Best approach to stripping off poly clear coat of CE24 and other questions

dwrockdoctor

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Sep 30, 2018
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A little update on this finish saga. I shelved it for the longest time due to lack of experience. I started getting under the polyester basecoat with a really sharp razorblade and chipping it away painstakingly one little bit at a time. Got as far as the bridge pickup area from the horns but it took forever and I shelved it. Got a second wind at this last week about three years after the fact and after about two years of building my own guitars so had much better confidence with a random orbital sander with 400 grit paper and got the rest of the basecoat off with that which leaves me at this point...

IMG-3387.jpg


Still have a ways to go to completely get rid of the remaining red stain. I originally wanted this one piece top in vintage yellow but I'm not sure how I feel trying to get it down far enough to get rid of the leftover stain. I still want to at least get rid of whats in the control cutouts and some more from inside the horns and a few of the patches around the body. Obviously can't do vintage yellow until all remaining red is gone.

Question to the masses that might know, if I don't fully get rid of the red that remains, what colour could I go to from here, would tortoiseshell work? Any other colour suggestions that can go from this leftover red stain would be welcome too!
 

Alnus Rubra

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A little update on this finish saga. I shelved it for the longest time due to lack of experience. I started getting under the polyester basecoat with a really sharp razorblade and chipping it away painstakingly one little bit at a time. Got as far as the bridge pickup area from the horns but it took forever and I shelved it. Got a second wind at this last week about three years after the fact and after about two years of building my own guitars so had much better confidence with a random orbital sander with 400 grit paper and got the rest of the basecoat off with that which leaves me at this point...

IMG-3387.jpg


Still have a ways to go to completely get rid of the remaining red stain. I originally wanted this one piece top in vintage yellow but I'm not sure how I feel trying to get it down far enough to get rid of the leftover stain. I still want to at least get rid of whats in the control cutouts and some more from inside the horns and a few of the patches around the body. Obviously can't do vintage yellow until all remaining red is gone.

Question to the masses that might know, if I don't fully get rid of the red that remains, what colour could I go to from here, would tortoiseshell work? Any other colour suggestions that can go from this leftover red stain would be welcome too!

Really nice work. You’re a braver man than I.

I would suggest darker finishes, with Earth tones may work best or a Purple burst ☔

If @[email protected] has any advice of what colour direction the guys at the PTC would take a guitar that was originally Black Cherry I'm all ears also :)

Shawn’s not here any more :(
 

docteurseb

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Feb 24, 2018
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If @[email protected] has any advice of what colour direction the guys at the PTC would take a guitar that was originally Black Cherry I'm all ears also :)

The red is here to stay.
PRS stains tops very heavily for some colors and it's next to impossible to get rid of all the stain unless you remove a lot of thickness (several mm especially around those horns).
You've already done a fantastic job removing the color but Vintage Yellow is unlikely to be a realistic choice.

You'll likely need a multi-layer finish where the base color is red-ish, or a dark color that can either overcome it or blend well with it (black, dark blue, etc...). Then sandback, and finally apply a lighter color:
- orange/yellow tiger: black, sand back, orange/amber (the heavier the black the more contrast you'll get).
- violet/blue: would be a pink/red base, sand back, and then light blue/turquoise. Your first red/pink layer will then become violet/purple.

A single color compatible with the dark red would work too like red/orange.
Even a dark blue would combine well with the red to give a contrasting dark purple/blue whereever there is any residual Red stain left.
You can then pull some of the dye out with alcohol/water without sand back, and do another pass with a lighter color. Pulling out dye this way works to brighten things up a bit but is obviously not as effective as sanding back.

A Dragon's Breath pattern, or even Glow, would be particularly good on this one because the areas with the most red are where you'll have a dark red anyways. While it seems difficult to do, it really isn't as long as you first practice doing a linear dark red/orange/yellow gradient on a small pieces of maple.
PM me for tutorials if needed.
 
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Bookface

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A little late here but if it's any use for the future, a heat gun will basically lift a poly finish right off the wood.
 

dwrockdoctor

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Sep 30, 2018
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94
The red is here to stay.
PRS stains tops very heavily for some colors and it's next to impossible to get rid of all the stain unless you remove a lot of thickness (several mm especially around those horns).
You've already done a fantastic job removing the color but Vintage Yellow is unlikely to be a realistic choice.

