we placed a cutout template over it to find the area of grain that worked best for the shape. Again, it’s best to draw the outline onto the veneer and cut out the shape leaving 5mm extra all around the edge.
Next we made two clamping cauls, roughly the same shape as the headstock, from a scrap piece of plywood. Our headstock wasn’t quite flat, so I stuck a piece of cork tile to the underside of the top caul using double-sided carpet tape, hoping that this slightly softer material combined with clamping pressure would conform to any curves.
With Cascamite glue applied, the cauls were positioned and the G clamps tightened (Pic 11). The headstock was left overnight, and when the clamps came off the result was just about perfect. The next task was to carefully true up the edges using a craft knife and a sanding block, then re-establish the locking nut ledge using a mini sanding block made from a wood offcut (Pic 12).
Remember the paper template we made for the headstock? Before I applied the veneer I used the cutout section to record the position of the trussrod rout and the screw holes for the trussrod cover and string tree. Guided by the template marks I drilled through the veneer to reinstate the holes, then carved away the maple covering the trussrod rout. From the rear I drilled pilot holes through the centre of each tuner hole, enlarged the holes in the veneer with a wider bradawl bit, then used a reamer to increase them to the right size. After flat sanding with 240 grit paper, the head and body were ready for finishing (Pic 13).