Thursday, 26 February 2015

Ash Stratocaster: Acrylic Ink for Colour?

Getting blue wood stain to look nice is a veritable pain in the arse. Here in the man-cave I've got a bottle of the concentrated Colortone blue, and even *it* looks like crap when applied to actual wood. Readers may remember my experiment with blue Colortone on the Surf Monster Telecaster a few months back. The problem seems to be that when the natural colour of the wood and the blue dye mix, the results are dark and drab, and some wood grain just refuses to take the colour. The conclusion I've reached is that unless you are adding the dye directly to spray on lacquer, just forget going blue - you just aren't going to get the pleasing result that you are after.

The trouble is - I like blue guitars; especially those with a nice black burst. For the Ash Stratocaster build, I would dearly love to get a nice, deep blue finish. Thankfully, I may have found the answer in the form of Acrylic Ink. Stan Burt on the Build Your Own Guitar Forum recently experimented with purple acrylic ink for his Les Paul build, and the results were quite startling. While the pigment didn't soak in as much as with traditional wood dyes, the resulting finish was vibrant and looked amazing. So here, maybe was the answer to the blue finish conundrum.

With this in mind, I headed to my local art supplier and sourced some acrylic ink - in Cerulian (light) Blue, Turquoise (dark) Blue and Black in the hopes of creating a nice blue/black burst for the Stratocaster.

Three shades of Liquitex Acrylic Ink to attempt a blue burst.
For my first attempt at a burst, I mixed the ink 50/50 with water (so that it didn't dry too quickly) and set to work with some cotton cloths attempting to create a burst on a piece of scrap pine. The results were pretty good. Despite the pigment somewhat hiding the wood grain, the colours were vibrant and the inks mixed well.

First pass of ink (diluted 50%) and attempted burst.
Once the first pass was dry, I made a second pass using the same 50/50 mix. The result is much better, with the colours filling out, and merging nicely to form the burst. The grain is certainly being occluded a little by the pigment, but for the Ash Stratocaster I plan to fill the grain with a dark Tibermate (probably ebony) so that it should stand out nicely under the blue.

Second ink pass (still diluted). Colour is deeper and much more even.
To be honest, I'm very pleased with the results I've managed to achieve. The burst could do with more black but it's getting there. Maybe one more pass will be enough. I'm also interested in trying a burst without adding water to the ink. If I work quickly on pre-moistened wood ,there should be enough liquid to allow the colours to blend together. I'll keep you posted how my experiments are proceeding!