Vintage Guitar - July 2016 - Open - 67
acidic liquids in an intentioned manner; some
parts of the surface are contacted by the acidic
medium, others are not. After rinsing, the
etching is left in relief. Trussart began using
mats to impart unique and attractive motifs;
one design, in particular, has intrigued me for
a while now, so I thought I'd take a whack at
creating my own "Trussart Art" guitar.
1) I recently made a two-piece/chambered
ash body and a plated/18-gauge steel top for
a custom build. I polished the top with progressive wet-sanding passes concluding with
1,200 grit that left it shiny and smooth. On
the final pass, I sanded in one direction only
(top to bottom) to leave a fine pattern or grain
direction. This is a personal preference - my
design will leave some of the metal exposed,
so its appearance will be important!
2) I'm going to etch an alligator-skin pattern
on the top. At a local thrift store, I found a
satchel made from faux alligator that had a
deeply embossed feel and was big enough to
span the metal top; that texture will help recreate the pattern when pressed to the top. I
cut the sides and bottom from the bag, leaving
a 20" x 18" patterned surface.
3) To etch the steel plating, I used muriatic
acid (20 percent hydrochloric acid, 80 percent
water) in a spray bottle, and kept handy another
bottle with plain water, to quickly clean up
any accidental spills.
4) I put pinstriping in an even border around
the top, and bordering the pickup cutouts and
selector switch. These areas will remain shiny.
5) I use an old bookbinder's press (made in
the 1800s) that's great for clamping maple tops
on bodies. It's also large enough to accommodate just about any solidbody guitar. I cut
two 1/2" press plates to keep the acid solution
from damaging the press' clamping plates, and
I covered the top and bottom plates with clear
plastic - the acid solution is nasty (by the way,
it should be used only in a well-ventilated area).
6) With the first wooden blank on the bottom
of the press, I spread the alligator material on a
bed of newspapers before spraying the solution
on top of it, then carefully carried the skin to
the press and placed it directly on top of the
bottom plate. Then, I placed the metal top
on the newspapers and sprayed a light coat of
acid directly on to the surface before placing
it, face down, on top of the alligator material.
I quickly covered the metal with the second
press plate, then shrouded the entire assembly
with a sheet of plastic. My friend Jim Lawson
(right) helped me crank down the veneer press
to get a good impression on the top.
7) After a couple of hours, I opened the press,
removed the assembly, and took it outside,