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Thread: Repair of chip in sunburst

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    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Repair of chip in sunburst

    Just thought I'd throw this up there to see if anyone has a better idea.

    Little 3 year old grand daughter managed to put a little chip in my heretofore unblemished 2001 Sam Bush yesterday. My own fault it should have been hanging up not laying on the table - anyway she is none the wiser but I still have a problem...

    Any I am going to attempt to mitigate the damage as much a possible.

    The chip is about 2 X 3 mm and it is through the finish to the wood.

    So I mixed up some Trans-Fast stains and tested them on thin strips of Englemann spruce -- this is the result of 9 parts amber/1 part light oak/ 1 part orange.

    The chip has a thin coat of Behlen's nitro-lacquer on it so I do not get a surprise when I drop fill with lacquer.

    Any suggestions for a better approach to this situation?
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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    First thing I would probably try... (I'm saying probably because I never really exactly what I would do without having the instrument in hand)... would be to try steaming the dent to see if I could raise it level and reduce the amount of fill needed. A damp, clean rag laid on the damage and then touched with the tip of a small soldering iron gives us a controllable steam source for small places.
    For replacing the color, I would probably start with amber dye, applying with a quill pen. I would then (probably) use brown and a quill pen and gradually darken it to match. If the grain lines obscure, draw them back in. That sort of thing.
    If I'm not mistaken, that is a sprayed 'burst, so I might leave the color a little light and then give it a very light spray of color with an airbrush.

    Don't expect the spot to "disappear" when repaired. The sprayed color is very much on the surface of the wood and not "in" the wood as much as dyes applied to the bare wood in the damaged area, so even with an excellent color match, it would most likely look different from different angles. That could be remedied somewhat by sealing the damage first and then applying the color, but that adds a whole new degree of difficulty to the process, so I wouldn't recommend it.

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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    Thanks for the ideas!

    Since my first post I've managed to look at it under about 4 - 5X.

    It looks like the gouge into the wood is fairly shallow? Would that change your approach?

    Also I wonder about cleaning to wood and lacquer out of the one edge of the chip?

    Also a number of folks recommend "softening" the edge of the chip with acetone or lacquer thinner? Maybe a little dangerous on this one though?
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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    The depth probably would not change how I would proceed. I can't tell enough from the photo to know if anything needs to be cleaned out. If there is displaced wood, the steaming procedure might help it go back to near it's original position. If there is wood detached, that will require fill, but if it's a shallow gouge, lacquer will do that.
    I can only assume that the finish is nitro. I'm pretty sure that's what the big "G" was using when that was in production, but I always make sure, if possible, before proceeding. I probably would not use any solvent to soften the surrounding lacquer, but instead fill the flaw (after coloring satisfactorily) and leave the existing edges firm for leveling the fill (after is cures for an anxiety-enhancing long time). I'd probably try to keep the repair as small as possible.
    Remember the first rule of cosmetic/finish repair:
    It is always easier to make it look worse than to make it look better. Sometimes the less work done the better the result.

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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    I think I'd consider drop filling that first with clear lacquer (as John says, making sure that's what the original finish is). My fear would be that if I put color down in on the raw wood and it goes too dark, which is a real possibility, you're are in trouble. You'd then have to dig that out and make the hole bigger. At least if you drop fill first, you have a barrier surface to fiddle with that can be "erased" if your attempts are right the first time.

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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    Quote Originally Posted by Dale Ludewig View Post
    I think I'd consider drop filling that first with clear lacquer (as John says, making sure that's what the original finish is). My fear would be that if I put color down in on the raw wood and it goes too dark, which is a real possibility, you're are in trouble. You'd then have to dig that out and make the hole bigger. At least if you drop fill first, you have a barrier surface to fiddle with that can be "erased" if your attempts are right the first time.
    Thanks for the thoughts!

    I am "99%" sure it is nitro lacquer only the MMs and DMMs got varnish? But never hurts to check and I will!

    As to the "barrier" many when putting a lacquer finish on seal the wood with something that takes a different solvent like shellac. Would a brush with clear shellac accomplish the goal?

    As to the stain getting too dark -- wouldn't I be fairly safe on that since I already have a stain mixture (see the OP) that is pretty close?

