Basswood not taking dye in some spots

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by NTdot, Feb 1, 2017.

  1. NTdot


    Jul 30, 2014
    Building a bass from a kit. I'm using water based dye for the body but find it's not taking in some areas, which leaves sort of a white streaky / washed out look in some areas (see picture below).

    Before applying the dye, I sanded with 180 grit, then 220, I am guessing it's something to do with my sanding? Although only going to 220, it was feeling pretty smooth after the 220, maybe I sanded too much? Anyone have thoughts on what I should do different next time?


    Last edited: Feb 1, 2017
  2. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    What dye is it? Aniline? Had anything been applied to the body before the dye? It sort of looks like the blotchiness follows the areas that appear to have different sanding... but that could simply be due to the blotchy absorption of the dye highlighting this. Hard to say with just the photo.

    I have read that basswood can be prone to taking dye like this. I know that there are commercial stain "conditioners" that exist, though I'm not sure how well they work.
  3. NTdot


    Jul 30, 2014
    The dye is Folk Art Ultra Dye, got the idea from here ... guy gets a good result, I didn't apply anything prior to the dye. I was pretty careful with the sanding so think it is pretty consistent, but it could be it's uneven in places. When I checked the bare sanded wood against a bright light it looked consistent from what I could tell.
  4. NTdot


    Jul 30, 2014
    Also just to clarify I sanded prior to putting on the dye but haven't since.
  5. rwkeating


    Oct 1, 2014
    Did the instructions for the dye say anything about a pre-conditioner for the wood? That is often needed before staining, I would guess it would be the same for a dye since we are talking about how the wood absorbs something put on it.
  6. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    Did you thoroughly remove all the saw dust before applying the dye?

    You may want to sand back a little, and reapply.
    Dadagoboi likes this.
  7. JIO

    JIO Connery... Sean Connery Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    The Mission SF/CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    The lighter areas look like both unevenly sanded spots and residual planer 'chatter' marks. Even with the best stain application technique if the whole body isn't evenly and completely sanded - any 'off' sections will inevidably show up. Consistent staining is very difficult to get right in general. Personally anymore I'm less likely to stain than spray a translucent colour which you have much more control of.
    Dadagoboi likes this.
  8. NTdot


    Jul 30, 2014
    Thanks for all the comments / suggestions, I'll maybe try sanding back a bit and re-applying and see what I end up with. The kit instructions indicate the body "is coated with a poly resin sealant, to be sanded off before finishing"... maybe some of it soaked into the wood farther than I thought, didn't seem like there was any kind of sealer left on it however.

    A little frustrating as I went thru like 20 tester strips trying different dyes and stuff in the hopes of getting a good result... but hey it's a learning process, next time will be better no doubt!
  9. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    This is why I prefer not to use dyes or stains, but rather a tinted clear. Dyes and stains tend to be uneven and much darker on the end grain. Spraying a tinted clear over a sealed body will always be even if applied correctly.
  10. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Yup, like Hopkins said. Musical instruments are all complex curved surfaces and grains every which way. Trying to get an even color on them with stains is really difficult. I tried many times and gave up. I seal the wood with base coats and spray with tinted finish.

    I'm not sure what to tell you to do now. The sealer coat that they sprayed on has probably sunken into some areas of the body deeper than others. Some of those patches may still have some sealer which is preventing the stain from sinking in. Others may be roughness in the surface. Unfortunately, the stain itself has now sunken down deep into some areas. You may find it hard to even sand it back to bare wood.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2017
  11. I know some of the pre-stain conditioners are essentially dewaxed shellac that is very highly diluted with denatured alcohol. The purpose of it is to provide a very thin finish that fills in the more absorbent parts of the grain and thus leaves a more consistently absorbent surface for the stain to soak into. As others have pointed out above, this is not an easy finish to start with! Basswood is pretty cheap and widely available. You may want to buy a couple board feet at a lumber yard to use as scrap to practice on until you are getting good consistent results. Lots of info on finishing in the youtube "wood whisperer" videos too, but you've got to practice. How did the luthier get a bass finish worthy of Carnegie Hall???? Exactly.

    Also, If Bruce is stuck telling you what to do. Sorry, but that's not good. He along with some of the other folks above are some of the Yodas around here.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2017
  12. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    In a former life, my job involved using aniline dyes to stain basswood. If the body had a coat of something on it, you would have to sand it completely off. Raw basswood drinks up stain.
    SLivinghouse likes this.
  13. stevecaronna

    stevecaronna Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2007
    St Rose Louisiana
    Did you wipe the body down with naphtha before you stained it. Any oils in your hands will prevent the stain from soaking in. I usually wipe the body down with naphtha before I apply anything to it. Not sure if this is the problem or maybe the sanding like everyone else was talking about. Good luck with your project and please share your experience as you go.
    SLivinghouse likes this.
  14. NortyFiner

    NortyFiner Drunken Sailor Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    Portsmouth VA USA
    Warmoth Custom Guitar Parts - Wood Descriptions

    "Basswood (Tilia americana):

    This is a lighter weight wood normally producing Strat® bodies under 4 lbs. The color is white, but often has nasty green mineral streaks in it. This is a closed-grain wood, but it can absorb a lot of finish. This is not a good wood for clear finishes since there is little figure. It is quite soft, and does not take abuse well. Sound-wise, Basswood has a nice, growley, warm tone with good mids. A favorite tone wood for shredders in the 80s since its defined sound cuts through a mix well."
  15. NTdot


    Jul 30, 2014
    I suspect the issue is the resin sealant, even thou I didn't see or feel it anymore after sanding, I'm guessing some of it soaked well into the wood. The tester pieces I used were all basswood (granted little 3'x5' single squares) and didn't have the streaky affect. Anyway, we'll see what happens with this one, next time I'll maybe look to source the body from somewhere else and also go with a different finishing technique.
    FunkHead likes this.
  16. So what did you decide to do? How did it turn out?
  17. NTdot


    Jul 30, 2014
    Basically I've been "bombing" it with dye mostly with a brush, which has evened out the color, the problem now is that applying the dye with a brush has resulted in some brush marks, I'll try to lightly sand them out before the clear coat. I'm gonna' keep killing it with dye until the container runs out (getting close, lol)... I'm not super optimistic about what sort of result I'm gonna' get, but hey we'll see.
  18. JIO

    JIO Connery... Sean Connery Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    The Mission SF/CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    At this point you'll be lucky to have a favorable outcome. Any dye that's not soaking into the grain will just sit on top of the wood and brush-stroke marks etc will be the result. Plus, further finishing will be compromised as the dye on the surface is not stable.
  19. NTdot


    Jul 30, 2014
    Yeah, I'm not optimistic.

    Any suggestions for next time? Most people seem to be saying to favor paint over dye. I don't have spray equipment or room for spray equipment as I am in a smallish apartment, so need a non-toxic, hand applied method... maybe a simple Tru-Oil finish or the like is my best bet? I am not a fan of natural finishes (just personal preference)... and I imagine a natural finish on something like basswood is not going to be particularly styling.
  20. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    +1 to the residual resin being the culprit.
    Maybe it's not the desired affect but I think it will look cool.
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