Guitar Gallery

Main Menu

Gibson Cherry Red


The guitar when received was eminately playable and relatively unabused. The undamaged areas were in excellent condition. The neck was straight and the frets unworn.... Along the back of the neck there were no dings. The binding was in good shape and the body showed no dents or scratches. The hardware was originally gold and was worn and pitted to the point that it was decided that replating would be in the best interest of the instrument. Sound good so far?

At some point in the guitar's past it was intentionally scared. From the story that the damage tells, it appears that someone threw a very strong and fast acting chemical on the guitar. The chemical was thrown onto the upper bout and judging from the flow it was thrown on the instrument while it was being played! The initial contact was on the upper cutaway and the "runs" of wet chemical flowed down for about 2".The flow then makes a right angle and drips down the front of the guitar. It appears that the guitar was splashed while in the playing position and that the player then took off the guitar and set it down to deal with the immediate problem. The chemical also ate away finish on the top cutaway side and damaged a spot on the back. On the front the finish appears to have immediately melted all the way to the wood. The back and side finish was dented but not completely melted to the wood. Klean-Strip manufactures a stripper ominously called "AirCraft Remover". It is one of the most devilish strippers available but cannot come close to damage this chemical caused so quickly.

The first area that was repaired was the back. The back was not as badly damaged as the front and it appeared that enough color remained in the wood to color the final finish. Before any lacquer was sprayed, the area was sprayed lightly with reducer only. Remember that we are dealing with a 30+ year old finish. Spraying lacquer directly over the old finish could cause it to crinkle and lift. Should this happen do not panic. Go away!. Let the finish dry overnight. As the lacquer dries it will partially correct itself.After drying, lightly over spray with a highly reduced lacquer solution ( 6 parts reducer to 1 part lacquer). The keywords are "lightly spray". If the finish does not relift ( and it should not if the spraying was not too heavy), then after drying additional coats may be lightly sprayed to build up the finish. After again drying overnight, the built up area can be carefully wet sanded. The process may need to be repeated to reach the original finish condition.

Continuing with the back repair, the 6:1 clear lacquer solution was sprayed over the softened finish.. After drying the color was not quite as red or as dark as the original finish. The option of stripping the area back to the original condition would have caused a slightly larger and lighter area of damage to repair. So rather than restripping, a tinted lacquer spray was used. One spray pass of a solution of 1/4 teaspoon of GRREDL in 8oz. of the 6:1 reducer/clear lacquer mixture was made and left to dry. After another pass with clear 6:1 and left to dry, the color difference between the original and repaired area was undetectable under any light (sunlight included). The repaired color was then sprayed with three passes of 2 parts reducer and 1 part clear lacquer. After drying, three more passes followed by drying time and then three more passes. The almost finished repair was then allowed to dry for four days before final finishing and polishing.

The repair attention then was turned to the damaged top. The finish on the upper cutaway had been damaged to the point that bare wood was exposed. There was some original color that appeared to have seen sprayed or wiped directly on the bare wood during original finishing. The remaining dye tinted the wood pink rather than the original vibrant red. Recoloring would have to be done before any lacquer could be applied.

With recoloring the wood inevitable, the original dye was tested to determine its' solubility. One simple wipe with a damp towel stained the towel proving the dye was water based. As discussed in the Reranch section the refinish boundaries needed to be determined. The top of the Es345 is bookmarked maple. Book marking by its nature will have a grain reversal at the book mark joint. (Imagine that your hands in a praying position have grain lines running laterally across the sides of the fingers. Now open your hands as if opening a book and observe the directions of each hands "grain lines" now.) The difference in the grain direction will give a subtle color shift on either side of the book mark joint. Because of the natural color difference, the book mark line was chosen as the lower boundary. The top binding was to be the upper boundary giving a refinish area of one half of the guitars top.

