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Rubbed sunburst over Mahogany-Cedar body

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by LowGrowl, Jul 20, 2012.

  1. LowGrowl


    Jan 20, 2011
    Mexico City
    Hi! I open this thread looking for some advice. I have been working on a body for my new bass-kenstein...

    The center is Mahogany (I don't know If it is from honduras, africa or Mexico but it is very hard and heavy) The wings are Red cedar. Beautiful wood! Smells nice but don't sand without a mask. The taste is horrible and it lasts...

    So Far it looks like this

    (More info about the Raykenbird here): http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f57/raykenbird-35-5-strings-p-mm-first-build-896777/

    So, for the finishing steps I've been making some tests with leftover from the same pieces of wood.

    First I aplied walnut sealer to fill the pores. In one side I applied the sealer as it comes. In the other side I applied it with the wood wet. The center is raw.


    Sanded to 220

    Then I used 2 different colors of alcohol based Dye with different mixes of solvent to see what i liked the most:


    Different lights

    The sealer paste is not having a huge effect on the tone but it does what it's made for. Choosing the color of course is a matter of taste... BUT!

    Watching at this pictures. One word comes to mind


    So, I googled a little and found this:

    Good info but not with a lot of detail

    So the question (finally) is:

    Anyone with experience doing this rubbed sunburst effect can give me some advice?

    For instance:
    -Do you let one color dry completely before applying the next?
    -You mix the color you are appliyng with the one underneath by rubbing with a clean rag with alcochol right? how hard to press?
    -Some big NO-NO's learned in your experience?

    Any comment is welcome!!
  2. LowGrowl


    Jan 20, 2011
    Mexico City
  3. LowGrowl


    Jan 20, 2011
    Mexico City
    No one? :(
  4. boethius


    Sep 27, 2011
    Raleigh, NC
    I'm not a luthier at all, but that looks awesome! Nice work! If you do go with the sunburst err on the side of too light because the grain looks awesome!
  5. Cy_Miles


    Feb 3, 2005
    fwiw, I have done just a little work with transtint dyes. I have found I like 1 part alcohol and one half part lacquer thinner as a retardant to help prevent spotting, since that is caused when the alcohol flashes off, and dye is carried to the parts of wood that are evaporating the fastest.

    (always use light applications.) I like using a small wad of wool or spongy cloth wrapped in a triangle of t-shirt or linen, similar to applying shellac.

    For the sunburst in the picture, I first dyed the amber, with several applications.

    I then spent two separate 2 hour sessions applying the cherry red, and tobacco brown.

    as I applied each color with it's own pad, it would push the other color. I just kept going back and forth between the two colors as I needed to, to get the dividing line where I wanted it.

    after the first two hour sessions, several people said it looked great. but to me, it had to much of a dividing line between colors. so I took a break and let it dry for several hours.

    Then I changed pads and spent another two hours blending the edge, again with very thin applications of dye.


    edit: PS when I as searching forums about sunbursts with dyes I found mostly ney-sayers who said it was too difficult, or could get too muddy. I am really happy with my results. The varying cell structure of different woods will greatly affect how the dye is accepted, but it looks like you are getting good results in your tests. good luck.
  6. Lonnybass


    Jul 19, 2000
    San Diego
    Endorsing Artist: Pedulla Basses
    My advice...

    Go higher than 220 and sand up to 320 at a minimum. Any surface imperfections are going to be amplified significantly by dye.

    I've found it easier to work with multiple color blending when both colors are wet...you can go from a yellow to a red with a nice orange transition and be able to manage the fades.

    Wet down your surface with a spray bottle...it's a lot easier to apply colors. But while you want a wet surface - you don't want puddles of standing water that will dilute your colors.

    Keep your applicator pad moving so you get a constant transition line.

    After the color coats have dried overnight, and assuming you are happy with the colors, seal them with a few coats of dewed shellac. This will lock in the color under your clear coat.

    Keep your mixed color batches saved so you can do any touchup work as a result of cutting through the finish during sanding!

  7. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    I've found the technique used by the other posters works well. Here's how I did a red to black burst.

    Initially I stained it black to highlight the figure of the flamed oak.


    I sanded back till there was just some black left in the grain I wanted highlighted. In retrospect dark red may have worked better than black for this.


    I then applied a red base.


    Once this had dried I mixed up some black and red aniline dye and used both at once to blend the fade of the burst. I initially started going over the outer part of the red with black.


    I then used the red and black to achieve a good transition from the centre to the edge. I let it dry after this and did another application of the red and black feathering to get a darker edge.


    Here it is under lacquer, but not buffed out.


    I found a light touch applying the dye worked best. It's a pretty forgiving technique and I found that experimenting on some scrap of the wood I used for the base was the best way to judge what technique was going to work.
  8. Cy_Miles


    Feb 3, 2005
    I really like the idea of using the black dye to bring up the figure.

    I did a similar thing on the curly maple I posted above with the honey amber dye. I made probably 8 to 10 applications using water instead of alcohol to raise the grain. The grain would lift significantly higher in the softer parts of the curl, then I would let it completely dry and lightly sand it, starting with 220, then working progressively finer each time until I was eventually using 400, or maybe 600 I forget.

    When I was happy with how the grain was popping out I switched from water to alcohol/lacquer thinner for the final dye applications.
  9. Cy_Miles


    Feb 3, 2005

    Question; do you pad or brush on the shellac? I've been afraid of smearing the dye with the alcohol in the pad, so I've been using zinsers spray can dewaxed shellac. I'd save a buck or two if i used my 'regular' shellac.

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