Adding texture to ash... see pic

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by HeavyDuty, Jul 8, 2003.

  1. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Central Texas
    My new-to-me Warwick has a very attractive texture to the ash body - the picture shows this a little:


    Basically, the dark rings are below the surface of the lighter wood. I'm pretty sure the dark figure in ash is quite a bit softer than the light.

    How can I get this surface effect? Wire brushing followed by a light surface sanding, maybe?
  2. pilotjones


    Nov 8, 2001
    I just checked out my ash kitchen chairs, and saw somewhat of the same effect. And the effect is even more pronounced on my oak table. the things I noticed were:
    - the dark band were slightly lower (below the surface, like you said)
    - the dark bands are porous-you can see "tubes" (veins) and "holes"
    - the tubes soak up the finish, so it is very thin in those areas

    I'm guessing that whether the dark fibers are actually softer or not, the dark area breaks down under sanding more readily due to the larger void area.

    I'll bet the wire brushing might do it, though I've never heard of wire brushing wood. Also, maybe it could be done by sanding with the paper mounted on something soft, so that it would "dig in" to the softer areas while "springing back" from the harder areas?

    BTW that finish looks great.
  3. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Central Texas
    I agree - that's why I'm asking. I have a MusicYo Steinberger Spirit XZ-2 that I picked up with the intention of stripping and refinishing in colored oil, and I really like this effect!
  4. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    There's no wire brush involved, as far as I know! A lot of ash and other woods like oak have alternating bands of grain that is more open and porous between bands of smoother less-porous wood.

    I've never done it myself, but I believe the general approach to getting a finish like this is to get a dark stain or grain filler and force it into the porous areas so that the open grain is enhanced. I expect you'd generally do this by applying it with a stiff brush. From there, you should be able to do very light sanding with a sanding block that will remove any stain that may have adhered to the smoother portions of the wood, leaving stain filling the open pores.

    Not all ash has a grain that looks like that. To top it off, your XZ-2 will ahve already had the grain filled in with a grain filler of some sort since it had a smooth gloss finish on it. I don't relly know if you'll be able to achieve the same effect by trying to stain the filler that's already there--maybe someone who's done some refinishing will know.

  5. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Central Texas
    Good point about the grain filler - it has a heavy poly finish right now, so who knows what they've done to the wood.
  6. hoytbasses


    Mar 30, 2003
    Cape Cod
    I build stringed instruments.......
    In my guitar building class we use a LOT of ash (as it's a gret bass/guitar wood and cheap!) you will get this effect if you use an aniline dye(or even a commercial stain like minwax) for all the reasons listed above: the grain lines soak up the stain at a different rate than the other wood, so you get that effect:

    one of the coolest effects I've seen happenned by chance this school year: a student built a bass from ash and we stained it a really deep blue: the growth rings (little lines) ended up looking GREEN while the wood itself had the nice blue color: very wild looking: wire brushing will work but on a bass you don't want all the consequent scratches (unless you use a brass bristle brush which wouldn't be so radical)

    we use water-based aniline dyes from Stew-mac: if there is a leather shop near you they usuall have alcohol based anilines that they dye leather with: works great on wood and they'd probably sell you a few ounces, which is all you would need to dye about 2 basses. We use the water based stuff and can do shading and bursts in the wood by adjusting the amount of water in the dye... then using clear water to shade with: once everythiing is dry as a bone, then we seal the whole thing with polyurethane or some other hard shiny finish! striking

    whatever you do... practice on some scrap wood prior to subjecting your bass to the dye job because you'll have to do a LOT of sanding to get the dye out if it's wrong

    take care, have a great weekend!

    Karl Hoyt
  7. mikgag

    mikgag Guest

    Mar 25, 2002
    We achieve this effect by mixing in some fine sawdust from a dark wood like wenge into the tung oil finish