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Clearcoating (high-gloss) Wenge?

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I posted a picture of a Wenge/Birdseye maple Soloist set-neck type I'm building right now, in another post. I want a very high-gloss finish on this guitar. Wenge looks awesome when it's wet. The birdseye will look pretty good too.

I was wondering if anyone ever tried clearcoating Wenge. It is a very porous an oily wood... It has all these little cracks. What would be the best way to apply a high-gloss finish on this type of wood?

This guitar is not for a customer. I came across that beautiful 8/4 board of wenge a few months ago, and decided to give it a try. I have absolutely no idea how it will sound. That wood is sooooo beautiful!!! And the smell is awesome. Reminds me of burnt chocolate. Very smelly. And not that hard to work with like some people says. You have to be careful because it chips easily. But it didn't blunt my tools at all.

I know Daniel Sorbera did a wenge bodied guitar, but it was an oil-finish if my memory is correct.

Any advice would be very appreciated. It's hard to see from the pictures, but believe me, it is very porous. And oily as hell.









Edited by MescaBug
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Wow, wow and double wow.

Consider yourself lucky, as most of my experiments with wenge ended up with dull tools, and lots of painful splinters.

I think that body looks beautiful.

It's too dense to give much if any sustain though.

I have seen it used in basses more than guitars, and those basses are more in the percussive (tapping,slap) styles.

I dont know of anyone who uses clearcoats on it.

I have seen linseed and tung oil finishes on Wenge.

I have a 5' long 1.5"x4.5" section of it at home I was thinking of making an EUB with.

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I did a wenge-topped guitar as one of my first builds. Finish didn't come out great, but that was mostly due to my inexperience and lack of patience more than anything. Looking back I can see it's regular impatient newbie mistakes though, no problems with the wood. (Despite how much I would have loved to blame the wood when I was building it!) If I still had the instrument (it was for a friend) I would refinish it now.

I finished it in KTM-9, with an epoxy grainfill. It took a couple coats of the epoxy grainfill. I used the System-3 stuff LMI sells, which is a pain because when you're mixing in such small quantities you really want to measure by weight and not volume as the stuff is very particular to the resin/hardener ratio. I've heard good things about using Z-poxy for a grainfill, and it's supposedly a little more forgiving in the grain-fill dept. But with the epoxy coats layed down, and sanded super smooth, (you only really want to leave the epoxy in the pores of the wood - it's a grainfill, not a finish coat!) it took the KTM-9 real well and glossed up nicely. I don't know if other lacquers would take over the epoxy, but I assume they would. Worth a test. But yeah, the epoxy filled the pores nicely (took a couple coats) and I had no adhesion problems. Make sure you clean those pores out well - they can trap a lot of fine sanding dust which can pull out into the epoxy and cloud your finish. Experiment on cutoffs too, as some epoxy has a tendency to darken the wood more than you think it would.

Sorry I don't have any pics.

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+1 for the epoxy filler. Mix the silica with it to give it body and it fills better. I use it all the time. Lacquers go over it just fine. I actually shoot catalyzed urethane or polyester over it just because nitro takes too long to harden. Epoxy is a really great way to go on wenge. I work wenge a lot and the epoxy/silica is wonderful for a filler/sealer.


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Yes it is possible to do, and yes it's a royal pain in the rear end.

A grain fill is 100% necessary (I used epoxy) but other then the monstrous pores in the wood it takes a finish quite nicely as you can see here. I have actually done one with an oil finish, and it turned out really really nice. It has a great feel to it and the look is amazing, even after years of abuse (I gave the guitar to one of my friends and he has been gigging with it multiple times a week ever since). I would definitely recommend an oil finish on wenge bodies simply because it makes the wood look/feel so cool.


That guitar turned about around the same weight as a PRS double cut, so the wenge really isn't that bad when used as a back wood with a maple cap.

Hey doug could you give us more info on mixing silica into the epoxy? Like where you can buy it? Got a link?

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Rockler-West Systems silica

If you scroll down the page you'll see the silica for sale, they carry in their stores as well. I see it when I'm there, its a decent sized container than weighs next to nothing, you'd swear its empty. I believe there is some general info somewhere on Frets.com on mixing silica and how to obtain different consistencies with epoxy and silica. Price wise it seems plenty cheap, especially for how much use you should get out of the container. I can't comment on use as I have yet to get to testing a fill with it. J

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I used the silica here: http://www.lmii.com/CartTwo/thirdproducts....+3+Epoxy+Filler

Same thing, I suppose. It is weird, like J says - it weighs *nothing*! That quart container will last me forever. I've used it with a few different epoxies.

Probably not the direction you want to go with wenge, but I've been experimenting with mixing artists tempera powders into epoxy to colour it - it seems to work well, although it does thicken the mixture a bit. Could be useful on mahogany.

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