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Thread: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

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    Luthierus Amateurius crazymandolinist's Avatar
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    Default Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    Anyone do these? I'm a bit attracted to the idea because of my lack of spray equipment, but I also think that it would be a more enjoyable experiance too. I'd like to know also a bit about the technique behind it, as well as some examples from instruments.
    "The Beauty of Grace is that it makes life Unfair" - Relient K

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  2. #2
    He's back. :) Bill Snyder's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    John Hamlett does them and I believe James Condino does as well.
    Bill Snyder

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    Registered User man dough nollij's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    There's a good video of James Condino doing a (green!) burst on a practice block of maple. I'm sure somebody will show up with a link.

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    He's back. :) Bill Snyder's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    Been looking for the link to James' video on hand rubbing a sunburst. You may have seen it before, but since you are interested now, it is worth another view.
    James Condino Video.
    Bill Snyder

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    I usually rub 'em. It gives a different look than a sprayed burst.
    Some types of dyes are pretty easy to use for rubbing a good 'burst and some types make it "well nigh" impossible. I found it easiest to rub a burst with alcohol soluble aniline dyes, but I was having trouble with the colors fading and changing over time so I went to metal complex dyes, still alcohol soluble but not nearly so easy to rub a good burst.

    Here are the steps I use for rubbing a sunburst, starting with the mandolin sanded completely, the grain raised and re-sanded at least once.
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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    This step is optional. I rubbed some dilute neutral brown dye on several time to build contrast in the curly maple.
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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    The whole thing gets rubbed with yellow and/or amber...
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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    I took these pictures myself so I couldn't show the 'burst in progress, but I rub medium brown dye around the edges and blend it into the center with a rag soaked in alcohol and wrung out. When that color is done, I use a dark reddish brown and repeat the process but I don't go as far toward the center.
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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    I did a little touch up around the edges with dark brown dye in an airbrush then sealed the whole thing with a light spray of blonde shellac.
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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    The bindings are then scraped and the instrument is finished, this one with lacquer.
    This particular mandolin is one of the main ones that made me switch from anilines. I get to see this one from time to time, and I've refretted it once since it was sold. It is no longer this color! I want them to stay the same color, so I changed to the more difficult metal complex dyes.
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    I think that Hans Brentrup has made several Mandolins finished in that way,including,i believe either one or both of these. I remember a remark of his regarding how he liked the fact that the wood took the staining differently in different areas - my apologies to Hans if i'm incorrect.
    (pic.of 2 wonderful instruments courtesy of Brentrup Mandolins - that "F" style is to die for !!),
    Ivan
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    Weber F-5 'Fern'.
    Lebeda F-5 "Special".
    Stelling Bellflower BANJO
    Tokai - 'Tele-alike'.

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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    John,

    Could you describe how the color faded?

    Beautiful mando, by the way.

    Best,

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    Tony, mostly the color has less red now. It doesn't look as warm, the center has less glow and the edge color is more of a neutral dark color than the red-brown you see here. The owner says he keeps it on a stand in his office a lot of the time so that he can grab it and play it when he has time, and he says he doesn't notice that the color has changed because it's been gradual. When I refretted it, the area of the top covered by the bridge looked about like it started out.
    The dyes I'm using now are reputed to be much more light fast.

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    Registered User Lefty Luthier's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    I use a similar process with one addition, I raise the wood grain with a bit of potassium dichromate dissolved in distilled water, wait a couple of hours before final sanding. This step enhances the contrast between light and dark in maple and adds a bit of patina to a spruce top.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    Before all the comments on the dangers of potassium dichromate start rolling in (and it is dangerous stuff), it should be said that all of this stuff is toxic and must be handles carefully. Anilines, metal complex dyes, denatured alcohol, all toxic.

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    Luthierus Amateurius crazymandolinist's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    That second one that John posted is exactly the result I'm looking for. Doesn't LMI carry the dyes? And am I right in saying that the dyes should be very thin and then sort of "stacked on", getting progressively darker as I go? Thanks for the help too guys. Those pictures really are purty!
    "The Beauty of Grace is that it makes life Unfair" - Relient K

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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    Thanks John. Its interesting to hear how colors fade. I was using the black from LMI (over other colors) and it turned green after about a year or so. Im starting to wonder what quality the LMI dyes really are.

