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Thread: Time to practice hand rubbed sunburst

  1. #1
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    Default Time to practice hand rubbed sunburst

    Well now my A5 and F5 builds are constructed and sanded to 320, I decided it was time to practice sunbursting.
    I started with the leftover pieces from the 2 builds. One mahogany A5 back and European spruce top, and maple back / engleman spruce top for the F5.
    Use Stewmacs colortone dyes, vintage amber, medium brown and tobacco brown, I started to experiment.
    All sanded to 320 and curved in different grain directions to simulate the carved top and exposed end grain parts. First I gave them all a coat of amber to raise the grain, and sanded it back once dry.
    I then tried to create some kind of sunburst and my observations were:
    The mahogany was easy( as you might expect) and I think I could work that with a bit more practice.
    The maple was ok too, just a bit more practice should do it I think.
    The engleman wasn't easy but I think it might be doable with practice.
    The European spruce was very blotchy, and I'm not sure where to go with that.

    Although I did dilute to the Stewmac recommended ratios(using water), I found that I could only achieve a dark enough Tobacco Brown by using it straight from the bottle.
    For my first attempt, I found blending the colours fairly straightforward and was pleased with the colour blend, and the main problem being the blotches.

    I know I have much more practicing to do, and that the good folks here have been asked many times before, but any advice or tips will be most welcome.
    Thanks Mike

  2. #2

    Default Re: Time to practice hand rubbed sunburst

    Mike,

    I am an absolute amateur, so everything I post should be read with that taken in to consideration...

    What I found in practicing my own sunbursting technique is that you just need to practice on everything with every conceivable combination. I also carved some toss-away tops in various woods like spruce and pine. I sampled all kinds of dyes and colors--TransTint, Fiebings leather dye, etc.--using a variety of application methods including hand-rubbing and spraying. I wrote down everything and tracked my progress, what I was happy with, what didn't work, etc. I finally arrived at what I believe will be my "final" sunbursting method, and I found that it is was not exactly like what anyone else does. I came to it by trial and error. That said, I have not yet applied it to a final mandolin. So, who knows?! It might be utter garbage!

    I have the greatest respect for the members of this site who have put decades in to perfecting their craft. You will find a myriad of techniques and color combinations if you peruse the archive of posts here. I have not found in my own research that there is one, single "correct" method. Ultimately you will just have to find what works best for you. You're already approaching it in the right way by testing on scrap.

    Good luck.

    -Mark

  3. #3
    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Time to practice hand rubbed sunburst

    1. Watch James Condino's video tutorial on sunbursting.
    2. While I finish off 'bursts with an airbrush to even things out, I have found that a quick wipe with 1 lb cut shellac as a sealer helps even out the color on spruce. Since the darker "Blotches" you are seeing suck in more shellac, they are more sealed and therefore less blotchey after the shellac.

    Steve

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  5. #4
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    Default Re: Time to practice hand rubbed sunburst

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Sorensen View Post
    1. Watch James Condino's video tutorial on sunbursting.
    2. While I finish off 'bursts with an airbrush to even things out, I have found that a quick wipe with 1 lb cut shellac as a sealer helps even out the color on spruce. Since the darker "Blotches" you are seeing suck in more shellac, they are more sealed and therefore less blotchey after the shellac.

    Steve
    Thanks Steve, I intend to try the shellac seal coat next , do you apply it then sand it back?
    I can only find a short video of James Condino doing a sunburst with spray equipment, not hand rubbing.
    Mike

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Time to practice hand rubbed sunburst

    Quote Originally Posted by putnamm View Post
    Mike,

    I am an absolute amateur, so everything I post should be read with that taken in to consideration...

    What I found in practicing my own sunbursting technique is that you just need to practice on everything with every conceivable combination. I also carved some toss-away tops in various woods like spruce and pine. I sampled all kinds of dyes and colors--TransTint, Fiebings leather dye, etc.--using a variety of application methods including hand-rubbing and spraying. I wrote down everything and tracked my progress, what I was happy with, what didn't work, etc. I finally arrived at what I believe will be my "final" sunbursting method, and I found that it is was not exactly like what anyone else does. I came to it by trial and error. That said, I have not yet applied it to a final mandolin. So, who knows?! It might be utter garbage!

    I have the greatest respect for the members of this site who have put decades in to perfecting their craft. You will find a myriad of techniques and color combinations if you peruse the archive of posts here. I have not found in my own research that there is one, single "correct" method. Ultimately you will just have to find what works best for you. You're already approaching it in the right way by testing on scrap.

