how to fake some ebony..

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by TimSt.L, Mar 23, 2012.

  1. TimSt.L

    TimSt.L Member

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    I really like the dark look of ebony fretboards. I have two guitars that i really like but they have rosewood fretboards. I think they would look really nice with a darker board.
    What would be a good way to darken up the rosewood to make it look more like ebony? Should I use a certain kind of stain maybe? Any suggestions would be great.
     
  2. brianr0131

    brianr0131 Member

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  3. TimSt.L

    TimSt.L Member

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    thanks man. It just kinda popped in my head, I guess I should have checked first... much appreciated.
     
  4. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    like i posted in the other thread, dyed rosewood is what comes on estebans and other cheap guitars; ick.
     
  5. Rockledge

    Rockledge Member

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    I like ebony because of the way it feels and sounds. It does make some guitars look nicer.
     
  6. John Coloccia

    John Coloccia Cold Supporting Member

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    Leather dye is sort of a traditional way of turning woods black. It will make an incredible mess if you're not careful, and only a large mess if you are careful. I need to use it sometimes on cheap imports with imitation ebony bridges...when you sand down the bridge, it starts turning brown and needs to be re-dyed.

    It's such a cheap look, though. I would suggest just oiling it. It will darken it more than it is, and that might be enough.
     
  7. TimSt.L

    TimSt.L Member

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    it's really that bad huh? Is it super thin or something?

    And if I oil it with really dark oil, and it's not as dark as Im looking for, could I apply it again to make it darker, or is it pretty much done after the first application?
    I want to compare my ebony fretboard right next to my rosewoods and see the subtle differences in texture and whatnot before having a go at this. But the oil seems like a good place to start if it can go dark enough.
    Thanks for the help. I'll post some pictures once I get going.
     
  8. John Coloccia

    John Coloccia Cold Supporting Member

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    Oh, it's certainly thin. That's a property of a dye, as opposed to a stain. The dye soaks into whatever you apply it to whereas a stain does so far less. The technical distinction is that the colorant of a dye is in solution with the carrier, whereas the colorant of a stain is merely in suspension, and the particles tend to be larger as well.

    Blah blah blah.....

    The look is cheap because everyone can immediately tell it's not ebony due to the large open pores of the Rosewood. I can tell from across the room that it's been dyed and it makes be think that it is an exceptionally poor piece of rosewood to require dye in order to sell it!

    Anyhow, for oil I'm thinking just a plain fingerboard oil from StewMac. It won't turn anything black. It will tend to darken it, though. Applying it twice will not make it darker. When you apply it, it won't harm anything. If you still want to dye it afterwards, just clean up the fingerboard with naphtha until you stop dragging the oil out. Then dye....be sure to get off all the excess. The next day, buff it out well with a soft cloth to be sure that none is coming off on the rag, and then apply fingerboard oil again, let it sit for a bit, and buff it up with a soft rag.

    edit: BTW, if you want to get an idea of what it will look like with oil, take some naphtha on a rag and apply it to the fingerboard. Oil on the board will look quite similar as far as color is concerned.
     
  9. Keyser Soze

    Keyser Soze Member

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    I agree that darkened unfinished rosewood will never look quite like ebony (grain filled and finished is another story) but if you are dead set on making it dark you might consider ebonizing it.

    The staining process causes a chemical reaction in the wood - making it much darker. It is permanent, and the effect goes as deep as the solution penetrates. Being water based it also does not make a mess and will not discolor finished parts of the guitar.

    http://www.woodcraft.com/Articles/Articles.aspx?articleid=611

    The funny thing is that I use this process on oak, followed by red pigment stain to create a look similar to old rosewood...
     
  10. Sweetfinger

    Sweetfinger Silver Supporting Member

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    "ebonized" fingerboard. kind of like "mechanically separated meat".
    Actually, some makers dye real ebony for a darker and more uniform color.
    I may have used a big Sharpie marker for quick, cheap "ebonizing".
     
  11. TimSt.L

    TimSt.L Member

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    Haha. Are you serious? That would be a pretty cheap way to go a out it.
    Man, why did u tell me that?...

    So do they make a pore filler that is easily found at big box stores?
     
  12. MikeVB

    MikeVB Supporting Member

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    There's very little at a big box store aside from rags and some sandpaper you'd ever want to put on any musical instrument.
     
  13. Guitarworks

    Guitarworks Member

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    I use this to make my ebony boards uniformly black:

    [​IMG]

    I've heard it said that after you let it dry, it still blackens your fingers when you play, but I've never had it happen to me.
     
  14. jimshine

    jimshine Member

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    I did a neck for a guy with this stuff. He ended up not wanting it any more and I bought it. It turns my fingers black after a few minutes play time. I applied it super thin too. Not enough to make it look like ebony, more like Brazilian rosewood.
     
  15. Buddy Boy

    Buddy Boy Member

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  16. John Coloccia

    John Coloccia Cold Supporting Member

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    Really buff out the fingerboard with a soft cloth, and then apply some fingerboard oil, and really rub it in there. This was suggested to me, and it seems to work to keep hands from turning black.
     
  17. Sensible Musician

    Sensible Musician Member

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    Wow so much lulz in a thread about such a simple question.

    My advice is to learn finishing for yourself. Check out this book: Understanding Wood Finishing.

    Next advice is practice on scrap. If you have never built a guitar now you have an excuse.

    Finally, check out some more specialized forums:
    http://www.reranch.com/reranch
    http://www.mimf.com

    I think literally every luthierie supply place sells ebony dye if you don't want to mess with other stuff. This is generally used to dye ebony to a uniform black; and as others have told you, dying rosewood black won't look anything like black ebony. But if you want black rosewood, go for it.
     
  18. John Coloccia

    John Coloccia Cold Supporting Member

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    http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Finishi...k_Fingerboard_Stain.html?tab=Pictures#details

    Black leather dye is the traditional modern way of doing this. I suggest buying dye local and staying away from environmentally friendly versions if possible. The MSDS on the the non-environmentally friendly dye lists alcohol and glycol ether making up at least 40% of the mixture, with water very low.

    The friendly version (i.e. the California version) has very little alcohol and some proprietary mixture of chemicals, which for all I know could be mostly water. You may find it raises the grain....you may find that it doesn't. I don't know. I know the original version will not.
     
  19. TimSt.L

    TimSt.L Member

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    I have decided to go with a very dark oil. I don't want my fretboard to end up looking like a cheap dye job.
    has anyone ever used wood filler on rosewood to make it look more like an ebony before a dying process?
    If the oiling is not dark enough, I might try wood filler and leather dye.
    If someone has done this, what wood filler would you recommend for this specific process?
     
  20. Quarter

    Quarter Member

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    While technically it could be done, I think that the time and cost to do a reasonably decent job would be a poor investment ... and in the end, will still not be ebony.
    If ebony is what you truly want, consider having a pro change out the board or get a new guitar that has all that you want.
     

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