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maple top finishing........


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i know how you'd use wood dye/stainer to bring out the flames if them doing a translucent finish, but what about if you wonna do a natural flame finish, like this one?


what do i need to do?



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If someone gave me that and said "recreate it", this is the way I'd do it:

Start out with very white Maple, bleach it if you have to, or get high-quality white Maple to start with, no mineral streaks or nuthin'...pure white Maple.

Then I'd take my water-based anilyne stains, yellow and red. I'd start with a cup of yellow and slowly add red, drop by drop, testing on scrap, until I got to what I call 'Peach', which comes after yellow but before you get to full-out orange.

Then I would do a little testing on scrap, adding in a little water at a time, drop by drop, until it lightened up to the point where I got the desired -shade-. That guitar is what I call 'Very Light Peach'.

First you find the color you want by blending, then you find the intensity of the shade you want by diluting.

Once you find both of those, just wipe it on, let it dry, and clear coat 'till you're done. B)

It could also be done like Wes said, applying clear to the body, then using the Peach mixed in with the finish as a toner coat, but you'd find the color the same way, just with alcohol-based dyes instead of water-based. You could nail it either way, but it is a color, it's not just natural maple, it's just a very light diluted coloring.

Taszty Yess! :D

That is a very nice color to start a 'burst out with, BTW.

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Does look like plain maple - remember it will darken anyway once you apply a clearcoat - you can check how it will look just clearcoated by lightly dampening the wood ( or you can use wax or a polish, but remember to get it all off before spraying ).

If it doesnt look how you want naturally, any diluted amber water based stain will give it a bit more of a golden colour.

Remeber as well when selecting wood that there are lots of variations in shade with maple, some are almost white, others are very golden.

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Maybe it's my monitor, but it definitely has a peachy colored tone from this angle, not amber, I see no brown in it. :D

Maybe my monitor needs adjusting... :D

I compared it to Scott's beautiful natural job, it does look pretty similar to a natural maple, but I still think it's a light peach dye w/ no brown. B)



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oh ok, so i should just experiment with laquers, etc?

but i meant, i wonna bring out the flames, and if if were to use a dye, i'd dye the wood, then lightly sand the top to uncover the flames (which are slightly higher, ay?)..... and then finish it with the translucent finish

do i need to do anything like this before applying the natural coat? or will the flames just come out by themselves with a bit of polishing?

i'm gonna use veneer top (i got a nice 4A one, i'll post pics if i can later)



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To bring out the figure in any nice maple you'll need to prep the wood properly. This step is often skipped.

1.) Sand (always with a block) with 100, then with 220.

2.) Clean surface with tack rag, and blow surface with air gun (compressed caned air will do in a pinch)

3.) lighly wet the surface to "raise" the grain.

4.) once dry, sand again with 220, then take it to 400, then to 600.

5.) wipe with Napthea, then tack rag it, then blow it out.

6.) Start finishing (sanding sealer - flaten - lacquer)

The most important step mentioned above is using the air gun. Nicely figured tops come out looking less then excected because there is too much dust in the grains. By keeping the grains open and free of any dust/dirt/oil you give the light a pocket to reflect into and bounce out of...thus the "image shifting" effect when viewed from different angles.

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thanks a lot, but two questions:

what is a 'tack rag'?

'' '' 'Napthea'?

can i just use a vacuum cleaner to clean the grain? :D i dont have an air gun......

also how much sanding? the veneer is like 1.5 mm thick...... so i'm a bit wary...

how much force and for how long, eso with that 100 and 200 grits?

is sanding sealer really necessary? why cant i just apply finish straightaway?

thanks for your help,


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tack rag is a sticky rag which picks up dust and such

yes you can use a vaccuum but a compressor or can of compressed air is better(like you use to clean computer parts)

you are only sanding to polish it if it is alreaddy flat...those fine grits don't remove much..the 100 and 220 is only to level sand..only until it is level

no sanding sealer is not necessary...and in fact weakens the finish due to the addition of mineral soap which is to make it sand easier

sanding sealer is nothing but the regular finish with mineral soap(zinc stearate) added

quote from my finishing book

"the problem with sanding sealers is that they are softer and much less water resistant than the finish itself.this is just what you would expect from a finish that contains soap"

anyway...the sanding sealer thing according to this book is a "myth"...you are better served by using the finish itself to seal

"the first coat of any finish seals the wood.it penetrates,cures,and stops up the wood's pores.liquids,including the next coat of finish,won't penetrate through the first coat.so ALL FINISHES are sealers"

but my experience is that most people don't want to believe this for some reason.

note...grain filling large pored woods is a seperate matter from sanding sealer

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All these are good ideas, and here's one more for you.

Practice ALL this stuff on scrap first. LOTS of times.

Don't EVER approach the real guitar until you know -exactly- what is going to happen beforehand.

The guitar is not the place to experiment your finishing chops on, scrap is.

Take a nice big piece of that veneer and glue it down to a piece of flat plywood and do all your trials on it first. When you approach the guitar to do the finishing, there should be no questions left, you should know exactly what's going to happen already.

So while you're practicing on your scrap, most of these questions you're asking will be answered by you actually doing it, it will happen right in front of you, safely, on scrap. :D

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well D'UH.


yeah of course, i cant afford to screw this up......

thats the one thing i DID know before this thread was made :D

but ok thanks lots to everyone (once again!), i got a good understanding of what i need to do now and all my doubts and queries have been answered....



