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Natural Finish On Quilt Maple Tips?


komodo
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Howdy,

I am wondering if anyone has any tips on doing a natural finish on a 5A quilt top with really deep waves?

Is there a color that would look OK as a sandback and not kill the natural look, but add the depth to the quilt? Looking at Jeremy's finish options page (cool page) the light caramel over maple made me think that maybe something like that would give me the sandback options in the brown-amber spectrum, and still end up looking pretty natural overall. Natural maple can be pretty pale anyway. . .

All your help is much appreciated. :D

KOMODO

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No, there really is no dye you could use that will enhance the depth of the true quilt figure.

Adding any kind of dye will actually detract from the true depth perception of the quilt. Most people like the look of a dyed top better, but it does indeed take away from the depth of the natural quilting effect, and I know someone will want to disagree with me on this, but it is true indeed. :D

Adding colors and sanding back is a trick, an enhancement of a sort, but it's more of an illusion effect than really seeing the depth of a natural quilt stone cold stock IF you actually have a 5A top and not some inferior 3A or something. By doing the dye and sand back thing, you're actually tricking the eye and brain into thinking that there is more depth, but it's really just a trick, or an illusion, of more depth perception, it's not 'real'.

You could spray a light toner coat over top to enhance the color a bit, or maybe even add a little color into your first coat, but I wouldn't dye the bare wood at all if you're trying to keep the maximum true depth and chatoyance of the natural quilting effect in the wood.

If you do dye it, than you had better keep your dye very thinned down, and there is no sanding back, just dye it very lightly, and clear over it.

There are a few tricks out there tho.

1. BURNISH the wood with a flat piece of metal before you shoot your finish.

2. Use an oil-based finish as your initial coat, it is said that oil seeps into the figure and enhances it more than any film finish does. I don't completely agree with this, but others swear it's true.

3. Use some fresh shellac for the first coat or two, it has more natural color in it (not the clear dewaxed stuff, but the typical orange variety) than lac or poly does, and you can thin it down so it seeps deeper into the pores of the wood.

4. There is some concoction out there that I've never used, something about tannic acid and old nails or something, look over at the MIMF for more details on that one.

And of course, if you care about that 5A top, you WILL practice all these techniques on a SCRAP piece over and over until you hit exactly the effect you want from it, use a rattlecan of clear over whatever way you go to help you see what's going on.

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Thanks so much Drak, this is extremely helpful. I was going to mention chatoyance, that is my ultimate goal. Maximum 3D depth, and still an nice even clean and clear maple.

I know what you mean about 3A, 5A, etc etc. So many, (esp. on ebay) just don't have a clue or standard on grading. Now I certainly know that there is subjectivity in it, and I don't think I have a true 5A tops as they have some imperfections I'll try to work around, but for color and figure it's pretty dang sweet.

maple top

maple top 2

KOMODO :D

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I agree 100% with Drak(frightens me every time I say that :D:DB) ). The actual reflectance that gives quilt its illusion of depth and shadow is only going to be taken away from with anything other than clears. Any pigment used will block the actual material. Quilt that has deep strong figure really looks best to me with little or no color added. If you are very good with the sandback technique. You can certainly enhance weaker figure and still maintain a good bit of the natural effect. If you over do it you get a painted on look that looks painted on and very two dimensional. It is all about getting a good looking smooth gradient between the caps and bottom of the curls. If you have a piece with poor figure to begin with the best you can hope for is lipstick on a pig B) , but if it is a nice piece it will look great from the get go (it is up to you not to kill the look).

P.S. For what its worth I am a natural figure nut (that is reflected of course in my biased opinion) :D .

Peace,Rich

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Thanks Rich, this just confirms what I know about wood from other woodworking, and my insticts about what would look best. I guess I was poking around to see if the sandback would add any depth or accent really to the curls, as I've never done dyes.

One thing I know is that if you get your final finish by a cut rather than sanding, it keeps the grain opened up and can add depth. If the top is flat then you could get a finish with a planer or with a hand plane (or scraper more likely, although my Delta two speed does a wicked job using the finishing cut setting). A carved top would be a bit trickier I suppose, maybe not if you do the final finish with a scraper once again.

DRAK: I do have a question about the burnish you were talking about. Never heard of burnishing wood befoire finishing, and seems like it would close the grain pores up? I guess it would also make it rather smooth instead of sanding.

