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Making a flame POP - and giving it a nice sheen

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Lonnybass, Aug 15, 2007.


  1. Lonnybass

    Lonnybass Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2000
    San Diego
    Endorsing Artist: Pedulla Basses
    I've got a positively spectacular AAAAA figured bubinga/mahogany body on the way from Warmoth.

    I'd like to apply some sort of base coat (Danish oil, perhaps) to really make the wild flaminess pop out, and then apply a semi- or high-gloss polyurethane topcoats. Most likely Minwax wipe-on poly.

    Looking for recommendations on what to do to achieve the deepest flame under a protective poly finish!

    Lonnybass

    Here's the body:

    Lonnybassjazz.
     
  2. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    I used Watco Danish oil under my finishes. I wiped on a few coats and let it dry about a week, and then sprayed catalyzed lacquer over it.

    It really makes the wood look nice and warm and makes the figure pop.

    I used that as the only finish on a few basses too.
     
  3. Lonnybass

    Lonnybass Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2000
    San Diego
    Endorsing Artist: Pedulla Basses
    Hi David-

    Did the Danish oil make a noticeable difference in deepening the flame? Since I'd be putting a wipe-on poly over it, I just want to make sure that the extra step is worth it. Looking forward to your thoughts.

    Lonny
     
  4. 62bass

    62bass

    Apr 3, 2005
    Actually, I've found that any thinned out oil based finish will cause the grain to pop out more. Using old fashioned varnish, I would apply a sealer coat of the same varnish thinned with an equal amount of thinner, brush it on well and keep it wet for a few minutes and then wipe off the excess completely. I'd then let it dry a couple days before applying topcoats full strength.

    I recently did a table top, figured maple with nothing but Minwax Wipe On Poly. No sealer or danish oil. The Wipe On Poly is nothing but thinned polyurethane varnish anyhow. The grain popped out beautifully. On another sample of the same maple I soaked in a coat of Minwax Antique Oil. It also caused the grain to pop out but applying Minwax Wipe On Poly over the top didn't increase the effect. The antique oil darkened the wood noticeably though. You may or may not want this. The Minwax alone darkened the wood far less.

    Someone, not long ago wrote an article in Fine Woodworking examining the difference between soaking in an oil sealer and not, and found essentially no difference between the two. This seems to support the experiments I've done. This seems to hold true using the oil based finishes. Nitro lacquers and fast drying water based finishes which don't soak into the wood much don't tend to enhance the grain as much when used by themselves.

    I sometimes use thinned boiled linseed oil as a sealer when I want it to darken with age. Linseed oil will darken a lot over a couple years.

    You might want to think about doing a very thinned coat of water or alcohol based dye first, before your sealer coat. An amber yellow, very light, will help bring out the figure in the wood. Use a dye though, not a wipe on pigment stain.
     
  5. Lonnybass

    Lonnybass Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2000
    San Diego
    Endorsing Artist: Pedulla Basses
    Some great info there - much obliged. If only I can make up my mind as to whether this particular bass would look best with a satin or high-gloss finish!

    Lonny
     
  6. Shellac is very nice for making figured woods look deeper and more 3D. And it is also compatible with almost anything you wanna put on top of it (except maybe epoxy).
     
  7. 62bass

    62bass

    Apr 3, 2005
    Yes, but make sure it is de-waxed shellac.

    Hard to decide which will look better to you. The satin achieved by rubbing out the gloss wipe on poly is very attractive. If you rub it out using paste wax as a lubricant with 0000 steel wool or fine abrasive pad it looks particularly nice. Then a buffing with a soft polishing cloth and it's almost a gloss but with character.

    Whatever you decide, use the gloss wipe on poly rather than the satin. Multiple coats of satin obscure the grain. You can rub out to satin after if you want and it's a much more attractive satin than the satin wipe on poly alone.
     
  8. 90% of any wet finish is substrate preparation. Take as much time as you have patience for and sand and polish to the highest grit you want to. Almost any oil finish will pop bubinga figure. Bubinga will polish highly on it's own.

    That's some nice curly bubinga for sure!!
     
