Nick's Tobacco burst....

Got a new way of doing something? Or maybe an old method that needs some clarification.

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Nick
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Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by Nick » Mon May 06, 2013 1:59 pm

I thought it might add to the forum's pool of possibly useful info if I added a bit of a tute on the burst finish. I won't be so bold as to present this as the definitive way to do a burst, it's just the way I've approached it over the years and, I've done a few bursts of all types in those years :roll:
This tute just happens to be based around a Tobacco burst that I'm employing on my current build but the same principles can be applied to a two or three tone sunburst also.
First a bit of a preamble about the two main types of stains that are readily available and my observations of both.
I've used both water based and alcohol based stains over the years, and these can be purchased as an aniline powder from several different suppliers, there is also the "colortone" which comes in liquid form and can be used to perform the same as either (mixed with any medium). I don't strongly favour one over the other, they both have their strong points but the more I've done, the more I go for the liquid stain each time. The advantage I see in the liquid form over the powder based is that it can be mixed readily with alcohol to apply directly to the wood, added to the clear finish to provide a tinted finish or added directly to water. When added to water or alcohol it can be used pretty much immediately whereas the powder has to be mixed the day before with the liquid base, well stirred and left to sit overnight for the powder to fully dissolve. Also the strength of colour can be 'tinkered' with more readily, it only involves adding a few more drops and giving it a stir as opposed to adding more powder either seperately and adding to original stain or just to the existing stain, mixing well & letting it sit for a period of time once again.
Next is stain in the wood against mixing into in the clear coat or over the wood. If you have a plain looking timber such as Alder, Basswood or Poplar then stain in the finish is the way to go as it will go over the grain so that you are looking through the colour, thereby hiding some of that plain figure/grain. If you have a nicely figured bit of wood that you want the grain to be enhanced/shown off then stain in the wood is the best way to go.
You can use Alcohol based stains for this and apply to the wood if you intened on having the wood all one colour but for tobacco or two tone bursting I've never done it this way, as the Alcohol based stain seemed harder to merge/blend to that nice burst fade once its dried or even in it's wet form, the colours tend to get muddied. The one time I would use Alcohol stains direct onto wood with a burst, would be in the case of where I'm looking for a clear definition between the colours (such as a 3 colour Sunburst) and I would apply the stain through an airbrush or small spray gun (I know them as a door jamb gun). But having said that, as a general rule, if I have figured timber it would be water based all the way and I'd use the spray gun to get definition if it's required.
For stain into the wood and a nice progressive burst nothing beats water based in my opinion! This will be the method I hope to show you in this tute where there is a subtle change between colours as opposed to the more 'harder' defined line.

So to business
For the following Tobacco burst I will only need to use two colours, Tobacco Brown & Vintage Amber.
Stains used.jpg
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I've shown the Stewmac 'colortone' product here, I'm not advertising or advocating their product specifically but I have found, personally, this to be the easiest and best product I've used in a liquid form. I have loads of aniline powders I've sourced and used, from several different suppliers, sometimes the powders come in a colour that just isn't available as a liquid (purple comes to mind although the Blue and Red does so I could mix my own if I had to I guess :oops: ).
I want to grain enhance my water stained ( :wink: ) bit of Maple I used for the 356 build's top so first I played around to get the right mix of stain in order to acheive the right degree of enhancement on my top. To do this I used a bit of the scrap offcut.
For anybody that isn't familiar with grain enhancement, what happens is that by applying an intial dark colour, the end grains (the thing that gives the wood it's figure) absorb more of the stain than the normal grain. By sanding back we are removing the stain from the 'normal' sections (where it hasn't absorbed as deeply) and leaving the darker stain in the end grain thereby 'showing up' or enhancing these grain features.
For the darker stains such as a blue or red topped instrument (can be other colours but these are the main two), the grain enhancement stain can be just straight black but for the tobacco burst, whilst I wanted to be able to see the quilt figure I didn't want it too dark and dominant, I only want to enhance it not make it the main feature!
So to apply the stain on this job I need rag, my scrap (to get my recipe right) and the mixed stain and Latex or Vinyl gloves. The stain is a shit of a stuff to remove from your skin, it ain't called stain for nothing!
Materials.jpg
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*Note*Some people would advocate wetting the surface of the wood first just with clean warm water to raise any grain 'hairs', I would do this if I was applying a burst or colour to the wood and not carrying out the grain enhancment stage first, it's not necessary in my opinion, if you wish to do this step then please don't let me stop you. Tailor things to what suits you best but you are going to be sanding anyway, may as well save some elbow grease!