Also, the last technique you were talking about I have done. It's actually an ebonizing process, using the tannins in wood along with plain old rust in a solution. I used steel wool and vinegar, you can throw in old nails whatever. When you build up a decent ammount of solution, you just paint it on. It works on most woods, but woods with high tannin content work the best. Oak is wonderful. You can do several coats, and you can do light sanding in between, but very very light. It is an extremely thin finish, and not really a finish ON the wood, but IN or TO the actual wood itself in a thin layer by chemical reaction. I did a bathroom cabinet recently using white oak ply, and solid white oak for the stretchers and legs. There were several coats of this solution and then just a simple brush on poly and it came out beautiful. Because it's not a stain, you don't cloud up the woods look, and it retains depth. Hard to describe really. It has a deep espresso color, and literally looks like a different wood, more like an exotic. I have a friend who is an accomplished WW and he was over and couldn't tell what wood it was. The grain was right for oak, but the color literally looks like the wood and not a finish so he was thrown.

(hmm so i posted this and then was thinking, I guess you could try this process and sand IT back like the dyes? I will experiment with that although I don't have too much nice wood to test with! Not sure of the tannic content of maple, and this process is for getting REALLY dark, almost black.)

Thanks guys,

KOMODO :D

Edited by komodo
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DRAK: I do have a question about the burnish you were talking about. Never heard of burnishing wood befoire finishing, and seems like it would close the grain pores up? I guess it would also make it rather smooth instead of sanding.

What it does is to accentuate the differences between the 'tops' of the quilt and the bottom. The burnisher will compress the tops of the quilt and darken them up a little, while leaving the bottom relatively untouched. I guess it would also close the pores of that part of the wood up as well. As you explained about the oxalic acid treatment, it's something you have to see, hard to explain w/ words.

Try it on a piece of scrap and see what you think.

There is another method you can use, and that is to sand your quilt up to 4000 grit before applying finish. :D

What this does to quilt is pretty astounding, but it has an effect everybody wouldn't necessarily want, and that is that it makes your booked halves accentuate their figure in opposing directions. It will bring chatoyance to quilt like crazy, but you will only see the depth of the quilt 1/2 at a time. Kinda like 2 ships heading toward each other, then departing away from each other as you change your position of glance.

Hmmm, it's like this: when looking from the bottom of the guitar up, you'll see the left half figure, but the right half will look sort of dead, and then when you look from the top of the guitar down, the right half will explode with figure and chatoyance, but the left half will look dead.

This is why most people stop sanding at 220, because any higher up than that, and this effect becomes more pronounced as you go, and by the time you're hitting 4000 grit on bare wood (which is basically polishing bare wood, yumm!), it's pretty much as pronounced as you can get, but you know, what you are doing is truly bringing out the real figure of the wood, and since you cut the wood and bookmatched it, obviously the figure will dance from 2 different directions.

Keeping your sanding down to 220 really just 'dummies up' the wood so the reflection is pretty much equalled no matter which way you're looking at it, but you're giving up some figure dance by doing that, it's a tradeoff really.

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Drak that's incredible, I have never really thought about it that way but it makes total sense since it's bookmatched. I work as an art director and we have a similar problem using spot varnishes in print jobs. You want that POP but you have to kind of dumb it down sometimes otherwise when you hit it just right with the light, everything disappears in a glare.

I guess ideal would be to get a billet that has very similar figure on both sides, cut your tops but use one inside face and one outside to match the grain orientation. So a faked bookmatch, but ideal figure poppage. Wouldn't be easy, but what worthwhile is (except for eating ice cream)? :D

KOMODO :D

I owe you a beer buddy.

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Another option would be to just use a single solid piece of quilt, not a bookmatched pair. B)

:D OK, Friday after 5 . . .my brain is gone, someone shoot me. :D

I have been so used to looking for tops or billets to bookmatch.

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Remember I talked about the fact that some say an oil finish brings out the figure but I didn't totally agree with that?

Well, at 220, I don't think it makes that big a difference, because most any film finish, if thinned enough, will be able to penetrate the pores deeply enough to reflect the figure back at you as easily as an oil finish.

BUT. B)

If you're going to be sanding to 4000 grit, you will be making the pores smaller. If you place a single drop of film finish on maple that was sanded to 220, and a similar drop on wood that was sanded to 4000, you will notice that the drop on 4000 might just sit there for a moment before it is absorbed into the wood, whereas the drop on 220 will probably soak in almost immediately, so that's where I agree with them that an oil finish would be more appropriate than a film finish, when you're sanding to much higher grits, I would also then use Tru-Oil or some similar oil-based product for the first few coats, as I think the oil will penetrate more easily at that point , then I would shoot my nitro over that for the build finish.

