The Transparent Purple finish of some older EVH guitars is famous for fading and/or changing color due to exposure to light.
John's had turned an ugly yellowish faded purple. (I forgot to shoot "before" photos - something I often forget because I want to get going on the rescue.)
After sanding the finish off the top we learned that the factory dye penetrated into the wood pores and left spotty, inconsistent stains. I avoid using dye for this reason despite many professional opinions that it produces a better "flame" effect.
In order to remove the dye from the pores, I was going to use wood bleach, but I didn't want to risk affecting the spectacular flame in this top. I used liquid stripper (good old KS-3 for you finish geeks). This stuff literally pulls the old dye up out of the pores and lets you scrape it off. We had to repeat the process a couple times to get it all out, but eventually we had a clean top.
This was extra tricky because of the binding on the edge. Stripper will eat up that stuff, so we masked it , along with the sides and back, and held our breath...
We found some de-lamination of the flame veneer so we glued it back down, no worries.
The clearcoated top is so gorgeous it was almost a shame to put color over it, but this was a restoration, so we proceeded to mix some purple-tinted nitro lacquer and matched the original color.
The original unfaded finish color was visible in the pickup cavities, which were never exposed to light. When we shot the new finish we masked the pickup cavity so we would always have a color reference to go by.
My technique for transparent finishes is to first seal the top with a clearcoat, then shoot tinted finish over the clear, and then clearcoat over all. I will put my tinted finishes up against the best dyed tops. I used finish with UV inhibitors to preserve the color.
The same thing that affected the body had also occured to the headstock. The problem here was that Eddie's signature and the Ernie Ball logo were silk-screened on the purple headstock veneer. What to do? We couldn't sand the finish here, we'd lose the guitar's originality.
After much thought, we masked the headstock with a special clear masking spray. We cut around the logo and signature with an exacto knife. Then we sprayed new transparent purple over the old, just enough to get the color correct again.
After peeling off the masking, we used a fine artist's paintbrush to darken the faded purple in between the letters.
Then we clearcoated the head to seal everything under finish. A LOT of work, but I think we'll all agree it was absolutely worth it!