First we'll try a 2:1 mix of Amber against the Tobacco, twenty drops (the bottles come with a blank spout that you can cut the end off, I don't! I pierce the end with a 1.5mm drillbit to give me repeat results with all colours, one drop of one colour will be the same amount as one from another) of Amber and ten of Tobacco into about 100mls of warm water and with a clean rag I just simply wipe it onto my surface, no particular direction i.e you dont have to wipe with the grain, infact circular motions are better for blending & stopping from getting dark lines of stain forming on the surface. If you do get dark lines of stain on the surface you can counteract this easily but more on that later...
One application of the 2:1 mix
2 to 1 mix.jpg
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Hmmm it's OK but still not quite what I'm after, I can sure see the quilt but it isn't quite prominent enough for what I want (ignore the straight lines running with the grain, that's just from the 80 grit in the thickness sander), remember that we will be applying the Vintage Amber and Tobacco brown later over the top of this so things could get lost if they are too subtle.
Lets up the mix by adding another ten drops of the Tobacco to the brew so now we have a 1:1 ratio.
1 to 1 mix.jpg
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Much better, this should show the quilt under the other colours without being too "in your face" :D
The next step in the process is wait until this dries and then sand it all off back to 'bare' wood, for this I use some 240 grit, this will also sand off any of those grain hairs that have been raised by the water.
A bit of a note on the amount of stain (and water) we want to put on the surface of our nicely dried wood (especially if we are doing this to a thin, dry bit of spruce on an acoustic). We just want enough stain in our rag to be wet in the rag, we aren't looking at 'soaking' the wood's surface such that stain is running off it! A wet/soaked surface doesn't equate to more penetration or amount of stain in the wood. Plus you risk ruining your nicely dried and stable timber that you've tried so hard to keep at a stable RH level during the whole build.
Here we can see a side by side of what it, the stained surface (on the left), will look like under finish as opposed to the untreated grain (on the right).
Wetted comparison coat 2.jpg
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Ok, looks about right from what I'm after, time to apply it to my expensive water stained top.
Because I've done two coats (one at 2:1 & another at 1:1) on my practice piece, If I applied one application on my top with my current mix it wouldn't come out dark enough and if I did two (as I've effectively done on my scrap), it would be too dark so I need to weaken this a bit.
I like to have a colour a little on the weak side so that I can come "up" to the final colour I'm after by doing more applications rather than applying just one coat and overdoing it! So I added another 25mls, not much but enough that I can do my top in more than one application. It's easier to bring it up to the colour you want rather than take it back to the colour (which would involve applying more water to our wood, which we want to keep to a minimum if we can!).
So I've applied 2 coats to the top, at this stage these need to be sometime apart otherwise you don't really add to the depth of colour, you are just moving the colour around on the top. You could apply one, let it dry completely, then another, I do it before the first is completely dry, this is just a personal method for working. The stain is applied using circular motions with the rag, this avoids getting streaks of darker stain and evens out the application.
Body grain enhanced coats.jpg
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This shows the top before the second application has begun to dry.
This now should be left to dry completely which can vary depending on your environment, I personally, leave it overnight just "to be sure". Once you are happy that the previous applications have dried out fully it's time to sand off what you just spent time applying!
Using 240grit, I sand with the grain until it looks like I've removed all the stain from the surface of the wood. I want the Maple to look evenly white across the surface, here you can see a slightly darker patch (circled), this needs further sanding or it will mix with subsequent applications & I'll end up with an uneven colour in my Amber base coat.