Remember too that most oil finishes have some color to them, you said you were looking to enhance the color a fraction, using an oil product would help you 'amber-ize' it to some extent like using some shellac would do also.

BUT... :D

...Any film finish (lacquer or shellac anyway) can be thinned to within an inch of it's life, so one could ALSO simply thin the bejezus out of one's film finish to help the penetration, so you don't necessarily HAVE to use oil, unless you are a staunch believer in the 'oil makes better chatoyance' theory.

Also, you can mix techniques, like you could sand to 4000, then burnish the wood, then use an oil finish for a few coats, then on to the lacquer (as one example). :D

Last note: if you do use oil under lacquer, it is a good idea to use a barrier coat of shellac in between them OR just let it dry out good and thoroughly for a few weeks before shooting lac over oil. :D

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DRAK - when looking from the bottom of the guitar up, you'll see the left half figure, but the right half will look sort of dead, and then when you look from the top of the guitar down, the right half will explode with figure and chatoyance, but the left half will look dead.

I'd appreaciate a bit more explanation on this. I've just finished my first build and one thing I notice is that, on my three piece maple laminated neck, two laminations catch the figure one way and the other goes the other way. I'd like to understand this so in the future I can have a way to read the wood grain and control this. My theory was that it must be to do with the angle the wood cells approach the surface? If this was true, then you should be able to read it by looking at the edge of the pieces and getting them all the same way. Your description of the bookmatched top seems to suggest something else. If you look from the bottom (the strap button end toward the neck, right?) they should read the same in my theory. The top bookmatch would look different than the bottom if viewed straight on, with the guitar level as being played. What am i missing?

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GGW: it's supposed to do that. Fully normal. If you bookmatch wood with runout, that's what you get.

Quick explanation of runout: take a tree, and look at the lengthwise grain. Not the spacing, not the quartersawn/flatsawnness, but whether a 'strand' of wood runs all the way through the piece, from one end to the other. Ever split a block of firewood? That grain. If you split straight-grained stock, no figure, and 'open' the bookmatch, you get two surfaces that react to light in the same way, because the grain direciton relative to the top is the same in both pieces: perfectly parallel to it. Now, if there's a bit of runout, that is the strands don't go perfectly straight, they catch the light in different ways, because of how the grain's running. Again, dead normal. In a lot of figured wood, the figure is, quite simply put, wavy grain, so you get bits and pieces of 'runout' as the grain changes direction every which way. Bookmatch it, and you got a mirror-image effect, as the grain goes one way in one piece (say, angled into the wood) and the other way (angled out) in the other. ASCII art attempt at explaining:

Side view of wood:

==================

==================

Perfect, non-runout, non-figured wood. Bookmatch it, the grain direction is unchanged.

Now, wood with exaggerated runout:

\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

Bookmatched, you get the angled bit going one way in one piece, the other way in the second piece.

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DRAK: I do have a question about the burnish you were talking about. Never heard of burnishing wood befoire finishing, and seems like it would close the grain pores up? I guess it would also make it rather smooth instead of sanding.

There is another method you can use, and that is to sand your quilt up to 4000 grit before applying finish. :D

Sanding inevitably creates dust and the dust gets into the tiny little pores and tears up the wood instead of cutting it.

What you really need to do to get the ultimate surface before finishing is scrape it with a quality scraper. This is fairly easy to do but takes a little patience. The wood should literrally shine when you're done.

Scrapers can be found here:

http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=...cat=1,310,41069

http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=...cat=1,310,41069

http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=...cat=1,310,41069

http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=...cat=1,310,41069

To me, this is the only way to finish wood for a natural finish. When you see the results of scraping VS sanding, you'll understand.

:D

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I would somewhat disagree with that for 2 reasons.

1. By the time you're getting to 1000 grit and above, you're not tearing -anything- anymore, you're polishing.

And no matter what you're doing, you should be blowing off your work with compressed air, so no pores are geting clogged or blocked at all. I think if you don't have some compressed air handy, both methods would suffer somewhat.

Have you yourself ever used sandpaper or Abralon pads up to 4000 grit to do this?

2. Most hobbyist guitar builders are totally unfamiliar with scrapers. I have and use them, but most guys wouldn't have them, and if you can't speak in a language your audience can understand and give them information they can use, then you're just wasting your breath, it isn't really helping anyone.

If you're prepared to offer a scraper as a solution, then you should also be ready to completely explain how to sharpen and use one, else the information falls on deaf ears.

