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With the help of some brave volunteers, The ReRanch is now proud to announce a product that was once thought un-doable; the Sunburst aerosol system is now available.

In 1954 Fender introduced the original Fender Stratocaster in Sunburst. The '54 Strat was a two color burst with the burst in amber and the edges in dark brown. There was no real color transition between the two colors because there was not a noticeable shared color component between the brown and the amber. Yes, brown does have a red component as does amber but the red component of the brown was very slight. In 1958 Fender introduced the three color Strat burst. This burst used amber for the center, a dark reddish brown stain for the edge and black for the very edge (side if you will).  The first year or so of the three color bursts used a brown dye with a red component that soon faded and turned  the three color burst back to a two color burst. In 1960 Fender got it right. The three color bursts lasted through the '60s. In the late sixties Fender changed the burst in a cost saving move. The bodies were first dipped in a yellow pigmented Fullerplast filler which tended to somewhat obscure the grain. The red transition band was also changed. It appears the band was sprayed separately and  the subtle transition of colors found in the 'early '60 burst was lost. The ReRanch burst is based on the 1962 burst. This pic of a '54 two color Strat finished with a modified Sunbursting kit was offered by Joe Steiner.

The Colors

There are actually four colors found in the ReRanch three color burst; Amber, Red, Dark Brown and Black. These four colors come from three separate aerosols. Amber and black are in separate aerosols. The brown is in a separate aerosol and the red band is actually the reddish overspray of the brown combining with the amber of the burst. Since the Brown and Amber are not pigments but translucent dyes, the completed color application must be clear coated.

The Products

The cans are the same 16 fluid oz. aerosols used so successfully with the other ReRanch products. The Amber Burst aerosol is supplied with the standard cream fan nozzle. The Medium Brown aerosol and the Black aerosols are supplied with a new fine tip nozzle. The cream and green colored fine tip nozzle allows more control in applying the transition zone and the black on the sides. The nozzle also allows much closer spraying without runs. If there is a secret to the system it is the fine spray nozzle.

Application Instructions

The sunburst application isn't difficult. However, it is suggested that if you make sunbursting your first adventure in guitar finishing it may be just that; an adventure. A solid color application may be more advisable for a first time finisher.

So if you've made it this far let's get started. After I did the first sunburst to prove it could be accomplished using aerosols only the kit was supplied to some brave volunteers to see what faults they could uncover. The accompanying pics are from the S/B I did as a test and the pics provided by Mike Sonneson that he used to record the process (Note the spray jig Mike made).

Ash is the traditional choice of wood to use with a sunburst. The grain is much more pronounced than alder. Maple is a good choice for sunbursting as well. Applying a sunburst over a maple capped body will also eliminate the problem of creating a crisp line between the maple top and the back on Strat type guitars. The boundary line will be opaqued by the black edge of the burst. If the wood is ash it must be prepped by applying a grain filler and sand and sealer. Alder and maple will need a sand and sealer but most likely no grain filler.

Mahogany can also be sunburst as exemplified by the sunburst Les Paul Jr. The darkness of the mahogany may cause a problem in the amber burst area. I have used the amber dye sunburst color over very light mahogany but on a dark mahogany a pigmented yellow translucent  may be needed for the burst. (Bleaching the mahogany may also be an option). A grain filler and sand and sealer will be needed to prep the mahogany before spraying any color. The details of prepping can be found in the "Solids and Translucents" section of this site.

