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Thread: Sunburst, the hard way?

  1. #1
    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Sunburst, the hard way?

    Just gave my IM kit a final sanding before applying the aniline dye 'burst tomorrow:- {
    I'd been planning on applying a light dilute coat overall, then following it with full strength dye feathered on while the first coat was still nice and wet so everything blended.
    Today as I was sanding, I wondered if it might not be easier and even safer to put on a full strength dye coat, let it dry well, then sand the center of the burst until it was the desired color. I'm thinking that in this way if I mess up, I can re-apply the dye and try again.
    Anyone ever done one this way? Comments?
    I'm a bit nervous about the "get it right the first time" aspect of working wet and think it would be relatively hard to fix the burst afterwards if it came out wrong (blotchy, asymmetrical,too dark, too light, etc). With 400 sandpaper, I think I can work slowly, even stopping whenever I want. I can wipe it with a clean cloth to check the results, and do more if necessary.
    BTW-- afterwards, I'm planning on finishing the mandolin with Tru-Oil.
    For wooden musical fun that doesn't involve strumming, check out:
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  2. #2
    kyswede Magnus Geijer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    That is how I do it, although I don't exactly do a traditional sun burst. Concept should still hold true, though.

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    /Magnus

  3. #3
    Registered User StevenS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    You'll be amazed with the back and sides how easy it is to add layers to the sunburst. Sanding DOES NOT come out looking like an even burst because the dye is drawn into the waves of the grain differently for the more end-grainey bits.

    Hand rubbing the top still is terrifying to me but a sealer coat of shellac lightly sanded greatly improves the spruce relationship to the dye. You should check out the great video John Hamlett posted of hand rubbing a 'burst last year. There is a reason his moniker is "Sunburst" ! ! !

    Definitely check out James Condino's Fine Woodworking video on doing a sunburst. I watched it a million times then called him for more help!

    Here are the steps that have worked for me --

    Everything but top - wash of black dye. Let it dry then sand back so that it is only darkening the end grain parts of the curl.
    Top - 1lb cut shellac wiped on once. Sand very lightly.

    Everything - two washes of lemon yellow with a drop of medium yellow brown to soften the lemon a bit. I learned the hard way to not go over the yellow too many times - otherwise it become a solar flare!

    Start with the medium brown word from the outside in. The more times that you make a pass over an area, the darker it will be.
    Next pass is mahogany brown - careful to go lightly so you are just warming up the burst unless you want the red-orange look.
    Next pass is tobacco brown (which is a fairly dark brown). Again working in from the edges remembering that the more times you work an area with the darker stains, the darker it will be.
    Last pass is black (you can add a hint of brown if you are insecure but the browns you have applied will show through. . .) Same pattern - working from the areas that are to be dark (joints and low spots as well as the perimeter of the back and top.

    For me the learning points were -
    1. I could rub a color over an area too many times. Better to give it a rest and go back later if necessary.
    2. The lighter to darker layered approach helped me control the process.
    3. Sloppy wet was not my friend but having a damp cloth to wash back areas that I over-darkened was helpful.
    4. Sanding back does not look the same as the wet blend of the hand-rubbed process.

    After all of this, I suppose I've truly chickened out and gone to a primarily airbrushed process where I feel more comfortably in control.

    Hopefully some of the REALLY experienced guys will correct anything I've gotten wrong.

    Here is a hand-rubbed burst on a back and then an airbrushed top (both pre-shellac sealer). You can tell I was really chicken about using the black on the hand-rubbed burst. --
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  4. #4
    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    Another question-- in what order do you do the various surfaces of the instrument?
    I'm thinking neck and sides first, in the full strength dye. Then the back, and the top last. The part of the top that is adjacent to where the fingerboard overlaps the top will be full dark, fading towards the center.
    For wooden musical fun that doesn't involve strumming, check out:
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    Registered User mtucker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenS View Post
    After all of this, I suppose I've truly chickened out and gone to a primarily airbrushed process where I feel more comfortably in control.
    In my view there's no shame in this at all. Fact, i would think that airbrushing front, back and sides is the only real way to get any high quality consistency in coloring/shading your finishes, particularly bursts and fades.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    Quote Originally Posted by mtucker View Post
    In my view there's no shame in this at all. Fact, i would think that airbrushing front, back and sides is the only real way to get any high quality consistency in coloring/shading your finishes, particularly bursts and fades.
    No doubt a well done, airbrushed is hard to beat unless of course you prefer the look of a hand rubbed burst.
    Turns out that there is a pretty sizable group of fans for each.
    Bill Snyder
    Vintage Tools, etc

  7. #7
    Registered User mtucker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Snyder View Post
    No doubt a well done, airbrushed is hard to beat unless of course you prefer the look of a hand rubbed burst.
    Turns out that there is a pretty sizable group of fans for each.
    Bill ... yes, my Gil was color brushed first then heavily rubbed on.

