Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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Matching Yellowed Lacquer for Guitar Finish Repair

Finish repairs require patience.  This is the number one rule.

I'm not big on patience, although I've gotten much better over the years.  This is a case in point.  I'd rather get this right than wind up with an awful looking spot on the front of this guitar.

I wasn't happy with the color match I just did.  So I went back for another attempt.  You may recall I said that lacquer is forgiving.  It is.  I just gently sanded the spot again, and got the mismatched color off.

It occurred to me that I was trying to use a base of 'vintage amber' color as my toner.  When I brushed it on, it wound up being too dark and too obvious that it was a touchup.  The seam between the old finish and the new was way too obvious.

However, if you think about it, how did the color on the top of the guitar come to be this shade?

It was originally clear lacquer applied over spruce, right?  And the bindings as well.  Now, we know that the bindings were white - they still are where they didn't get sprayed with finish, or where the finish has chipped off.  That's the clue.

The clear lacquer has yellowed.  I need something that just emulates the yellowing of the original clear lacquer.

What I did, then is went back to the drawing board (or jar of lacquer as it were), and mixed up some slightly off-yellow toner.  I just took a piece of new white binding, mixed some toner, and brushed some toner on the binding until it was the right shade.

Here's the final color.  It's a few drops of lemon yellow, a drop or two of medium brown, and I think a drop of orange tint.

It's a perfect match when held against the yellowed original toner.

Now I'll use the new yellow toner and build up a couple coats on the spot that needs to be refinished.  (The picture is after only one thin coat).  After a couple coats, when the color looks consistent, I'll hit it with a few coats of clear lacquer to seal it.

Then I can sand and rub out the whole thing.


Another spot I want to touch up is right in front of the bridge.  It was reglued, I think, and there is a bare spot I want to touch up.  You can see the bare spruce on the left in front of the bridge here.  This will be another application of toner, then clear lacquer.

What was it I was doing to this guitar?  Oh, right, resetting the neck.

One leap forward, two leaps back.


Post a Comment 4 comments:

  • February 2, 2016 at 4:22 PM
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  • February 2, 2016 at 4:22 PM
    Would there be any difference with bare/unfinished binding? I am refinshing the entire guitar with French Polish. There is a black spot or 2 in the binding I want to color. Would you recommend this type of lacquer or something else? Anything alcohol based I suspect might dissolve with the shellac finish. Thanks for any input you can give me.
  • Yr Fthfl Blggr said...
    February 2, 2016 at 8:11 PM
    Thanks for your question.

    Yes, this would work well on binding if you are looking for an 'aged' finish. I've done it on binding and it comes out well. Don't overdo the color - just a tint of amber/yellow will work fine.

    Try looking for pictures of vintage guitars with yellowed binding for ideas on color.

    You had two identical comments here, so I deleted one. Just FYI.
  • Anonymous said...
    December 5, 2016 at 9:47 AM
    This is a great idea, I have a large spot on my '63 Gibson J50 (was my dad's), where the pickguard came off and brought a bunch of lacquer with it. I also tried the vintage amber route and came up the same, too dark. I didn't know what to do. Can you possibly update this post with a before/after photo comparison of the area you repaired? I know this is a VERY old post but hopefully by now the job is finished ;)

    -Paul, New Orleans

    Ps. glad I found this BlogSpot, looks awesome. Going to check out the rest!

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