After the wood has been prepped with grain filler (if required) and four coats of sand and sealer sanded flat the first color is ready to be applied. Most people have found that a sunburst is best applied with the body laying flat. If possible lay the guitar on a small table or raised base that allows you to walk completely around the body. Paper can be used to protect the base from overspray. The body should also be raised an inch or two off the base to prevent the body from sticking to the paper and also to reduce hard spray lines. Wood blocks inserted into the pickup and Tremolo cavities can be used as supports. For a Statocaster style body the first color to apply is the black edge. Why does the black go down first? It is the only color applied while spraying inward making overspray into the burst area inevitable. To reduce this over spray cut a piece of cardboard the size and shape of the body and cover all but the edges. In the areas of the body contours the cardboard can be folded downward to offer better protection. DO NOT TAPE the cardboard. Taping will cause hard paint lines with no feathering of the color. Spray the black edge using the fine tip round pattern tip (cream with green insert). The black should be applied to the very edge (side) of a Strat and extend onto the face of the body only about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch. The remaining width of the dark edge will come from the brown application. To reduce overspray on the body spray the edge with the aerosol pointing downward and try to avoid spraying into the space between the body and the shield. Once the black has been applied and dried remove the shield. You may find that despite the shield some over spray made its way into the burst area. Since the black is the only color applied so far it will be simple to remove the speckles by lightly sanding them out with #220 or #320 dry sand paper. Any variations of the width of the of the dark band can be corrected now as well. Of course you could spray the black with no protection and accept the speckles as part of the sunburst. If you look closely at an original '60s burst you will discover see that Fender did.

The amber burst color can now be applied. Use the cream fan pattern nozzle to apply the burst color. Note that the nozzle insert can be rotated to give a horizontal or vertical spray pattern. Use the setting that is most comfortable to you. When applying the amber don't worry if you get overspray on the black band. The amber is strong enough to color the wood but not the black edge. This pic from Mike shows the band and amber. After the amber has been applied apply a couple of coats of clear. The clear does two things. It gives a protective layer over the amber that may allow any overspray or "ooops" to be sanded off with out sanding into the amber and the clear will also reveal the true color of the amber. If you feel it needs to be darker adjustments can be made over the clear coats.

With the amber burst and black band applied the red/brown transition zone is ready to be sprayed. As noted the red and the brown come from one aerosol. The dark brown is achieved with multiple spray passes and the red color comes from the overspray of the brown combined with the red component of the amber. To apply the transition zone the guitar should remain in the horizontal, supported position. Unlike the black band the brown band is sprayed outward. Use the fine round pattern cream/green nozzle. A few practice runs are suggested to get the feel of the spraying technique. Here are a few hints. Spray the brown zone with one half of the spray pattern falling off the edge of the body. You will find that you can spray at a closer range with the fine tip than you can with a normal spray nozzle. The closer you hold the can to the body the narrower will be the band. I've found that you can spray at a minimum distance of about six inches with the fine tip. Be aware that spraying too many passes at close range increases the chances of runs. It is best to spray one or two passes and let the color dry for a few minutes before spraying more passes.

When spraying the brown zone hold the can over the center of the burst and spray outward. After ever two or three passes check the nozzle for paint build up which could cause a drip. Spray the body in quarters. That is, stand on the lower side of the body and spray the top. Step to the tailpiece end and spray the horns. Step to the top and spray the bottom side. Step to the horns and spray the tailpiece end. When spraying the band I found that about two passes per edge and one trip around the body followed by about five minutes drying time would avoid runs. About twelve passes gave a dark brown (almost black at the black/brown line) color and a good red zone. As for achieving the proper spray pattern, let the body be your guide. If you keep the spray pattern half on and half off the body the traditional strat burst pattern will appear. The trickiest areas are the horns but if you trace the edge of the body through the horn area you should have no trouble. If you prefer a wider red zone you can move the can away from the body and make one or two passes with the pattern falling fully onto the body. You may want to spray a few coats of clear before making this adjustment. The clear will reveal the finished color pattern and you may find that the red area is actually already correct. Here is a Strat done by Cliff Kuhlman, one from Tom Lipp and  a close up of the P Bass as finished by Mike. 


With the pattern correct you can begin you clear coating. For clear coating you may find it easier to spray with the body hanging. Apply at least four coats of clear before doing any sanding and then sand only if needed. Nine to twelve (or more) coats of clear coating will give a good base for the final wet sanding and polishing as described in ReRanch 101. Have fun!

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