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Camoflaguing Your Mistakes

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Some help from a PGer on EXACTLY what to search for (thanks!) got me comfortable enough to start experimenting.

Here's the test pieces. On the right is a piece of thin quilt I have, on the left is a cutoff from the actual top. If the process is acceptable, I'll be using the piece on the right as a box lid. If not, oh well.


After mixing up the dye, I started rubbing it into the test piece. I had to add more dye twice to get to the color I'm looking for, but that's a LOT better than overshooting the mark.


As many of you know, it's a little washed out in pics. They look a little orange because of the flash. It's really just a tad lighter than what's on the American Flag.

So with that looking the way I liked, it was time to test it on the actual cutoff and a piece of ash.


The ash is a little splotchy because it had some finish on it. I was looking for the raw product, and I'm happy with the results.

So now I wait for it to dry. Tomorrow I'll try to sand back and see what happens.

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Seeing the results, I just HAD to play.

From left to right is pine, poplar, makore, mahogany, and sapele.


And now, the same woods dipped in blood.



The pine looks like crap. The super-dense grain likes didn't accept any dye, so it looks stupid. The poplar is interesting. It took the color very nicely without looking garish. The makore is OK, but nothing special. The mahogany favors the heritage cherry used on an SG. The sapele isn't bad.

Tomorrow, when I do the yellow, I'll test it on the other side.

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If you look at the part on my bass thread where I started finishing it, you can see a definate difference between when I dyed it, and when I put clear over it. The mahogany went from a light brown to a deep red, and all the crap brown burst turned into whatever it is you see after (sorry i'm colorblind). My dye is water based, so when I initially prepped the surface with water, and then started adding the dye, I could see roughly what it was going to look like once I added clear. After I let it dry, I prepped the surface with water again and added more dye accordingly to darken up all the light spots. Sooooooooooo I think the pink will turn red after you clear it (if you clear it)

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dye will always go pale as it dries, its the lacquer coat that brings it to life


When still wet (ie your applying the dye) you should always go a bit further than you think as it will lighten up after it dries. It comes back after the clear is applied, but not quite to the point it was at when applying the dye.

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I'm just going to come out and say this because it needs to be said:

You need to either buy or make a cabinet scraper. Like now.

With a scraper and the knowledge to use it, you will make fewer mistakes like the one that got you here now and your binding will look smashing indeed.

You'll like doing it (it's fun!), and you'll understand why the way you're doing it now is working completely against yourself.

Binding is not meant to be sanded, it is meant to be scraped. Period.

The reason this needs to be said now is that:

If you scraped your binding, you wouldn't be in the jam you're in now with this guitar

If you continue to treat it as you have, you'll never get a clean looking binding job, on this guitar or the next one

If you DO get dye or stain on your binding, it won't matter, because you can just SCRAPE IT CLEAN. :D

Get a scraper. :D

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This is how simple it is to make a scraper...

Just find a big ol' washer around your house, put it on a grinder or sander until you've got a straight edge on it, and pretty much, you've got a scraper. That's all there is to it.

It doesn't have to be nearly as burnished as a -real- cabinet scraper that you're going to scrape wood with, you're just scraping plastic, it's a no-brainer to make, fun to make binding curls, your binding will love you for it, and you will love yourself when you look at your nice scraped binding.


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Forgot to mention:

The two small triangular ones at the bottom of the pic I've had for 15 years and get the most use of any of them, those puppies have scraped their little lives away, and still going strong (I keep a very close eye on them).

Those two little beat-to-hell scrapers are priceless to me and get used ALL the time.

I bet I've re-ground a new set of edges on each on of them 50 times by now.

Followed by the green taped one. This is what I use to scrape binding on a guitar that has been bursted.

It's good for really close detail where YOU are making your clean lines thru the burst, defining your binding edge.

The nice one, the Sandvik, barely gets used, unless I'm scraping real wood (which is pretty rare)

The four washers up top are FUTURE scrapers :D.

So you see, I'm willing to bet you have several nice scrapers around your house right now, just waiting for an edge to be placed on them :D.

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Good call Drak. Sanding binding can also lead to heat buildup and the material becoming messier than it started - Stewmac's ABS binding being a direct example of this nightmare situation! Other scrapers such as the classic plastic ATM style card/razor combination are useful for scraping to a specific depth for binding.

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Actually, the jam I'm in now is because I cut the binding channel too low. Were it 1/8" higher, I'd be OK.

