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Thread: Black Finished Instruments

  1. #1
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Black Finished Instruments

    After a recent trip to California MAS hits again as I realize that a mini acoustic/electric previously previewed by a G B builder on this site would fill a niche in my arsenal of fun.
    Prior to ordering I am considering asking for a black face.
    Never before owned a Black face and wondering if they are more prone to showing smudges/dust and more importantly scratches?
    Keith Edward Coleman A style, oval hole Mandola
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  2. #2
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    I have a black-finished c.1910 F-2, and yes, it does show finish wear a bit more than "natural" or lighter-finish instruments. At least mine does.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    Yes black finishes show dirt, smudges and scratches more than other color finishes. Also, if you play outside, they can get quite hot in bright sunshine which will require you to re-tune more often. The F-4 on the left informed this reply.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

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    Registered User almeriastrings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    I call them 'CSI' specials....
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    After having one for a while I'm a big fan, simply love the look and after time they seem to take on a nice semi-flat patina. In fact the black top Northfield octave at Gryphon, if it's still there, is mighty tempting.

    This said, I like seeing the grain and beautiful stain on my other mandolin as well.

    Bottom line, I wouldn't shy from a black top mando at all. YMMV.
    A-5's: Nugget/Collings, Newson

  6. #6

    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    It is also worth remembering that black finish hides many things. When I was dealing with a mandolin factory in the East they priced natural finished mandolins a fair bit higher as they couldn't use the inferior woods that much on those.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    Quote Originally Posted by vic-victor View Post
    It is also worth remembering that black finish hides many things. When I was dealing with a mandolin factory in the East they priced natural finished mandolins a fair bit higher as they couldn't use the inferior woods that much on those.
    Yes, that makes sense, but I understand that the flip side is true as well, that with black tops luthiers can focus on selecting what they believe to be the best tone woods, without having to worry as much about the attractiveness and perfection of the grain.
    A-5's: Nugget/Collings, Newson

  8. #8

    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    Quote Originally Posted by Luna Pick View Post
    Yes, that makes sense, but I understand that the flip side is true as well, that with black tops luthiers can focus on selecting what they believe to be the best tone woods, without having to worry as much about the attractiveness and perfection of the grain.
    It may work with some minor imperfections, but I believe it is best to select the top without the visual flaws. Won't hurt the sound for sure.

    BTW, I've seen some very attractive transparent black finishes, where the grain is still fully seen. Not sure how it is done, probably staining the raw wood first and applying some clear finish afterwards.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    My '24 blackface snakehead was pretty well marked up when I bought it. I have a Breedlove "Black Gold" and that shows up the dust but not much else - possibly because of the matt finish. My car is black and that's a real pain!

  10. #10
    Registered User jdchapman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    Matte black finishes are a little more forgiving than gloss. (Though my Martin matte "black smoke" 00-17s guitar does tend to show evidence of my sweaty right arm in this August weather.)

    I used to think black mandos were cool--at least old Gibsons--but that guitars looked dumb. I've come around. It's just that gloss finish looks a lot glossier on black, and everything--fingerprints and dust and stage lights--shows up.

  11. #11
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    Not every dark finish has to completely hide the wood grain. I'm not sure how possible this is with black colors, but my mandolin has an overall dark chocolate brown stain that's semi-transparent. You get the nice overall dark look at a distance, but up close, the grain is still visible underneath. The effect isn't visible in the small image, but it's the foreground mandolin in the avatar image to the left.

    It does show dust and finger grime more than a light-colored finish, but c'mon... it's not that hard to blow off or wipe every once in a while.


    The concern raised earlier about sunlight and dark finishes if you're playing outdoors is valid, but having done that once or twice, we now have a clause in our wedding gig contract that says we don't play outdoors unless it's in the shade or under a roof, protected from direct sun or rain. Direct sun on a hot day isn't good for musicians or their instruments, no matter the color of the gear.

    As for the extra work to keep a dark finish clean, it's worth it for me to have a mandolin that looks a bit different from the usual finish. I've always been attracted to musical instruments that look a little different from the usual thing.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    This is one I did a couple years ago. Black dye which still allows the grain to show. Depending on how the light hits it, it can look almost jet black and at other times it looks like spruce dyed black (!).Click image for larger version. 

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  14. #13
    F5G & MD305 Astro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    That trans black is a beauty Dale.

    I think it would be cool to stain one that deep maroon kind of old world violin mahogany color And Then thinly paint it black so as the scuffs and years go by, the under coat shows through. Or a similar process and just "relic" or distress it to achieve the effect from the start. I saw an old Gibson black face like that and it looked cool.
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