Ibanez Tobacco Burst Low Gloss - How would you create this finish?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by bdplaid, Sep 15, 2016.

  1. bdplaid

    bdplaid Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2007
  2. ThePresident777


    Oct 6, 2013
    I love that finish too and have tried to get it with easily obtainable stains, i.e. min wax wood finish.

    Raised the grain then sanded to 220 grit first. Used Natural for the first coat of stain then Expresso for the second coat of stain. The Natural acts as a sealer so the Expresso doesn't come out as dark as it could and controls blotch. It has a nice glow this way.

    That's as far as I've gone and as close as I've gotten. Next, I would try sanding very very lightly with the grain to see if I can get some light streaks to pop out along the grain. Then maybe another coat of Natural followed by Expresso. I've contemplated using one thin layer of polyshades (some kind of brown) in between the dye/stain and clear coat.

    I've gone as high as 4 coats of min wax wood finish. It has enough oil in it that it builds up to a film you can just barely see if you look at it at the right angle. So I guess that's the practical limit.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2016
    bdplaid likes this.
  3. bdplaid

    bdplaid Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2007
    So the ash is absorbing the stain much more than the test piece, which has a plywood face of apparently unknown species.

    I tried a test blob of the amber on the scratch board at full strength and thought it looked great. I then tried that on the ash and holy cow it went full-on dark brown. I reduced it to 50-50 and proceeded, what the hell. On the upside, it's not yellow anymore. And lots of water on a rag allowed me to spread it out. on the downside, I've now got blotches, especially the edges are really saturated. I think I'll move forward and complete the finish as we think it ought to be, and address problems from there. I might also try the burst in dark amber on the edges and see what that looks like, but mostly as practice before I try applying red mahogany.

    Sanders await the call...
    ThePresident777 likes this.
  4. bdplaid

    bdplaid Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2007
    This got bad now has gotten interesting... The current state:


    This the bass with a deep amber under a healthy 50-50 dose of red mahogany.
    So days prior to the above pic, I turned up the concentration of amber dramatically, and yes, it went from yellow to brown to amber. And got blotchy. Hell with it, I proceeded onward...

    This morning I mixed up a batch of 50-50 red mahogany in alcohol and went over the whole bass. Many interesting things about that:
    1. the alcohol makes the stain not penetrate as deeply, which in this case was interesting because, with the amber underneath, it allowed the amber to show through some of the ash grain lines.
    2. using alcohol made the stain much more controllable, as it didn't run and seep everywhere, and more of less stayed where I put it. Water is great for use as a "wash," but alcohol is for finer work.
    3. I am able to "wipe out" areas of the red mahogany to reveal the amber underneath. That's how I did the center rub-out in the center of the bass.
    4. If it gets hot, as it does here in FL, be sure not to sweat on the finish, as you will then have a blotch to fix. Remember, this dye is soluble in almost anything. Including sweat.

    Lots of learning the hard way here... :)

    So as I was working on it, the burst got to this point before I needed to stop - sweating like a beast and dripping on the finish. But actually, I like it where it is. I really like how the red appears in the center. And looking closely, there's a hint of amber down in there as well. I think I might stay with this, just try to smooth out the blotches.

    As for final finish, I am strongly considering TruOil. I did a test on my scratch board and TO seems to not pull up the dye. Otherwise it'll be lacquer, not sure if brushed or rattle-can.

    Thanks again for all the help up to here.

    Comments appreciated.
  5. Funky Ghost

    Funky Ghost Translucently Groovy

    I has a certain reliced (sic) look to it. Like an antique headboard when you take it apart and find the "as new" look hidden from the sun and dirt all those years. I'm always a sucker for dark wood looks on instruments. That is like a dark auburn hue to my eyes. Sexy :)
  6. bdplaid

    bdplaid Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2007
    Soooo.... Much to say. First, here is how the bass turned out. Before I took it apart and stripped it:


    1. Right off the bat, it turned out a fairly common sunburst. I couldn't seem to achieve that original Ibanez look, and this finish just wanted to go here, no matter what I did. What I did like, however, is that rather than black edges as is common with many 3-color bursts, this has a very rich reddish-brown for the edges and back that I like. I almost want the whole bass like that.
    2. I wasn't really happy with it, had a couple of place through which I had sanded, and overall it was just blotchy.
    3. I discovered that TruOil is probably the worst finish one can put on a dyed body. First, I didn't want shiny, and it sure as heck got that way! Then I did manage to play it on a hot and sweaty gig. Fortunately the dye that rubbed off on my shirt came out (water soluble dye, after all!)
    4. Dye is some funky stuff. Not in a bad way, but in an artistic way. One can really move it around and lighten/darken if he knows what he's doing. But I found out I had to be careful, because if anything at all dripped or dragged on it while applying it, it's pretty much back to square one for that area.
    5. 5. Dye will never come completely out. It goes deep.
    So where am I? I sanded the whole thing back, and re-did the burst but in a different way. It looks better. But then, another experiment! Brushing lacquer... I wanted to try new things, I have sprayed before, but wanted to try brushing lacquer on this. It didn't work so well. The problem was brush marks. lacquer just dries too fast. Even thinned, it's a no-go.