Body rubbed back- blotchy.jpg
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Job done and ready for the colour coats to go on :D
Body rubbed back.jpg
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Next I need to apply the Vintage amber base, I'll mask off the fingerboard and front binding before I apply the stain. I'm only masking the rim purely to stop any stain 'accidently' getting absorbed into them from any overhanging rag! I also prefer to use the Blue painters tape, this has a smoother surface than the traditional white masking tape so doesn't allow as much bleed under it.
A quick note about the use of plastic bindings! If you scrape your bindings you will end up with a smooth surface that won't "take" any stain and any bleeding of stain onto the bindings can be easily removed by a light scraping or wiping with clean water afterwards. If you've sanded the bindings, you've introduced numerous scratches that stain just loves to sit in and so you have to scrape a fair bit of binding to remove the stain lines ( I found this little tip out the hard way when I first started using stain! :oops: ). So if you can, go with scraping plastic bindings at all stages.
I've mixed up a batch that is about 25 drops to a 100mls of water, this can be tweaked to suit (as I did) and while the application is still wet it gives you a good indication of what it will look like under finish so you can adjust as you go if need be. I apply one coat by usuing a new piece of rag and again a circular motion, blending in any streaks or dark lines as I go, what we are after is an eveness of colour. It wasn't quite the depth of colour I wanted so I added another 10 drops to the brew and let the first application partially dry off. This only takes a matter of minutes for the surface to appear 'dry'. This is a good gauge of how wet you are getting the surface, if it takes an age then you are applying too much stain & therefore water!
Another application and I have the look I'm after
Vintage Amber 2 coats.jpg
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I let this dry off overnight now as I'm ready to start applying the tobacco around the edge. For the tobacco stage I'll also have a jar with clean water and rag beside me which I use for blending in and watering down any colour I feel is too strong.
The first three applications of my tobacco I used the tobacco/amber mix previously used at the grain enhancing stage, this gives me a colour that is slightly darker than than the vintage amber but blends in well with it where I want the 'fade' or blend to start, in otherwords it's not too much of a contrast, I want that further out near the edge!
First application and I take it toward the centre leaving the traditional 'patch' of amber in the centre. This first application I'll take it in to about 2/3rds the width of the top. It's a very subtle application but will help with the transition from the Amber to Tobacco, don't be tempted to overdo the application at this stage! we can play around with it further down the line if we want
Tobacco brown first coat.jpg
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I let this dry off for ten or so minutes before going at it again with another application of the same mix of stain. The second application I'm focussing on building up the depth of colour, I stay away from the 'inner' edge by an inch (25.4mm) or so as I just want the flash of darker colour in this region.
Tobacco brown build second application.jpg
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I'll repeat the process for the third coat moving outwards even more, what we want is a progression of this shading without any obvious changes in shade.
Tobacco brown build third application.jpg
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If you do get a bit of a line between each application just use the clean water to blend it out, don't use the stain rag to do this as it will add more colour. Dip a clean rag in the water and squeeze out any excess, we want it damp enough as to not 'drag' on the surface but not so damp that it leaves glistening pools on the wood!
Time to let all this dry out again and mix up some 'pure' tobacco for the edge. I mixed up a batch similar to the Amber i.e 25 drops to 100mls of water, I can always add to it if it's too weak or dilute it if it's too strong.


