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Veneering - Wood Looks Really Dirty...

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Hey guys...

I have a piece of AAAA quilted maple (0.015" thickness) that I'm going to apply to the headstock and body of my project 7-string strat (it started life as an Ibanez RG7621).

I've never veneered a guitar before, so I cut out a small piece of the veneer and figured I'd start experimenting on the headstock. So... I glued it on, shaped it, cut holes for the tuning key posts, etc... and began to sand/polish the veneer up.

As I worked on it, the veneer seemed to get... dirty. I started with a short stint with 320 grit, then 400, then 600, all the way up to 0000 steel wool. As I progressed with each step, the veneer became grey in color and that "greyness" wouldn't lift out of the veneer despite me trying to use every trick I know on maple. Usually lighter fluid works great to clean up a dirty maple fretboard, so I tried it on the headstock and it didn't help. So I kept polishing the wood, and that "dirty look" never went away, until I'd just about thinned the veneer to nothing with sanding and cleaning it. I even tried a little bleach solution just to try it... I eventually ended up sanding the veneer off, and I'm ready to try again.

My question is... since I've never veneered, is there something I should know about the process of handling or polishing veneer wood that I contaminated the piece I glued down somehow? How can I avoid this? Or did I just ruin a perfectly good piece of veneer? I plan to die the face of the guitar and headstock a deep blue - would that "greyness" affect the color of the dye?

Many thanks for the responses.


Edited by Bluestreak
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This is a bit of a shot in the dark, but I wonder if it may have something to do with the sandpaper. You mention 320 grit and higher, and I'm guessing this is the silicon carbide wet/dry paper? Anything over 220 grit is really overkill on unfinished wood, so maybe next time try a good quality aluminum oxide paper, and quit at 220.

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