Maple soaking up black epoxy on inlay, horrible results, HELP!

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by FunkyMan, Dec 18, 2014.

  1. FunkyMan


    Nov 27, 2007
    I'm sure there's a lot of info about how to avoid this, but i was thrilled about doing my first inlay job, and the results are pretty ugly honestly, it seems that the black epoxy was absorbed by some open grains from the maple.. please see the pics:



    There's any way to fix this? this bass is for my first customer :(
    And most of all: How do you avoid this problem?

    And if your response is to sand it down, then i have no chance because that pearl material is about half of a milimiter or less

  2. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    You've got the right idea, but you forgot one step. You've got to seal up the wood around the inlay rout, before you put in the black epoxy. Otherwise, as you've found out, the dye and a bit of the epoxy's solvent will wick into the grain. What you seal the wood with will depend on what you are doing for the overall finish. Use the same product or something compatible.

    On this particular inlay, the damage is done. You aren't going to get the black out of there. You're going to have to hide it with some gentle touches of pigmented finish to match the surrounding wood, however you plan to color it. This is where the true art of Lutherie comes in....hiding mistakes!

    That's a cool looking logo.
  3. How about a maple laminate with a hole where your inlay is?
  4. ON the ONE

    ON the ONE

    Nov 20, 2010
    I recommend sealing the inlay cavity with vinyl sealer before applying the pearl. Another option is thinned out hide glue. Both work like a charm but as stated above, double check the compatibility of your finish material.
  5. Jonny5bass


    May 3, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    Sorry to hear about the problem. I don't have much to offer but on the bright side it's a great looking logo!
  6. lundborg


    Apr 8, 2008
    It seems to me that the epoxy has not actually bled into the surrounding wood, but rather smeared out into chippings on the surface.

    And in that case it is superficial and can be scraped off with a sharp blade
    You might need to dig into the small grooves with the tip.

    But I could be wrong.

    In that case, hide it with sawdust and laquer or whatever works (not glue)
  7. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I'm sorry to say, but that's not going to sand out. Like Bruce said, your only option is to try and hide it with some carefully matched finish. Another option would be to dye the headstock a color that will hide the flaw. I've had the same thing happen to me doing fretboard inlays, I had to scrap the neck because of it.
  8. Duplo42


    Jan 23, 2007
    I don't know actually what Im talking about (lol!) but I had similar smears on maple neck thou it wasnt epoxy - i applied drops of bleach over period of few days and it removed them...just a thought, as said, have no idea if this would work in you case.
  9. Hate to disagree with Hopkins as I do respect his authoritah, but I'm pretty sure if you let it cure FULLY, nice and hard, you will be able to sand it out.
  10. MPU


    Sep 21, 2004
    Valkeala Finland
    If the colour is in the wood you sure can sand it off. While doing it you will sand the headstock a lot thinner, about the thickness of the inlay and some more. It looks like the colour is in the wood, not just on the surface.
    Bintang likes this.
  11. I would be willing to bet good money that it's on the surface, and that a light sand will eliminate it. We'll see!
  12. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    +1 to what Bruce and MPU have said. I have been there before. Amazing how far dye can travel through maple.
  13. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I would take that bet, because I have ruined a neck doing that before. If you don't seal the end grain along the edges of the inlay cut out it will soak the black dye deep into the wood.

    This is after I poured the inlays

    This is after radiusing the neck and taking off over 1/16" of wood
  14. GBassNorth

    GBassNorth Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2006
    It's not coming out. Just paint or stain the headstock to match the body (assuming the body paint or stain is dark or opaque enough to hide the black bleeding).
  15. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    I'd use spray shellac to seal the wood before filling with dyed epoxy. It dries fast and you can spray just about anything over it, and it sands off easy too.
  16. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Yes, we speak from actual experience! I remember having agonizing problems with this exact problem some years back, when I was trying to make decorative cast openings for the truss rod access hole on the headstock, using black-tinted epoxy. I ruined some good necks. It's surprising, but maple often has teeny little tube pores that are open. Dyes, paints and thin glues will zip right through them.

    If you want to get into more advanced inlay techniques, you can "pre-cast" the black outline around your pearl logo. Basically, you cut out a piece of plastic like your logo shape, but a little bit larger all around. Make a silicone rubber mold from that piece. Then, lay the pearl piece into the mold in black epoxy and let it cure. Pop it out of the mold and inlay the whole thing into the maple with Clear epoxy or superglue. This gives you crisp black lines around the edges, with no chance of dye bleed into the grain. And you can get more detailed and elaborate with the black outline. That's how it's done, in case you were wondering.
  17. FunkyMan


    Nov 27, 2007
    Wow this is pure gold information, I never thought it's done that way, thankyou verymuch, and thank you all guys! At this point i don't know what to do haha, i think i'm going to talk to the customer and see how we can deal this problem
  18. shrigg

    shrigg Joy Decision Bassist/BL, AudioKinesis Beta Tester Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2007
    Traverse City, MI
    +1 Black Lacquered headstock for the win!
    mcnach likes this.
  19. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Can you inlay a surround? Perhaps an oval of contrasting wood around the logo?
    KramerDon, Jonny5bass and dannster like this.
  20. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Yeah, what Lo-E is suggesting is the way to fix it right. It would be tricky to save the existing inlay, so I wouldn't bother. On the bench, make a whole new inlay, setting it into a thin piece of maple or some contrasting wood. Set it in black epoxy again, but remember to seal the wood grain first. Then cut out the wood into some decent looking medallion shape, big enough to cover the bleed out on the headstock. Rout away the old inlay, and inset the whole medallion in its place.

    Covering mistakes with fancy decorative work is a fundamental Luthier skill.