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Painting a swamp ash body with oil paints - Artistic advice needed

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Kikegg, Feb 2, 2018.

  1. Kikegg


    Mar 3, 2011
    Madrid, Spain
    Hi all,
    I have an unfinished swamp ash Precision body and I want to finish it with artist oil paints and Tru-Oil. Very user friendly and if done properly the finish will be very nice. I've used oil paint long time ago to simulate oxide stains in a submarine plastic model kit and these paints blend and mix together like a dream. I've also seen some videos and the results are fantastic over raw wood.

    My goal is to achieve a finish in between these two which if I'm not wrong are roasted swamp ash:

    Yesterday I did a test in the neck pocket using raw umber (very dark brown) as base color, raw sienna, and some drops of english red to get a lighter yellowish hue.

    Once dry I think I'm in the right path, but perhaps I'll need more red and/or replace the raw sienna with yellow ochre or other color, not 100% sure. I'm not worried about choosing a wrong color as blending oils with turpentine is easy and errors can be corrected succesfully but some artistic advice about best colors to use or anything related will be REALLY REALLY appreciated to go straight. Do you think is in the good direction? Tips? Any advice?

    Here's the testbed neck pocket. You can see raw umber and red blotches at the rear wall, btw.


    Thanks in advance!
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2018
  2. GrantR


    Apr 20, 2017
    when I used to tint cabinet stains, the burnt umbers and burnt siennas often put an orange cast that dirtied up the greeness of the raw umber. I loved using a violet, not magenta to give some reddish with less mud look with the umber first, then a touch of burnts to orange it up if desired.
    Kikegg likes this.
  3. Kikegg


    Mar 3, 2011
    Madrid, Spain
    Thanks for the tip. Will buy those burnt tones
  4. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    NW Mass/SW VT
    How long would you like it to take?

    I'm not super-familiar with details, but I frequently hear an art teacher I work with mentioning that oils paints can take a LONG time to dry. There are tricks to make it go faster, I guess (you might want to mix a little bit into a fair amount of tru-oil, say - but that's my partially inferred rather than fully informed take on the general idea for speeding it up.) I gather that the straight paints as sold can take months.
    old spice likes this.
  5. b3e


    Sep 5, 2017
    Warsaw, Poland
    There is a high chance that try oil will dissolve and smear the oil based paint that you will use on the body. I had issues with a oil based silver marker, that I tried to coat with tru oil. It got dissolved all the time. I laterlon protected it with a layer of shellac, than it worked.
  6. Kikegg


    Mar 3, 2011
    Madrid, Spain
    IME with plastic models and yesterday's test is that as soon as the tupertine evaporates you can touch paint.

    For the Tru Oil i don't know but it seems to not to take much longer than hours
  7. Kikegg


    Mar 3, 2011
    Madrid, Spain
    I take note of it. I watched a couple of videos on YouTube and the approach was the same (oils and tru oil) and the results were fantastic. The man said that was safe... The carrier is the same for both products.
  8. mysteryclock

    mysteryclock Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2010
    Franklin, TN
    To gain some experience and hopefully not screw up an upcoming alder-body build, I've been going round-and-round-and-round with color quite a bit recently:
    • I've tried the liquid Keda dyes (the ones you mix with lacquer thinner) on a scrap piece of alder, and could not get them to absorb evenly. It seemed to be taking many, many applications to get the color to blend and sink in enough, even though I followed their mixing instructions exactly (and even went higher on the dye mix later to try and get more color to "stick".)
    • I tried artists oils (dark blue) + Japan drier as suggested on the Youtubes on a test piece of alder, and it turned into a mess. The color was blotchy and would not absorb evenly, and some of it smeared out after trying to apply TruOil, even though it looked and pretty much smelled dry.
    • I also tried Minwax water-based stain, applied after their water-based sealer (and the required sand-back) and it was chalky and underwhelming, in addition to grain-raising.

    Where I ended up is with the Artisan Premium Coloring Dyes. Even in my completely & obviously untalented and inexperienced hands I was able to achieve a deep blue color and a relatively even finish, with no pre-dye wood treatment or conditioning required. After letting it dry completely I applied the Birchwood Casey sealer, noticing that there was very little if any dye coming off on my applicator. Since then I'm up to about 9 TruOil coats on my current little test piece, and it is looking like a winner.
  9. Bourbongangster


    Nov 5, 2015
    This sounds like exactly what I wanted and got on a parts bass that I stripped and finished last year. I used Minwax mahogany gel stain and 2-3 coats of Danish oil for the top coat. The stain didn't absorb as well as I had hoped because I didn't sand down far enough. Here's how it turned out.

