Jay Scott Guitar

Private guitar and bass lessons, jam camps, guitar building and repairs in West Chester, PA

The Alder Tele (Now Esquire), Going Dark

I decided to stain this one. Several reasons: I’ve never done it, the alder grain is nice but a bit plain, and there’s a tiny bit of router tearout on the body edges that has to be filled. The grain filling ruled out a lighter stain color (the filler will show), so we’re going with black, a white 3-ply Esquire pickguard (NOT vintage correct), and a single volume control. The pickup will be the Seymour Duncan BG1400, and I’m trying out Wilkinson’s version of a vintage Tele bridge with compensated brass saddles. Neck to be determined, but the frontrunner is a maple Strat neck.

I used Timber Mate for the filling, and it’s easy to use. An old credit card is a great applicator/scraper. It’s water-based, so it can be thinned to any consistency, and it dries fast. I used it straight from the container, and didn’t worry about the color match (they make a zillion colors), since I planned to cover it with the black dye. A light sanding, and I was ready to move on.

The question was, what stain to use? A long internet search turned up the tidbit that guitar makers have long used leather dye to make ebony fingerboards a more uniform black. I know the dyeing part is true, but hadn’t heard the part about using leather dye, so I ordered up a bottle of Fiebing’s from Amazon. It’s alcohol based and is said to penetrate like crazy, so it seemed worth a shot.

The photos show the body after two coats of dye. I dabbed it on with their applicator, and removed the excess with a dry foam brush. Very easy, but messy. Gloves and old clothes are a great idea when you do this. It dries quickly, so I applied the second coat about two hours after the first. It stained very evenly, something my internet search had warned me is often a problem when working with alder. The grain still shows, which I like.

You can see in the photos something the Fiebing’s folks call “bronzing” in the color. The wet dye was very black, and the bronzing appeared as it dried. It’s sort of cool, but not exactly what I was hoping for. They say that a coat of neutral polish will fix it when working with leather. Since my intention is to follow the dye coats with several coats of Tru-Oil, I’m pretty sure I’ll wind up with a deeper, wetter-looking black, which is what I want.

The first Tru-Oil coat is drying as I write this. So far I’m really happy. I’m keeping the finish very thin (better sound that way), and I think it will look great!