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Doing A Burst By Wiping On The Finish


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I think I have done a complete search on the sight, but if I missed this answer please forgive me (point me).

I am fast approaching the time to begin my first finishing of a guitar. The guitar in question has a maple top over a mahogany body. I hope to apply a busrt finish to the top, but I do not have access to a spray gun. I know that I can go the can route (as suggested by ReRanch).

However, I was wondering if I could wipe the finish on instead of using spray cans? I feel like I have read many posts where people have talked about wiping on at least part of the finish, but then it always turns to spraying.

I also plan to follow Myka's suggestion of painting a clearcoat on the binding, for a faux binding look.


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I guess you could rub on the first "base" color but you would still have to spray the rest. The whole idea is to make the transitions from one color to the next. The only way to do that is to disperse the paint droplets gradually ie. more to less dots / square inch. Read up on Brian's "Poor man's Burst" tutorial.

Edited by Southpa
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Thanks for the responses. I will do some more looking. Also, I could go the spray can route, but I thought I would ask about the wiping method first.

By the way- is better to do the top (maple) or sides and back (mahogany) first? In other words does the order matter assuming I have already clear coated the faux binding?


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I have a book by Siminoff on making an F5 mandolin, and he applies a tobacco burst to maple by wiping on alcohol-based dye. He starts with a light coat all over, then gets gradually darker as he moves out toward the edge. Apparently the dye will move around a little as long as it is still damp with the alcohol, which allows him to blend the shades and do the burst. I think he may also sand back once or twice during the whole thing (I'm not sure, I'm on the road & don't have access to the book just now).

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Jo, I have wiped on dyes for a burst effect. Take a look at the process pics of a guitar I bursted like that: Red to Gold dye burst. You have to scroll almost to the end of the page.

Here are the steps I took with this:

0. Raise the grain with a wet rag and sand with 400 grit 2-3 times.

1. Stained the entire top red, let it soak in.

2. Lightly sand (400 grit) so only the stain that soaked deep remained. Rubbed yellow into the center.

3. Rubbed yellow into the center and brown around the edges and while it was still wet I rubbed red in between to blend the yellow and brown.

4. Rubbed yellow in the center, red in the middle and brown near the edges.

5. Rubbed yellow in the center to lighten things up.

6. Applied the final staining of brown at the edges, red in the middle and lots of yellow in the center.

I like the dyes dark so you may not want this many applications. Just experiment on scrap and you will be good to go.

My approach to staining is much like watercolor painting. It is a very forgivable medium. If you put on too much and make things too dark either let it dry and sand it back or wipe a wet rag over the dark area to remove dye. Also you can force lighter color dye over darker dye by saturating the area and rubbing it in. You can also fix a line of dye when you go over a dry area by rubbing it out with more dye or a damp rag.


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I want to do this also, but on an ash body.  I'm planning to fill the grain with an epoxy.  Would this work if I first shot a clear coat of Deft Laquer?

If you put any finish over the wood the stains will not work very well. They are wood dyes and need to soak into the grain for full effect. If you put on a sealer coat first you might as well just use colored lacquer coats to do the burst.

Also check out this thread: Another Sunburst Tutorial. I just finished this up and it turned out great. Like Maiden said it's not a traditional sunburst by I too like it better.

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