Ok, with my now dry body ( :shock: Can't say that on too many forums and get away with it!) I'll start applying the Tobacco edge. It's very much a matter of personal preference as to how wide this edge is but I go very much by eye until what 'looks' right.
First coat applied using a straight wipe this time as we want to focuss on getting the right width of dark around the edge, this will leave a hard line as you can see, but this will be blended in in the next step.
First perimeter tobacco coat.jpg
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The next step is one of the beauties of using water based stains, you can either blend while it's still wet or let it dry. Even if it was left overnight one wipe with a wet rag and it will 'reactivate' it and it will become workable again (you may end up with a hard line right at the edge of the dry stain but a good rub with the damp rag will dilute this line out). I prefer to do it while it's still wet but it's a personal choice or maybe time restrictions interfere.
The rag I use for the clean water I will rinse out if I used it in the previous applications so it's clean once again and squeeze it out so it's not too wet then using a small circular motion, I'll rub around the line between my tobacco/amber and pure tobacco applications. Blending in the darker edge in with the not so darker tobacco/amber mix. Don't let the rag get too dry during this stage we want it about as wet as if we are applying stain otherwise the blending doesn't work out so well.
Keep going until you are happy with the merge, again it's a personal preference.
Tobacco line blend.jpg
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Still a little 'light' right out by the binding, I plan on going fairly dark with the sides and back so I want the immediate edge on the top to be as close in colour as possible. So I just keep adding more applications until I have the colour I want. I let the last couple of applications dry off overnight in between as doing it wet will just 'shift' the colour about and won't actually darken it.
Darn near complete.jpg
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So now we are pretty close to what I'm after, I did one more application after this photo was taken and kept it fairly narrow just to darken that edge a little more.
Ok, I forgot to mention that because I'm using a maple headstock I burst this at the same time in order to get things all looking the same.
What you do to the body you do to the headstock!.jpg
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Once I'm happy with my burst I spray a couple of good coats of clear over it. 1) It "locks" in the burst and 2) it allows me to give it a light sanding and get any extrenuous nibs of the grain that may have been raised during our bursting.
Now we to move onto the back & sides. First I need to pore fill, for this I use a neutral water based pore filler. For this job I will be colouring the filler once it's on the wood and sanded ready for staining, there is nothing to stop you adding stain to the filler prior to filling though, should you want to.
For the pore fill I will be using the "colortone" water based filler but from everything I've researched about it, it is identical to locally (Australian) made "Timbermate" wood filler (I'm even wondering if Stewmac get it from Timbermate's manufacturers and sell it under their own colortone label?).
Anywho, which ever brand you use, it will need thinning with approx 10% water to get it to the consistency of bottled cream (not whipped!)
pore filler.jpg
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I just quickly masked the majority of the binding with the paper masking tape just reduce cleanup at the end!
in the white.jpg
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Filler applied and left to dry, I guess this is what they mean by wood "in the white?" :wink: Once it has thoroughly dried I sand it off with 240 grit and move to the next stage of the job.....staining the back and sides!
I want a nice dark tobacco colour for this so I up the ratio of my Tobacco stain by adding another 25 drops to the mix.
Even though,as I said, it's easy to remove stain from plastic bindings I'm all for making life a little easy for myself & still mask the bindings just to reduce the amount of cleaning up I'll need to carry out. I usually like to use 3M's 471 blue vinyl tape on the bindings. This comes in several different widths starting at 1/8th and goes up from there. It's flexible enough to wrap around the tightest of bends and adheres well to the binding, it'll even stick to the curves on the front face too.
Image
But for this one I got hold of some 218 fineline Vinyl tape that I thought I would try, according to the shop where I got it, it's supposedly the same stuff all bar the colour. Plus you got twice as much on a roll.
New Tape.jpg
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I didn't like it! :shock: When it came in contact with water in the tighter area's where it was under the most pressure to stay stuck (inside the horn area's) it came unstuck leading to stain bleeding onto the binding. Plus, unfortunately, it was/is a beige colour which was close to the ivoroid colour which made picking up the exact bottom edge of the binding quite difficult for my diminishing eyesight :oops:. But I got there eventually
Bindings masked.jpg
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Once I had everything I didn't want coated in Tobacco stain covered up, it was just a simple matter of applying the stain.
First two coats.jpg
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After the first two coats (allowing it to dry completely between applications) it still wasn't as dark as I wanted so I'd add more applications until I have that nice dark brown I'm after.
Colour Match.jpg
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Nice and dark and it fits in with the edge of my burst
There were a couple of problems I ran into, but they both highlight the ease of using water based stain! One was that after it had all dried off & I'd removed the masking tape, I noticed a small area on the neck that I'd missed :roll: Adding colour to an already stained piece of wood is a simple mater of applying more stain over the area, it blends in readily and is much easier to 'patch up' than colour in the finish!
Missed colour.jpg
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The other was, as I've already pointed out, bleeding under the masking and onto the binding, this was especially obvious in the area of the horns.
Binding bleed.jpg
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This can be easily taken care of though by using the 'clean water' rag and carefully wiping the binding with warm water to remove the bled stain.
Binding cleaned.jpg
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If you encounter any stain that has gotten into the binding then you will have to scrape but bare in mind, scrape too much and your 1-1.5mm wide binding edge will quickly become thinner!
That is pretty much it for the staining now except I felt, even though the binding is already a creamy colour, against the darkness of the brown it showed up as being quite stark and almost white. I decanted a small amount of my Vintage Amber and mixed more water with it so that I ended up with a really weak mix and whiped the bindings with that, just to 'age' it up a bit and take some of the whiteness out of it.
Binding Tinted.jpg
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All ready for spraying the top coats. (the top looks 'dull' because I've already sanded it back ready for top coats)
PrePaint.jpg
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PrePaint 2.jpg
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PrePaint 3.jpg
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So that is basically how I execute a tobacco burst. Next step will be to spray the topcoats, I won't show that because I think most of us know or can find out how to carry that step out.
Hope somebody gets something useful out of this tute :D
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Bob Connor
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Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by Bob Connor » Mon May 06, 2013 3:51 pm

