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How Far To Sand Back The Black Coats On Figured Maple....


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Hey all - I've been practicing on various bits of scrap with varied results, but has anyone got tips on how far to sand back the initial black dye coat on things like flame maple before colour coating? If anyone has a picture of this stage it would be cool, as I'm not 100% on what ratio of black figuring to "clean" maple should be left for best popping of the figure.

Also, when I colour coat the black dyed areas appear much more matte than the newly coloured areas. Obviously this comes out with clearcoating, but I'm considering an oil finish. Has anyone got experience in using alcohol dyes on maple and finishing with tung/danish oil?

Sorry, but search didn't specifically reveal all the answers I needed! :D

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I guess the answer is not straightforward, depending on the depth of dark stain, and the openness of the endgrain. For my 2 builds with figured maple, I reckon I ended with 30-40% dark left, then overcoated with solvent dyes to add further colours. (dark oak, yellow pine and red mahogany) As the dye sinks in it all becomes more matte. Finishing with teak or danish oil (or tru-oil) and buffing will bring up more of a shine but not as much as a proper gloss varnish. It leaves more of a silk sheen than a gloss but still looks very attractive, more natural than the really high-gloss figure popping maple. The real answer, as ever, is try it right through on a scrap or offcut, as the wood quality will dictate the process needed to get what you consider acceptable. Have a look in last months guitar magazine for a beautiful Nathan Sheppard quilted maple, dark stained, oil finished guitar.

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Thanks Al - i'm trying to avoid clearcoats as I don't have enough clean non-dusty space to let them cure at present! On the test pieces, rattlecan lacquer popped the finish out a treat but I do prefer the feel and *lighter weight* of an oil finish, but the matt/satin areas kind of put me off it a little. I guess I could always practice French polishing!

I'll try and take a set of "in-process" photos on my test scrap to see what we can learn from that....

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It's not black, but maybe these process pics will give you an idea...

initial dye:

darkbrownstain1.JPG

sandback

then some passes of diluted brown, red, and yellow...

finished product

My experience has been that you have to sand it back much lighter than you'd expect. The dye in the figure darkens up quite a bit once you get the top coats and lacquer on it. No idea about an oil finish, but my gut says that it won't look nearly as good on a dyed figured top compared to a glossy clearcoat.

Hope that helps.

Mike

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Thanks Mike - that's really useful. I think I'll bear a lot of this in mind for the test dyeing this weekend (too much band practice this week to build) and post some results. I gather the dye takeup varies hugely between different pieces of wood, so experience and experimenting with prior knowledge seems the order of the day! :D

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It's not black, but maybe these process pics will give you an idea...

initial dye:

darkbrownstain1.JPG

sandback

then some passes of diluted brown, red, and yellow...

finished product

My experience has been that you have to sand it back much lighter than you'd expect. The dye in the figure darkens up quite a bit once you get the top coats and lacquer on it. No idea about an oil finish, but my gut says that it won't look nearly as good on a dyed figured top compared to a glossy clearcoat.

Hope that helps.

Mike

thats the exact color I want for my pick guard. let me get this straight,

you did a red/blackish stain sanded it back so it was just in the grain, then individual coats of red/brown/yellow? im confused..

have a reall 3D view to it?

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thats the exact color I want for my pick guard. let me get this straight,

you did a red/blackish stain sanded it back so it was just in the grain, then individual coats of red/brown/yellow? im confused..

have a reall 3D view to it?

like this?

swirlsideprofile.jpg

There's no black at all... tobacco brown, cherry red, lemon yellow. The recipe is here in my tortoise shell thread. Depending on the light it either looks more reddish or more brown, kind of a cool effect. :D

Mike

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I was considering posting "a year" but somebody might have thought I was taking the pee....

I think I'll sanding seal the body and use rattlecan clearcoat. I'm sure I can knock up a temporary painting booth using polythene and a brushless fan (flash fire cured finish anyone?) to evacuate the dangerously large huffing bag of solvents it would create! I doubt I'd get as beautiful a finish as yours Mikhail, but hey - there's plenty more wood in the sea as they say!

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I think I'll sanding seal the body and use rattlecan clearcoat.

I started with rattlecan, then switched over after 5 coats when I got my compressor. You can get a good finish with the 'cans, it's just takes more work. Personally, I'd skip the sanding sealer and just spray some light lacquer coats to seal in the dye.

seven months?!? jesus..

I ment "3d" because no matter how I take pictures, that "3d" look to some flamed maple never comes out in pictures like it does in person.

awesome finish though..

That's seven months including experiments, downtime, and Other Things To Do. It really could be done in a week or two, plus a month + for curing.

