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Caustic Soda Used To Give Wood An "aged" Look


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I wanted to share an experience I had this morning when I went to check on some of the progress being made on my Dean Cadillac copy at the local woodshop. This guy has been helping me out since I do not have very many woodworking tools at home.

He showed me the effect of mixing some lye with a small amount of water, and then brushing it on an endpiece of the quilted maple to be used as my top. He said it duplicated the look of 20-30 years of natural aging that periodic and normal exposure to sunlight would produce over time , on a piece of finished wood. He said that the effect could be varied or minimized, based on how much of a certain type of vinegar (or something else acidic) was mixed in to counter the extremely basic ph of the straight lye mix. He told me that this would really give the wood much more of a three diminsional look, even before any staining. I could not believe the change when he actually brushed it on the maple. AMAZING!! It gave it a yellow/amber tint and really popped the grain and 3-D effect.

Has anyone ever heard of doing this? If so, does it hurt the wood in any way? Is this recommended? I'd like to hear some opinions on this technique. Thanks.

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I don't really know anything about the aging side of things or what the ultimate look will be from his technique. But all figured woods "pop" when they're wet, no matter what the liquid is. People use different things around here all the time to show off figure. I think I've seen mineral spirits and naptha being used, along with good ol' water.

Greg

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This effect was more pronounced than what I have seen in the past. I have stained, wetted, finished and refinished a lot of wood in my time, but have never seen anything quite like this. Bleaching pulls color out, this actually colored the wood with a yellowish/amber tint. I just want to know if it has any ill effect on the wood, or possible bad reaction with finish materials like lacquer, acrylic, etc.

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With most alkaline methods, you often want to neutralize the effect by washing with (distilled) water to make sure you don't have any alkali stuff hanging around to mess with finish.

Vinegar with steel wool also does stuff, although it tends to go 'grayish' to my eye, not something I like much.

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Greg, in the nicest possible way I can, I would suggest you might want to stay out of conversations where you don't understand what is being discussed, unless to ask questions.

Your answer may as well just be deleted, it makes no sense -whatsoever- in reguards to the OP, but since you don't build guitars as a rule, you wouldn't understand why your answer doesn't make any sense at all.

Make sense? :D

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Drak, I was hoping you would chime in on my question, because of your vast experience in finishing. Unfortunately, you did not give me your opinion on this type of technique. Would you...please? Thanks.

Mattia, thanks for your advice on washing away residual alkyloids as well.

Edited by Stolysmaster
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Drak, I was hoping you would chime in on my question, because of your vast experience in finishing. Unfortunately, you did not give me your opinion on this type of technique. Would you...please? Thanks.

Mattia, thanks for your advice on washing away residual alkyloids as well.

I am not familair with the process you described. I have heard of using the Tannin that occurs in woods to color wood.link

Peace,Rich

Edited by fryovanni
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Greg, in the nicest possible way I can, I would suggest you might want to stay out of conversations where you don't understand what is being discussed, unless to ask questions.

Your answer may as well just be deleted, it makes no sense -whatsoever- in reguards to the OP, but since you don't build guitars as a rule, you wouldn't understand why your answer doesn't make any sense at all.

Make sense? :D

Sure, I understand what you're saying, but I'll have to just as nicely as possible, ask you to read what's being said before passing judgement. There's no need to be elitist... I'm intelligent enough to always point out when I'm "chiming in" on areas that are not my expertise and always take pains to make it abundantly clear that I'm not passing along expert advice in those situations.

What it SOUNDED like the poster was originally saying was, "wow, when he put the mixture on, the grain popped." Which is what other people read it as, too... and in that context, my response makes perfect sense. The OP provided no background whatsoever about his experience level, so it is a sensible assumption that maybe he didn't realize that wet figured wood shows its figure much better than a dried piece. Make sense? Right, made sense to me, too. That's why people when taking photos for display purposes wet their wood. Making sense again? Thought so. I think the only thing that happened here is that you didn't read properly. I obviously wasn't giving him advice on the technique as a whole (au contraire, I said "I dunno"), nor suggesting that "if you want to have a 3d look, just get your wood wet! Hyuk!" I thought it was fairly obvious that I was just zeroing in on the "when he put the stuff on..." comment and letting more qualified people talk about the actual solution if/when they came to the thread. Makes a convenient excuse to bump the thread and to let the guy know that someone out there is reading it at least.

So, my response was, *exactly* this: "I don't know about the soda or what it'll do in the long term. But for the initial "popping", are you sure you weren't just surprised by being able to see the figure better due to virtue of it being wet?" The fact that the poster ultimately turned out to have more experience than was first indicated, or that he said, "nah, that's not it... it's an effect of the soda, not the wetness" does NOT imply that my original response was off-base. Not only did I immediately disclose my level of knowledge, but suggested a possible reason for what he witnessed. And when it was clear that he was talking about something beyond just wetness, I stepped out, did I not? Was I supposed to write a follow up saying, "Whoops, I'll just step out now, carry on!" Not really any need to actually WRITE that, is there?

Saying it might as well have been deleted, or made no sense "-whatsoever-" is just completely wrong and disingenuous.

As for the rest of your message, it's off-base. You have no idea the amount of work I've done, the amount of work I WISH I could do, and the amount that I've learned not only from being surrounded by such talented people here, and from reading posts, but from getting my hands dirty whenever possible, too. I am painfully aware that it bugs guys like you and sometimes Wes that I don't build more and yet I'm on here daily and sometimes post advice, but honestly, you'll just have to trust me that I don't have the situation to be able to build more ("more" because I HAVE built... and I'm certainly not slow "as a rule" but as a matter of circumstance). I've NEVER EVER misrepresented myself. Find me a post in which I've claimed to be more of an expert than I am, and I'll PayPal you the money for a case of beer. I suggest instead of getting cranky that sometimes I have enough brains to disagree with you on points (eg. my recent post referring to something you said as "flaky") you give a guy some freakin' credit.

And jeeziz... you were so worried about antagonizing me and making your point "against" me that you didn't even respond to the OP. Your post was really ONLY to call me out? Check your head. I mean, I forgive you and all that, and man... it's only a forum. Despite the fact that I have verbal diarhea I'm not really all that upset... but I DO hope you'll some day give me a little credit for NOT being the kind of person you seem to think I am... at least my initial post was MEANT to address the OP. What on earth purpose was YOURS meant to serve?

Greg

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Caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) is a major component used in the wood pulping process, ie. making bumwad, newspaper, etc. etc. It digests and breaks down the lignins in wood fibres and leaves the bleached cellulose behind. So what actually happened was that the caustic soda produced an 'etching" effect on the surface of the wood. It depends on what solution concentration you are playing with, but I would be careful as you might end up having to grain fill your maple.

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Caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) is a major component used in the wood pulping process, ie. making bumwad, newspaper, etc. etc. It digests and breaks down the lignins in wood fibres and leaves the bleached cellulose behind. So what actually happened was that the caustic soda produced an 'etching" effect on the surface of the wood. It depends on what solution concentration you are playing with, but I would be careful as you might end up having to grain fill your maple.

Southpa, very helpful advice. Thanks.

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