Staining the flamed-maple top

by Chris Bewick

The Telecastle is going to be stained dark blue with a natural maple faux binding. The technique I decided to use to achieve this is to seal the faux binding with sanding sealer before staining. In order to this I first needed to mask off the whole body except the faux binding. I bought some one inch wide blue masking tape from 3M. It was more expensive than the usual stuff but it is really strong, very shapable and it sticks much better.

Masking off faux binding.

To cover the back of he guitar I grabbed the MDF template I had used to route the body and taped it to the back of the guitar.

I then inverted the guitar and positioned if over an upturned glass bowl. This enabled me to spray downwards and toward the guitar without any fear of the sealer going on the maple top. I did about four light coats with 10 minutes gaps in between to ensure that the entire strip was completely sealed.

Masking off back and sides of body.

I then created a 50:50 mix of black waterborne wood stain and water.

Mixing the black guitar stain.

I created an stain applicator using two small pieces of j-cloth. The first I screwed up into a ball and placed in the centre of the second which I then gathered around it. I then tied a short piece of string around the bundle to help hold it together.

Preparing a j-cloth stain applicator.

I then dipped the applicator into the dye and dragged it over the body. I ensured that I always moved along the grain and overlapped each new pass with the previous to ensure a continuous even colour. Once the whole surface was wet (but not sopping) I did another pass with no additional dye on the applicator to soak up the excess and increase the uniformity of the stain.

Staining the flamed-maple top black.

The sealed edge did its job perfectly and made a really crisp line.

First glimpse of the faux binding.

Once the stain had completely dried I took it outside to sand it back. The eagle-eyed amongst you might be able to see the shape of the glass bowl I rested the guitar on whilst sealing the binding. I guess some of the aerosol must have bounced back up off the table and settled on the maple top. Luckily I was just about to remove most of the stain so this wasn’t an issue but it is certainly something that I will bear in mind when spraying in the future.

Dried, stained flamed-maple top.

Using my trusty, oversized sanding block I began to remove the black colour. There was a lot of grey dust at this point obscuring the wood so I regularly stopped and brushed away the dust with a paint brush to assess how much more colour needed removing.

Sanding block and brush.

The purpose of adding and then removing the black stain was to increase the contrast in the wood grain. Where the maple grain runs parallel to the surface of the guitar the stain was very easy to remove. Where the fibres were running at more of an angle towards or away from the surface and into the body they acted like straws and soaked the stain further into the guitar. In these areas it was very hard to sand off all the stain.

Once I got to the point where I had a a fairly even split and a high contrast between lighter natural wood and the darker stained grain I stopped.

Removing the black stain to increase contrast.

I then went back inside and mixed up some blue dye, the final colour for the guitar. From previous tests on scrap wood I knew that the blue dye was incredibly dark so I diluted the stain 1 part stain to 4 parts water. I could always apply more coats if it was too light and that would have been considerably easier than sanding all the dye off and starting again.

Mixing the blue stain.

I took one last look at the guitar and a deep breath and began applying the stain using a fresh cloth tied into a bundle as described above.

Before staining blue.

The stain ended up requiring a couple of coats to be dark enough but dried nice and evenly. Even whilst still wet it was easy to appreciate the previous steps to increase the grain contrast as shown in the photo below.

After staining blue.

Once fully dried the stain looked better than I had every imagined. A great result in my opinion!

Blue stained, flamed maple top.