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Staining a quilt


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Ok, I know this has been covered before by Drak and others, but I cannot seem to find the right threads.

Here is exactly what I am trying to achieve: blue_matteo sample

I am practicing on scrap, but am running out of scraps. I have the blue powder dye from ReRanch and this is what I have after staining once, sanding back with 220 grit and then staining again.


Granted, it doesn't have any laquer on it yet, but I don't think I am headed in the right direction.


- Do you sand back more than once?

- Are you supposed to use a finer grit than 220?

- I know some people start off with a black dye, but looking at the blue_matteo sample from PRS, do you think that is how they achieved this effect?

Thanks for any help, I want to make this quilt look great.

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[edit] sorry, didn't see the pic link in the first post! :D

It's hard to tell, but I think they probably did stain black and sand back. Certainly, that is a very effective way of accenting the quilt pattern even if it isn't the exact way PRS does it.

If you only have blue dye, you could probably mix it really strong and use it instead of black, but the effect wouldn't be quite as dramatic. I haven't tried this, so TEST ON SCRAP!!

Edited by skibum5545
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I think PRS does use the sandback method. They apply black dye, sand. Then color they want, sand back, reapply etc. One thing I noticed about your piece of wood is that the quilt isn't as highly figured and that will have alot to do with the results you get. If your looking to get the PRS quilted look, you might have to get at least a 4A piece of quilted. Perry and Myka have both done some beautiful quilted maple guitars on this site. They should be able to help you better.

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The scrap I am using isn't representative of what is actually on the guitar - the guitar definitely has a better quilt.

Ok, refining the method a bit.

- How far back do you sand after applying the black?

- After the black, how many coats of blue?

- Please tell me what grit works best for doing this?


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Here ya go.

Disclaimer: If you follow these instructions to the letter, you will be happy with your results.

If you blend in something someone else says withing these instructions, then I offer no guarantees to your results.


That finish is absolutely black then blue, and GF is right, the better the quilt, the better the results, but we'll proceed forward anyway. Forget the blue then blue, it's black then blue for that finish.

1) Grab a new test scrap piece to use. That blue piece is no longer usable unless you sand it back down to virgin clear Maple again.

2) Get some black stain. Personally, I use Solar Lux Black, but any black will probably do. Mix it STRONG. Any powder you use you can adjust it for strength. Make your black dye STRONG. The blue too when it comes to it. Weak blue SUCKS. Mix BOTH of your dyes STRONG. Best to get the exact same kind of dye that your blue is for compatability sake.

3) Glue your scrap piece down on a bigger, more solid piece. You need it to be flat, and stay flat. Very important when doing scrap piece work. Don't skip this step, do it.

(((If you were doing a carved top, I would tweak a few steps differently, but I believe you're doing a flat top)))

4) 220 is the correct grit to use. Use a piece of -hard scrap wood- as your backer block, like a scrap piece of Maple, anything hard and flat.

5) Sand the piece nice and flat.

6) Blow it off. I don't know what kind of resources you have at hand, but it's really important to be able to clear the piece every minute or two after sanding to see your progress clearly. If you have to use a vacuum cleaner with the hose flipped over to the blow side, then that's what you have to use, just don't touch the piece. Compressed air of some sort is best.

7) Buy some latex gloves, they're cheap, and use them whenever you're using the dyes unless you want everyone looking at your hands for a week and asking you what the hell you did to yourself.

8) Apply the black. Keep it to under a minute, and -don't soak- the wood. Get it on, make sure it's on good, and get off the wood. You don't have to be in a hurry, but don't keep going over and over and over it either. Get it on and get off.

Sometimes I will take a clean (slightly) wet rag and just lightly go over it one more time, this seems to help the evenness, but evenness isn't so important right now, that will be -much more important- with the blue later on.

*I think this part is where Perry and I part paths. He wet rags it back off, continually turning his rag to pick up the stain back out until the shade is what he wants to see*

So we will bid adieu to Mr. Perry and continue on 'our' path.:D

Perry's way works too for what you're doing, but unless he decides to post it, I don't know how you'll get it.

There IS more than one way to do this, different methods, different tweaks, etc.

This is MY way.

9) Let it dry at least several hours, depends on your environment. If you have it in the hot Arizona sun, it'll be ready in under an hour. If you live in Alaska, 24 hours to dry.