So yes, scrapers are very effective and if your edge is sweet, they will leave a very clean and polished surface, but it takes some time to learn how to sharpen and use a scraper, and a lot of guys here are just doing one or two guitars, so I'm not downplaying the use of a good scraper, but the reality of the situation begs a different answer sometimes. :D

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I would somewhat disagree with that for 2 reasons.

1. By the time you're getting to 1000 grit and above, you're not tearing -anything- anymore, you're polishing.

And no matter what you're doing, you should be blowing off your work with compressed air, so no pores are geting clogged or blocked at all. I think if you don't have some compressed air handy, both methods would suffer somewhat.

Have you yourself ever used sandpaper or Abralon pads up to 4000 grit to do this?

2. Most hobbyist guitar builders are totally unfamiliar with scrapers. I have and use them, but most guys wouldn't have them, and if you can't speak in a language your audience can understand and give them information they can use, then you're just wasting your breath, it isn't really helping anyone.

If you're prepared to offer a scraper as a solution, then you should also be ready to completely explain how to sharpen and use one, else the information falls on deaf ears.

So yes, scrapers are very effective and if your edge is sweet, they will leave a very clean and polished surface, but it takes some time to learn how to sharpen and use a scraper, and a lot of guys here are just doing one or two guitars, so I'm not downplaying the use of a good scraper, but the reality of the situation begs a different answer sometimes. :D

You don't have to agree. Do whatever works for you. I'm emrely suggesting alternatives that in my opinion will give the ultimate sheen and depth for natural finish.

1- Scraping doesn't create dust. Sanding does. Polishing is a different form of sanding, you are correct but scraping leaves the surface in a state where there is no need for "polishing" at > 1000 grit. With a scraper, I've never had to blow out dust.

Yes - I have have tried fine sandpaper 1000 grit and above and scraping always gave me better results. Sometimes a combination of both can be used, especially for rounded surfaces but the scraped surface always has more sheen.

What are you saying? Don't suggest alternatives because its not the right language? come on. This forum is here to provide help, suggestions, alternatives and solutions. That's exactly what I did.

2- When buying a scraper from lee valley, as I suggested, it comes with full instructions on how to sharpen them - it is dead simple. Additionally, scrapers will be cheaper than sandpaper because you don't have to keep buying sandpaper because of it loading up.

Using a scraper is easy and anyone can learn how to use one in under 30mins (in my opinion). Scrapers have mulitple uses and even for single guitar, it believe that getting to know how to use a scraper would be beneficial as it will produce a stunning finish and the tool can be used for other projects.

Edited by guitar2005
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What are you saying? Don't suggest alternatives because its not the right language?

No, not at all, I just like to debate topics occasionally, nothing wrong with a little debate once in awhile is there?

:D:D

You are correct on all counts, a scraper is a good way to do it also. B)

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What are you saying? Don't suggest alternatives because its not the right language?

No, not at all, I just like to debate topics occasionally, nothing wrong with a little debate once in awhile is there?

:D:D

You are correct on all counts, a scraper is a good way to do it also. B)

Can you spray nitro over a tung oil finish? is that what you said before? cause i have a bas that i would like to refinish butsomewhere i read that once you put oil in the wood you cant spray anything else I have the same problem with a nice top that i left natural but it looks too plain,i would like to strip and spray a light shade of amber,i just thought i might get fisheye or stuf like that cause of the oil.What do you think?

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I agree 100% with Drak(frightens me every time I say that :D:DB) ). The actual reflectance that gives quilt its illusion of depth and shadow is only going to be taken away from with anything other than clears. Any pigment used will block the actual material. Quilt that has deep strong figure really looks best to me with little or no color added. If you are very good with the sandback technique. You can certainly enhance weaker figure and still maintain a good bit of the natural effect. If you over do it you get a painted on look that looks painted on and very two dimensional. It is all about getting a good looking smooth gradient between the caps and bottom of the curls. If you have a piece with poor figure to begin with the best you can hope for is lipstick on a pig B) , but if it is a nice piece it will look great from the get go (it is up to you not to kill the look).

P.S. For what its worth I am a natural figure nut (that is reflected of course in my biased opinion) :D .

Peace,Rich

Hi!

FWIW, I've used amber/tung oil mix on heavily quilted/flamed maple to accentuate the figure. I'm not looking to be confrontational, but it really does seem to accentuate the figure. After a suitable drying/curing time, I steel wool and then shoot the nitro. Lovely.

Peace,

Dave

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