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Water based laquer and stains - ratios...?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Betyouaint, Aug 21, 2012.

  1. I'm trying for a sunburst finish on my build and am using Target water-based acrylic laquer with ColorTone stain. This being my first time at this kind of thing, I've been very careful with stain/laquer ratios. I used around 10 drops of cherry with 2 drops of mid brown in around 1 pint of lacquer. At present I've applied 5 "color" layers to the maple body (as shown in pic) but it's still looking more pink than deep red. Should I up the ratios on subsequent coats or just persist with adding more and more layers to "deepen" the color? The second pic shows the original batch I made up with 3-4 extra drops added from the original ratio. I will try this revised batch tomorrow.

    If anyone has experience with this stuff then I'd be grateful for some advice.


  2. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    What you want to do is take the color you have, and wipe a piece of scrap maple with it. Use a bigger piece of maple because you need to do a comparative so you can get the color you need.

    Take the piece of maple and make some strips of the color you have already made. Make 4 or 5 wide wipes with the colored lacquer and let it dry. Then take the same mix and start adding drops of color to darken the color. Wipe some of the new color onto one of the color strips so you can see what the color looks like over the existing color. You want to test the color over the color you already have, or it can get too dark when applied and then you are in trouble, so use each color strip to test darker colors until you get what you are looking for.

    Make sure to make notes about the mix you used.
  3. Syco_bass

    Syco_bass Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2008
    Tucson, Arizona
    Custom builder - Arizona Bass Company/Curcio Custom Basses
  4. But is there a ballpark figure of where I should be starting? I saw there was a max of 1oz (half a bottle) of stain per quart or lacquer but nothing to indicate a starting point. It's clear that my current ratios are way off, giving far to subtle a shade for each coat. I'm upping the stain amount as I go in search of a reasonable ratio but still don't feel like I'm there. I don't necessarily want to achieve the correct color in 2-3 passes as I feel I will achieve the best sunburst edge to center fade-out by applying a greater number of coats. By the same token I don't want to have to do 20-30 coats to get the full depth of color. If I was going for a non-graduated color finish then I'd have likely started with a lot more stain per quart. It's good to experiment but as someone once told me...

    "A wise man learns from the mistakes of others, a fool by his own". Why reinvent the wheel...?
  5. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    You can contact Jeff Weiss at Target coatings, or look on the "finishers forum" on their website. There is a subforum dedicated to guitar finishes. 8 do not know of a specific formula to develop spcific colors because everyone has a different eye for color. Best of luck
  6. Hi.

    No formulaes, no rules of thumb, just experimenting, experience, and a note-book (the old fashioned paper kind ;))

    Save a sample piece as well if possible for future reference.

    As time passes, manufacturers tend to change the pastes, so if You're using old/new paste or if more than 10 years have passed since you last used a specific mix, use a scrap to test on.
    Hell, always use a scrap to practise on, every wooden surface takes the paint differently.

  7. Thanks for the advice. I'm sure by the time I'm finished I'll have a much better idea of what I'm doing. I didn't even realize that Target had a forum. D'oh...!!!

    Also, I don't think I was clear in my original post: It's not really the color I'm trying to nail down, i.e. my brown to red mix, it's just the depth of color from a single coat, i.e. my stain to lacquer ratio. I think I'm nearing the place I want to be now but as my stock has been reduced with each coat and drops added with this decremental stock I have very little idea on exactly what my stain to lacquer ratios are in this current batch. Luckily, I do have a sense of the depth of color just by looking at the stock in the jar. Whereas once it was very pinky/purple (due to the white lacquer) it is now a much deeper, richer red. This is perhaps where I should have started and I'll know for future reference.

    Live and learn ;)
  8. 10 coats in and ever increasing amounts of stain in the ever decreasing stock batch #1... Looks like we're finally getting somewhere...


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