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Crackle Finish Tutorial

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You CAN do a crackle finish on a guitar!!!

Supplies are pretty basic. I started with a Yamaha EG112 that I had in stock and was bound for eBay but, you know, not everything goes as planned! If you start with a "bare" wood guitar you will need to finish sand and seal it first, then apply your base coat of paint.


Guitar or guitar body to paint

Sandpaper, sander or block

Tack Cloth

TiteBond Liquid Hide Glue

Foam or Nylon "cheap" Brush (You're gonna throw this away so don't spend big $$)

Water Based Paint (latex or acrylic enamel - don't use "artist" type acrylic paint)

Clear Poly Finish

Yamaha EG112 Before:


Step 1: I sanded the gloss off the 112 to give a better adhesion surface for the glue. Since I want my base coat black and the 112 is black I made it easy on myself. :D ****If you have bare wood your first step will be to apply a base coat of paint and let it dry. Then lightly sand and move to step 2.


Step 2: Wipe the guitar down with a tack cloth or damp rag to remove the dust. Get ready to apply glue.


Step 3: Apply glue using the foam brush. I dribbled the glue on the brush and applied it, but the next time I will get a small throw away container and pour the glue in it then dip the brush as I go. Apply a THIN layer of glue, that's all you'll need.

After applying a thin coat of glue you end up with this:


Let the glue dry for at least 12 hours. Glue must be DRY!!!

Glue finally dried thanks to 50 degree weather and the heater going in the garage all day.

Step 4: I used a waterborne acrylic enamel as a topcoat. The TiteBond is a water based glue so what we're doing is reintrodicing water to the glue and allowing it to stretch back out causing the cracks. I also watered down my paint using a 1/2 cup water to 1 cup paint. This was WAY too much paint for a guitar but.......now I have extra. B)

I tried brushing the first time with not much success. That plus I didn't like the yellow so I switched to hunter green and sprayed with a windex container containing my watered down paint. I used the windex bottle because I want to make this available to anyone by using household tools. I tried another sprayer but the windex sprayed more evenly for me.



Spray quickly and keep the paint from getting too thick. I held the sprayer back about two feet to get a nice fairly uniform coating. It helps to have a helper (thanks wifey!!) to hold the guitar and roll it for you while you spray.

Here it is now:




You can see I sanded through the base color in a few spots to add some more texture. Next time I'll either sand through more spots or use two different base colors for a different look.

All there is left to do is add a top coat of clear. TWO VERY IMPORTANT THINGS HERE:

1. You MUST have a clear coat!!

2. It CANNOT be waterbased!!!

If you reintroduce water to the finish it will crackle again. I'm going to use a polyurethane clear and I will post final pic's when I'm done. I'm going to let this dry for a few days before I put the clear on.

If you have any questions feel free to PM me.

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<<<< my way is proven to work.

Mine too. Remember there is always more than one way to do things and none of them are necessarily the "right" way. I just wanted to share "my" way since there was an interest.

Here's a test piece on bare wood.


BTW the yellow is going to be my top coat. I'm calling it the "Bumble Bee".

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Just an update on the project. The humidity moved in last night and the glue didn't dry all the way. One important thing with this is that the glue is absolutely DRY! (don't ask how I know this! :D ) If the glue is not dry the paint will glob up and smear with the paint and create a huge mess (again - don't ask B) )

Maybe by tonight or tomorrow morning it will be dry enough to paint on.

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After looking at the guitar and getting disgusted with the smear marks I am considering stripping it down and starting over. The glue absorbs the water so fast it makes it darn near impossible to not cross over the previously brushed spots. One thing I am considering to make this project "doable" for anyone is thinning the paint down 50% and spraying it with a household sprayer (like a Windex sprayer) to mist the paint on. I will experiment on a piece of scrap in the morning and if it works I'll strip the 112 and do it over.

Drak, It has to be the Hide glue as far as I know, but feel free to experiment!! The hide glue is not waterproof and has a "magical" power of attracting water and absorbing it which creates this effect. From what I know it's the only glue from TiteBond that can be used for this effect - but I may be wrong. The other TiteBond glues have a poly-what-cha-ma-call-it thingy in them and don't absorb water like the hide glue.

As we used to say in the service - it's PFM (Pure Freakin' Magic)!

Can you tell I've been out consuming malted beverages?!


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No time to try anything today. The J bass tipped over and got a nice scratch down the side last night that had to be repaired. I also finished my entry for the February G.O.M. (besides the J bass) - priorities!! :D

Oh, yeah, and I sold my snowmobile today! That took up a good chunk of the day but gave me several thousand $$ to spend on guitars!! B)

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Latex paint is inexpensive, yes?

I was wondering if you thinned it to shoot it from a pump-sprayer if you could have two or three colors on-hand in different pumpers to do like a 'camo-crackle', or like Brian said, a 'bark-crackle', or possibly even a 'burst-crackle'?

Just thinnin' out loud, don't mind me... :D

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Don't mind at all. You're thinking on the same lines I am actually. I was thinking a "camo" tree bark type finish like Brian had mentioned. I know they have camo colors available in enamels at the hardware store, but I am unsure of latex availability. I may have to mix some up but I do plan on using the spray bottle approach.

Thanks for the input! That's why I like this forum - we all get to throw ideas around and come up with a solution that works for all of us. Some of the forums I've seen seem to have 3 or 4 "know-it-alls" that don't accept input or experimentation from others. To me that doesn't make for a very good learning environment for others.

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Update on the crackle. I tried the spray bottle on a test piece and it turned out perfect! B) No brush marks and no runs with a perfect crackle.

I stripped the yellow off of the 112 and am off to the store to get some "tree bark" paint. I'll reglue the body and probably paint tomorrow.

Brian: I think I'll just redo the whole tutorial so it's all in one thread and makes more sense. I'll also put in a section at the end of "things I've learned" from this experience to save someone else the pain of the same "learning curve".

Thanks to everyone that posted for all the input on this. I hope to have the tutorial done by Sunday with new pic's and a complete write up. :D

Tonight is Friday and it's reserved for friends, fish fry and beverages! :D

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Some of the forums I've seen seem to have 3 or 4 "know-it-alls" that don't accept input or experimentation from others. To me that doesn't make for a very good learning environment for others.

i agree, this place is great!

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The crackle is done! I added everything to the first post, including pic's. I still have to clear it but I don't think we need a tutorial on that. :D

Brian: It's all yours to post wherever you post tutorials. I didn't get the bark effect with the sprayer but I really like the way the crackle turned out. I think you have to use a brush to get the "barking".

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