Absolutely top notch tutorial Nick.

Definitely the best 'burst instructions I've seen.

Regards
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Allen
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Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by Allen » Mon May 06, 2013 6:57 pm

I had thought several times of asking you how to do this Nick, and here you've gone and showed the world. As Bob said. It's absolutely the best tute on doing a burst I've ever seen.
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Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by nnickusa » Mon May 06, 2013 8:44 pm

Thanks Nick.

Now I've got what I need to move forward with the Iceman. As an alternative, can shellac be used, and rubbed on with a muneca? I have orange, blonde and garnet, which might give me a nice transition, keeping in mind that it's going on top of blackwood(I know you dig that timber.... :) )

Then I'd finish with lacquer...
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Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by Kamusur » Mon May 06, 2013 10:07 pm

Holy shit Nick that's not a tutorial its a book you've written and thanks for sharing it.

Steve

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Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by charangohabsburg » Mon May 06, 2013 11:59 pm

What a great tutorial Nick. It makes me want to get some water based stains for enhancing maple figure. 8)

Now that we have seen how you dealt with "those ugly water stains" (still can't understand how some people - including me - would pay a premium for defective wood like this :lol: ), I am looking forward to a tutorial where you explain what you are doing with all these nasty borer holes in the top! :wink:

Cheers,
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Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by Nick » Tue May 07, 2013 6:03 am

Thanks everyone, I enjoyed putting the tute together.
I will explain all the 'extra' holes in the top, probably in the build thread or gallery once it goes up in there Markus :wink:

I forgot to add that if you decide to spray the burst using water based stains as opposed to wiping, have the gun set for very low flow and the minimum air pressure that will pull the stain through. Water based stains when sprayed, build up very quickly on the surface and rather than soak in straight away, it tends to bead up & run off the surface. Just apply very small amounts, it may take a while to build up a colour but better that than a runny, soaking mess!

