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Sm Colortone Grain Filler

DC Ross

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Has anyone had any luck with this stuff? This is the first time I've tried it, and I'm on the 12th (!) application on a Honduran Mahogany body and the pores are still not filled. Is there a technique that I'm missing that's not covered in the instructions?

It's really thin stuff, too, which I'm sure is a big part of it.



Edited by DC Ross
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There is certainly something going amiss there,

2 applications, done right, should be enough,

...you must HATE that stuff by now! :D

It's hard to help you w/o knowing what you're doing, your exact application process, because I think the problem is going to be some part of the process you're missing or not doing right.

List your process in excruciating detail, don't leave anything out and we'll probably find the problem.

The consistency of the product doesn't have much to do with the application, as soon as you start to apply it it starts to thicken up. 'thinner' is actually a good thing, trying to get thick pore filler into pores is a major PITA and when I used to use that stuff I would sometimes thin it out of the can, maybe they have made it a little thinner now, it's been 12-13 years since I messed with that stuff, but I remember the application process well.

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Sure thing, here we go from a clean, freshly sanded body (to 320). These steps are basically following the instructions.

1. Blow off the body w/ compressed air

2. Wipe it down w/ Naptha & let dry

3. Liberally apply the filler to one side of the body, brushing it with the grain

4. Let it set up for a few minutes. I experimented with this step, with times ranging from a few minutes to 20 + minutes. The longer I let it sit, the more the pores were visibly drinking it in, so I would occasionally brush it back across the pores to give them more to suck in.

5. Squeegee off the excess filler at a 45° angle to the grain using a homemade version of the StewMac grain filler spreader

6. Carefully wipe off any remaining residue (like the ridges left from the squeegee) with a shop towel

7. Sand with 320, making very sure to only sand down to the level of the pores (not removing any wood at all)

8. Repeat x ∞

The instructions state to work in 6" areas or less, presumably because the filler would start to set up & harden quickly. This was certainly not my experience. I applied it liberally to a test piece and let it sit for an hour and it was still not 100% dry.

I'm sure it's related to technique, because I've tried these same steps with CrystaLac with the same results (although this stuff is a bit more gelatinous).

Thanks. And yes, I do pretty much hate this stuff right now :D

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A few notes and questions...

I think the most common problem people have with pore fillers is that they think, having never used it before, they're going to nail it on the first try. And like anything in this world, it usually takes several repeated trials before you get the hang of things.

But, you've done 12 applications, I would think from a common sense point of view, you now have had the time and hands-on experience to readjust each time for the learning curve involved.

So before I would offer any suggestions, I would ask you what you think the problem might be, as I'm sure you must have some input.

Question...how 'bad' is it after 12 applications, how much grain is still showing, on a scale of 1-10, are you at an 8 or 9, almost there but not quite, or are you still suffering a 3 or 4 'still totally sucks' status?

I'm trying to figure out if you just need to modify one little part of your process or revamp it, I'm guessing by now you MUST be pretty close?

Re-application DOES re-melt the old product in the pores, so I understand how one could seemingly be getting nowhere after several tries if re-application is loosening up the coats already applied...

I'm going to guess your problem is going to lie in one of three places:

The way you're pressing it into the pores is not sufficient

The way you're removing the excess is too aggressive

The time you're giving it to dry isn't enough.

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I am waiting to see the answers to Drak's post as well, but my first gut feeling is when you wipe off the excess with the rag. I'm thinking that when you do that it is pulling some of the filler out of the pores. Generally I squeegee off as much as possible and let whatever remains as is and sand it off once dry.

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but my first gut feeling is when you wipe off the excess with the rag. I'm thinking that when you do that it is pulling some of the filler out of the pores.

That is pretty much what I was thinking as well, that would definitely be an area to look at. :D

Are you stirring or shaking the product enough? Is it possible that it's watery?

Totally correct, you have to mix the PISS out of that stuff before you use it, all the solids sit on the bottom and it needs to be THOROUGHLY mixed before using, but I'm guessing after 12 coats, he already knows that. :D

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On a scale of 1-10, I'd say it's at a 9 right now.

The way I remove the excess is pretty straightforward: after about 10-15 minutes, take a flexible squeegee-type thing and lightly remove the excess at a 45° angle, still leaving a bit of filler on the surface, then lightly wipe any ridges left by the squeegee (not even touching the body itself, just "brushing" the tops of the ridges away). I honestly don't think it's possible to make it any less agressive.

