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What Kills Figure?


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Hi. I've read the tutorials on staining, and I was testing them on scrap pieces of flamed maple. I discovered some samples had almost no figure, while others had real deep 3d figure. I'd like to know which steps of the staining process could kill the figure like that.

-Can it be wet sanding too much with 400 grit when prepping the wood?

-Could it be if there's too much stain?

I'm asking.

Thanks.

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I'd like to know which steps of the staining process could kill the figure like that.

Figure has to be there in the first place before you can kill it, :D . Most woods simply have no figure. The tree did not undergo any form of physical stress throughout its growth. A lot of the stuff I use (mostly freebies :D ) have uneven figuring or has been cut in such a way that the figure dips down under the regular wood grain and does not exist on the surface plane in some places. That could be what you might be referring to when staining one piece of wood. Even if you do find a piece of perfectly cut, uniform, figured wood big enough to cover a guitar body, you will certainly pay for it.

What you want to do is enhance what figuring there is for all its worth. The "stain black / sand back" method is widely used around these parts. B) Some people like to grain fill to get a uniform surface, depends on the tightness of grain and porosity of the wood. Then if you want you can apply your translucent dye, burst or whatever then clearcoat. The clearcoat, wetsanded down to very fine grit and then polished will really show whats there.

Can it be wet sanding too much with 400 grit when prepping the wood?

I only begin wetsanding on the clearcoat (polyurethane, laquer etc.). There is no need to break out the water in the prep stages as there is nothing to gum up the paper. What you could do is lightly wet the wood down and then let it dry. That will raise the fibre ends in the grain which can then be sanded out. But wetsanding the raw (or even stained) wood will work water into the grain and cause problems.

Edited by Southpa
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No, read it more carefully. It says to "wet it and sand back." That's much different than wet sanding. What you are going to want to do is get a lightly dampened towel and moisten the wood(don't soak it, moisten it). Then after the water has dried and slightly raised the grain, use a light grit(like 400) to go over all of the areas you moistened to remove the grain you raised. The most you would need to do this is 2 or 3 times. You do not sand it while it's wet. If you're using alcohol based dyes and non-waterbased clear coats then having the grain raise isn't going to be as big of a concern for you. However, if you wet then sand, you should be covered.

peace,

russ

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I would recommend just completely forgetting all this wet-sanding business, I never ever do it and my finishes come out fine. :D

ESPECIALLY with veneer, I think it's completely unnecessary and quite possibly harmful.

Good on you for doing your studying up on finishing techniques, but here, I would say just move on and skip all this wetsanding business. :D

And Southpa and Setch are right, if you're sanding it while wet, you're going backwards and actually filling in the grain with slush fibers, that's the -last- thing you want to be doing.

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If I'm using water based aniline, often times I'll use the first coat of stain, or a lighter mix of it as the "wet and sand back" medium. In my experience, wetting and sanding back can reduce the effect of the figure. What you've basically done is to activate all the natural variances with clear water, then sand them away. If you do that too many times, you have a flatter looking surface that doesn't pop out as much IMO. Each time you wet and sand back with clear water, you produce a more uniform surface, which in turn accepts stain more uniformly. For figured tops, I want the randomness of stain direct to wood. I don't want a smooth, even color. I can get that with shader coats if I wanted. I end up getting a similar effect as a black pre-stain because the dye penetrates and collects so deeply into the figures, the way black would. I often use a highly potent mix of the final color for the first stain and then sand that back rather than using black. Black will kill the flash.

On veneer you don't have much flash anyway, because there's no depth. A black pre-stain could help or totally ruin the piece. If the black just goes into the little pores, but doesn't absorb into the figure, then it will look cheap. A prime example of this is Epiphone's "boneyard" finish, compared to the USA Gibson version. Besides being a Koean factory guitar, it's a veneer. So it almost looks like a picture of a guitar up close, not the real thing. For a veneer, I'd say no moisture prior to staining, like Drak said. Then, don't sand it down too much, leave it a little furry until you get your sealer coats on there, and sand those back.

Sanding to too high a grit also kills figure, and depending on the figure, sometimes using a scraper helps lift it up.

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This is sort of basic, but... use DYE not STAIN - dye actually soaks into the wood fibers and highlights grain, while stain sits on top of the wood and tints it, so it covers up grain.

Also, don't tint your coats of finish - that'll obscure the grain. If you want good figure and a color, you need to dye the wood then coat with clear, coating with a translucent color will obscure the figure to some extent.

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  • 3 years later...

A little raising grain question? will alcohol and oil raise the grain? I'm planning on using transtint dye in behlen behkol to dye the top blue and then using tru-oil for the finish. If these won't raise the grain then I won't even worry about raising the grain. I'm going to do a burst with the blue. I plan to use a very dark blue, sand back, wipe on the lighter blue, and then use a little aerosol sprayer to burst with the dark blue.

When I built a bass from a kit I raised the grain then sanded it back and it did seem to kill the grain of the quilted veneer a little. I also think I sanded to 800 or something stupid like that. Won't do that again

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  • 2 years later...

alcohol does raise the grain a bit and dries really quickly, oils do as well but they don't evaporate like water and alcohol so you end up with finish where you don't want any.. I always lightly mist the wood and dry sand it before staining.. This method goes back to stradivarious and furthur so don't knock it, it works!!

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