  9. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    Danish oil finish is linseed oil and varnish. This is considered Polymerized Linseed oil.

    Most products labeled as "boiled linseed oil" are a combination of raw linseed oil, petroleum-based solvent and metallic dryers. Raw linseed (flax seed oil) never actually hardens, and shouldn't be used for wood finishing.

    The difference between vanish and linseed oil, it linseed oil does not cover the surface as varnish does, but soaks into the (visible and microscopic) pores. Varnish is a film finish and doesn't really absorb into the wood.

    So with Danish oil, you get a good combination of the two. The oil that soaks into the pores, and the varnish to harden the oil.

    These two basses were finished with a wipe coat of Watco, followed by Sherwin-Williams catalyzed nitro lacquer.

    Compared to the instruments finished with the same lacquer, and without the watco, these have a nice amber glow. I also have a bass finished only in Watco. Tung oil finish would work equally as well.

    SGD_Scorpios_front.
     
  10. Lonnybass

    Lonnybass Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2000
    San Diego
    Endorsing Artist: Pedulla Basses
    Did the wipe coat of the Watco oil darken the woods on those instruments? It's been highly interesting (and slightly confusing!) to follow this thread as everyone has their own special recipes for success. Just to make sure I'm following, it seems that there is some debate about the need to first apply an oil undercoat beneath Minwax wipe-on poly to accentuate the flame before adding the layers of gloss poly.

    Assuming you were going to finish this body, and wanted to achieve:

    1) minimal darkening of the wood
    2) lots of highlights in a deep 3d flame, and
    3) a nice semi- to gloss sheen,

    Would oiling the body before the poly application be worthwhile? Looking forward to seeing how this thread continues to evolve.

    Lonnybass
     
  11. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    It didn't darken the wood, but you can see the color it gave. You know what bare maple looks like.

    The other thing is some finishes impart an amber hue, such as nitrocellulose lacquer and polyurethane. A friend of mine used to like to spray clear acrylic topcoats when he wanted a water clear finish without the yellowing effect.

    I think the watco gave it an extra warming. The more coats of an oil finish you give, the darker it gets. It's kind of a "vintage amber" finish you see on necks and stuff.

    The main thing, which is the finishers mantra, test on scrap!

    Finishing is complicated (but not all that hard), and there are many recipes you can come up with. Just try out ideas on scraps of the wood you are using.
     
  12. bassksun

    bassksun

    Mar 5, 2004
    Las Vegas,NV
    You might consider the old tried and true method of wiping on a dark stain. Let it stand for a minute. Wipe off well. Let it dry for a day or two and then sand it back until you get the desired darkening effect.

    You got a niiiice project there.
     
  13. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    You can get a lot of nice effects with stains. I've stained quilted maple black, sanded it back, and then stained red. It was very dramatic!

    Here's something more subtle.

    [​IMG]


    I think the Bubinga has enough color where you don't really need to enhance the grain with stains, but a brownish-red, and then sanded back could work nicely.

    I realized now that you have no scrap to test on, since it was a Warmoth body.
     
  14. Lonnybass

    Lonnybass Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2000
    San Diego
    Endorsing Artist: Pedulla Basses
    Wow, that's quite a sunburst flame. I have a Pedulla with a similar finish.

    Minwax makes a non-tinted "Woodsheen" product which is essentially an oil wipe-on gel that could go on under poly. Any experience with this particular product?
     
  15. 62bass

    62bass

    Apr 3, 2005
    The gel varnishes I've used have simply been polyurethane varnishes with a thickening agent added so it can be wiped on easier. Used by themselves they won't give you much of a final gloss and I don't think they'll penetrated the wood as much as regular liquid varnish. I don't see any point in using it under poly. The one I used last was Circa 1800 or some year like that. I put it on an old sewing table that had been originally finished with shellac. I just cleaned up the shellac and applied 2 coats of the gel varnish. The end result was a pleasant satin finish that suited an old piece like that. I wouldn't bother using it again as I can get the same effect with regular varnishes which cost less.

