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Making a Malone Guitars custom electric - part four: finish, final assembly & setup

A spinning 360 image of a handmade guitar. The guitar is blue on the face and black/brown on the rear, with a light coloured neck. It is a double cutaway guitar and has black hardware
Pilot One

In parts one to three of this four-part mini-series, I gave a brief overview of how a Malone Guitars custom commission is designed and constructed. The guitar in our story still needs to be clothed, so in this part, I'll be covering the finishing process, final assembly, and setup.

I use a variety of finishing materials in the workshop. The majority of my guitars, including all of my acoustic instruments, sport a French polished shellac finish, often over timber which has been dyed. It may not be the most durable finish, but it is easy to repair, it looks amazing, feels amazing, and - if you believe everything you read on the internet, plus hundreds of years of instrument manufacture - is best suited for stringed instruments where vibration really matters.

This was not one of those instances. As with many of the electric guitars I build, a sprayed lacquer finish was the way to go here - nitrocellulose or 2K polyurethane. As this guitar was to have a dyed burst applied, is 80s inspired, and I wanted the body to have Bowie's looks and Keith's durability, 2K was the only way to go - it is hard as nails, doesn't yellow, and looks incredible on flamed maple.

But before that, I stripped the guitar back to its component parts, raised the grain and fine sanded the timber to 600 grit, then applied two liberal coats of black aniline dye over the whole body. This was then rubbed back to begin to establish the burst effect. A further coat of each of three different blue tones was then applied to the top (rubbing back between each), to give real depth to the finished colour. The finish looked beautiful even before the 2K topcoat was applied.

In between coats, I turned my attention to the neck. This was to have stainless frets and a nitro finish, as my client wanted the durability afforded by stainless steel, but the speed and played in feel that comes more easily with a nitrocellulose finish.

I applied a few light coats, installed the frets, shaped them and gave them an initial polish to remove the deepest scratches, then hit the whole neck once more with a generous coat of nitrocellulose. I remove the overspray on the frets when I do the final polish.

With that, it was time to turn my attention to the electronics. I use Bare Knuckle Pickups almost exclusively here at Malone Guitars - their workmanship is first class, their pickups are extremely reliable and consistent, and they sound killer! Their tagline - 'Handmade without compromise in the UK' is a pretty good fit with what I do here too.

For this build, because my client was looking for Satriani tones, I had specified a Cold Sweat in the neck position, Trilogy Suite in the middle, and Holy Diver in the bridge - an unholy trinity of pickups that will cover an extremely wide range of tones by default. Generally, I will wire a guitar to provide maximum versatility and give an owner tonal options, but I am no fan of lots of controls and microswitches. So, to get the most of the HSH pickup set, I installed an Oak Grigsby five-way switch in the typical configuration and CTS push-pull pots for both tone and volume. The volume is wired to split the humbuckers, the master tone to select the inner or outer coils. This gives a massive thirteen possible pickup combinations from just three controls.

With the always excellent Gotoh hardware installed - this in 80s classic cosmo black - I assembled the completed parts for the last time before carrying out a full set up and test. This guitar looks a million dollars and absolutely rips!

The image is a full shot of an electric guitar. the guiter has a blue and black flame-like striped body. The neck is made from birds eye maple. The hardware is black. The guitar looks awesome
Pilot One - handmade in England

The image is a close up of the neck joint of an electric guitar. The guitar is black and very shiny. The neck is a heavily grained birds eye maple. The neck is attached with bolts which are recessed into the body.
Rear comfort carve and neck heel

The image is a close up of the body of a blue and black rock guitar, which has a dyed finish showing the grain in the wood. The guitar has a two point tremolo system and three pickups
Pilot One - Gotoh tremolo and Bare Knuckle pickups

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