You'll likely need a multi-layer finish where the base color is red-ish, or a dark color that can either overcome it or blend well with it (black, dark blue, etc...). Then sandback, and finally apply a lighter color:
- orange/yellow tiger: black, sand back, orange/amber (the heavier the black the more contrast you'll get).
- violet/blue: would be a pink/red base, sand back, and then light blue/turquoise. Your first red/pink layer will then become violet/purple.

A single color compatible with the dark red would work too like red/orange.
Even a dark blue would combine well with the red to give a contrasting dark purple/blue whereever there is any residual Red stain left.
You can then pull some of the dye out with alcohol/water without sand back, and do another pass with a lighter color. Pulling out dye this way works to brighten things up a bit but is obviously not as effective as sanding back.

A Dragon's Breath pattern, or even Glow, would be particularly good on this one because the areas with the most red are where you'll have a dark red anyways. While it seems difficult to do, it really isn't as long as you first practice doing a linear dark red/orange/yellow gradient on a small pieces of maple.
PM me for tutorials if needed.

Excellent reply, thank you so much for the detail.

Was thinking probably a single colour. PRS Tortoiseshell seems like a fairly logical extension to go from the original Black Cherry finish, would this be doable? Is tortoiseshell done with a more brown/orange base colour?

That or something more brownish/orangeish looking. Also had the idea of some kind of hand rubbed burst but that might be too ambitious.

I have a Keda dye 5 pack on it's way, I think it has black, brown, red, yellow and blue. Also have some flame maple veneer scrap to practice on too.
 

docteurseb

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Excellent reply, thank you so much for the detail.

Was thinking probably a single colour. PRS Tortoiseshell seems like a fairly logical extension to go from the original Black Cherry finish, would this be doable? Is tortoiseshell done with a more brown/orange base colour?

That or something more brownish/orangeish looking. Also had the idea of some kind of hand rubbed burst but that might be too ambitious.

I have a Keda dye 5 pack on it's way, I think it has black, brown, red, yellow and blue. Also have some flame maple veneer scrap to practice on too.

Tortoise Shell should definitely work on your top. Looking at this one:
https://forums.prsguitars.com/threa...ame-top-in-custom-color-tortoise-shell.27424/

The contrast between the soft (dark) and hard (bright) figuring make me suspect it's done with two layers and sand back in-between.
1st would be a dark brown/orange or black base, sandback, and then a brighter orange/brown layer.
Same principle as how I did orange tiger for my PG:
Keep in mind Keda liquid dyes are much more concentrated than TransTint, you'll need a lot less drops to achieve the same color intensity.

You'll have to mix red, yellow amber, and brown to get the brighter color of tortoise shell.
I'd start with getting a vivid orange with the yellow and red, then add a drop of brown. Dilute if it's too dark after adding the brown.

Once you have that, you can get the 1st layer mix the same way but darkening it with black, or just using a diluted black dye. Took me a fair bit of time to do the above orange tiger parts with the contrast and color intensity to match the top, practicing on spare parts/wood was key.

You could achieve a burst/glow by either:
- not sanding back completely the initial layer towards the edges and feathering the transition. That way once you apply the 2nd stain you will get a nice transition. That could be hard to get right with sandpaper on a carved violin carve.
- the easier way is 1st dark base layer, sand-back, and use the dark base color again towards the edges and feathering it with the bright color towards the center. You may want to do an intermediate mix of the two colors for a smoother transition.
Same principle as the linear gradient here:
You can see my other videos for doing a dragon breath on a body.
 
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dwrockdoctor

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Sep 30, 2018
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Tortoise Shell should definitely work on your top. Looking at this one:
https://forums.prsguitars.com/threa...ame-top-in-custom-color-tortoise-shell.27424/

The contrast between the soft (dark) and hard (bright) figuring make me suspect it's done with two layers and sand back in-between.
1st would be a dark brown/orange or black base, sandback, and then a brighter orange/brown layer.
Same principle as how I did orange tiger for my PG:
Keep in mind Keda liquid dyes are much more concentrated than TransTint, you'll need a lot less drops to achieve the same color intensity.