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I'll agree that sanding sealer isn't 100% necessary on an already flat surface, however I'll disagree with the book you're reading on this topic (after all it's just one persons opinion.)

Sanding Sealer is NOT lacquer with soap. While you can buy nitrocellouse Sealer, the more common/recommended version would be a Vinyl Sealer.

When finishing a surface (furniture, guitar, etc) the ideal situation would be to have a very flat, very THIN lacquer coat. Excess lacquer will lead to chipping and can deaden the acoustic properties of wood.

Vinyl Sealer is a has better protection than lacquer against moisture. But it's strongest quality is that it contains far less solvents than lacquer does. If you're a weekend warrior finishing over a automotive paint...it's probably not a concern. However if you're finishing over a alcohol dye sunburst...solvents will bleed your finish. Locking it in with a thin coat of sealer is absolutly necessary.

Your book seems to be a bit biased for one reason or another. But Vinyl Sealer is a very important step in obtaining a professional, lasting finish. a 100 years of fine woodworkers will agree on this. Gibson Custom shop seals with a vinyl sealer.

But like most steps, sure it can be skipped. But there isn't a downside to using it..I've never once had an adhesion issue with it. I imagine that if you really coat it on, you'll have issues - but applying it with quality spray equipment will give you the control necessary for a thin, even coat.

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vinyl sealer is not sanding sealer

this book deals with the chemistry of finishes...not with "this is how my grandpa did it"

sanding sealer is the finish with zinc stearate added...zinc stearate is also reffered to as mineral soap...it is not just plain old soap

the book is called "understanding wood finishing" by bob flexner and it has no bias

by the way the book says if you use it only apply a thin coat

also the book is not based on opinion,but chemistry

another quote from the book

"information about finishing is riddled with myth,half truth,and hyperbole"

i daresay most people would be better served by obtaining and reading a copy than by listening to people they don't know whose work they have not seen :D

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I didn't mean this to be a personal attack on you - so please don't assume that I obtain my "anecdotal" information from the internet. I've been finishing/refinishing furniture & guitars for customers for many years and have developed some valuable tips that I'm willing to share with those newer to the trade. I'm not here to be insulted and belittled by a "Moderator" of all people. Having a good understanding of finishing is necessary for our work. It is not however the end-all, be-all of finishing. As most know, being book smart is very different from the real world in almost all practices. I'm familiar with the book that you are reading, as well as many others. But nothing replaces experience - which is the only time I'll offer my opinion. Anyone can quote from a book, but until you've done it yourself you won't understand the small details and anomalies that can occur..

Vinyl Sealer IS sanding sealer. Sanding Sealer is just a description of a product, it's chemical composition is different from one company to the next. Today's Vinyl Sanding Sealers rarely contain actual vinyl.

Shellac chips are most typically dissolved into Denatured Alcohol. Applying Alcohol to an Alcohol based Aniline Dye will bleed it.

This is why everyone should experiment with different finishes - not just take someone's word for it - whether that be contributor to a internet board, or an author of a book. If finishing were as easy as reading a book or a few posts, people wouldn't pay thousands of dollars to have pieces refinished by a professional.

Being closed minded to successes that others have had will do nothing to improve your craft.

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I didn't mean this to be a personal attack on you - so please don't assume that I obtain my "anecdotal" information from the internet. I've been finishing/refinishing furniture & guitars for customers for many years and have developed some valuable tips that I'm willing to share with those newer to the trade. I'm not here to be insulted and belittled by a "Moderator" of all people.

umm...none of that is what i am doing...i am only trying to correct what appears to me to be a myth

yes you are right about the alcohol in the shellac bleeding the alcohol stains...my mistake..i misread a portion of the book

it is mentioned in the book though correctly ..i just misspoke,which sometimes happens

yes the chemical composition varies from company to company in sanding sealers...a laquer sanding sealer is only laquer with zinc stearate added,according to the passage in this book on the subject.

the book doesn't claim adhesion problems with laquer and laquer sanding sealers,only with polyeurethane and anything containing mineral soap or wax.it says that if the sanding sealer coat is too thick,it will weaken the final finish....

i don't think what you are saying contradicts that at all,i just don't want anybody thinking they need sanding sealer on something when all they need is a properly prepped surface.

anyway i was a member of this forum long before i was a mod...just because the mod badge appears on every post i make does not mean you should not disagree with me.

a polite debate about personal experiences versus book quotes is perfectly reasonable and i venture to say might cause more people to buy their own books and videos and start learning for themselves

i am speaking as a hobbyist who builds as much as possible and who is relatively new to the finishing area of it...

anyway share your experiences and post some of that work you have done,so people know you are for real

didn'tyou enter a guitar in gotm a while back?a tele with natural binding?

i love that guitar...it was very nice work.

if you are so knowledgeable in finishing then help out and answer questions a little more,don't just hang back and try to pounce on a mistake.

i am only trying to help people as most of the finishing guys around here have not been answering questions lately and i have a book which i can quote from and try to help

so answer the questions and i will not have to try to "do my best"

i hate to see unanswered questions..finishing guys are few and far between it seems

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