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Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

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Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Christ Kacoyannakis » Fri Sep 15, 2017 7:17 pm

I am doing an electric solid body with a curly maple top. I saw an awesome finish on a beautiful Robert de la Garza archtop (picture attached) and want to do something similar. I tried contacting Mr. de la Garza, and he did respond, but I don't think his English is that good, because his responses were very short and not detailed. He said the finish he used was nitro, and he "activates" the curl before he applies finish. I asked him if he dyes the maple with black stain first, and he said yes, but I would like more detail. Has anybody done something similar and can you give some detailed explanation on how you did it. I will be using some kind of waterborne finish. Thanks.

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https://www.facebook.com/DelaGarzaGuita ... =3&theater
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Barry Daniels » Fri Sep 15, 2017 7:19 pm

The picture doesn't show up. This may be a dye and sand-back type of finish.
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Christ Kacoyannakis » Fri Sep 15, 2017 8:24 pm

Sorry, didn't follow the correct procedure for adding a picture. I think I got it right now. Thanks.

Here is the picture of the back.
garza back.jpg
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Aaron Helt » Fri Sep 15, 2017 9:29 pm

I don't know what he did but MAN does it look awesome!
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Christ Kacoyannakis » Fri Sep 15, 2017 10:25 pm

I know. Just look at that! I could stare at it all day.
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Randolph Rhett » Sat Sep 16, 2017 1:48 am

No way of being sure, but most likely a black or mission brown (or combo) transtint dye applied directly to the bare wood. You apply it dissolved in either alcohol or water, but I prefer alcohol. Wipe it on VERY dark. Let sit and then sand back. Sand until the surface is not tinted and only the figure has tint. It will look ugly until you apply the garnet shellac or a tinted amber base coat of nitro. That is when it really pops. It also pops odd swirls or defects, so make sure the wood is really clear.

Of course, practice on scrap first.
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Barry Daniels » Sat Sep 16, 2017 11:47 am

The finish in the photo not only has the stain process described by Randolph, but also includes a sunburst of amber/red that was sprayed on in the top coats.
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby David King » Sat Sep 16, 2017 3:32 pm

What looks best in a photo often doesn't look as interesting in person and vis versa. The dark stain embedded in the grain often locks some of the chatoyance so the wood will have less of a 3-D quality in person. Most people seem fine with this so if that's the effect you want then by all means run with it.
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Christ Kacoyannakis » Sat Sep 16, 2017 4:26 pm

I am not seeing the sunburst at all. Maybe I am not as attuned to that, though. I am find with not as much chatoyance. I will probably give it a try, and will post pictures of the results. Thanks for all the great advice folks!
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Barry Daniels » Sat Sep 16, 2017 4:28 pm

The sunburst is subtle but it's definitely there. It is most obvious on the heel of the neck.
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Christ Kacoyannakis » Sat Sep 16, 2017 8:42 pm

I see that now. Wow, good call. Thanks for all your responses, Barry. Do you think the initial stain is black or a dark brown? The top of the guitar is black, and he said black, but it looks more brown to me.
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Bryan Bear » Sat Sep 16, 2017 9:09 pm

I'm with David. I prefer the natural chatoyance of maple to the stain and sand back look. To my eye, staining and sanding is much more dramatic but seems less 3 dimensional. Maple with finish alone seems to dance more or have more of a firery appearance when you move it. At least that has been my experience with my experiments. Others may have better results than I for sure.

This is not to say that the guitar in the picture is not beautiful; it certainly is a work of art!
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Sun Sep 17, 2017 12:01 am

I have done finishes on curly, or flamed maple, both ways.
On one of my guitars I used black first, and then red second. After the clear coats it really popped, and had that beautiful 3D look.

Red Maple Rear 3.jpg


On another guitar, this one with quilted maple, I simply used a custom color stain before clear coats.
Both have their own beauty. It is quite hard to get a good picture of this one. It is actually more gold than it appears in this picture.

Quilt Map for Cert.jpg
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby David King » Mon Sep 18, 2017 12:02 am

Whatever you decide it always helps to start with a stunning piece of wood.
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Andrew Mowry » Tue Sep 19, 2017 3:15 pm

I do a lot of stained figured maple, and in addition sanding back the first application of dye, it helps to really wet the wood with dye a few times during the process so it soaks into the areas of end grain. Then "scrub" it with a rag wetted with whatever solvent you're using (alcohol or water) to remove as much dye as possible (it won't get removed from the end grain). You can repeat that process a number of times. It's amazing the difference between dye that's applied this way as opposed to just sprayed on.
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Peter Wilcox » Tue Sep 19, 2017 9:51 pm

Andrew Mowry wrote:I do a lot of stained figured maple, and in addition sanding back the first application of dye, it helps to really wet the wood with dye a few times during the process so it soaks into the areas of end grain. Then "scrub" it with a rag wetted with whatever solvent you're using (alcohol or water) to remove as much dye as possible (it won't get removed from the end grain). You can repeat that process a number of times. It's amazing the difference between dye that's applied this way as opposed to just sprayed on.

Does applying it this way preserve the chatoyance of the figure?
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Christ Kacoyannakis » Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:03 pm

So do you wet it and let it dry, and then scrub it with the solvent? You said wet it a few times. Does this mean wet it and let it soak in and dry and then scrub it? Lots of variables. Thanks for all your advice.
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Steve Sawyer » Wed Sep 20, 2017 12:06 am

Peter Wilcox wrote:Does applying it this way preserve the chatoyance of the figure?


Peter - my experience (limited as it is) with figured woods is that stains (that contain pigment) would have a negative effect on chatoyance because as David mentions above, the finely ground pigments actually fill some of the grain. Dyes on the other hand have no solids, and therefore should have no effect on chatoyance.
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Barry Daniels » Wed Sep 20, 2017 9:31 am

I disagree. Chatoyance is an effect of reflected light. Looking at figured maple from different angles to the light makes areas reflect light differently. Turn the wood around and the light reflection jumps to the other side of curls which makes the wood come alive.

Dyes used directly on wood soak into the end grain predominantly on one side of the curl and sanding back increases this. It makes a dramatic effect but this is not chatoyance. Only one side of the curl is highlighted, no matter which way you turn it. However, dyes used as tint in the finish do not reduce the chatoyance but actually enhance the movement of light reflections and the depth of chatoyance.
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Re: Advice on getting dark curly maple to pop

Postby Peter Wilcox » Wed Sep 20, 2017 10:51 am

Thanks for the brief and lucid explanation, Barry. This reflects :lol: my own experience. The more dye that enters the wood (the more you increase the contrast - "pop" the figure), the more destructive to the chatoyance. So it looks like they are mutually exclusive - unfortunate. Tinting the finish doesn't increase the contrast - only adds a color wash to the whole surface.

I love watching a guitar with great chatoyance being played. As the guitarist plays and moves the guitar, dark areas become light and light areas become dark in a dance of reflections off the instrument.
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