You'll have to mix red, yellow amber, and brown to get the brighter color of tortoise shell.
I'd start with getting a vivid orange with the yellow and red, then add a drop of brown. Dilute if it's too dark after adding the brown.

Once you have that, you can get the 1st layer mix the same way but darkening it with black, or just using a diluted black dye. Took me a fair bit of time to do the above orange tiger parts with the contrast and color intensity to match the top, practicing on spare parts/wood was key.

You could achieve a burst/glow by either:
- not sanding back completely the initial layer towards the edges and feathering the transition. That way once you apply the 2nd stain you will get a nice transition. That could be hard to get right with sandpaper on a carved violin carve.
- the easier way is 1st dark base layer, sand-back, and use the dark base color again towards the edges and feathering it with the bright color towards the center. You may want to do an intermediate mix of the two colors for a smoother transition.
Same principle as the linear gradient here:
You can see my other videos for doing a dragon breath on a body.

Awesome videos docteurseb, very detailed! Jedi level staining skills you have!

Is the wipe back with alcohol after applying the first dark layer literally just wiping back with alcohol directly after applying the stain?

Probably the thing I'm most apprehensive of with a multiple layer stain is the initial sand back on the violin carve after the first dark layer and making sure I get it evenly sanded. Easy on a flat practice surface but a little trickier on a carve top I'd imagine. Scared I'll end up with a tonne of black/dark stain I can't fully get out or uneven spread and I'll have trouble screwing it up and being stuck with botched top. Do I just use 220 grit by hand for that?

Maybe a dark brown base stain is a safer option. Gotta remember how that'll blend with the remaining red I couldn't get out though. I guess that's why black would be a better guarantee to cover that up.

Actually quite like the orange tiger. Kind of reminds me of a more pronounced tortoiseshell. Toss up between those two for me at this point. I did want something not too flashy and classic but I've got to work with what I have also.

Thanks so much for the help, I'm excited to see what the outcome is going to be. Hope these dyes make it from the US to Australia quickly!
 

docteurseb

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I only did a sandback once on a Soloist body, easy enough to do with the orbital sander as it's mostly flat. See one of the most recent videos I have of the violet/pink staining.
Can't really help; I too would be hesitant trying that on a carved top body.
For small parts I generally use 180 to 220 grit sandpaper sanding by hand or with a small flat block.
 
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dwrockdoctor

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Sep 30, 2018
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Cool, I'll experiment on scraps with pulling out some of the dye first with alcohol before I commit to sanding. Probably best to dye on some red to the scrap first then sand back so it resembles my guitar top closely too before I proceed so I avoid any unexpected surprises on the real thing.
 

InTooDeep

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Thanks for sharing your journey in this, its been pretty cool to read all the info here!
 

dwrockdoctor

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Thanks for sharing your journey in this, its been pretty cool to read all the info here!

It certainly has been a journey with this guitar. It's been played to death and beat to hell during a solid five year touring stint with my old band. It's been left by my band mates in a hot humid van trailer when I had to leave it with them to fly home for work after a van breakdown on tour, which consequently resulted in a slight warp in the neck (and the body also shows a little cupping too). After all this only for me to sell it then somehow buy it back another five years down the track. Still my best sounding guitar I've ever owned. Acoustically it's got a super even response from the lowest strings up to the highest notes. Still plays great too. Needs a fret job for sure at this point too.

Once I've figured out the stain I'll probably just give it a nice tru-oil or wipe on poly in a finish in satin. I'll make sure I update with photos as I go along
 

dwrockdoctor

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First step of staining done:

IMG-3608.jpg


Sand back after this and then add an amber/orange stain layer to achieve the equivalent of this test scrap I did:

IMG-3602.jpg


Should get me something like a yellow-orange tiger style finish.

Probably finish with a coat of wipe on poly (can't decide on gloss or satin at this point).
 

dwrockdoctor

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Sep 30, 2018
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IMG-3629.jpg


Second stain layer done. Orange Tiger, almost bronze in certain lights. Sanding off the first dark brown layer evenly was tricky, the perfectionist in me wants to sand off and redo but over all I'm pretty happy. This photo is the guitar after stain has dried so should pop more with a clear coat put on.

I'm leaning towards a wipe on poly, I feel like my usual tru oil finishes I do will darken up the colour too much.

One final question remains, satin or gloss wipe on poly?
 
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