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1. Painting EMG-Style Pickups
2. Today’s Q & A: Your Questions Answered


1. Painting EMG-Style Pickups

I’ve had several people ask me if there are any tricks or special techniques involved in painting pickups, and the truth is, there’s really nothing tricky about it.

Below is the step-by-step process I used to paint an EMG-style pickup I had lying around.

If this is something you’re interested in doing, then please follow along.

FIG 1: Before painting the pickup, I prepare it by scuffing the entire pickup and removing all of the shine (so it’s dull). To do this, I used a 3M scouring pad. You’ll find them at any hardware store. (This pickup has a few dings and gouges on the surface, so you may see those in later photos.)

FIG 2: Before applying the paint, I applied three thin coats of primer. FIG 2 shows the pickup after 1 coat.

FIG 3: Here’s the pickup after three thin coats of primer have been applied. I allowed the primer to dry for about an hour before applying each additional coat.

FIG 4: Here’s what the pickup looked like after 3 thin coats of yellow. By the way, I used Krylon primer and paint for this job, but I no longer recommend Krylon paint (See Newsletter #23 as to reasons why). I allowed each coat to dry for about an hour before applying the next thin coat. REMEMBER – thin coats are ALWAYS better than thick coats. Fight your urge to apply too heavy or too thick a coat of paint, whether it be on your guitar, pickups, or anything else you’re painting… that’s how you get runs.

FIG 5: I want to continue my tiger-striped pattern onto the pickup and ring, so it blends in seemlessly. To do that, I started by putting the pickup ring in place first. Using some 3M masking tape, I marked the areas where I need the ring to be masked – and to stay yellow.

FIG 6: When the pickup ring was done, I masked up the pickup with 3M masking tape and dropped it in place. I then took a pencil and drew in my pattern on the masking tape.

FIG 7: When I had the pattern just right, I used an X-Acto knife to carefully cut the areas out that were to be sprayed black. By the way – I allowed the paint to dry for 24 hours before masking it up.

FIG 8: Here’s the pickup after one thin coat of black. Have I mentioned the importance of thin coats yet??? 🙂 YES – I HAVE. I can’t stress it enough. This simple technique of applying thin coats throughout your job(s) will improve your final finish dramatically.

FIG 9: Well – here’s my pickup and pickup ring completed. I didn’t apply any clear, but if you want to do that, just follow the steps in the book for clear coating… it’s the exact same process.

I know what some of you are wondering: Will the paint affect the sound of the pickup? ANSWER: I have NO IDEA! 🙂 Hey – I don’t have ALL the answers!… just some. (My guess is, it doesn’t affect the sound… but that’s just my best guess.)

The beauty of being a guitar painter is that some of the coolest stuff you’ll learn is through trial and error. If you want to try doing it, please let me know if it DEFINITELY affects the sound… I’m curious to know for sure.

NOTE: If you plan on trying this, you may want to place your pickup and ring on something as a type of podium rather than lying it on cardboard as I’ve done.

If you end up giving this a try, please send me the pix of your completed guitar with pickups installed!

2. TODAY’S Q&A: Your Questions Answered

Q: I was wondering – in the two months that you said to let your guitar sit before moving to the finishing stages (after all the painting is done), is it okay to pick it up and play it every once in a while? you said to leave it alone, but I was unsure whether you meant in a painting sense, or all together?

A: What you’re suggesting is putting the guitar back together, playing it, then after the two-month waiting (paint settling) period is over, disassembling it, and moving to the finishing stages, right? I’m not saying you can’t do that but here’s why I WOULDN’T do that: while disassembling it after the two-month waiting period is over, there’s a good chance that some of the paint could chip as you’re removing the parts (especially around bridge studs). If that happens, there’s really no easy way of touching it up. You’ve got both paint and clear on there, and touching both of them up is difficult. My advice is to get yourself a second guitar and just play that until this one’s COMPLETELY done.

Q: I have a Kramer 1984 re-issue that came with a sealer coat on the body but the peghead is gloss finished white with the Kramer logo. Some guys are telling me I can stripe off the peghead as is, and paint the red, then black. Can I really add paint right over the factory shiny clear coats?

A: Definitely NOT. The new paint would have nothing to stick to. You have to dull the entire area you’ll be painting so there is absolutely NO SHINE to it.

To dull the area, use a 3M finishing pad (fine grit). Once all of the shine is gone, then apply your tape and spray red… then black.

The 3M finishing pads do a great job of dulling the finish without sanding and actually removing ANY finish. The pads are a dark grey or dark green color (see FIG 1). This is what I use to dull a finish, if I’m spraying over top of paint.

Q: I did my own pattern for my paint job – I did a checkerboard strat, but I didn’t use your template – I used a level to draw the lines out and then masked it, and well… when peeling off the tape, some of the pencil marks are still visible, do you have any recommendations on how to remove the pencil marks before I put the clear coats?

A: Try removing the lines with an eraser like the one picture here. You can find an eraser like this in a good local art store. Do not use the eraser you find on the end of a pencil.

You can also try a very small amount of Mineral Spirits. It may remove some paint though, so try putting a little bit on a Q-tip and try removing it in the most inconspicuous area.

In the future, you’ll use graphite paper to transfer the designs to your guitar body. See newsletter #3 for tips on that.

To your success!

John Gleneicki
Author – The PAINT YOUR OWN GUITAR Book Series