Solid and Transparent Finishes
As mentioned above, bodies were generally made with two different finishes in mind; transparent (to show off the figuring of the wood), and opaque (for solid finishes). In addition to these solid-painted and exotic wood bodies, one of the trademark features of early Charvels was their wild graphic finishes. Both the transparent-finished "exotic" bodies and painted graphic Charvels are by far the most desirable and collectible.
Before painting a body, the neck pocket was masked off. This left the neck pocket blank for the builders to note the work order number, date of assembly, assembler's initials, and other relevant info. Black magic marker about 3/16" wide was often used to darken the edges of the platform so that no bare wood showed under the edges of the neck. Sometimes you will find little "personal messages" from the builder in the neck pocket, or on the neck heel, such as "Don't ever give up", "Keep rockin", etc. The builders really poured their heart and soul into these instruments and apparently had a good time doing it.
This neck pocket/neck heel information is arguably the single-most important bit if information for authenticating an original pre-serialized Charvel (provided all the other variables are within the realm of possibility). This info was recorded in pencil, ball-point pen, and felt-tip pen, both red and black. Those who have owned numerous Prepro's will recognize the builder's initials, handwriting, style, and other tell-tale marks which will instantly confirm that which was otherwise assumed; authenticity. While these early Charvels did not have an associated log book like their production counterparts, three-digit work order numbers were used (presumably) beginning at 001 and running sequentially through to approximately number 750 or so (by best estimates). The work order numbers continued sequentially up through production, and grew to four-digits long. There is often supporting original factory documentation that can be found through the work order number, date of manufacture, original recipient, etc.
The electronics cavity was generally left unpainted, but was often unmasked and received clear when the body was clear-coated. After the body was painted, the masking was removed from the electronics cavity, and the guitar "shot" in clear including the electronics cavity. After the cavity was cleared, a raw brass electronics grounding shield was often fit into place, secured by both edge contact and the volume pot.
The tremelo cavity was generally both left unpainted and uncleared; raw. Often there was overspray into the cavity from the top, but the underside was generally cleanly masked off. The pickup route(s) were either left unpainted and uncleared, or received the full paint treatment.
In general, for opaque finishes, all areas that were to be painted would be primed with a gray or white epoxy-based enamel primer. Areas that remained unpainted were also unprimed.
Virtually any colored finish was available, and you will see reds, yellows, oranges, blues, greens, purples, blacks, whites, and others in both traditional solid colors, pearlescent finishes, metallic and candy finishes. I have seen a very special custom Telecaster that featured a Les Paul-like goldtop finish; just stunning. The paints were generally urethane-based enamels and applied rather heavily for a very solid, durable finish. It is highly likely that some of the earliest pre-serialized guitars used traditional nitrocellulose finishes, like Fender and Gibson did at the time. However, by and large the Charvels used the urethane finishes exclusively. Regardless of the finish, if original to the guitar, the paint will have generally shrunken into the glue joints (if laminated) and/or wood grain to some degree. As a general rule, if the paint looks "too new" it is probably a refin...
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