I saw Dan Erlewine's method of using a scraper and burlap to vigorously remove the excess, I can only imagine that would drag all the filler out of the pores. He also said that he didn't like the water-based filler because it dried before he even had a chance to remove the excess. I let both the ColorTone and CrystaLac set for an hour and then they were just drying.

My thoughts are that either the fillers are so thin that it just keeps seeping deeper and deeper into the pores, the pores are huge, or a combination of the two. Like I had said, after a few minutes of letting the filler sit, it was very noticable where the pores were drinking it in, so there's really no pressing it in involved.

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StewMac's tech support wrote back saying that it may be old, that it only has a year-long shelf life, so that may be part of the problem with the Colortone stuff. Still doesn't account for the CrystaLac though. Oh, and yes, I stirred the crap out of this stuff :D

Perfectly dead flat is the goal. This particular guitar will have a black cherry burst:

Filler just applied:


Filler just squeegeed off:


Two others will be a solid colour, and two more will be a transparent white.

Any additional help is greatly appreciated.

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I know what the problem is..

First buy your stuff from the manufacturer who is http://www.targetcoatings.com/. First its cheaper and secondly its fresher.

And if they change their formula you will be getting the better product as it has only been getting better.

I have the same filler (or maybe a newer version) and as a filler it is too thin. Because it is water based and sold as super clear most of the volume just flashes off when the water dissipates. So its more like a thick coating than filler. I have added pumice to the stuff as well as epoxy filler (used to thicken epoxy). Both of these products help add the additional bulk and they turn clear in the sealer. I have even heard you can mix flour and plaster of Paris to bulk up filler but I have never tried this so do so at your own risk.

First I really hate filler. Either the HD darker oil based ones or the water based ones. They all require excessive amounts of work. makes you want to use only maple.

One thing Drak said or may have hinted at is you may be squeegeeing this off and removing it from the pores. honestly it looks too clean a squeegee job. I know this stuff sets up pretty quick as do most fillers but because it is thin it does not have that bulk to keep a rubber blade from wiping it out again from the pores..Just a thought.. Remember to squeegee at a 45 deg angle to the pores that is at a diagonal to the body..

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Thanks, 'Spoke. I bought this (as well as the sanding sealer and clear) a while ago, before I realized that Target was the mfr. Good idea on the additives, silica is usually what's added to epoxy for filling or filleting. I may do some tests with it if I stick with this stuff.

My first thought was that I was pulling it out of the pores, so on the next application I thoroughly checked after squeegeeing, and it was perfectly flat and level. The filler sunk down into the pores after squeegeeing.

I know this stuff sets up pretty quick

That's the thing, it doesn't set up quick at all (check my previous posts for some of the times that I waited before squeegeeing).

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That's the thing, it doesn't set up quick at all (check my previous posts for some of the times that I waited before squeegeeing).

Definitely something weird about that.

I've used that stuff before and it was setting up in like one minute, to the point where I couldn't rub it off even being pretty agressive - had to do a lot more sanding than I wanted.

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It doesn't set up fast as an oil or solvent based filler but its still pretty quick. The other thing with water is the temperature range and humidity in your shop. Too cold and it will take longer to setup and I will assume cold is an issue this time of year..

Yes the silica or micro bubbles for epoxy. I bought a quart more than 5 years ago and I still have most of that left. You dont need too much.

With any water based finish you gain only 2 things, the removal of most toxic fumes and the ability to work inside a home. In the near future solvent based paints will take a back seat due to regulations regarding VOC's (fumes). The draw back is it does take more work to get the same result. Even when spraying the water based finish I dont think it lays down quite as nice as a solvent based finish. Plus because its a high solids content you need to have the right gun and tip combination as well.. Not that that has anything to do with the filler.

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Based on Spoke's comment a few posts ago, do you guys think that I'm removing too much of the filler?

Very possibly. I note that your piks earlier show the filler pasted on good & thick, but the wiped pik (immediatly after) looks like you realy went to town cleaning up the excess. I use the same stuff & have not had any problems with it. The temp in my shop when applying a finish is usually kept around 28-30 degrees C. might have something to do with that, might be too cold where you are working.

The stewie mac guys rekon it might be old stock ? Id dump it in that case. start over.

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