I think that's about the best "3D" pic I have. Perhaps a video clip... or 3D glasses would help? The figure really shifts when you move it in the light. :D

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ha! yeah I read all of your thread...

my issue is the fact that im starting this weekend, i want to be done with the body and neck by the end of september or early october.. Then Ill experiment and start finishing.. But I move the 3d week of December to Texas... and I want to have it cured by then.. eek. allthough my area is much smaller(just the pickguard will have this much depth.. maybe the neck) the rest will be a stained laq finish over swamp ash..

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I'm a bit concerned over the cure time of finishes as well Desopolis. I can't seem to find any luthier suppliers that sell patience either :-)

I'd like to get the bass out by the end of the year so I can tackle my wife's Les Paul. Having a beastie hung up to dry does nothing for my patience!

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Have you considered a tru-oil finish? Wipe on lots of thin coats progressively over a few days, it cures quickly so you can do one in the morning, one in the evening. It can then be left a few days to harden, then wet sand with 1000 grit and buff with t-cut or similar to a nice sheen, not high gloss but enough to start bringing out the figure.

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Yeah, I found a stockist in the UK but wasn't sure how much it would flatter the grain. I think I'll buy some anyway and see how happy my test scrap makes me :-)

Oiling would be nice purely because it would flatter the bloodwood and ebony laminations, and if I can get ahold of it, the bloodwood back wings! The maple is "front of house" so to speak, so I'd like that to pop out a fair bit. I might wash dye it with thinned out Behlen wheat colour alcohol base dye and sand back before oiling. That should work nicely.

How does rock maple (one of the inner laminates) take oil?

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Well its pretty dense and low porosity but tru-oil will give it a slightly darker honey-yellow hue, like when you wet figured maple with white spirit or teak oil. I think it will look good.

Sounds good to me. I would severely love to go for a deep red figured finish like Mikhail's PRS, but the choice of woods in the neck laminate kind of mean I should stick with a lighter finish or else the bloodwood and ebony highlights would be lost in the morass. The rock maple won't dye as consistently as the figured maple, so I think a brown/yellow wash to pop the flame, sanded back and then a thorough oiling all over should highlight the neck laminates and still keep the flame nice and prominent. That said, I could always hang it as Mikhail says and get on with my wife's guitar :-)

I can always make another bass with the same construction but different neck laminations and go for a deep red (slow curing....) finish. I think I'll see what the bass says to me mid-construction!

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  • 2 months later...

Your advice is much appreciated Mikhail. I can't believe I forget that I started this thread!

Anyway - I much prefer the PRS finish in relation to what I'm aiming for. I've shifted my goalposts slightly and decided to Rustin Plastic Coating the bass (instead of oil) with faux binding at the edges. I'm not stealing your design idea's soul though! :-D

How did you mask yours off to prevent dye bleeding? I'm considering using painted-on shellac, or perhaps masking the body using painters tape and spraying sanding sealer. The sandback colour is going to be black with a bit of red added for bringing up the final "redness" with a slightly lighter sanding accent around the carves to bring out the shape of the instrument.

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How did you mask yours off to prevent dye bleeding? I'm considering using painted-on shellac, or perhaps masking the body using painters tape and spraying sanding sealer. The sandback colour is going to be black with a bit of red added for bringing up the final "redness" with a slightly lighter sanding accent around the carves to bring out the shape of the instrument.

Hi, sorry, didn't realize this thread was still active... I've been "away" from this forum - building an amp.

iwattprogressguts.jpg

Almost done. B)

Steal all you want... It's totally PRS anyway. :D

For the faux binding I masked off both sides, using 1/8" green 3M pinstriping tape at the edges, then sealed it with 1 or 2 lb. shellac, two or three coats (you can also use thinned lacquer). Once it dried, I unmasked it and scraped any areas where the shellac got under the tape. The trick in masking is to not stretch the tape (it will tend to lift) and to rub it down hard to get a good edge seal. Take your time and make sure the line is perfect!

Once the binding edges were cleaned up I masked the bottom edge with the 1/8" green, then masked off the entire top so I could pore fill, stain and seal the back.

After the back was sealed (again with the shellac, although I'll probably use lacquer next time, as the alcohol in the shellac likes to redissolve the dye, making blotches) I unmasked the top, then masked just the sides in preparation for dyeing the top. Once the top was done I used a razor blade (taped onto a plastic strip for a depth stop) to scrape the dye off the top edge of the "binding". I made it a little wider than I had planned, and found that the dark brown had soaked in really deep, so the binding has the figure "enhanced" as well. It looks ok, but I prefer just the white maple. Lesson is, don't scrape it too wide, just the edge like a PRS.

Anyway, hope that makes sense. There are other (probably simpler) ways to do it. I adapted my method from the StewMac Trade Secrets "PRS Blue Tele" tutorial, and Myka's process pages.

Good luck with it, and be sure to post some pics. :D

Mike

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