    I switched over to the metal complex dyes from Transtint about a year ago, but I still dont like the way they rub. Ive herd the best traditional dyes available are the ones from Hammerl in Germany (which are also sold by international Violin), they are said to be very lightfast and exceptional quality. Heres hoping, I have some on order to try out!

    Lefty, How do you prepare the potassium dichromate for use with the water?


    Best,

    Tony

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    Luthierus Amateurius crazymandolinist's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    I do believe now is the time for us to share experiances on dyes then! LMI sells two, the dye concentrates and the powered stuff, both come water soluble and alcohol soluble. And then Stewert MacDonald sells Colortone products.
    "The Beauty of Grace is that it makes life Unfair" - Relient K

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    Registered User barry k's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    Alcohol soluble leather dyes work great, colorfast and easy to use and blend well when bursting. Been using them for 17 years without a problem. No need for the toxic chemistry to raise grain with this stuff. Then everything cleans up with rubbing alcohol, not too toxic or messy. Do not use the oil leather dyes.... different critter.

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    Registered User Lefty Luthier's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Francis View Post
    Thanks John. Its interesting to hear how colors fade. I was using the black from LMI (over other colors) and it turned green after about a year or so. Im starting to wonder what quality the LMI dyes really are.

    I switched over to the metal complex dyes from Transtint about a year ago, but I still dont like the way they rub. Ive herd the best traditional dyes available are the ones from Hammerl in Germany (which are also sold by international Violin), they are said to be very lightfast and exceptional quality. Heres hoping, I have some on order to try out!

    Lefty, How do you prepare the potassium dichromate for use with the water?


    Best,


    Tony

    I generally mix 1/2 teaspoon of Potassium Dichromate with 4 oz distilled water. Shake well to make sure it is all dissolved. I apply liberally with a q-tip and let it sit for 4 hours to overnight. Then sand with 320 grit to remove any raised grain then with 600 grit on the maple only. Let sit for at least 2 days before staining. I use Transtint amber or lemon yellow as a base then work either tobacco brown or a black/red mix around the edge. As Sunburst described above.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    Tony, take a look at this, then consider that potassium dichromate merely darkens the wood, more where it soaks in deeper and less where it rubs off easier. That highlights the figure. Dyes do that too, they darken more where they soak in more and less where they rub off easier, and the color can be chosen. In short, potassium dichromate is seriously dangerous stuff, and dyes can be used to highlight contrast similarly and more control-ably.

    I was using the LMI powdered alcohol soluble anilines and they were fairly easy to work with, but they were the ones that faded. I'm currently using Transtint alcohol soluble dyes and I can eventually get a good 'burst but I have to work my butt of to do it.

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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    I like the MEK based dyes from LMI. They also mix well with alcohol, and thus with shellac. As lightfast as can be. I found some scraps in my -outdoor- firewood pile a year or two ago that I'd tested color mixes on, and the colors were still vivid, though the unfinished wood was turning gray.

    I also had severe fading with alcohol based aniline dyes way back when. My first F-5 has completely lost its burst, and is now a mere pumpkin sort of color! I tried water soluble aniline, which were said to be more lightfast, but I couldn't get the colors to blend properly at all with it by wiping, but they sprayed nicely.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    Any dyes will spray well, in my experience, but most are not easy to rub.

  24. #24
    iii mandolin Geoff B's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    I borrowed some potassium dichromate a few years ago from a high school lab because I saw that Dudenbostel used it in his photo essay (I think...). Then I looked up the MSDS (John's link above is one) on the stuff and swiftly got rid of it. It is a very serious chemical! As John says, for something that works ostensibly the same as a dye, I don't see a reason to add all the extra danger that it adds. I've often thought since it darkens the wood by oxidizing, perhaps there is an easier way to do that (let it sit in the sun for a long time, unfinished, use some other less dangerour oxidizer, or even some sort of flame--though I don't have the cahones to try that!). Yeah, almost everything involved in building, or just living, is toxic on some level, K2Cr2O7 just doesn't make sense to me to throw into the mix.

    On the other hand, I've heard it gets used a lot in furniture making, especially for artificially aging furniture...

  25. #25
    Registered User buddyellis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hand rubbed sunburst finish

    Well to get the patina on the spruce, which I think is probably the 'most useful' use for P-D, you can certainly leave the unfinished (totally sanded, ready for staining) instrument out in direct sunlight for a few days. Be careful that it doesn't get too hot though.

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