Saturday, 30 April 2016

Flamed Starcaster: Dying the Burst

I have found myself with a little time away from work this week, and therefore with some time for the Starcaster build - sanding the body and getting some Colortone dye onto this beast. With these semi-hollow kits there's usually precious little sanding required for the body. Unfortunately this kit was a second that I picked up in last years Pitbull Guitars birthday sale and with it came some pretty gnarly problem areas on the top veneer and the sides.

The top veneer has some very deep scratches at the bottom of the guitar, something that I can't do anything at all about. They are so deep that I suspect any attempt to sand them out would remove the veneer altogether. I could have done a solid paint job to hide them, but that flame maple veneer is just too damn beautiful to hide, even with the scratches. There were also a few very large glue marks around the edge near the binding, but a couple of applcations of Goof-Off put pay to them.

To test whether I had properly removed the glue, I applied a weak dye solution (Lemon Yellow) to the entire front and back to make sure it was taking colour. Thankfully no remaining glue spots were evident.

Weak Colortone Lemon Yellow shows no glue spots.
On the sides, there are two large areas where the factory has needed to extend the side veneer piece to fit around the entire circumference. Pretty shoddy craftsmanship all told, but that's why it was a second! I sanded the sides with 240 and 320 to try to get rid of as much of the joins in these extensions as I could, and then filled all the remaining grain and join marks with a slurry of Timbermate. After sanding back with 400 grit the surface felt nice and smooth but didn't look any better. In my eagerness to continue with the burst I didn't do a dye test on the sides, something I would rue later on down the track. Naughty, naughty!

I let the body dry over night, wiped it all over with water a final time to remove any remaining dust from the Tmbermate, and got on with creating a burst using Colortone dyes. I actually used 5 colours this time to try to achieve a burst that gradually becomes much darker on the sides than my normal "Honey Burst". I started with Lemon Yellow all over (applied a second time) and then a little further out with a feathered ring of Vintage Amber. This was followed by a further feathered ring of Red Mahogany, and yet again by Tobacco Brown. To darken up the edge even further I got out the Colortone Black and kept applying colour to the edge, all the while blending each transition back towards the centre with the other colours.

All in all I'm pretty stoked with the result, although the aforementioned scratches are standing out vividly down towards the bottom of the body.

5 Colour Burst from Lemon Yellow to Black (sort of)
Unfortunately, when I hit the sides with a combination of Tobacco Brown and Black, my haste in preparation became immediately apparent. In addition to the sections where the wood has been joined (the glue here was never going to adequately take stain) there magically appeared several nasty glue spots around the binding.

Letting the dyed body dry completely overnight, I resolved to fix-in the colour on the front and back of the guitar before trying to fix the glue spots on the sides. I had always planned on giving the dyed guitar several coats of Tru-Oil to really pop the flame and to deepen the chatoyance in the final finish. And so, on to the body went a first soak coat of Tru-Oil and boy did the colour of the dye and the chatoyance in the maple pop. Magic!

First soak coat of Tru-Oil starts to add uber-chatoyance.
The next day I applied a second soak coat of oil to both sides and again hung it to dry. With each coat the grain is looking better and better, but the scratches are looking more and more prominent. Oh well, we can't have everything right? You can easily see the scratches in the front veneer in the photo below.

Second coat of Tru-Oil is on and soaking in.
After a third coat of Tru-Oil, I was satisfied that the dye job was protected enough to be able to tackle the glue spots on the sides of the body. It called for some more Goof-Off and a bit of a roughing up with the wire brushes; slowly working dye into the wood where it once resisted.


You can see what I was up against! In the end I got something I ws happy with, although those join lines really couldn't be hidden - no way they were going take any colour even with the wire brush treatment. Oh well, some Tru-Oil on the sides and thne it will be time for some Acrylic clear coats!