  8. #8
    Registered User grandcanyonminstrel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    Many folks, myself included, use a combination of both hand rubbed and sprayed finishes in various combinations to get very specific results. The number one thing to remember with any method is to practice on scraps first until you get it down. When you feel comfortable with your materials and process, then move over to the intended instrument.

    You should also checkout John Hamlett's video handrubbing an old Gibson A.

    You missed a party of about 300 nerdy folks all crowded around one little mandolin watching the handruubed finish process and asking a LOT of questions the end of July up in Tacoma at the Guild of American Luthier's convention this summer!

    j.
    www.condino.com

  9. #9
    Registered User StevenS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    I sunburst everything but the dog before doing the real thing - old practice tops, off-cuts from the tops and backs I was preparing for, construction paper etc. etc.

    What is the saying about "10,000 hours of practice" to become a pro . . ?

    Well worth the time and mind-burn.

    Steve

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    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    I believe that 10,000 hours things is from Outliers? A great book.
    As James says, there are many who do the combo of hand and spray to get the effect they're after. It works for me.

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    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    One of the hardest barriers to overcome when trying to hand rub on spruce is that what looks like a total disaster while your doing it might get that great antiqued look once the top coats are applied. It's a leap of faith.
    Go through the Loar pix threads and look at the tops. When I got to see Grisman's up close you could see a big hand swipe of color on it.

  12. #12
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    When you're rubbing the dyes on the wood, the look you see while it is still wet with solvent is pretty much what it will look like with finish applied. When the dyes start to dry it can look awful.
    The "leap of faith" gets easier with experience, and seeing a lot of stain jobs before and after finish. There's also the option of fixing things with an airbrush during the early finish coats. (Fixing things is a way of life for instrument builders, or so it seems. Sometimes the builders who's work looks best are the ones that are good at fixing their screw-ups!)

    As for how to apply a 'burst, I'm an advocate for finding what works for you rather than trying to do it like someone else. Experimentation and practice will teach you what works for you, and we judge by results, not by technique. I also think it is good to learn more than one method for those pieces of wood that just don't work right for what we're used to, and for those customers who want a specific look. Also, there is repair and restoration work where we need to try to match the work of others.
    I do 'bursts totally by hand rubbing sometimes, totally with an airbrush sometimes, but most of the time I do the majority of the 'burst by rubbing and touch it up with an airbrush.

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    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    Here's one that I did with one bottle of dye, rubbing out the centre with wire wool to lighten it up. I first thinned the dye 50-50, and applied it with a pad, then air-brushed the full strength dye around the edges, then rubbed out the centre CAREFULLYwith wire wool, not sandpaper. You do not need to rub hard to lighten the colour. Rub very lightly and take your time: this was with Behlen Solar Lux dye.

    The back I did the same way, but hand rubbed the dye on full stength: the burst effect is slightly better on the front. It is well worth experimenting on some scrap wood: I made a practice top before I had the cojones to try it on the real thing. Also, it is well worth understanding what effect your choice of finish will have on the colour, as in my case the pale amber french polish really makes the colours warm up and the red jump out, and I found FPing really evened out the colour graduations.




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    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    Just to add, so you can see how it progressed, here are four steps of the process:

    The first stain:


    After Airbrushing the edges:


    Finished Staining


    After French Polishing

  15. #15
    Registered User John Duncan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    Trying to track down the Hamlett sunburst video...anybody got a link?
    John H. Duncan
    Fiddle for Buncombe Turnpike

  16. #16
    Registered User Dobe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    Quote Originally Posted by jhduncan View Post
    Trying to track down the Hamlett sunburst video...anybody got a link?
    I think you mean this one ? :


  17. #17
    Registered User John Duncan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    That is awesome!!! Thank you!
    John H. Duncan
    Fiddle for Buncombe Turnpike

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    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    John is using alcohol based dye in the video and the alcohol solvent evaporated quickly.
    If you use a waterbased color you need to think "dryer" or "damp" when applying the dye. Otherwise you start to saturate the wood too much. I had a hair dryer close by to help set the color when things started getting wet.

  19. #19
    Registered User StevenS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sunburst, the hard way?

    Can't wait to see how this polishes out . . . Curly redwood and a bold dark burst --

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    Steve
    Steve Sorensen
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