  10. Is it already grainfilled? If you want the grain to be more prominent, a dark tinted grain filler would work wonders.
  11. GrapeBass


    Jun 10, 2004
    Graphic designer: Yorkville Sound
    Talk to a professional cabinet maker or serious enthusiast, they would probably be more than will ing to lend you some advice.
  12. mysteryclock

    mysteryclock Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2010
    Franklin, TN
    Here's the color I've gotten on my test alder plank so far with the dyes I mentioned. The color is more even at the bottom than it looks due to the lighting.

    mikewalker likes this.
  13. Phillip Shrout

    Phillip Shrout

    Feb 4, 2016
    Wished I was a good enough artist to do something similar to the Fodera Woodblock. Masterbuilt woodblock.
  14. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    NW Mass/SW VT
    ...and I'm like "Really? is that supposed to be Yazgur's Farm?" Then I see that it was actually "block" not "stock"...:rolleyes:

    Many a perfectly decent artist is busy giving truth to the "starving artist" stereotype. You can offer them money and sometimes even get art from them (not all are reliable, production-wise) and you have to find one that suits your taste, but they are out there...
  15. tubedude

    tubedude Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2015
    If you must use oil paint i recomment transparent yellow earth instead of yellow ochre, Less mud. That mixed with a very little alizarian or other transparent red.
    I think colortone stain is the best way to go however.
    Stain the body dark black, sand back so just the grain is darkened, then either
    1) shoot with lacquer tinted brown/red, or
    2) stain brown/red and then clear lacquer
    Then wax, buff.
  16. popcat


    Jan 7, 2016
  17. Kikegg


    Mar 3, 2011
    Madrid, Spain
    Useful info and experience in your posts. I'm still wating for the Tru-Oil to arrive. I'll test it in the neck pocket too to be sure all goes right...

    Thanks all!
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2018
  18. axelrod

    axelrod Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2013
    AS an oil painter for 30 or so years I can say that one of the most important parts of the process is preparing the support, whether wood or canvas, for the paint, and over the centuries many types of substrates have been used, primarily gessos, but all with the primary purpose of protecting the wood from the oil, as it will cause it to break down.Oil paint directly on wood would not be considered archival, if that matters to you. I am in the process of building a bass, basses, with the intention of painting on them and am searching for materials and methods that would work and oil paint is not one of them, for that reason. One might try a substrate like shellac that might work, haven't tried it, but something to protect the wood from the oil. I am currently experimenting with shellac based inks, though not for a blended technique.
    Kikegg likes this.
  19. Kikegg


    Mar 3, 2011
    Madrid, Spain
    I was not aware of the wood breaking you're talking about. Actually this is the first time I adventure into wood painting. My only paint experience is from plastic model kits. No need to protect polystyrene at all :) And of course I thought that not using a filler/primer would be cool for showing the wood grain. It seems, for your words, that I possibly made a big mistake...

    May I suppose the problem is the thinner leaking into the wood and "rotting" it? If so, how much is enough to damage it?
    I mean, I put the paint and used a rag moistened with tupermine to thin and spread the paint. Just that, moisten but not wet. I'm sure the rag was not dripping thinner neither I dropped it directly on the wood, and felt dry in least than half an hour aprox.

    Last edited: Feb 19, 2018
  20. axelrod

    axelrod Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2013
    Linseed oil in artists paint is acidic and will slowly eat away at the wood fibers. The problem is much worse for paintings on canvas which can be eaten through and fall apart. The wood might last more than our lifetimes, but would have problems; shrinking, cracking, adhesion, color retention. but hey that's "reliced", right? The oil in artist's paints does not dry, but oxidizes, and is always moving. One is not recommended to varnish over an oil painting until it has dried 6 months to a year, depending on thickness. If the painting is coated before the oxidation process slows sufficiently the paint underneath cracks, sometimes in interesting looking ways, and sometimes not. The oil can seep into the wood and separate from the pigment. So yeah, artist paints are different than those designed and altered for wood finishing. But hey, if it works go for it, see what happens. These effects might not happen for a long time, or you might like them.

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