    Just asking.
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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    Bernie, the concern is that those wood fibers down in the damaged area are like the ends of little broken straws. Your sample piece isn't like that. It's like the the sides of little straws with part of walls sanded through. If you get the stain in the ends of the little straws, it's going to look darker than you think. Try your stain sample on some end grain of the spruce and see what it looks like. If you put a barrier coat on, you can always go darker. You can't go the other direction. I know this from experience.
    Last edited by Dale Ludewig; Nov-21-2017 at 2:05pm. Reason: typo

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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    The problem I have with using a sealer first (I'd use blonde shellac if I was going to seal first) is that I have less control over color placement on a sealer, so it is more difficult for me to get a good match.
    Also, Dale's caution about the spot getting too dark is definitely valid. Getting too dark before you know it is something that can happen. That is why I would start with amber (dilute) dye and add color to match. Always try to stay too light because you can always darken, but as Dale says, you can't lighten without removing material.

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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    Just go very light with the dye. You can always add more.

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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    I may need to meditate on this for a while -- I am feeling very nervous about this fix now.

    "Remember the first rule of cosmetic/finish repair: It is always easier to make it look worse than to make it look better. Sometimes the less work done the better the result." - sunburst

    This comment is echoing in the hollow gray matter right now. DO NOT want to screw this up! But better be nervous than rush head long into a mess.

    It may be a few days before I am ready to try for real,

    I have an old Harmony arch top guitar with a sunburst and I think I'll try repairing the dings in that for a few days.......

    When I'm ready I think I'll take my "color matched" dye formulation and dilute it 1 to 5 and start brushing on thin layers of that for starters. Also play with some end grain spruce too.

    Thanks for all the comments!!!
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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    Good luck. Post up the results when you do the work. Curious how it turns out for you.
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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    Repairing colored finishes is one of the most difficult aspects of repair work.
    Observation is helpful. Is the color in the wood, in the finish, or both?

    Most dyes will not penetrate dry lacquer. However, liquid lacquer can be dyed. I have not used Trans-Fast, Trans-Tint, or ColorTone; so I don't know what to expect when mixing it with lacquer.

    I work mostly on old instruments, so I use alcohol soluble aniline dyes. They must be mixed with pure grain alcohol. Denatured alcohol can cause color changes and drying problems. If you mix aniline dyes with lacquer, add 25% acetone to the dye before adding it to the lacquer.

    An annoying problem is where old color meets new color. The colors add together at the junction, causing a dark line.
    If anybody knows a reliable way to prevent that dark line, I hope that they will share their knowledge.

    If you color the lacquer, try to get sufficient color in the lower coats rather than the upper coats. If you keep the colored lacquer somewhat thin, it won't build too quickly to get a color match.


    In the old days, many repairmen would have handled Bernie's small chip with stick shellac and a burn-in knife.

    If you drop fill, by all means practice as much as you can on the Harmony or on test boards. Try different methods and see what gives the best results. Try sealing unstained wood with shellac, with thin lacquer, and not sealing at all; and then add colored lacquer. See what happens. Try staining the bare wood, and follow it with clear lacquer. See what happens. Try staining the sealer. Hopefully you will find a combination that works. Don't work on the mandolin until you have a better idea of what you're doing.

    Good luck. And please tell us what worked the best!!

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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    This is the hardes of any repairs by a margin. Matching colored finish is skill that very few can do. Those violin makers who are good at this and can make invisible repairs of finish are in high demand and often don't build instruments because they have tons of repairs to do... Use of stain on bare wood WILL look different than surrounding finish even if the color tone is same it will reflect light differently at angles. Best bet is using the same materials they use. First. I would clean with denatured water or lightly steam to get the wood back into shape. From my limited experience Gibsons have kind of yellow sealer and over that colored lacquer I would seal the chip with tiny bit of clear lacquer let it dry and scrape flat inside the chipped area, and over that add yellow and then lightly colored coats of shellac with tiny artist brush (shellac will be easy to remove from the lacquer surface if the color is not right).
    But I would suggest finding good experienced violin repairer (not just any violin guy) and ask. Perhaps it won't cost much for such tiny place... Doing it yourself may result in mess that cannot be repaired later.
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    This is the hardes of any repairs by a margin. Matching colored finish is skill that very few can do. Those violin makers who are good at this and can make invisible repairs of finish are in high demand and often don't build instruments because they have tons of repairs to do... Use of stain on bare wood WILL look different than surrounding finish even if the color tone is same it will reflect light differently at angles. Best bet is using the same materials they use. First. I would clean with denatured water or lightly steam to get the wood back into shape. From my limited experience Gibsons have kind of yellow sealer and over that colored lacquer I would seal the chip with tiny bit of clear lacquer let it dry and scrape flat inside the chipped area, and over that add yellow and then lightly colored coats of shellac with tiny artist brush (shellac will be easy to remove from the lacquer surface if the color is not right).
    But I would suggest finding good experienced violin repairer (not just any violin guy) and ask. Perhaps it won't cost much for such tiny place... Doing it yourself may result in mess that cannot be repaired later.
    Thanks --yes I've seen some of those violin repairs -- kind of miraculous I guess -- cracks that totally disappear etc.

