ColorTone Stain: water vs alcohol

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by Grupple, Jun 25, 2019.

  1. Grupple

    Grupple TDPRI Member

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    I’m just about to stain a roasted alder body with StewMac’s ColorTone stain. They recommend if you are just starting out to dissolve it in water rather than alcohol.

    Questions:
    1. Is alcohol really that much more difficult to use? I assume it’s just faster drying time.

    2. If I go with with water, I know it’ll lift the grain slightly. What grit sandpaper is recommended to smooth the surface after staining?

    (I dissolved some in water and stained a scrap piece of alder and it went on really smoothly and even, but did notice the slight grain lift after it dried. I assume alcohol would apply similarly but just dry faster?)
     
  2. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    One other thought is what finish and/or sealer you will put over it. James Condino French polishes his incredible mandolins so he uses water as a solvent for the stain - the alcohol in the FP would lift the stain and bring it into the finish. OTOH Roger Siminoff uses alcohol for is classic Gibson sunbursts because he is going to shoot lacquer over it. I also use lacquer with a vinyl sealer and have only used alcohol with my stains - if you keep a rag with DA handy you can "pull" some of the color back and work it into other color at edges.

    As always, practice on scrap.
     
  3. Grupple

    Grupple TDPRI Member

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    I’ll be using General Finishes High Performance waterbase satin topcoat.
     
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  4. telepraise

    telepraise Tele-Meister

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    I prefer alcohol for a base because it doesn't raise the grain and gives you more worktime for sunbursting (you don't want to sand raised grain on a stained piece of wood without sealing the color in first) but I seal with super blond shellac. I spray all of my coats so I don't have to worry the color lifting or moving around. if you're brushing your finish, I'd heed Freeman's advice.
     
  5. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I always use it with water. I raise the grain with water and knock it down a few times. The dampen with water just before applying the stain. Helps reduce any blotchiness.
     
  6. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    I haven't used General Finish but I've done a few guitars with KTM's water born lacquer. This mando is actually Colortone stain in alcohol applied directly to the wood (no sealer) followed by KTM-9.

    Back 5.jpg

    I use DA as a reducer with "water born" finishes and there didn't seem to be any bleed back of the stain.

    As much as I want to love water born lacquer I've had just too much trouble with witness lines so I'm back to solvent nitro. Good luck with yours, I'd like to see pictures and hear how it works
     
  7. Grupple

    Grupple TDPRI Member

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    I tried some with alcohol on some scrap alder this afternoon and it came out a bit splotchy, whereas the water came out super smooth (tried both one and two coats with water, thus the darker lower half). Not sure why. I’ll try a second coat with the DA and see if I evens out.

    If anyone’s curious, this is the Vintage Amber stain.

    Water
    4A7E43C8-7ACD-40D3-B1E7-B36EA17E8BE0.jpeg

    DA
    952DC106-F5FD-43A8-A485-FEA912ED5E04.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2019
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  8. Grupple

    Grupple TDPRI Member

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    Thanks. I researched all the main water based contenders and decided to go with general finishes. It’s the one StewMac recommend and seemed to have the most positive reviews. I decided against nitro because I really don’t want to deal with all the fumes and hazards and extra equipment I’d need to make a proper nitro spray booth. Not to mention, it’s my first build. ;)
     
  9. Count

    Count Friend of Leo's

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    It's six of one and half a dozen of the other. Water gives you the ability to easily get an even coverage and colour because of it's slower evaporation rate but it does raise the grain more than alcohol. Alcohol or Methylated Spririts does not raise the grain much but it's faster evaporation rate and less asorption into the timber means that you have to be much more careful applying the stain to get an even streak free coverage. For a beginner water would be the best way to go until a good technique is developed.
     
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  10. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    I've tried the original StewMac waterborn lacquer - its was made by someone else and rebranded by them. It was OK but kind of went away. A lot of people I respected were using KTM-9 and I could source it from LMII so I did several instruments including the mando. The simple fact is that water born finishes do not burn into previous coats and you can sand thru getting witness lines. One thing that seems to help is when you clean your gun (with soapy water, yeah!) put some DA in the gun to get the water out. I would leave the cup full of DA, then when ready to shoot the next coat I would mist it with DA, dump the cup and pour the KTM in and it seems like the DA would slightly soften the old surface and give me better adhesion.

    There are several newer waterborn finishes on the market, EM6000 and the General Finishes that both seem to be popular - I just haven't tried then yet. I look forward to your comments
     
  11. Grupple

    Grupple TDPRI Member

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    I’ll definitely post my results. I’ve read that some of the newer waterbase ones are less susceptible to witness lines (and the dreaded blue hue). Im also using a satin finish. I’m wondering if that’ll help as well.
     
  12. E-miel

    E-miel TDPRI Member

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    If you are worried about raised grain when using water you could start by applying water with a damp cloth to raise the grain. Just repeat a couple of times till grain raise is minimal, then do the staining.
     
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  13. Grupple

    Grupple TDPRI Member

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    Thanks all! I've decided to go with water for now.

    Yes, that is what I decided on doing after reading a bit more. Did it three times and there was pretty almost no grain rise on the last one.
     
  14. DrASATele

    DrASATele Poster Extraordinaire

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    I love GF stuff. Dyes & Stains are top notch. I've topped those with The GF waterbased top coat, the GF Arm R Seal top coat as well as Shellac and Lacquer. As long as the stain is dried all of these top coats work great. Even the Milk Paint by GF is pretty awesome. The one thing I've found is that after the stain has dried it's a good practice to seal the color in. I like Zinsser's clear shellac in the rattle can. A thin coat of any top coat will work the key is to spray it. If you wipe or brush a top coat on unsealed stained wood they tend to lift, it doesn't matter what the name brand is. IME the color gets trapped in the clear coat making the appearance of the color is uneven.
    Sounds like a fun project, good luck!
     
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