Alcohol stains don't follow the same fate, they get absorbed much quicker, having said that, you still want your gun settings down.
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Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by charangohabsburg » Tue May 07, 2013 6:15 am

Nick wrote:I will explain all the 'extra' holes in the top, probably in the build thread or gallery once it goes up in there Markus :wink:
Thanks in advance Nick. I hope you don't mind if I then will pass on your secret to the Swiss Cheese makers. :lol:
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Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by Mike Thomas » Tue May 07, 2013 11:23 am

Fantastic tutorial Nick. Thanks.
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Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by kiwigeo » Tue May 07, 2013 9:08 pm

Nice one Nick.....
Martin

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Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by Kev3 » Wed May 08, 2013 10:48 am

Absolutely brilliant tute Nick - I'll add my "thanks" to the ever growing list.
In my naivety I had always thought of sunburst effects etc to be in the realm of those that really know how to control a spray gun. This makes me want to give it a go :cl

You say it is easy to reactivate the surface even the next day by wetting to blend edges etc- how careful do you need to be not to stuff things up with the odd drop or two of water? If I had produced something even close to that I'd be in danger of drooling over it :lol:

cheers
...............
Kevin

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Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by DaveW » Thu May 09, 2013 7:41 pm

Hi
is there anyway to french polish over this or will that just reactivate it and all you end up with is a mess ?
By the way a fantastic tute Nick !
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Nick
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Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by Nick » Fri May 10, 2013 6:38 am

DaveW wrote:Hi
is there anyway to french polish over this or will that just reactivate it and all you end up with is a mess ?
By the way a fantastic tute Nick !
Dave
Thanks Dave,
I'm a heathen and have never Frenched polished :shock: (it's on my list of things to have a go at before I fall off the perch) so I'm afraid I couldn't answer that Dave, maybe somebody else could with more certainty ? But I'm guessing that even though French polish is Alcohol based, it is a liquid so may re activate the stain. Definitely would have an effect on alcohol based stains!
For somebody that french polishes more competently than I (seeing as I've never done it, that bar wouldn't need to be very high!) it may be a worthwhile exercise to do a trial on a piece of scrap. Just to see what the result would be and maybe add their findings to this tute?
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Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by Boe Jonamassa » Fri May 10, 2013 11:14 am

ooh.....pretty


Col

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Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by DaveW » Sun May 12, 2013 2:54 pm

Hi Nick
thanks for the reply
Ive just ordered some colourtone stains from stew mac which I should get tomorrow if their usual shipping is anything to go by so I will experiment and let you know
Im thinking it may be possible to stain the actual polish and do it that way ?
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Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by nnickusa » Fri May 31, 2013 4:22 pm

Dave, if the colourtone stains are a water based product, and you're gonna FP over the top, I bet you'll be right. I'd seal the siurface with a couple or three good heavy brush coats of blonde and then go for it. Alcohol and water don't mix, so I bet there'd be little if any reactivity between the two, as the metho flashes of in seconds and provides a sealed surface after the first coat.

I'm looking forward to your report just the same....
I wish I was half the man my dog thinks I am....

Cheers,
Nick

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Joined: Wed Sep 26, 2007 8:32 pm
Location: South of Perth WA

Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by Kim » Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:30 pm

Huge value tute Nick. That maple is just gorgeous and I'm its great to see it found itr way to someone with the chops to do it justice.

Thanks for making the effort to share mate and I'm certain this read count on this topic is destined to go sky high over time. 8)

Cheers

Kim

Rob the luthier
Sassafras
Posts: 47
Joined: Sat Dec 01, 2012 11:35 am
Location: Scottish borders

Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by Rob the luthier » Wed Jul 17, 2013 5:56 am

What a great tutorial, :cl I wish I had come across it before I did my last finish : :roll: ... Never mind there's always next time... :D

ckngumbo
Blackwood
Posts: 102
Joined: Mon Oct 26, 2009 11:41 am
Location: Florida US

Re: Nick's Tobacco burst....

Post by ckngumbo » Sat Jul 20, 2013 8:03 am

Thank you for putting this together. The only problem is it seems too easy :shock: but at least I know better than that.

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