I've read in the "Guitar Finishing Step-By-Step" that to "replicate the mahogany color of many Martin guitars made since the late 1930's you can mix 1 part Red Mahogany and 1 part Dark Walnut (both water-stains)". Well, Stew Mac sells Red Mahogany, but not Dark Walnut. Where would I get the Dark Walnut? And, what is a good "go-to" recipe to replicate that mahogany color. I've been busting my balls trying to find it. I guess I'm just not good at matching colors yet. What do you guys do? What do you recommend? I have so many jobs that come through that I need to be able to match that "Martin" mahogany color better than I have been. And, they all seem to be about the same shade. Please help guys!!! I'd like to make up about a half a quart of this stuff to have around the shop. Here is a pic of a repair I'm trying to do right now, with that martin color I'm trying to match. I haven't done much to it yet. Any help would be appreciated!!

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Have you tried Transtint dyes?  They have Red Mahogany and Dark Walnut but I like the Brown Mahogany.  Add a tiny bit of red if it's too brown.  

This is for anyone that is interested .I have had good luck tuching up some Insturments with these two stains with a fome brush. You can spry laquer over them as well the next day. Just thought I would pass the tip on.Bill...........


Do you wind up mixing them together I'm assuming?

No I have never tryed that .I have just done them on different colored Insturments. But I don't see why you can't mix them . I have found that you can put it on and feather it into the rest of the Insturment works good for me anyway just give it a try sometime you can't do any harm as you can just take a damp cloth and wipe it off if you don't like it  .But don't leve it on to long if you don't like it  Bill..............

i already have some of the same red mahogany. i've used it a few times with reasonable results.

I forgot to tell you that with most all these repairs you first need to put down a bit of clear Laquer first or the color will get into the wood and make a mess of it on you . And besides it makes it easer to remove if you are not happy  .Sorry about that sometimes when I am trying to help some out I tend to forget that mybe they don't under stand the procedures. 

I do that already, but just for giggles, would you explain step by step your process of doing a repair like this please? I'd appreciate it. You've already been such a help Bill!!

I have an old 2-17 Martin from the 1930's that I'm having the same problem with. The most difficult part is the fading and yellowing of the top coat which "washes out" the color. The new color has that bright look that doesn't work with the surrounding finish. With an airbrush I've feathered an opaque yellow/ white between color coats to get the semi-opaque look of the aged lacquer which helps. I just wiped the last attempt off because the brown was too dark and too red. I'll take photos the next go around and post them.


 I use Aniline dye (alcohol based) which I blend in shellac. The dye comes in a lot of different colors but I've found that I only need a few. I have bottles of red, dark brown, black and yellow that I mixed up years ago on the shelf. I also have smaller bottles of mixed colors that I've made to speed up the matching process. So far, there doesn't appear to be any shelf life issues.

I always apply a base of clear shellac on the area needing work first so it's relatively easy to "back up" if I need to start over.  The idea is to mix the colors till I get as close as I can to the target color. I don't usually need to do large batches unless I know I will want it again later.  ( In that case, I mix the color WITH OUT the shellac and save that, then mix small amounts with shellac as I need it. Shellac has a much shorter shelf life than the dye.)

It's best to try it on a sample of the base wood and allow it to dry if you really want to be close. I like to thin my colored shellac a bit after I get it to the tint I want so the initial applications of shellac are lighter than the target tint. I can creep up on matching the surrounding color successive layers. I feel like this gives me some control. ( If you've ever done a "french polish" finish, you may know what I mean.)   

One of the things that I've found surprising is how often I need to incorporate yellow into the blend for darker colors. If you look carefully at the finish on your guitar you can probably detect a touch of yellow even if the color is dark. With "yellow" top color you may need to incorporate a bit of brown as well as some yellow. Be careful of red since it becomes orange pretty easily... unless orange is what you need?  The bottom line is that mixing dye means that you can play around with them until you get what you want.  One practice that can be handy is to us "measuring devices" and record your experiments. You never know when you will hit upon a color you really like even if it isn't the one you're looking for now. I use eye droppers and mix by the drop when I experiment. It's not too hard to figure out how many drops equal a teaspoon for a larger batch but it's not uncommon for me to get all the color I need for a repair using only a dropper.

Once you have the correct color build on the surface, switch to a clear finish of your choice. Pretty much anything will cover shellac. It's ok if the final repair is not perfectly matched because time usually "corrects" things as the elements effect the finish.

Anyway, that's how I do it. It's not always quick and I sometimes fuss with it by applying a single color to make very small changes in the direction I'm going but with patience it's possible to get a pretty good match. If you mess it up. Shellac is easy to remove so you can start over. ( It's also quick drying so it's not as hard to build color as it may seem. ) Just remember to test the existing finish before you start wiping alcohol around on it to remove the shellac. It's a bummer to find that your touch up job just became a refinish.

One more thing; I like to use small paint brushes to touch up smaller or narrower areas in a finish.  I find that it's easier to control the look and it allows me to apply single colors to compensate for grain or to match darker/lighter edges if I need to. Using a brush even allows for a certain amount of "grain" to tie the new stain into the old.   

Thanks Ned. I've got a lot of analine's as well and do similar steps as you. I'll put a bit of my color sample on glass and  hold above the area I'm working on to see how close it is. I like you approach so thanks for the tips.

This works for me, Rick but I think that some of the others residents use different techniques which may be faster. I'm a hobbyist and I'm usually working on something that belongs to me so it's a fairly low pressure situation in my case.  The hours are charged against any potential profit IF I sell the instrument on a pennies to the hour basis. Good thing this is fun. 


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