A touchup technique, for small areas only. . .
"Dry" Staining
© Frank Ford, 6/1/98; Photos by FF, 6/1/98

Here's a technique I learned years ago from our old friend, Hideo Kamimoto.

Hideo is a fine craftsman who's known around the San Francisco Bay Area for more than thirty years of excellent repair work. In other places, he's known as the man who literally wrote the book on guitar repair.

He calls this "dry staining" and says it's a technique that violin restorers have used for a very long time.

Dry staining gets its name from the fact that instead of using liquid stains right out of the bottle, you let them dry first, and then reactivate them with solvent as you use them.

For me, it goes like this:

I drip my liquid stains right into the little wells of a cheap artist palette:

As you can see, I haven't cleaned up the palette since last time.

Here I'm using "metallic salt" dyes derived from aniline pigments. They're dissolved in MEK and they're far more light fast than regular aniline stains. I try to work with primary colors to get the greatest flexibility.

The stain dries quickly in the well, and can be dissolved in MEK, acetone or alcohol. I tend to use acetone if I need to work fast, MEK if I need more time.

I'll just pour a little solvent into one of the "clean" wells of my little palette:

Then, to use the stain all I have to do is dip my brush into the solvent, then into some stain, and mix my color right in another little well:

This little palette works great with my little
toothpick brushes.

I have several of these little palettes, each with different stains, all dried up:

The idea is that each time I have to use a little stain, I'll probably need a different color and concentration. With this method, I can very quickly mix, test, discard, mix, try again, and come up with a decent color match for a little quick staining.

In touchup work, that's usually how it goes. The spots are too small to get into airbrushing or other fancy techniques. If I need to clean up my mixing utensil, I just take a paper towel and solvent, and just wipe out the little well.

I can't tell you how many times I cursed and looked around for little containers and spilled stain from big cans trying to match the color for a teeny little spot!

Thanks, Hideo.

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