Guitar Building: Dye Samples on Two Kinds of Wood
Yesterday was beautiful outside, warm and not too windy, so I thought I’d work up these dye samples for a color comparison on curly maple (the top one) and clear pine. What you see here is two applications of each color, with no clear coat applied after. I use the Homestead liquid concentrate (also available from Stew-Mac under the Color Tone label), and dilute it with distilled water. My highly unscientific method is to mix the concentrate with the water until the solution is opaque against the sun, or a 100W lightbulb if I’m in the basement. It’s working OK so far. Using water instead of alcohol for dilution gives you more time to work with the color before it dries.
You see purple, blue, red, orange, amber, and the bare wood here. The first application soaked in and appeared too pale for my liking. After it dried, I wiped on a second coat and got the result in the photo. More coats can build up more color, or you can mix an even more concentrated solution if you want. I’ve used all these colors on my guitars, and these samples do a great job of showing you what to expect.
Pine tends to appear blotchy if you don’t spread the dye quickly. I like foam brushes for the job. With a little practice you’ll soak up enough dye to work with, and you can lay it on fast. The figure in the maple does what it wants, in a different way. I hadn’t dyed maple before, so was a little surprised by how it took the dye. I imagine that with practice you can “read” the figure and anticipate the result. I was having fun shooting in the dark here!
Alder, being naturally a very light brown, will still be browner (warmer) when dyed. And there’s a lot of color variety in different pieces of pine, which will also affect the result. I’m about to use the amber dye on a swamp ash Strat body, and expect the result will look pretty much like what you see here. For a really vivid example of how unpredictably the dye can interact with the wood and the Tru-Oil, check out my previous post on the blue humbucker Esquire. I love how it turned out, but it was a real surprise to me. Love those happy accidents.
My next step will be to divide the color blocks in half (they’re about 5″ by 4″) and apply 3 or 4 coats of Tru-Oil to one side, so that I can show you and my builders what it does to both the color and the appearance of the grain (the famous T-O “pop”). Stay tuned!