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PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2017 12:59 pm 

Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2017 11:09 pm
Posts: 747
Location: Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada
First name: Conor
Last Name: Searl
City: Duncan
State: British Columbia
Zip/Postal Code: V9L 2E5
Country: Canada
Status: Semi-pro
I feel like I've been a little overly ambitious on my last couple of builds when it comes to the finishing, it seems my imagination and eagerness outpaces my abilities. I wanted to do a green metal flake jazzmaster, but seeing as I'm continually fighting with my spray gun trying to get the lacquer to go on nice and smooth I should try something a little simpler. So I thought I'd aim for something like the picture I've attached only black instead of brown.

The body I have is swamp ash, so would an appropriate finishing schedule be something like pore filler, black stain, sand the stain back a bit, and then clear lacquer over top?

I've stained a couple guitars that way but neglected the pore filler because they were alder or basswood, and finished with oil instead of lacquer. My end grain always sucks up tons of stain and stays black while the rest of the body gets a cool faded look, which has been fine, but if I wanted to mitigate the end grain soaking up the stain that way are there any tricks?

Also a general question, does pore filler take anything away from the cosmetics of the wood used?

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2017 1:33 pm 
Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Fri Aug 19, 2005 4:02 am
Posts: 2567
Location: The Woodlands, Texas
First name: Barry
Last Name: Daniels
You may want to learn how to tint your finish instead of placing the stain directly on the wood. That is the way most professional finishes are done, including the one in the photo, I think.

PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2017 10:16 pm 

Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2010 1:46 pm
Posts: 1964
First name: Freeman
Last Name: Keller
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
Conor, there are basically two ways to color your finish - you can either apply stain directly to the wood which usually absorbs it at different rate depending on grain and cell structure or you can add it to your finish and tint the lacquer or whatever you are applying. I discussed this briefly in the current thread about finishing a Guitar Fetish tele, but to repeat, wiping stain directly onto the wood is a traditional way to pop the grain of highly figured wood. More stain is absorbed into the "flame", hence it will be darker or brighter or whatever you are trying to do. It is also darn hard to control - the cardinal rule of practice on scrap applies here more than almost anywhere else. The other cardinal rule is that if you screw up you are pretty much doomed. (pictures at the other thread)

The second way to pop grain without staining the wood is to use something like epoxy or CA as your base coat. If the wood needs pore filling then epoxy can be a great filler. This is some highly figured koa which was pore filled with Zpoxy (available at LMII) and then clear coated with a waterborn lacquer.


I'm currently building a guitar out of highly figured cocobolo and plan to use the same products on it.

The other part of this picture is adding dye to your finish coats - that tends to give you a deep semi transparent finish where the grain shows thru bu t does not specifically highlight the grain. You can do various things with the color including sunburst and finishes that become darker as you move to the edge (I define a sunburst as two or more colors that fade into each other where the guitar in your picture seems to be one color getting darker towards the edge).

This is a "clown burst" - amber in the center turning red on the outside. Most of them have larger amber areas but this customer wanted a "red guitar"


The fourth option is solid color - I don't do these but I have a friend who is one of the best motorcycle painters in the world and he does them for me - he uses automotive finishes and techniques.

As far as your question about pore filling - only certain woods have open pores that need filling - they tend to be the hardwoods like mahogany, rosewood, koa. Maple, spruce, cedar, alder, etc don't need it. Pore fillers can be pastes or other thickening materials or something like epoxy or CA. Basically you spread it on, then try to wipe or squeezie it off, leaving just a bit in the pores. Pore fillers often contain some stain - most of the time mahogany is filled with a redish brown paste filler. It can affect the look of the wood but usually not much.

Dan Erlewine's book is the bible on guitar finishing (StewMac) and I buy most of my finishing products from theme because I know they will work together. The real key to finishing is to experiment on cutoffs and scraps of the same wood that you are building from - I keep all my scraps for each guitar.

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