As with many guitar players, I was inspired by the album cover from Steve Vai’s pivotal album Passion and Warfare. The swirled guitar with colors everywhere was captivating to me as a teen. What also held my attention was some of the low end Vai was getting out of his guitar, especially the riff in “The Audience Is Listening”. This build is a result of that inspiration.
I work at a music school, and talked to my boss about building a 7 string. I had built a Tele with his help before, so I figured I’d go to him about the 7. He had a Ibanez Gio body laying in the back of his workshop that was once a 7 string. Since he does a lot of soldering work and gave me the body, I traded my PRS SE Custom 24 for the body and some labor. I got the PRS used and really wasn’t a fan of the neck, so I figured it was a fair trade.
The body was already sanded down a bit, but not all the way, so I sanded it down further and did research for a neck. I couldn’t find anything on eBay or aftermarket sources because of the neck pocket. It wasn’t a traditional Ibanez body with the curved pocket, but a simple rectangle akin to a strat. I went back to my boss and told him I couldn’t find anything. I ended up going into his workshop to get a screwdriver a couple hours later, and found that the neck for the 7-string was hung on the wall, it blended in perfectly with the other necks and parts. Looks like we’re in business.
After getting the neck and body, I made sure they were the correct match. From there, I sanded the body down a bit and my boss and I took a look at it. We noticed the previous owner tried to do some mods, but royally screwed it up. One of the holes for the volume pot was chipped and the hole for the strap pin on the horn was stripped with a broken screw still in it. We glued a washer for the chipped pot so the knob would have a clear access point with little to no wiggle room, and decided to put the strap pin on the back, similar to a SG. After multiple sanding sessions to get the blemishes out I decided to test my spray painting abilities. We filled up the blemish on the horn with some putty and then sanded it down to blend in.
I did some tests on some wood and made sure my coats were even and clean. The I practiced the swirling. For this, I used Magic Marble Paints. I first filled up a small bucket with water to the top, cold water in one and warm in the other for the sake of this test, and then I dropped the blue and white paints in various intervals and mixed them with coffee stirrers to get swirl effects. I found it worked better in cold water, and went with that moving forward. As far as technique, I started in on one quadrant of the bucket, and made my way to the center, making sure to evenly dip the test wood pieces throughout the process.
My spray paint had primer in the can already, so I got to multiple, even coats, across a week or two. I made sure it was nice and even and damn, did the guitar look good. I almost wanted to stop right there because the coat was so even and clean, at least, to my eye.
I decided to go through with the swirl though, and it came out less than desirable. It wasn’t even on some ends, and the entire middle to top section didn’t get as much as it should have. I tried to reswirl it, but quickly learned that it was a terrible idea and something you shouldn’t do since the swirl will clash and it will not be consistent. After taping off the first swirl, and then taking it off after the second swirl, I ended up taking off the first swirl by accident. I almost abandoned the project there; dejected. I was going to just spray paint it a matte blue and call it a day, but a buddy of mine said to give it one more shot.
Second swirl & Closing
After sanding it all down again, re-spray painting it to the nice blue, and then swirling all the colors again, I got a fantastic, even finish. My recommendations are using cold water, make sure whatever barrel you store the water in is clean and you use a trash bag for easier cleanup and spend a good time swirling the paints to get the right finish.
From there, I let the guitar dry for two weeks and then I gave it to my boss to wire. The guitar allowed for 2 pickups, so I added two Dimarzio Pickups with a DiMarzio 5 Way Split Coil Pickup Selector Switch. My boss said wiring it was a pain, but it’s totally worth it in my opinion. I also added a tree of life inlay sticker throughout the entire guitar neck as well as a binder clip on the bottom of the headstock to hold clips.
Overall this guitar plays amazingly and it is definitely worth it. I love playing it and the neck feels amazing.