9) OK, now you're going to find out how flat you REALLY sanded the piece to begin with. Once you start sanding back, if you didn't get the piece flat to begin with, you'll either have areas that will clear faster (humps) or stay darker (dips). Sand back with the grain, and blow the piece off every minute or so for best results. Blow your sandpaper off too.

The quilt will start showing up as the pronounced figure. The dips and humps in the quilted figure is normal, I'm talking about large, obvious areas that were not sanded flat. if there are any, hopefully all you'll see show up is the quilted figure.


How -MUCH- you sand off will effect the look of the job. Leave a lot of black on, the look will be enhanced. Take 90% off, it will be a more subdued look.This is where you might want to do a scrap run or two before doing the guitar, this step is going to really affect the look, so you want to be sure you know how much black to remove to get the effect you want. Lots of black will get you a very dark midnight blue. Adjust accordingly, but you will be sanding for at least 5-10 minutes, give or take, blowing the piece off every few minutes to check your progress.

Once you're where you want to be, blow it off again and get your blue ready. New rag, new glove.

DO NOT MAKE YOUR BLUE WEAK! You'll blow everything you've done up to now if you apply a -weak- blue. You want a very strong vibrant blue. Follow the manufacturer's directions for the strongest mix/ratio they give you.

OK, when applying your blue, you really want to get it on and finish in under a minute.


So again, get it on, make sure it was a STRONG blue, and get off the piece.

NOW you can take a clean slightly wet rag and wipe it over again to even out any differences in ragstrokes, but again, keep it pretty quick. Every extra second you're wiping it around, you're mixing more black into your blue. No need to freak out, but no need to dawdle (did I just say dawdle? B) ) either. Get it done and get off of it.



*Additional tweak and perk dept.* Do this step at your own risk.

After you've done all that, you can add in an additional step IF YOU FEEL BRAVE.

Once you're done, you can go back over the dyed piece with some fine sandpaper...500 or something, on a hard backer block, and just -tweak- the tops off of the quilt. This will yield yet a different effect, and make the tips of the quilts BRIGHTER.

But you better practice this step on scrap a FEW times before attempting it, as you already has a finished dye job, and you can screw the WHOLE thing up doing this..

However, if you pull it off, you will wind up with a pretty neat look.

Peace and strong dye to you. :D

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Thanks Drak. I have seen your work in the past and I know you are the king of making a quilt come alive and was hoping you could help me with your recipe. I know you have posted it before. I just wasn't able to find the right thread.

In some of your posts, you mention using metalics from Stewmac. Do you think that is necessary here? I am asking because it looks like I will have to reorder something. I have the blue water-based dye right now. I also have some black alcohol dye, but since they aren't both water-soluable, I might get some funky results.

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In some of your posts, you mention using metalics from Stewmac. Do you think that is necessary here?


The Stew-Mac Metallics are -really- beautiful. If you want to use the Metallic Blue, have at it, you have my blessing on that. :DB)

I believe you can dilute them down with either water or alcohol, that's one of their attributes.


I am asking because it looks like I will have to reorder something. I have the blue water-based dye right now. I also have some black alcohol dye, but since they aren't both water-soluable, I might get some funky results.


What kind of black dye exactly is it?

Solar Lux (what I use) is alcohol-based, but it's STRONG, that's why I like to use it. Powerful Black.

BUT, I believe that water is really the best at getting dye down deep into the grain, so even when I'm using the Solar Lux, I always mix in a little bit of water,with it.

Or really, you know where I said to lightly wipe the black down with a clean wet rag?

That's doing the same thing, taking the alcohol-based dye and letting the water really help it penetrate down. So the wet rag serves 2 purposes, it evens out the dye, and helps it penetrate deeply into the grain.

About the blues...I mix different blues, they all have different 'hues' to them. Stew-Mac's water-based blue is also very pretty, it looks to me that your sample is stew-mac's water-based blue, am I correct?

So you can mix blues. You can mix up a strong batch of your water-based blue and squirt in several drops of the Metallic. I do that a lot. They're both beautiful in their own way. The Metallic dyes are very very potent and strong right out of the bottle, you so diluting some in the water-based blue works out perfect.


I forgot to mention this:

If your Maple is a reddish or Ambrosia colored Maple, *BLEACH IT FIRST!!!*

It will make your Blue SOOOOOO much nicer.


Good questions!