    Good luck.

    -Mark
    Thanks Mark, i'll will be interesting to see your final burst and how you achieved it. Mike

  7. #6

    Default Re: Time to practice hand rubbed sunburst

    Steve's advice is spot on (just look at his instruments!). I seal spruce tops with super blond shellac and then lightly sand with 320 just enough to get smooth. For the darkest margins at the edge, I don't try to get the opaque color by rubbing in dye. I add that darkest part using a touch-up gun after all the hand rubbing/blending is finished. I worked for awhile with a guy who previously worked in the finishing department at Gibson in Kalamazoo, he assured me that's how they did the classic tobacco brown bursts there.

  8. #7
    Registered User Walt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Time to practice hand rubbed sunburst

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeyb2 View Post
    Thanks Steve, I intend to try the shellac seal coat next , do you apply it then sand it back?
    I can only find a short video of James Condino doing a sunburst with spray equipment, not hand rubbing.
    Mike
    I know the Condino videos are available on the Fine Woodworking website. You can use a 14 day free trial to watch. It's definitely worth signing up for the trial subscription. I think James uses water-based aniline in those videos.

    Dan Voight has a sunburst video too, using transtint.

    There's also an Andrew Mowry timelapse video.

    And John Hamlett's video from the Mandolin Cafe Restoration Challenge is a good example of someone applying a sunburst to spruce.

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  10. #8
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    Default Re: Time to practice hand rubbed sunburst

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Roy View Post
    Steve's advice is spot on (just look at his instruments!). I seal spruce tops with super blond shellac and then lightly sand with 320 just enough to get smooth. For the darkest margins at the edge, I don't try to get the opaque color by rubbing in dye. I add that darkest part using a touch-up gun after all the hand rubbing/blending is finished. I worked for awhile with a guy who previously worked in the finishing department at Gibson in Kalamazoo, he assured me that's how they did the classic tobacco brown bursts there.
    Thanks RR, what do you use in the touch up gun? dye or tinted laquer or paint? I don't have spray equipment but I've read about the use of airbrushes to touch the darker areas, would that be the way to go? Mike

  11. #9
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    Default Re: Time to practice hand rubbed sunburst

    Quote Originally Posted by Walt View Post
    I know the Condino videos are available on the Fine Woodworking website. You can use a 14 day free trial to watch. It's definitely worth signing up for the trial subscription. I think James uses water-based aniline in those videos.

    Dan Voight has a sunburst video too, using transtint.

    There's also an Andrew Mowry timelapse video.

    And John Hamlett's video from the Mandolin Cafe Restoration Challenge is a good example of someone applying a sunburst to spruce.
    Thanks Walt, I've seen a couple of those but I'll check out the others. Cheers Mike

  12. #10

    Default Re: Time to practice hand rubbed sunburst

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeyb2 View Post
    Thanks RR, what do you use in the touch up gun? dye or tinted laquer or paint? I don't have spray equipment but I've read about the use of airbrushes to touch the darker areas, would that be the way to go? Mike
    You can get what you want without a gun. As you discovered, you need a very high concentration of dye on the darkest part and may have to go back over it several times. I shoot the darkest parts because I have a complete setup with a large compressor and guns for doing furniture work.

    I use Transtint dye in an acetone base. I know some people like to use a small amount of lacquer (20%ish) to give it some body. For handrubbed, bursts I use a base of 50% lacquer thinner, 50% retarder to give me a little more time to move the color around. Also, I have a dish of clear base and extra rags on hand for blending.

  13. #11
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Time to practice hand rubbed sunburst

    That old video from Fine Woodworking is approximately 13 years old now. They are being very difficult & not allowing me any access to it. I had a long conversation with them just a couple of weeks ago about the matter and lets just say the were less than polite or professional, so I unfortunately can't recommend folks try to access any of their services....

    If anyone downloaded it, please PM me as I'd like to have a copy.

  14. #12
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    Default Re: Time to practice hand rubbed sunburst

    Just an update for anyone else who might be interested in learning this technique. I took Steve Sorensen's advice and sealed a top with shellac, and this worked far better. I was surprised that the dye still penetrated but it did, and no blotches. More practice yet though while I'm waiting for the airbrush I ordered to arrive. It seems common practice to touch up the darker areas with an airbrush, so I thought it would be a good idea to buy one.
    Thanks to everyone.

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