View Full Version : a few questions

Mar-11-2004, 4:32am
1) if you fit the bridge before finishing, would it have to be re-fit after finishing (because of lacquer thickness)

2) when leveling frets, how should the truss rod be adjusted? if there is too much or not enough torque on the rod while leveling wouldnt this pose a problem?

3) What is a good substance to practice my spray finishing?
(stringed instrument lacquer is expensive, and I would like to practice with something else first so its not wasted.)

4) what do you use to mix with the stew-mac colors, just regular rubbing alchohol? The directions say alchohol or water.
or should I just mix it with the lacquer?

5) What is the tolerances on fret height as they relate to eachother? A fret that is higher or lower by "how much" is considered un-level?

I know some of these questions are probably trivial, but thought I would ask anyway, since the only stupid question is the one you dont ask.
Thanx in advance for any help anyone can provide.

Mar-11-2004, 9:03am
I can only speak to #4 -- I mixed my colors with water. I liked the result, but I guess I should have done more testing (didn't have enough stuff to test ON). Now, I rubbed the dye on with a rag, I wonder if you were spraying if it would be better to use alchohol? I'll let someone more knowledgable speak to that.. but wanted to throw my experince on the pile.

Mar-11-2004, 9:03am
4) what do you use to mix with the stew-mac colors, just regular rubbing alchohol? The directions say alchohol or water.or should I just mix it with the lacquer?

You don't want rubbing alcohol, but denatured alcohol (sometimes labelled shellac thinner). Any paint store/home center will have the generic stuff, but you might get a little better quality going with Behlen. Since it's the same solvent, it's also possible to mix up a shellac/dye combo if you're so inclined. Not sure, but I don't think you can get the dye to dissolve in lacquer.

Will Kimble
Mar-11-2004, 9:12am
Good questions, here are my thoughts:

1. #I recommend final fitting the bridge after finishing and before french polishing (or buffing since you are using laquer). #

2. #I level the frets with the truss rod loose (I am using a double adjustable truss rod).

3. #It is best to practice with the exact materials that you will be using.

4. #I mix these colors with water. #You can also mix them with alcohol, but the alcohol will evaporate much faster - this could be good or bad.

Depending upon the effect you are going for, you may want to mix them with laquer. #For instance, I would mix a honey blonde color into the laquer, but I would use water stains to make a traditional sunburst. #

5. #If you can tell that a fret is unlevel, then it is unlevel - it doesn't matter how much. #

These are good questions, and thinking about these little things is how you keep getting better.

Mar-11-2004, 7:56pm
Yes it is smart to re-snad the bridge after lacquer it fit the new surface. With the stew mac colors, I mix mine in about 5 or 6 water bottles. USE denatured alcohol. you can get it at the hardware store, a quart is plenty.
I mix my stains in a dark, light, yellow, and the center sunburst color all in separate water bottles and mess around with them until I like the color. I inch of alcohol in the bottle is plenty of stain. On your main base color and the yellow base coat you make want to mix a little more. Go buy a piece of spruce a home depot to pratice on. If you are like me you will probably be adding stain to the alcohol or adding alcohol to the stain as you go to get the right tone. Don't worry about getting too dark, if it is just rub straigh alcohol into the area and it will lighten up, this is also a good way to blend colors so they look natural.
As far as fret height, just lay a metal straight edge on the fret after you get them in, and wiggle it. If there is a high spot you will know, if they are level you won't hear or feel any chatter. If you have a high spot just sand the fret down a bit with (400-600 grit) and re-check until it is clean. Frets sand very easy, don't overdue it and don't scratch your fingerboard. JD

Mar-12-2004, 12:23am
I thought I replied to this earlier, but I must have wandered off. In regard to your truss rod, you want the neck to be as perfectly flat as possible. Usually that means a slack truss rod, but in the case of some older instruments, you may have to make some adjustments with NO string tension on the neck. See, you want the fingerboard to be a flat plane and then make all the tops of the frets a flat plane as you level. And, if the fingerboard is not flat from end to end, you will be removing a lot of fret in some places and hardly any in others. You don't want to do that. So, sight down the fingerboard. If you look, you can tell if its flat or not. You can get one of those fancy Stew mac tools that checks for flatness, but a good eye will work too. Once the board is flat, just level until you begin to see that you are taking material from all the frets, then stop. String it up and check fretting on every note. If you find high spots, mark them and go back and get them level too. Then, you can do the crown and polish and be in good shape.

Mar-12-2004, 12:52am
Thanx for all the replies, all of your thoughts have been helpful. I fitted the bridge last night. I couldnt believe how easy it worked out. After all that I had read about it here on different threads. I must have got lucky but I sanded on it for about 10 min. and it was a beautiful fit.
Hopefully I will get as lucky when I re-fit it after finishing.

Jim Hilburn
Mar-12-2004, 8:59am
Will, good to see you coming around here. I remember when you were a regular. Your input will be greatly appreciated.

Mar-12-2004, 10:42am
1, well covered by others, I like to fit it to the finished mandolin

2, well covered by others

3, I would add that you can start with water if you've never sprayed anything before and just want to get the feel of the gun and how it behaves, then move on to paint. With paint you'll be able to see if you are getting an even coat, but don't get too used to being able to see if you're getting an even coat.

4, stains are available as water soluable and as alcohol soluable. They will work best with the intended solvent, but may also work with the other.
As for alcohols, the safest comes from the liquor store and is generally called pure grain alcohol. This is ethanol and it is non toxic (in reasonable amounts).
The best solvency is achieved with methanol. This one is much more toxic and should be handled carefully. It can usually #be found in paint stores, but if you live near a tire store that sells tractor tires, the fluid that they use for weight in tractor tires probably comes out of a 55 gallon drum of methanol. I went to my local Southern States store with an empty lacquer thinner can and bought two gallons cheap!

5, well covered by others, no amount of variance is acceptable for excellent fret work