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Drak, both powders are from ReRanch. The label says Transfast, Homestead Finishing Products.

The black powder is alchol soluble and the blue is water soluble. I have laquer thinner, but no denatured alcohol. If I can achieve your results with these two, I will give it a go. But if you say it won't work, I will just reorder some new stuff.

I am just being careful since I only have a few small scraps left.

Again, thanks for your help. This guitar is for a friend of mine and I want it to look killer.

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If you want to see what some high end quilted maple with blue dye and NO black looks like, go Here and click on the Blue Guitar.

I mixed the dye myself, using water based dyes from LMII, and no black underneath.

Also, if you are trying to recreate a color or finish from a pro shop, keep in mind that they probably put the dye in the lacquer, not directly into the wood. And PRS would qualify as a pro shop, in my opinion.

Take care,

Guitar Ed

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Wood Bleach is made by Kleen-Strip, and as Wes mentioned, is a 2-part bleach, and is not the same as household bleach (sodium hypochlorite) at all. They do 2 totally different things as far as bleaching goes, you want the 2-part stuff.

Actually, if you WERE going to use household bleach, it would have to be about 5 times STRONGER than your household bleach, hehehe.

Maybe you can find them (Kleen-Strip) on-line and find a local supplier.

It's not a real 'special' product...maybe 1 step off the ordinary path...

So is your Maple really red or brown? I'm assuming it is? I don't want you to have to use the wood bleach unless you have to, I'm not trying to complicate things, but it is additional information I thought you should be made aware of so you can make a more informed decision.


"Also, if you are trying to recreate a color or finish from a pro shop, keep in mind that they probably put the dye in the lacquer, not directly into the wood. And PRS would qualify as a pro shop, in my opinion."


I'm sorry Ed, but this information is just plain false. Yes, some do use shaded toner coats, but you can't give a blanket statement like that, it's very misleading.

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Yup, that's the stuff (thank you Matt)

And remember to use those latex gloves when using the bleach also. It will burn your ass if you get it on you! :D

OK, a few more observations since we seem to be heading down the bleaching path, a few things to remember:

1) Bleach only bleaches down -MAYBE- 1/16" into the wood, so if you start sanding like crazy when doing your 'sand back' routine, you will sooner or later burn thru the bleached top layer into the darker layers, and you don't want to do that.

What to do?

Apply the bleach very liberally. And do the second coat too as recommended in the directions, you want maximum depth of bleaching here.

And when sanding back, stop around the 'medium' mark. This works for your look because they left a pretty hefty amount of black in that top in your picture, they stopped around 'medium' also.

And follow my directions about NOT 'soaking' the black stain into the wood. Just get it on, wipe it around for a few, and get back off the piece.

Let's look at it like this: If you 'soak' the wood with stain, what are you doing? Driving it -further- down into the wood.

And you now know the bleach doesn't go any further than 1/16".

So, you gettin' my drift here?

You don't want the black stain to overtake and pass the bleach depth.:D:D:DB)B)

Do those two things and you won't stumble into an unforseen landmine and blow your leg off. B):D

Another note about the wood bleach. They recommend that after it's dry, you should wipe the piece down with water/white vinegar to offset the severly screwed up pH.

But I just use water, done it dozens of times, never had a SINGLE problem.

So I DO recommend a water wash after the bleach has dried, but whether you add the vinegar is your call. I've never used it and never had a problem. B)

Let the wood bleach dry a full 24 hours before you wet-wipe it, and don't put it in an area where you're going to be, the fumes are NO GOOD for your respiratory system or Central Nervous System. :D

Lizard King out. B)

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This is how I make my black sides:

I use Solar Lux Black (stain), and Tints All Lamp Black (pigment) mix them together in a little lacquer thinner to break them down and mix that into my lacquer and shoot it on, then clear over everything.

But I will take the easy way out too!

On the Koa Tele, where I blackened the sides between the binding, I taped the binding off and just used Behlens Satin Black aerosol can lacquer, then clearcoated over that.

Hell, if I can get away with using a spray-bomb, I'm there baby! :D


"Nah, i would have to break a few pathetic rules to get my point across, so in the interest of keeping everyone here an amatuer, its best i dont do that."


Oh for chrissakes Perry, post the damned pictures, I know that's what you want to do!

Bring it on and see if they edit them out, I bet they won't, and, well, ...I want to see 'em!


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