    So, I wet sanded down the brush marks and sprayed satin lacquer. It's starting to look good. Mind you, it'll never look like a pro finish, but it's good enough for this build.
    smithcreek likes this.
  7. bdplaid

    bdplaid Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2007
    Just a quick follow-up: here's the current state:

    I broke down and sprayed lacquer. Lacquer is so easy, I don't know why i ever thought to use anything else. Anyway, I redid the burst, it's not great but I guess not bad for a first time with dyes and burst. And knowing me, I'll do something else with it in a year or so.

    But I'm very happy with the main design goal: it's super lightweight - 6 1/2 lbs - plays and sounds great.

    And I did a cool thing with the headstock...

    I like black headstocks. Who doesn't like black headstocks? But I hate masking to paint. So I did this one with a wrap. And I had a sticker for a cause near and dear to me - animal rescue - so I made it a billboard.

    Say what you will, I like it!

    Thanks everyone for the help. This has been a huge learning experience, and actually not as frustrating as they usually are. And a side benefit was I cleaned up my shop. Well, a little...

    IMG_20161017_224355.jpg IMG_20161017_224402.jpg IMG_20161017_201041.jpg
    afa3, smithcreek and Will_White like this.
  8. JLW


    Dec 5, 2006
    San Francisco, CA
    Your end result looks great. What color lacquers did you use? And how many coats of each? Any general advice to get a finish similar to this? Loving it.
  9. bdplaid

    bdplaid Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2007
    Thanks very much. I more or less followed the advice given by smithcreek. (Thank you thank for that!
    Colors were dark Amber and Red Mahogany.
    Don't be shy when mixing the dyes - I think I ended up with a more or less 50-50 mix as best, but at one point was using it 100%.
    After a first attempt smearing dye all over both the bass and my shop, I sanded back fully and tried it another way - BigD guitars has some good videos on YouTube about this, but in essence, I only put the dye where I wanted it, and then "mixed" the colors on the bass by swirling them together, to form the burst.
    The biggest issue is the ash wood - it gets blotchy. Maybe a sanding sealer beforehand? I'm not expert on dyes so I don't know if that's useful or not.
    The first time, the final finish was TruOil. I like TO on raw wood, but on this, it got super glossy (not the intent) and the worst of it was that the dye on the back of the bass bled through onto my shirt. This what caused the re-deaux and sandback.
    The second time, I went to satin lacquer as a final finish. Being a goof, I wanted to try brushing lacquer, and it did what I expected - lots of brush marks. It dries too fast.
    At that point, I sprayed with several coats (not sure how many, but probably 3-4) to build up the finish, and I wet-sanded it back to give me a flat finish. Then several coats of MinWax satin lacquer, probably another 4-5. I used Minwax because the Behlen I ordered was slow getting to me and I just wanted it done. But the Behlen is here now and I'm all set for the next project! ;-/
    In the end, I like it. If I had it to do over, I think I'd have done the entire bass in red mahogany; there are places on the back that look spectacular. But again, need to control the blotchiness.

    Thanks for the support and info I got here. you guys are the best!
  10. JLW


    Dec 5, 2006
    San Francisco, CA
    I'm most interested in your final attempt, because that one looks the best to my eyes. By the time you got to your final finishing, was there already a "base coat" of amber from your stain attempts, or did you sand it back to the bare wood?

    And with the sprayed lacquer, I'm assuming you used the stewmac colors? I'm guessing the vintage amber for the center and the red mahogany for the sides? Is there any tobacco brown in there?

    Sorry for all the questions, but I really like the finish and I'd like to do something similar for one of my builds.
  11. bdplaid

    bdplaid Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2007
    When one applies dye, it never comes completely off, as it goes deep. But I got off as much as I could. After a complete sanding, I wiped the bass down with water, and there was still some amber coming up. Not much that one could see when the body was dry, but it was there. I actually think it had a negligible effect on the final outcome.

    No, no colors in the sprayed lacquer. It was off the shelf rattle can MinWax satin lacquer spray from Home Depot. Had I used the rattle can Behlen from StewMac, that would also have been clear. I've used the Behlen before, and I don't think there's have been any difference in the outcome of the appearance. I don't know about longevity.

    But to absolutely clear [sic!] there was no color in the final spray finish, all the color was Stew-Mac dyes.

    Thanks for the kind words. Glad you like it, and glad this can be useful.

    And I highly recommend 1, watching the BigD Guitars videos, especially where he does a nuclear burst, and 2, doing tests on some ash if you can. The blending and such is like an art form - like painting, actually - one can move the colors around and change the blend and the location of it if he knows what he's doing. And the only thing that can teach you that is experience.
  12. bdplaid

    bdplaid Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2007
    oh, and no tobacco brown at all.
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