Staining Swamp Ash to look "zebralike" (black grain, silver/white wood)?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by CzarMike, Jun 1, 2002.

  1. -I originally posted this in the Luthier's section with few replies-

    I have a Swamp Ash body and Maple Neck coming from Warmoth and would like a little help with my upcoming staining and finishing project on the bass. I want to make the wood look "zebralike" as I call it, meaning that I'd like to get rid of the brown color in the wood and have it stained in a silver-white with black grain. I want to really bring out the dark stripes of the Ash, and highlight the grain of the wood. The whole bass will be done in this scheme, so the maple neck will have to be stained as well.
    Do you have any recommendations on how I can accomplish this?
    I would also love input on how to finish it off after staining, this is my first ground-up bass and I don't know the nicer products out there. I want a glossy (oily?) finish, I would love a step by step list of what you would personally do after recieving the bass.
    Here are some pictures of the bass I'm modeling mine after:
    It's Nino_Brown's from this forum. His bass doesn't actually look silver in person, it's a camera thing, but I want to have my bass stained to look like that picture. With a silver (greyish) tint to the whole thing. I think it's very powerful looking and with the high quality wood I ordered it should be a huge step up from the basses I've been playing lately.

    Thanks a million,
    Mike Schaefer
  2. I'm not saying that this could or couldn't be done but you are asking wood to go against it's natural properties to get the effect you want. The part you want to make black is the hardest, densest part of the ring. These grain lines resist taking on color. The lighter parts of Nino's bass are softer and take on stain quite readily. It would be easy to lighten and stain the soft fibers silver with one of the "pickling" style stains or bleaches, but you couldn't then come back and darken just the grain lines without contaminating the inbetweens.

    You might just want to stain the whole surface black and then sand back the stain to expose the lighter areas. This wouldn't accomplish the "silver" aspect but it might get you the contrast you want. The best advice to give though, is to practice on scrap first. You don't want to reduce a $200 body to a $50 ebay special just because of impatience.
  3. Hi, thanks for the info Hambone, that makes sense. I have been testing a few ideas for the past week, but haven't come up with something that I'm happy with yet. The staining/sanding method seems like the way I'll go, but I would like to find a nicer stain to work with first. Are there any stains that go "deeper" than the minwax product I've been working with? Should I put several coats on, and then sand?
    I haven't tried the pickling style stains yet, but that gave me an idea, maybe I could really darken the grains with black stain, sand it off and then put the pickling stain on for a very short (15 minutes) period, that might give the wood a whiter tone. I'll pick some up tonight and try that out on my scraps.
    Any other suggestions before I go to the store?
    Thanks again,
  4. alaskabass


    Dec 31, 2001
    Sounds like you want to use an aniline dye to achieve better color penetration. The amount of soak time and re-sanding will determine your overall finish coloring.

    By all means do as Hambone suggests and obtain a piece of "swamp ash" to experiment on. Bringing the scrap piece of material and the photos of what you have in mind to a specialty paint store will enable the experts to help you color match what's in your mind with reality and availabilty.

    With enough trial and error you should be able to come up a satisfactory result. Have fun and let us know how it turns out.

    Hope this helps,