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Thread: Tinting epoxy

  1. #1
    F-style Apostate
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    I'd like to tint some epoxy black- it'll be used to set inlays on an ebony fingerboard.

    In the old days, I used lamp black, but that's not so easy to find at Walmart.

    I'm wondering if universal tint from the paint store would work.

    What do you guys use?

    Rick

  2. #2
    Registered User barry k's Avatar
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    Powdered tempera poster paint will tint anything... a little pinch of black will tint epoxy or white Elmers glue

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    I have used graphite with success; you get it in the little squeeze tub for lubricating hinges and locks. But sanding can be problematic (this is likely true no matter what you use). I had a hard time getting it leveled without making the wood around it dark.
    "First you master your instrument, then you master the music, then you forget about all that ... and just play"
    Charlie "Bird" Parker

  4. #4
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    I use lamp black, but I've also used black pigment, like from the paint store.

    If there's an art/craft store near you, they might have tints/pigments/colors to add to casting resins.

    As always, "test on scrap". Just mix up a little, and see if it stays mixed and hardens correctly.

  5. #5
    Formerly F5JOURNL Darryl Wolfe's Avatar
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    Am I getting old, or has technology and "ease" simply passed me by? I thought ebony dust was the "correct" answer and the way to get the right look
    Darryl G. Wolfe, The F5 Journal
    www.f5journal.com

  6. #6
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    With lamp black/pigment/tint, the epoxy is still liquid and will flow into cracks, gaps, under inlays, etc.
    If, on the other hand, you need a paste or putty consistency to fill a hole or something, ebony dust works better. I also prefer 5 minute epoxy in those cases so the fill doesn't slump before it cures.

    If you can manage to have a bottle of black superglue around that hasn't hardened in the bottle yet, ( ) that will take the place of tinted epoxy in a lot of situations.

  7. #7
    Hester Mandolins Gail Hester's Avatar
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    Ebony works fine and is great for matching the color of your headstock overlay such as with Macassar but for ease of use and consistency I've mostly been using Behlen black furniture powder from Stew Mac or lamp black from an art store.
    Gail Hester

  8. #8
    Formerly F5JOURNL Darryl Wolfe's Avatar
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    Thanks John and Gail. #Actually, I suspected John's angle with delicate stuff ect and can see where it make no differnce under finish. #But, can you get a flat black look? #I always despised those shiny black filler lines on a flat black ebony board (obviously, I always use ebony dust, I just vary the amount)



    Darryl G. Wolfe, The F5 Journal
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  9. #9
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Never really thought about that, Darryl. I don't settle for anything less than perfect inlays, so I don't need any filler...

    OK, now the truth. (That was a joke, for those of you reading this who might not have caught it. I'm not responsible for my sense of humor, so I usually suppress it rather than try to fix missunderstandings later.)

    I never really thought much about that, but I have two different flatteners around the shop, one for lacquer, and one for varnish. I may try them in black epoxy and see what happens.

  10. #10
    F-style Apostate
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    I made a trip to two art supply places today, and neither carried any dry pigments or lamp black (why am I not surprised?).

    I did buy an artist's charcoal stick (used for drawing) since it was cheap, and I wanted to experiment.

    Trying to break a piece of it up was a disaster, and then it occurred to me to use a file- I stuck the end of a small fine mill file into a pill cup and gave the charcoal a rub or two. I could see it was going to work, and I ended up with a nice little pile of finely divided black dust in the cup. I mixed a little slow set epoxy in another pill cup and added the charcoal. The resulting mix was dead black, and looks like it should work just fine. I'm letting a blob of it set up on a piece of scrap so I can test how well it sands and looks tomorrow.

    The stick was cheap ($.50), easily available, and if it works, a single stick should be good for tinting quite a bit of epoxy.

    Rick

  11. #11
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    I used ground up charcoal pellets on my early guitars. It worked OK,but did not give me a really "black"black...more of a dark (charcoal even)gray. It also gave me quite a mess when sanding. I was using a white glue instead of expoxy,and that may have caused some problems.
    Jim

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    The reason I use graphite is two fold - 1) I really haven't used ebony so I don't have a bunch of dust around 2) Graphite was recommended when I was in boatbuilding circles (wood dust makes the resulting mix not completely waterproof). I do have a tiny bit of ebony someone gave me and I used a sliver of it next to the nut on my flat top. I could sand some of the remnants I have into dust and hang onto them I guess.
    "First you master your instrument, then you master the music, then you forget about all that ... and just play"
    Charlie "Bird" Parker

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    5 Minute Epoxy always seems to swell up and become really obvious with a bit of time. Does anybody remember black stick shellac or am I really that old?