The top was then stripped to the upper and lower boundaries. Tape was used not only to protect the bindings but also tape was run just to the upper side of the bookmark line. By not running the tape exactly on the book mark line, a margin of error was obtained. After bulk stripping the top the tape would be removed and a new tape line would be added for the precision stripping to the book mark line. The top was then stripped successfully to the plan.(Before stripping be sure to read the more detailed stripping section in Reranch.) During the stripping process it was determined that along with the water based dye applied directly to the bare wood, red tinted lacquer coats were also sprayed to more deeply redden the finish. This seems to ratify the tinted overspraying needed during the back repair.

The application of the dye is now ready to begin. Water based dyes were tested on the bare wood. None of the dyes matched the original finish to an acceptable degree. Alcohol and lacquer solvent based dyes were also tested with less than favorable results. Two observations of alcohol vs. lacquer solvents should be noted. The dyes tested seemed to more quickly and completely dissolved in the lacquer solvent than was seen with alcohol. Another observation that applies to both solubilitys, is that dye color cannot be truly determined without a clear lacquer overspray. And subtle changes can only be determined after the lacquer has dried.

Literally, more than two months were spent in staining, spray tinting, drying, stripping (wood bleaching sure to cause controversy) and repeating with different combinations. More than 30 dye combinations were tried. As a reward for your patience, here is the method that produced the "Match"

From the experience gained from the testing, the coloring that best matches the original Gibson cherry red finish is applied as follows.

The dyes are applied in two methods. The water based red dye, Guitar Ranch # GRREDW, is first applied to the wood. As noted in the Area Repair of Reranch, the dye is wiped onto the premoistened wood. The dye was mixed in a ratio of 1/4 teaspoon to 8oz. of water. Three wipe passes were made with time between each pass to allow the wood to absorb the solution. Standing solution on the surface could cause blotching. Wiping with the red water based dye did not appear to be "pass critical". The wood seems to absorb the dye less with each pass making it somewhat difficult to over color. (But don't try to disprove the theory).

Let the finish dry. If there is any moisture left in the wood the first lacquer pass will bead. After drying a light sanding pass with #320 dry grit can be made. If the grain has not risen during the dye application, it is best not to sand at all.

Next spray two sealer coats. The sealer used on the Es345 was a diluted lacquer/reducer solution. The ratio was 6 parts reducer to 1 part lacquer. After drying to touch, spray one coat of clear reduced in the normal reduction of 1 part reducer to 1 part lacquer. Let dry over night then wet sand starting with #400 and working up to #800 grade. Sand under a good light so that any spots that show "dulling" can be immediately seen. Dulling indicates you are about to sand through to the base color coat. If you do sand through, you can recolor the area by using successive wipes of a diluted dye solution. Cutting the original mixture by 1/2 should be about right. Wipe the area and let it dry until the proper depth of color is reached.

With the base applied, sealed, and wet sanded the tint coats can be applied. As noted in repairing the back, the tinting coats are necessary to redden the red. Spraying tint coats over a base color applied directly to the wood rather than to a finish also deepens the finish. It gives a three dimensional aspect to the finish. The tinting dye is Guitar Ranch GRREDL Mixed 1/4 teaspoon to 8oz. reducer. This solution is then mixed 1 :1 with the 1part reducer to 1part lacquer. This effectively reduces the dye to 25% in solution.

For a particular application, allow the first pass to dry at least three hours and overspray with the 6:1 lacquer solution. In a bright light (sunlight is best, fluorescence is worse) look at the resulting color . If it is acceptable you are ready for the final clear coats. If the color is not acceptable spray another pass and over spray with the 6:1 solution. The Es345 that was used to develop the color required three passes to reach the proper "redness". DO NOT assume that you can bring the color up to the proper level all in one step. Red is balanced on a razor edge. It is not only easy but likely that without caution the finish will become too red. In that event, resign yourself to either accepting the resulting redness or take the Finish back to the base color and start again.

With the color applied you are now ready to return to Reranch for the clear coats. Good Luck.

Fender Custom Colors Gibson Specialty Colors Wood Dye Colors Clear Coats & Tints
Sunbursting Products Finishing Supplies ReRanch Custom Colors Privacy Policy