One of the classic electric guitar finishes is the Gibson Goldtop finish, which debuted in the early 50s on the Gibson Les Paul and ES-295.
The finish consists of finely ground bronze powder suspended in clear lacquer, resulting in a gorgeous deep metallic gold color. Due to the behavior of the bronze particles, it is a challenging finish to get even color and consistent results with, but I'll try to outline my experiences in this post to make it a little easier for anyone else out there.
The guitar being refinished is a slightly modified and stripped 1969 Les Paul
This example had been stripped - and routed for humbuckers - and had a side ding repaired, and then had grain filler and a few tinted coats of finish applied to the back and neck. The pickup cavities needed some wood added at the corners for pickup surround mounting screws, but otherwise there was no wood work required on the guitar.
Note the 3 piece maple top - the very earliest of the "reissue" Goldtops made in 1968 had two piece tops with a center seam.
I did discuss returning the guitar to its original twin P-90 configuration, but the owner preferred the sound of humbuckers and opted not to. This picture illustrates the pickup cavities have been widened to fit humbuckers.
There were remnants of the original gold finish in both pickup cavities - which would prove useful for properly tinting the final finish (see at the edges of the tape).
|Example of goldtop finish wear and "greening"|
You can see the little curls of gold lacquer behind the scraper. The lacquer is much softer than the plastic binding if you don't let it cure, so not much pressure is needed - the goal is to NOT scrape down the binding at all, though inevitably a little does come off in places where the binding is a little rough and the gold finish is imbedded in the binding a little. Ideally, there is some of the sealer coat between the plastic binding and the goldtop to act as a buffer - the binding should NOT be masked for the sealer coats.
Here's the top edge of the binding starting to look pretty clean. The color difference is due to the flash vs incandescent lighting in the prior picture.
Here is the completed refinish - though without the hardware installed. I also taped off and preserved the original but somewhat chipped and battered headstock.
Notice that the original finish inside the pickup cavities matches the top !!