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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?
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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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    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.

  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.

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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.

  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
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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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    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    Quote Originally Posted by lenf12 View Post
    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

    I had a Gibson that was Black and I spent more time trying to remove all the smudges and scratches after playing the instrument than I did playing it and for that very reason I sold it and will never buy a mandolin or guitar that has a Black top. They are beautiful to look at but the are a pain to keep clean.
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    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    I've been avoiding black finished instruments since the top a friend's collectable black Martin (I believe it was a D-40?) had the center seam let loose during an outdoor gig about 10 summers ago. The black finish collected excess heat on the top seam and the glue let loose. There were other natural finish Martin guitars being played at this outdoor gig and none of them had any problems.

    Fortunately the owner of this black Martin recognized what was happening and slacked the strings in time to save the top, but there's a permanent scar in the finish over that area now.

    There's a wonderful F-2 3-point in classifieds now and I'd love to entertain thoughts about it, but I just won't risk a black instrument out here in the hot zone after seeing that guitar trying to come apart.
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    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    Love the old Black top Gibson's! Why worry about smudges/cosmetics! You play em they will get wear unless you just look at them!
    That is a killer looker Dale Ludewig!!! Love the look with the block inlays and bound F-holes with the black top! NICE!
    Last edited by bluegrasser78; Aug-25-2018 at 4:52am. Reason: spelling

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    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrasser78 View Post
    Why worry about smudges/cosmetics! You play em they will get wear unless you just look at them!
    Indeed. Garrison Keillor tells a story about a man with a vintage car that looks brand new. To keep it's showroom appearance, he rarely took the car out of the garage and cleaned it meticulously after every drive. A 50 year old car with only 10,000 miles on the odometer. Garrison wonders: How can a man be so proud about not having traveled very far?

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    Registered User bluegrasser78's Avatar
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    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    Yes I just never understood the whole my mando/instrument has to be flawless, sure ya want to keep them nice but you play them they'll get wear, plain and simple, dings, scratches, finish crazing, checking, cracks, etc...Like I said if ya just plan on keeping them in a case original or glass and not played for an investment or the like that's the only way to be sure of being flawless! And still one needs humidification! Of course there are people that buy instruments for that very reason just like old cars, keep them flawless and don't play them or drive your 1970 Hemi Cuda or the like! That's just my thoughts/motto on that subject. They're made to be played so play and enjoy.

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    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    My 2000 Dearstone almost has a "speed neck" from the wear of playing. If I had wanted one to look at I'd had a painting of one to hang on the wall.

  22. #20
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    Default Re: Black Finished Instruments

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    My 2000 Dearstone almost has a "speed neck" from the wear of playing. ...
    My F-9 also had this from my playing... Which was part of my reasoning for getting the neck re-profiled, then truly speed necked and French polished at the same time that I also had it re-fretted. I enjoy this mandolin so much more now!!!
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

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    2016 "$199.00 solid F style" MKLFSTB
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    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)

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