    One thing though don't violin people generally deal with strictly in varnish finishing? Maybe nitro lacquer is not in their sphere of interest or experince?
    Last edited by Bernie Daniel; Nov-22-2017 at 12:07pm.
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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie Daniel View Post
    ...One thing though don't violin people generally deal with strictly in varnish finishing -- maybe nitro lacquer is not in their sphere of interest or experince?
    Generally true, but we can't paint them with a broad brush. Who's to say a violin repairman can't learn how to repair lacquer?
    Generally, violin varnishes contain color and the wood itself is not stained, other than the "ground" that goes under the varnish. The ground is sort of a sealer/filler, and sometimes bright yellow gamboge is used. (I've sometimes wondered if that was the inspiration for the yellow/amber base color for sunbursts.)
    A common method for violin finish repair is alternating thin coats of finish material and color. Keep it light, and when enough layers have been applied for the color to match stop adding color and complete the varnish touch up.
    I don't pretend to know enough about violin repair to know how much (knowledge and techniques) would transfer to lacquered mandolins with dyed color in the base coats, but one thing is for sure; there is more than one way to repair the chip. Probably many ways that could be successful.

    (I ran into the owner of one of my older mandolins at a festival and she told about playing at an outdoor festival where the mosquitoes were a problem. She inadvertently got insect repellent on the lacquer on her mandolin and it caused finish damage, and since she had kept the mandolin in such great condition, she was very disappointed. She went on to say that she had sadly showed it to a violin builder and that he said "I can fix that". At this point I wondered where the story was going. Could this violin builder have experience with lacquer? Would he know what to do and not cause further damage? Then she showed me the mandolin, and the finish looked flawless. It just goes to show; we can never assume...)

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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    Generally true, but we can't paint them with a broad brush. Who's to say a violin repairman can't learn how to repair lacquer?
    Generally, violin varnishes contain color and the wood itself is not stained, other than the "ground" that goes under the varnish. The ground is sort of a sealer/filler, and sometimes bright yellow gamboge is used. (I've sometimes wondered if that was the inspiration for the yellow/amber base color for sunbursts.)
    A common method for violin finish repair is alternating thin coats of finish material and color. Keep it light, and when enough layers have been applied for the color to match stop adding color and complete the varnish touch up.
    I don't pretend to know enough about violin repair to know how much (knowledge and techniques) would transfer to lacquered mandolins with dyed color in the base coats, but one thing is for sure; there is more than one way to repair the chip. Probably many ways that could be successful.

    (I ran into the owner of one of my older mandolins at a festival and she told about playing at an outdoor festival where the mosquitoes were a problem. She inadvertently got insect repellent on the lacquer on her mandolin and it caused finish damage, and since she had kept the mandolin in such great condition, she was very disappointed. She went on to say that she had sadly showed it to a violin builder and that he said "I can fix that". At this point I wondered where the story was going. Could this violin builder have experience with lacquer? Would he know what to do and not cause further damage? Then she showed me the mandolin, and the finish looked flawless. It just goes to show; we can never assume...)
    Interesting. As it happens I know the director of the local Suzuki violin program here --he is also a member of the Cincinnati Symphony. Anyway, he directed me to a couple of the better violin shops in the area and I put in a call in to both to see what they think of this kind of repair. Have not heard from them yet.
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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    I think the major part is the color matching and most all violin makers would use spirit varnis as topcoat. Thinned nitro is not much different from spirit varnish so I guess they coud do it. Actually I heard sometimes violin restorers use nitro to drop fill deeper damage (they seem not to prefer steaming as their varnishes are more easily damaged by steam) and over that paint/color match the surface. I think the highest level is when they even match the surface patna of worn old varnish and also match fluorescence under UV for totally invisible repair... shiny lacquer is not hard to match for them. Once I lightly french polished over lacquer and it blended perfectly...
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    Thanks for all the comments!!

    Well a lot happened today -- maybe too much -- I'm still processing.

