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Trying to Replicate Flame Maple Finish

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by tkmclaughlin, Oct 22, 2018.

  1. tkmclaughlin

    tkmclaughlin TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

    32
    Aug 9, 2013
    Armonk, NY
    Hi all,

    I am an avid reader, but infrequent poster, on this forum. I was hoping some of the more experienced folks here might be able to offer some advice. I have purchased a flame drop top for a new guitar project I will be starting. Here is a link to the drop top (just with some naptha to highlight the figure). this photo gives a little indication of its chatoyance, which I like.
    [​IMG]

    The finish I am seeking to achieve is like the one found on the web at conklinguitars (see attached).





    [​IMG]


    As you can see from the photo, this guitar has more contrast in the flame figure. But it also seems (from the photo anyway) to still have that great chatoyance or three-dimensionality which can sometimes get obscured if you fiddle too much with dye stains and sanding back.

    I have spent a considerable amount of time perusing this forum and the web in general but I'm still not 100% certain as to what method I should use. I am familiar with Charles Neil's "trace coat" method of dying the wood dark, sanding back to eliminate the dye from most of the grain field (leaving it only in the curl), and then re-dying (same color or a lighter color) to achieve the grain contrast. I have done this with a quilted maple top guitar I built (I stained black, sanded back, then stained dark, dark red with some honey amber, and clear coated it all and it came out great). That guitar has great grain contrast, but not a lot of chatoyance which is fine since that was what I was going for in that instance.

    It seems possible that a similar method was used on this conklin guitar (except with a brown and/or brown/amber dye rather than black, sanded off, then amber + clear topcoat, or maybe just straight to clear topcoat).

    But it seems equally possible that this guitar was just finished with clear or perhaps a slightly amber-tinted lacquer, topped with clear and maybe that was enough to pop the grain like this without detracting from the chatoyance.

    Or maybe they used some kind of oil finish and then clear coated.

    Anyone have thoughts on how to achieve a natural finish such as shown here, with nice grain contrast but good chatoyance?

    -Terry
     
  2. For the finish shown, I wipe on light amber dye to a desired depth and they scrub it back off with dentured alcohol wipe. Only sand back if more color removal is needed. Finish with clear nitro. Here are a couple necks done as I described. The dept of contrast is determined by the darkness of amber left.

    Eric

    1540253284268.jpg 1540253299379.jpg 1540253341728.jpg
     
    Andy54, Blue Bill, awasson and 2 others like this.
  3. RodeoTex

    RodeoTex Poster Extraordinaire

    Sep 14, 2005
    Nueces Strip
    The Conklin looks just clear coated to me, with maybe only the natural amber tint of the lacquer coloring it.
    This may sound overly simplistic, but I've had some success just contacting some small guitar makers and asking.
     
  4. tkmclaughlin

    tkmclaughlin TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

    32
    Aug 9, 2013
    Armonk, NY
    Thanks Eric. That’s very close to what I’m looking for. Do you dissolve your dye in denatured alcohol (that’s what I normally do) or water. Or I guess it doesn’t matter?
     
    eallen likes this.
  5. tkmclaughlin

    tkmclaughlin TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

    32
    Aug 9, 2013
    Armonk, NY
    That’s a great suggestion i hasn’t thought of!

     
  6. I disolve in denatured. I'm just not a fan of adding moisture to unsealed wood.

    Eric
     
  7. schmee

    schmee Friend of Leo's

    Jun 2, 2003
    northwest
    That looks like no stain to me.
     
  8. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Age:
    66
    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    FWIW the term "chatoyance" isn't commonly used in guitar finishing - it's a common gemstone term - but not a finishing one. Instead, the usual terms are "grain pop" and "3-dimensional figure". I mention this only because I'd guess 90% of the readers of this thread had to look it up.

    Have you done any reading about flamed maple guitar finishes? You might also read through methods for recreating Gibson-style 1958-1960"'burst" finishes, even tough you don't plan to use the same colors.

    There are several approaches. What level of surface protection do you want? Because while the simplest would be a rubbed-oil finish, like a Danish oil (Tru Oil is essentially the same thing), but they provide little surface protection. OTOH, you can get the same look with much better surface protection with anding sealer, dye or stain, tinted paste wood filler, shaded toner (optional) and clear coats with a lacquer system, and similar - but a bit tougher to apply with the same gloss a "depth" using polyurethanes.

    I suggest reading "Finishing 101" on the Guitar Reranch site. Although it applies to lacquer some of the color depth techniques work with other products. Study sanding sealer and WHY/HOW you use it before dye or stain (for color depth control); paste wood fillers, and how tinting them "pops" the grain; the use of "toner" coats to add depth before clear coating; and various types of clears

    Also you need to make decisions regarding equipment. If this is a one-shot deal you may want to use wipes or aerosols; if not yo may want to invest in a REAL HVLP rig (not one of the $129 "bleeder" types, or a compressor and cheap gun with HVLP printed on the side). There are temperature and humidity concerns; safety equipment and rules (ALWAYS wear a cartridge respirator unless you're working with water based "paint".)

    And besides all the research - DON'T start by applying products to your "real" piece. Get some similar scrap wood and do EVERYTHING - from preparation to final buffing, including learning how products work together, how to fix errors, what to expect - maybe, since wood is NEVER the same - get all your questions answered and application techniques refined *fully* before you even start preparing the real thing.

    Learn on scrap. It'll save you money and an incredible amount of stress!

    Good luck!
     