    One product I use a lot because it's so fast to build up coats of finish is Benjamin Moore 1 Hour Clear Gloss varnish. It's a very fast drying alkyd varnish that dries quite hard and will polish up nicely to a high gloss. If you brush it on full strength it dries so quickly it's tough to apply quickly enough before the first brush stroke dries and the second one starts so you have to practice and work fast, but it dries quickly enough to sand in 2 hours if the temperature is above 70F. It's almost as fast drying as brush on lacquer. The way I use it now though is to thin it with an equal amount of naptha (naptha dries much faster than mineral spirits) and wipe it on in thin coats with a cloth. I can get 4 coats on per day if I time it right. You do need to apply twice as many coats as using it full strength, but the advantage is you can get a much more even and blemish free surface. I like the alkyd varnishes more than polyurethane, which always seems a little plastic like to me. They do darken slightly differently too I think.

    But, this just complicates things for you and makes it harder to make up your mind.

    I'd say, don't complicate things for yourself. Wipe on a coat of danish oil if you're concerned that the finish alone won't bring out the grain enough. It won't hurt anything. Then let it harden overnight. Buff lightly with a maroon abrasive pad the next day, wipe off the dust and apply a number of coats of Minwax Wipe On Poly in gloss. Sand very lightly with 400 grit paper after every second coat. Apply as many coats as you need to get the finish you desire. When the last coat has dried, decide if you want to rub it out to a satin or leave it as is. It's about the easiest finish for a beginner to use, but still, practice on scrap wood first just to get a feel for the drying time of the product and how it goes on. Or if you don't mind waiting a little longer, take a similar type of hardwood scrap and finish it completely the way you would to do the bass body. See how you like the final result.

    You won't get the same quality of final finish that you will if you use a spray gun with some of the other products mentioned. But they require a sizeable investment in tools, a place that's prepared to spray safely and lots of experience before you can get such a high quality finish.

    The wipe on poly method is designed for a beginner to get an acceptable result.
     
  16. Lonnybass

    Lonnybass Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2000
    San Diego
    Endorsing Artist: Pedulla Basses
    This is great information!

    This morning I received an email from Minwax as well, advising me to stay away from the Woodsheen as it has coloring properties (whick I don't want to apply to the already nice tint of the bubinga), but they did suggest using their tung oil product underneath the poly to highlight flame. I've heard mixed comments about the purity of the minwax tung oil, however, and I might be inclined to seek out a good quality danish oil at the hardware store to go on under the Minwax poly.

    Lonnybass
     
  17. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    "One product I use a lot because it's so fast to build up coats of finish is Benjamin Moore 1 Hour Clear Gloss varnish. It's a very fast drying alkyd varnish that dries quite hard and will polish up nicely to a high gloss. If you brush it on full strength it dries so quickly it's tough to apply quickly enough before the first brush stroke dries and the second one starts so you have to practice and work fast, but it dries quickly enough to sand in 2 hours if the temperature is above 70F. "

    Interesting. How does this do with high humidity? Any blushing?
     
  18. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    Thanks! That was all hand applied using water based aniline stains, and then finished off with clear catalyzed nitro.

    I just learned the hard way that these red stains are not color fast! This bass was finished back in 1994, but was never completed.

    I recently decided to put the bass together. That photo is from this past july. The bass looked just as it did 14 years ago. It sat on a stand in my house, never in direct sun, or even in sunny rooms, since we have shades to keep the place cool.

    Then I was looking at it the other day and realized the red has faded out of the 'burst!

    Quite upsetting to say the least!

    Here's the same bass as of today. It looks redder in the photo. It's still a nice burst though. I have to find some non fading stains...

    S5_new.
     
  19. 62bass

    62bass

    Apr 3, 2005
    Only once when it was extremely hot and humid and I was working outside. But generally it's not a problem. Sherwin Williams makes a similar varnish too.
     
  20. 62bass

    62bass

    Apr 3, 2005
    That's a nice looking bass.

    I hear the Transtint water soluble dyes are very lightfast.

    I used a water soluble dye I got from Lee Valley Tools. It's been very good.
     

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