@theGleep: The first instrument you (re)finish will always be one of your favorites, regardless of how refined your work gets down the road. My son's 12 string tele is far from pro grade, IMO, but the fact that I made it when even I had doubts on its outcome (and even though the finish is far from what I would deem fit for selling, it plays and sounds beautiful, praise God!), it is my first. I offered to refinish it now that I know more about what I'm doing, but even my son loves it for it being the first one.
I, too, used the hanger method, though I'm thinking about cutting a 6-8" 1X3 to fit in the neck pocket, and attaching it to a mic stand with some conduit straps (no idea of their real name--those straps that hold conduit against the wall). That way I can twist it around as I apply the finish, and loosen the straps to slide it off for sanding.ake sure the wire goes through the body with plenty of extra so it won't slip off as you spin it around. It's happened to me, and ales for extra work.
Jeans are fine. On a nice day, I've sanded plenty of times with the body sitting on my lap while enjoying the sun. Definitely do your stain prep (alcohol and sanding) with gloves, and don't handle it bare handed until you move into the shellac phase. Shellac has great adhesion properties, especially de-waxed shellac, so you won't have problems past there.
Ever clear is a great choice, with no toxins (a must when I work inside, we have 5 parrots)
Lifting the grain with the alcohol and lightly sanding the grain down has to be done just prior to staining. I'd do the grain lift both just prior to your prep coat and prior to your stain, to be on the safe side, though not much lift will occur if you get it all the first time.
I advise you is dewaxed shellac, for the best results. If you use shellac from a can, Zinsser has waxed and dewaxed. Most premixed shellac is made in a 3 lb "cut," or 3 lbs of shellac flake per gallon of alcohol. Go to http://www.finewoodw.../mixing-shellac.aspx
to read the proper conversion to dilute it to about a 2 lb cut (you can store it in a mason jar). This will give you thin, glossy coats. I put a good 10-12 coats before sanding, to give plenty to rid myself of brush strokes. Take care that you don't sand through all your coats and hit your stain. Too much shellac is not a problem that sanding can't remedy. Too little can make a grown man cry.
Use wet-dry sandpaper and a lubricant Like mineral spirit or even a few drops of olive oil. I'd wait a week after your final coat of shellac if you aren't sanding a little after 3 or 4 coats, but doing my shortcut method of many coats and sand. Otherwise, you can sand a day later and reapply until you get it smooth as glass. Don't apply pressure other than the weight of your hand, and inspect the paper for buildup frequently. Buildup will mar your finish like a grain of sand.
When you've got it sanded smooth, work up to at least 1500 grit paper. You can buff then with a quality car polish like McGuires and use their swirl remover to finish it up. Or, after the sandpaper, apply a few coats of varnish, sand some more, then buff.
BTW, Merry Christmas to all, should I forget to post that later!