  14. #14
    Registered User ellisppi's Avatar
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    If you go to a sailboat shop they should have tubes of epoxy colorant in all colors
    Tom H. Ellis
    Ellis Mandolins
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    http://www.ellismandolins.com

  15. #15
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Rick, I once made a banjo resonator with a Walnut burl back veneer. It had a lot of little voids in it, as burl will, and I filled most of the larger ones with wood dust and epoxy, and most of the little ones with stick shellac. I got to see that resonator some years later, and all the stick shellac was "humped" out, and all the dust/epoxy was level and smooth.

    I still use stick shellac for lots of things, but ever since that resonator, I use dust/epoxy for anything that I want to remain level under a finish.

    Re: wood dust.
    Arbarnhart, check out Frank Ford's method of making a quick supply of wood dust. It's much better than sanding, faster and cleaner. I just use a scraper rather than a chisel like Frank does, but I got rid of all my little containers of wood dust in different flavors after I read that.
    Here's the link.

  16. #16
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    Black for ebony or brown for rosewood has been in the Stewmac catalog for about twenty years

    Scott

  17. #17
    Danny Smith dstretch's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    I use rit dye black. It works just fine and blends very well with the ebony. Plus it's cheap and you can buy it at Wal-Mart.

  18. #18
    Registered User 8ch(pl)'s Avatar
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    When I was in the Military we used to get kits of epoxy from one company and they were white clear and Black. The brand was Hysol, made by Loctite.

    It was high gloss when it hardened.

  19. #19
    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Tinted epoxy can swell for at least two reasons: because the surrounding wood expands and makes it bulge out, and because it changes shape in warmer temperatures. The underlying real reason for any of this is because it's simply too soft, which is an artifact of pilot error in mixing it for use.

    A tech guy at Devcon revealed this to me about 30 years ago: don't ever use the pigment to "see" how your mixing is going, because it will obstruct the reaction that allows the stuff to set up properly, which compromises the hardness at the end of the process. Instead, mix the A and B thoroughly and then add the pigment. In 5-Minute this means you have to work quickly, but it's worth it. He completely solved the bulging soft epoxy fill issue for me with that marvelous bit of advice.

    I have always preferred artist's paint pigment because it's much finer than any dust you can use, and as John says, it thus flows easier in tiny spaces. I also trust the color better than any wood dust, even (especially) ebony dust. Shellac sticks are nice but unstable and relatively impermanent.

    I cannot imagine any real art supply not having real black pigment in 1 or 2 ounce jars. I keep bone black and a burnt sienna and can match any rosewood with a combination of the two. Here's one place that sells them online.
    .
    ph

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  20. #20
    Registered User Arnt's Avatar
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    I took an online inlay course over at MIMF a some years ago, and we learned not to tint the epoxy too dark for inlays in ebony, but rather in a greyish tone, or the filler will appear darker than the surrounding wood. We also colored the edges of the pearl with black ink before we set them in slow curing epoxy for a sharper pearl outline. The slow curing epoxy will move less later and you will avoid bubbles that require filling once cured.

  21. #21
    Registered User ellisppi's Avatar
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    I realize that my earlier post was kinda short and vague so I will elaborate. A tube of "polyester & epoxy colorant" made by Rocket Plastics, Montgomery, Ca is cheap, lasts forever, mixes great FOLLOW PAUL H INSTRUCTIONS FOR MIXING We use West System epoxy slow hardener. My credentials are inlaying over 6 million inlays, more than half the inlaid guitars made in America the last 15 years.
    Tom H. Ellis
    Ellis Mandolins
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    http://www.ellismandolins.com

  22. #22
    F-style Apostate
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    Since I started this thread, I thought I'd post a followup:

    I inlayed my ebony fingerboard last night, and used slow set epoxy with the ground up artist's charcoal stick used as a tint. I made sure to mix the epoxy thoroughly (I already knew that part) and added the charcoal after mixing. Didn't take much to tint it.

    Tonight, I sanded it down to see what it looked like, and it worked perfectly. The epoxy matches the ebony very well, it sanded well, and I'm happy.

    As an aside, this is one of the parts of building that I enjoy the most- after you do all that tedious work putting the inlay in (fun, but tedious you know), and then goop it up with colored epoxy, it's a little bit like unwrapping a gift when you start to sand off the epoxy and see your hard work begin to shine through. And what a wonder when it's sanded clean, and you can see the whole piece of work. But I digress.....

    Thanks to everyone who posted suggestions- I learned a lot from this thread. Isn't the Mandolin Cafe message board a great resource?

    Rick

  23. #23
    Registered User Bill Halsey's Avatar
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    Use cement mortar tinting pigment, available at builder's supply yards.
    ~Bill~
    "Trying is the first step to failure."
    --Homer Simpson

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