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Thread: Staining a top.

  1. #1

    Default Staining a top.

    There is an Eastman 515 in the classifieds with a very uneven stain, by design I'm sure, and I'm wondering if this is the sort of look people have talked about regarding spruce not absorbing stain evenly and having a blotchy look.

    I could live with that uneven look if it came to that.

    I'm living with all the other flaws of a first build. Since I've embraced that attitude, I've been enjoying the process so much more, but OMG, ivory/black/ ivory maybe shouldn't be a first binding style LOL.

    Or an f style being a first instrument build.
    Silverangel Econo
    Michael Kelly LSFTB

  2. #2
    Registered User Drew Streip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Staining a top.

    One thing is for sure -- Eastman is incredibly consistent with what they call their "antique" color. I've never seen one that looked any better or worse than another. I have seen some bad sunbursts from them: Some that were splotchy with zero subtlety to the fade, and others that were so "perfect" they looked like they were screen-printed on.

    I happen to greatly prefer Eastman's single-color stain over a badly executed burst. But a look at Weber Gallatin, Gibson F9 and other single-color stains proves that it's possible to avoid the blotch.

    Also, up close, the Eastman color doesn't seem so blotchy. It reminds me a lot of a darker version of this Heiden: https://cartervintage.com/collection.../1999-heiden-f (which I'm sure people have strong opinions about!)

  3. #3
    Registered User Walt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Staining a top.

    Have you done any research on grain runout? I was unfamiliar with runout until I posted this thread and got some good replies explaining it. The runout was very noticeable on my mando, making it difficult to get a uniform color. I ended up opting for a black top (then a white top, then a black top again) on the one in that thread.
    Matt Morgan
    Instrument Videography for Uniform Commercial LLC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jztTl1mas94

  4. #4

    Default Re: Staining a top.

    Well, since my friend took his Pava back to the Ellis workshop for a refret, and they told him it was a blacktop because they screwed up the burst, I've certainly been open to possibly having a blacktop.

    I do want to have my clear coat be shellac. What kind of black could I use that I could shellac over it?

    I'm thinking ahead a bit as I just finished binding the front and headstock. I'm going to give myself a break from binding and fret my fretboard before gluing it on. But I have to bite the bullet sometime and get the dremel and Stew Mac binding router out.
    Silverangel Econo
    Michael Kelly LSFTB

  5. #5
    Registered User Walt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Staining a top.

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    Well, since my friend took his Pava back to the Ellis workshop for a refret, and they told him it was a blacktop because they screwed up the burst, I've certainly been open to possibly having a blacktop.

    I do want to have my clear coat be shellac. What kind of black could I use that I could shellac over it?

    I'm thinking ahead a bit as I just finished binding the front and headstock. I'm going to give myself a break from binding and fret my fretboard before gluing it on. But I have to bite the bullet sometime and get the dremel and Stew Mac binding router out.
    I'm not trying to steer you in the direction of a blacktop. I think mine was a good candidate because the runout was very very apparent. If you do decide to go blacktop, I think there are several methods. (E.g., black dye, black tinted lacquer, black paint).
    I did two things. First, I dyed the top black with water-based aniline dye. This dye alone isn't enough to create an opaque black finish. So the next thing I did was to add black tint to some shellac (using alcohol-based aniline dye). I French polished the black-tinted shellac over the dyed top.
    This method probably isn't easily reversed, though. That black dye really penetrates the wood, so I think it would be almost impossible to restain using a different color. If I had to do it again, I'd go the paint route.

    EDIT:
    Or, I'd try this stuff.
    Matt Morgan
    Instrument Videography for Uniform Commercial LLC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jztTl1mas94

  6. #6
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Staining a top.

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    There is an Eastman 515 in the classifieds with a very uneven stain, by design I'm sure, and I'm wondering if this is the sort of look people have talked about regarding spruce not absorbing stain evenly and having a blotchy look.
    Exactly that happened, runout in top wood and some uneven grain caused blotchy spots when uniform color was applied. You can reduce that using gelatin diluted shellac or some sealer (I've seen some commercial product just for the purpose of even staining of difficult woods) that will feed the open grain but will not prevent further staining. Often just wiping with water or alcohol (what dilutes your stains) right before staining can help a lot. The areas absorb the thinner and won't absorb too much color. SOme folks apply the stain "as dry as possible" meaning no flooding allowed so the stain rests on the surface rather deep in the wood, or simpliest is few light airbrush coats.
    If you want to do blacktop I would get inspired by Bruce Harvie (AKA Spruce), in his restoration of white top A he used rattle can for the white top color and got great results. He posted it somewhere on MC or internet and did a test of various spray paints... Worth looking for. Gibson most likely used some kind of paint for black/white tops just like they did for headstocks...
    Adrian

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  8. #7

    Default Re: Staining a top.

    I'm not setting out to do a blacktop, but that is my fallback position. I'm going to try a dark brown first. I've got some maple boards to play with. Or I might just decide to embrace my patches and go amber.
    Silverangel Econo
    Michael Kelly LSFTB

  9. #8
    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: Staining a top.

    I sand my tops to 600 grit or more and use water with dye. Have never had a blotch issue. My most recent sanded to 800 grit, applied yellow in water.

    Click image for larger version. 

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