    On a lark I put in a call to Homestead Finishing Products in Cleveland. Among other things they make that TransFast (water soluble azo-based) dye powders and the TransTint solutions (metal complex dyes) that are soluble in water, alcohol, shellacs and lacquers. Anyway the fellow in customer service that I talked to was chemist who used to work in their plant in Strongville, OH. Must have been a slow day because he talked with me for I'd say 30 minutes -- he knew a lot about the chemistry and applications of dyes and pigments. In addition to that he is also a guitar builder in his spare time and has consulted with George Gruhn from time to time on vintage repair jobs they had in Nashville.

    He echoed the comments from the guys here this type repair --matching a finish on something like a sunburst is about as difficult as it gets. The big problem being -- like everyone here said -- it is very difficult to predict what the stain will do when finish (e.g., lacquer is added on top).

    Anyway I came away convinced that I will maybe first pursue experiments with amber-colored lacquers --going with a lacquer that is the right tint but less intense than the finish on the mandolin. I could add layers of tinted lacquer until the right intensity is reached and then fill with layers of clear lacquer.

    So one potential approach I could play with on a test board ( I have samples of Engelmann and Sitka) would be"
    1. first a light layer of clear lacquer to seal the end grain tears,
    2. then carefully add thin layers of the tinted lacquer until it reaches the desired or matching intensity
    3. and then finish off to level with clear lacquer again.

    This general idea was mentioned in a couple of the posts in this string.

    I'd like to write more but I have a turkey to prepare and also a pumpkin to process for pie tomorrow.

    Happy T-day!

    Tomorrow I'll take some pics of some of the small panels I have been doing tests on today during house cleaning breaks.
    Last edited by Bernie Daniel; Nov-22-2017 at 7:52pm.
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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    Just like most men, you would rather worry about eating than working...Sounds like you are on the right track with that matching color project...Good luck..

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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    I'm interested to see how your repair turns out and what method you use to achieve it. My F-5V has a small chip in the top at the forward point. It's in an area that only has the dark tobacco stain not in the burst area so it might be easier to match. Varnish instead of lacquer.

    Happy T-Day!
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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    For what it's worth here's a how-to video of Dan Erlewine repairing a chip in a guitar top.

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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    Yes thanks I've watched that video - more than once!

    It is a lovely repair. I wish life could be so simple. Sadly the approach he took is almost irrelevant to the problem I have because he is dealing with essentially matching black and not a variable color sunburst. If I could get the colors matched and stabilized m(i.e.,so they are not changing as I fill in with clear lacquer) then I could use the technique Dan uses to smooth over the fill!

    But I am a long way from there at this point!

    From what you describe I think you could use that approach though?
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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    I've been doing some experiments on pieces of spruce that I have here -- I think I have samples of both Sitka and Engelmann. The panels here (circa 1 sq in, 645 mm2) are on Sitka spruce which is what the mandolin top is.

    D = just a dye (amber/light oak/orange) that I mixed up
    SD = coat of clear shellac then application of dye -- a little fainter?
    LD = coat of clear nitro lacquer then dye -- again a little less intense?
    DL = dye followed by a coat of nitro lacquer -- the color became more intense and richer but the change was smaller then I anticipated?
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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    Here are some experiments with stained nitro lacquer. I'm using Behlen's clear stained with TransTint amber (#6000).

    The test panel is Sitka spruce and the first panel on the left is just clear lacquer, and
    1 = one coat clear and one coat of amber
    2 = one coat clear and two coats of amber,
    3 = one and three
    4 = one and four
    5 = one and five

    So the color builds fairly consistently. The final panel at the extreme right is one coat of clear, 5 coats of amber and three coats of clear on top. So adding clear lacquer on top of the colored lacquer does not change the color anymore

    The stained lacquer is very easy to control it seems?

    All this makes me lean toward trying to mix up a small sample of lacquer that is as close to exactly the same as my damaged area and then fill with clear?

    Problem is i do not know how the bare wood w in the damaged area will respond to the lacquer so maybe a light coat or two of clear lacquer then a coat of stained lacquer and fill with clear?

    The advantage of stained lacquer is once in place it will not change color when clear lacquer is added on top like wood stain does?
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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Repair of chip in sunburst

    I would suggest using clear nitro for base and tinted shellac for color. Viloin restorers use shellac (or spirit varnish) as it is very easy to remove if one goes too far with quick wipe of q-tip and alcohol without disturbing the lacquer underneath. You should test that as well on your samples just in case... One never nows how these jobs will go.
    Adrian

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