    RodeoTex, Blue Bill and DrASATele like this.
  9. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Friend of Leo's

    Sep 15, 2007
    Glen Head, NY
    The problem with stain is that it can splotch, in other words it might absorb unevenly in ways you don't want (not just accentuating the flame figure but also other spots and dots and smudges that emerge). I'd be particularly worried about veneer, since the very properties that make the wood pretty also mean that it will absorb stain -- and glue -- in unpredictable ways. you might just find that the glue used to apply the veneer will soak up through unevenly and make it difficult to stain. So you might be left with few options except perhaps a wipe down with boiled linseed oil, let it cure, and topcoat with lacquer.

    BYW I'm assuming that's veneer but it might just be an illusion in the photo if the 'drop top' has wavy edges on it.
     
  10. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Age:
    66
    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    Sanding sealer is used before dye or stain precisely for this purpose - it allows you to control the color depth by solvent wiping areas that start to go too "deep".

    The OP mentioned buying a "top". The piece shown is relatively identical to the non-veneer bookmatched maple tops I've seen that are glued to a mahogany back in traditional Les Paul construction. I've never seen veneered maple slabs sold that way for guitar building. But you're right - if it IS a veneer all bets are off. I still recommend the same procedures, but the glue line is a crapshoot - on a veneer top you simply can't predict what it will look like. Some look like a maple slab; others look like somebody let their 3 year old loose with a crayon to draw a line down the center!:eek:
     
  11. tkmclaughlin

    tkmclaughlin TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

    32
    Aug 9, 2013
    Armonk, NY
    Thanks everyone. So my top is not a veneer. It’s a more traditional drop top of approx .25 inches thickness. BTW I did speak with Bill Conklin st Conklin guitars and he shared with me that the guitar in the photo is just clear coated, no stains or dyes. He also said that hard tiger maple tends to retain its clarity better than soft maple varieties. Whatbhe said is “It was simply sealed, then we sprayed a clear polyester basecoat and topped it with automotive clear urethane.”
     
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  12. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Meister

    Age:
    73
    213
    Aug 22, 2018
    Washington
    I'm in the process of building a tele sort of thing with a maple top that has much of the same character as yours. Here it is with a light wipe of DA to highlight the figure

    IMG_4663.jpg

    My plan right now is to use Zpoxy as a grain filler on the mahogany back and neck, and to do a light application of Zpoxy cut with a lot of DA on the top. I've had very good luck with Zpoxy popping grain on other woods (koa, coco). This is a Spanish cedar topped guitar with Zpoxy fill and water born lacquer finish.

    IMG_2100-1.jpg


    Obviously I'll try it on some scrap first, but I really don't want to add any stain color to this wood the way you would normally do a Gibson style wipe on stain. Finish will be nitro or water born lacquer.

    Anyway, I'm still a couple of weeks away from shooting this thing but I'll try to remember to update on how that works out.
     
  13. tkmclaughlin

    tkmclaughlin TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

    32
    Aug 9, 2013
    Armonk, NY
    [QUOTE="Freeman Keller, post:
    Anyway, I'm still a couple of weeks away from shooting this thing but I'll try to remember to update on how that works out.[/QUOTE]


    Awesome! Good luck and I look forward to seeing how it comes out. I will also do the same when I finally get the drop top glued on and the body cut out and routed.
     
  14. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Meister

    Age:
    73
    213
    Aug 22, 2018
    Washington
    I'm still a week away from finishing but I thought it was time to start thinking about it. I have a couple of issues - first, my body cap is very similar to yours - its flamed maple but rather than just being the off white that we are used to it has a lot of brownish tint to it. When I first got it I thought I would probably just put some sort of tobacco or Cremola burst on it, but I don't think the colors will work and besides its way to pretty to hide any of the figure. An ice tea burst would probably work but I've already got that on my Lester so I've ruled that out.

    What it comes down to is that I think I just want to pop the grain as much as possible in its natural color and then shoot lacquer over it. I can always add a burst or an edge fade in the lacquer if it seems necessary, but I'm going to start with it natural.

    The second problem is that I've veneered the head with some plain old white maple. Its got some flame but its definitely a different color than the body. Most of the time I would use cutoffs from the top wood to make the head plate but there just wasn't enough so I used some veneer. Ideally I would like to stain the veneer so it somewhat matches the top - right now I just want to experiment with some different products.

    So, what we have here is a cutoff of both the body and the veneer. I have treated them with a variety of different products. I know I'm going to use Zpoxy for the pore fill on the mahogany and I like the way it pops grain so there is a pair of scraps with Zpoxy diluted about 1:2 with DA. I hate using CA for pore fill but I thought I would see what it looks like. In the upper right is a piece of each wood with simple stains wiped on - StewMac Colortone brown and amber mixed with DA. Below that is a piece of each with straight nitro and at the bottom a piece of the top with DA (which is what I've been using all along as I work.

    IMG_4704.jpg

    IMG_4703.jpg

    Based on these I'm pretty sure of what I'm going to use, obviously your results will vary and you should test your products on your own wood. I'm doing a build thread on this guitar, when I get some of the finish on I'll post some pictures.

    ps - still not decided about the veneer - the CA looks pretty good on it. I might experiment with some stain with a hint of red added. Stay tuned
     
  15. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Meister

    Age:
    73
    213
    Aug 22, 2018
    Washington
    I don't know if you are still watching this but I have made a little progress on mine. First, I pore filled the entire guitar with Zpoxy cut about 2 or 3:1 with denatured alcohol (didn't measure, just slopped some in). Two coats on the back, one on the maple cap. Since I am doing a little wipe on stain on the maple head which was very light I thought I would go ahead and edge burst the body

    IMG_4725.jpg

    The center section is just the epoxy/DA which does a pretty dramatic job of popping grain, the head and edge got stained with 1 drop red, 1 drop amber and 2 drops brown in DA. Here it is with two coats of vinyl sealer.

    IMG_4731.jpg


    I'll just start doing the clear coats now.
     
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