I am about to refinish my rg550. Its a little beat up (*not that I have ANY problem with that and in fact like beat up guitars) but it has some significant neck pocket cracks and so its an exploratory mission.
Firstly, I am going to be very frank about re-finishing. This means I am going to tell you the truth and its going to upset some, as there is an overwhelming amount of misinformation about re-finishing and unfortunately seen people vest significant time, effort and money only to end up with a sub standard finish....and quite a few are overwhelming abortions.
My experience....well, I worked in a major guitar factory in the finishing department until getting promoted into final assembly, management and then R&D. I have taken literally thousands of guitars from raw wood to finished product. Now as a 'hobby' I design, build and operate some unique racing vehicles; this fact is influencing the guitar and will be utilizing some finishing techniques that can be applied to different applications.
-In truth for a 'how to' I would much rather show how to do a solid or transparent as most of the refinished guitars are simple single color but I will try and help with this as much as possible.
Here is a pic of the guitar in question and the neck pocket cracks. The opposite side is the same.
I need to know if these cracks are finish or are compromising the guitar structurally.
Here the headstock after disassemble. I was fortunate the neck is superb and requires no major repair. On the left side you will note there is a pretty nasty scrape. This 'ding' also pressed in the edge of the wood, this will need to be built up.
I have seen an overwhelming amount of people who feel it necessary to remove the finish to wood. This, for lack of a better work is crazy as hell....crazy UNLESS you suspect issues in the wood (*as I do with the neck pocket cracks), want to do a transparent finish or are going to do a veneer (I have even successfully veneered over finish). One could argue that removing the preponderance or all of the finish will keep the thickness of the guitar OEM.....well thats true but for the most part unless the guitar is finished multiple times should not be an issue.
The finish on a guitar serves 2 purposes:
2. To protect the guitar.
The 'issue' with Basswood (used on many Ibanez) is that it is very susceptible to dings, more so IMO then any other common guitar wood. People forsake the 'protect the guitar' aspect of most of the home re-finish jobs. Not because they are lazy...they just dont know any better.
This is one reason removing the finish to wood is a bad idea. The problem is that before paint is ever applied to the body, a coat of armor was applied to the guitar for a base substrate. This armor (*at least what we used in the guitar factories) was a 2 part ultra high build polyester. This polyester was BRUTALLY hard but also sealed the wood, filled in minor gaps/dings and after sanding provided a solid foundation for subsequent layers of paint (that offer very little in the way of protection).
For my race cars/bikes I use Sherwin Williams Ultra Fill II #21 polyester primer and is very similar to the polyester we shot guitars with (*except the guitar polyester was yellowish-clear). Smells the same however.....
Ultra Fill or other high build poly would be a good choice for base substrate.
Lets say you want to go another route for a protector coat.....
Go buy yourself a pint of epoxy.
While not a guitar, this is a subwoofer box I made. Note the yellowish wood, this is the 'pre sanded' fit pic but the only one I had on hand...now its gloss 'piano black'. This is because it was first 'painted' (*with a chip brush) with epoxy. After the epoxy dries it can be sanded smooth and will provide the protection, seal and fill needed to accept paint AND protect the guitar.
If you strip the guitar to bare wood simply paint your guitar (with brush) with epoxy. Runs, drips, brush marks are OK because they will be sanded out. If you need to re-coat with epoxy, after curing lightly sand or use acetone to 'break the glaze'. Epoxy forms a 'wax' that will need to be removed so there wont be any issues with adhesion to the previous layer.
I am doing a true carbon fiber overlay (*not the vinyl horse poop) without bagging. I seen someone else 'attempt' to do this but they had a lack of experience in the technique...and the thread (*another forum) fell into obscurity (*because they f-ed it ALL up).
More later and feel free to ask questions......