Stay in Tune vol#114
By Luthier Patrick Podpadec
Well it was another successful adventure at the Riverside Inn this past week end. It was a little "dicey" on whether or not that the Music Festival was even going to be held this year. There was a little bit of confusion and things that the owners had to recover from having to retake back the business. but as true professionals that they are, they were able to pull off another year of good music. The main Lobby was filled as usual with 25- 35 fiddlers and other musicians playing all of the traditional "ole tyme" music. It was good to see that "Spoon to Soon" was able to get a good time slot on the main theater stage and they did a wonderful job entertaining the crowd. Marion Ave. made there debut at the festival this year and judging by how much fun they had I'm sure they will be returning next year. It was also very nice to see that all of the members of the Silver String band came and played most of the day and into the night. Next year maybe they'll stay the night. I set up a couple of small tables in the main breezeway and I even sold a ukelele there. I was very happy with the way everything went this year even though the event was scaled way back from previous years. It's always fun just to get together with good friends and start out the Spring season with a little music, food, drink and some good ole fashion fun.
So the work just keeps coming in. This week I'm concentrating on getting out a few mandolins that are way past due. There is actually no good reason for this, but I always procrastinate a little when I know that I have to tackle a repair that involves a lot of spraying or delicate touch-ups with lacquer or toners. I guess that is because in the past when I was experimenting with mixing colors and toners I found that it can sometimes be very daunting. You have to make the color a little darker than what your shooting for because once you add the lacquer as your "vehicle" you have diluted it down enough that it looses some of it's depth or "intensity" and you don't want to spray too many coats of lacquer to achieve a certain color. It’s best when you can achieve your desired color in just 2 or 3 short sprays with an air brush or a small toner or touch-up gun. Then you can spray 3 to 5 top coats of clear lacquer and you will have enough coverage to sand it level with consecutive grades of sandpaper (320, 400, 600, 800, 1000, then buff).
There are two different ways that you can approach a "touch-up" job. By mixing concentrated pigments with lacquers, you can have a translucent effect (you can see the grain through the finish) or an opaque (solid colors). There are universal tints that will mix with either lacquer thinner, alcohol or some other thinning agent. These can produce an infinite amount of colors by using the three primary colors , red, blue, & yellow. Of course this takes some practice along with a keen perception of color variances.
To be able to reproduce a color that you just happen to get lucky enough to finally get is difficult to do because you have to know the exact amounts of what color added with what ever other color to produce the "color" that your looking for. It isn't as easy as you may think. There are ways that you can make up "color boards" that can be extremely helpful in knowing where you could be heading (in regards to the shade of color your after). For instance you might start out with brown base then add three drops of red. you would then evaluate that color and add three more drops of red to it. each time you do this you can record your colors and add different tints to the to mix together, and then figure out all the different combinations to match up your color. By using these "color boards" it reduces a lot of the "experimental guessing game". At least you can get a feel for what you want to do. If you ever do more than a couple of touch-ups you will be glad you spent the time to make a color board (or chart if you prefer) It is time consuming , but the time that it will take to make the color chart, will far out way the time wasted by not having one. By doing this you can repeat the process so that you can mix more of the same color if you happen to run out. It also makes the whole process less confusing so that the task of "matching colors" isn't so daunting after all. The more practice that you do with color matching the better you get at it. You can acquire a "feel" for what to add to get the desired result. I usually try mixing the pigments first to get a desired color and then add some lacquer thinner to it to make it into a concentrate. I then add my lacquer which makes it into a spray-able mix that can be used to either shade over or completely cover a blemish or any type of repair. In the professional repair shop this is a "must have" operation. It's not enough to be able to fix the problem, you must do your best to make the repair invisible. This is not always possible but a good effort must still be made. I have gotten much better over the years ( and still improving) about learning the art of touch-up finishing. It requires a certain set of skills and could be a separate business on it's own. This is one of the reasons that I like being a luthier because you often times have to wear different hats . The days are never boring. Well it's time to get back to mixing up some colors for the next repair. Please "Stay in Tune " for the next article brought to you by the good people from the North Coast Voice!
Patrick from Liam Guitars/ Wood-n-Strings