Not necessarily true. I believe (could be wrong) that the jam you're in is a result of you trying to sand the guitar down to the binding level. You were working from the guitar towards the binding, from the inside to the outside as it were.

That is the only way you -could- work it with an orbital sander as your only weapon.

Had you had a scraper around, you could work from the outside in as well, towards the guitar as well, and possibly 'pulled it out' by trying to mate the binding angle with the guitar before you went thru the Maple.

And with a -real- scraper, you could actually have scraped wood -and- plastic, and maybe made the two angles 'meet in the middle'. Maybe. I would have had to seen it beforehand to really know one way or the other.

What I'm saying is this here: part of being a good luthier is learning how to come back from your mistakes.




With Finesse...

We all make them (me especially :D ), and part of the FUN of lutherie is being ingenious enough to pull your own ass out of your own fires -successfully and with grace-.

You made a mistake, like we all do, but the true point of departure is how you dealt with it.

That's perfectly OK, you're learning and that's cool, I'm just trying to point out where you should be looking for improvement, because you will make mistakes all along the way, the trick is to get used to dealing with them successfully when they happen and not make things worse than they already are.

Other luthiers could possibly have faced that same problem and pulled it out without ever sanding thru their Maple top.

Right -there- is the issue, not the fact that you made a mistake in your binding depth,

but how you tried to correct for the mistake, what tools did you have in your toolkit to deal with that mistake besides an orbital sander?

The one tool that took me the longest to buy, that was the most expensive tool in my toolkit... was patience to think things through before acting.

Keep going, you're doing great :D .

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I'll agree where the problem really went awry - when I tried to have the top meet the binding.

I'll look into seeing what we have lying around to make a scraper with.

Now on to some progress....

I got the rectangle test piece sanded back hit up with some yellow. HOLY POOPERS!!!! This is with a sealer coat of poly on it:




What I discovered is that the yellow really lightened up the red. It's not nearly as intense as it was. that could be in part to the sanding back as well. In any event, the whole thing really came to life. I'm not displeased.

Right now, I'm proving to myself that I can do it again. In my mind, I could have easily done it once by sheer accident. If I can do it again, I'll have settled it in my mind that I CAN do it on the real guitar.

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It's good that you understand the basic concept of 'light over dark' for figured maple grain enhancement.

Now, you will want to next understand c.o.n.t.r.o.l.

Control as in:

1) How much you sand back, more or less than 'normal'. (it makes a difference)

2) What are you calling 'normal'?

3) What dark color you use under your light color (the colors will combine somewhat, so it matters)

4) How intense you make both dark and light colors.

The way I think about it is like a 50 yard line being neutral, being the 'default' parameter.

Make your dark color darker than your default, it will take the look one way.

Make your dark color lighter than your default, it will take the look another way.

And so on for your lighter color over top.

Then, sand back 'less' than your default, it will take the look one way.

Sand back 'more' than your default, it will take the look the opposite way.

Then combine all the above together in a cohesive way and you're on the road to truly understanding where you're going and how to get there.

To be able to know beforehand exactly what you want and know what it takes to get exactly there = c.o.n.t.r.o.l. , and that takes many calculated experimentations, just like you're doing now, but it certainly is fun to do. :D

I always say it's just as important to know what you DON'T want as it is to know what you DO want.

For example, if you want to do a cherry sunburst, gather together 30 pics of cherry sunbursts from the 'net, and start grouping them, they will all look different to a degree, and you want to identify the aspects of what you really like and what you really don't, and stay away from the aspects you don't like, because there are 50 ways to do a cherry sunburst, and finding the one way you really dig, the way YOU want yours to look, is important.

Looks good so far! :D

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I couldn't agree more. Control is a key issue with a LOT of the things we do, as is patience and experience. Having instructions on what to do only takes you so far. It's a blueprint for success, but that's all it is. we have to go out and DO it. Mistakes will be made and with that comes knowledge. Experience will be earned and improvements will be made.

And that's what I'm doing right now: doing, learning, and gaining some experience.

So without further ado...



I can repeat the process with a favorable result.

That's all well and good, but what about the blackburst? That's the key to this whole thing - covering up the line around the edge of the top.

Today, at least, my mojo is working.


Of course, since I managed to not only do it, but repeat it AND do the burst, I'm doomed to dork it up on the real thing. But for today, I'm pleased.

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