DIY Les Paul Guitar Kit (Part 2: Staining the Guitar)

Staining Guitar

Staining the guitar is where the real fun begins! If you read my previous post in this series, I gave you an overview look at my newest project. This DIY Les Paul guitar kit purchased from eBay included a very nice Spalted Maple top on a solid Mahogany body. We will take a closer look at the process I used for staining the guitar.

It is necessary to sand the guitar prior to adding any color; this will remove any glue or rough surfaces that may show through the stain. Start with a coarse grit of sandpaper and finish sanding with a fine grit of 220 or 320. When sanding, be careful not to sand through the Spalted Maple top as it is only a thin veneer. Once you have the body sanded smooth, you are now ready to start staining the guitar.

There are several choices you can pick from when deciding what to use for staining. I decided to use just normal water based ink (eBay) that you can find at any office supply store. The ink that I purchased comes in a small bottle labeled for “refilling ink stamps”. Just add several drops of ink in with a small amount of water and you will create a very economical wood stain for your guitar. There are also guitar specific stain that you can use; the choice is yours. Whichever you choose, the process of staining your guitar is the same.

I chose two ink colors for this project, one bottle of black ink and one bottle of blue ink. The black ink will be used first for coating the entire top of the guitar body. The purpose of the black ink is to accentuate the wood grain of the Spalted Maple top. This first coat of black stain will then be sanded back down with 220 grit sandpaper; leaving only black ink in the grain of the wood. Doing this step will create a tiger stripe effect once the main blue color is applied.

The blue ink is mixed the same way with a few drops of ink in water. I didn’t use any real formula for this mixture. Just play around with the ratio of ink and water (eBay) until you find the color you are after. As mentioned in the video above, I did decide to add more ink throughout the process to achieve a richer blue color. You may need to add several coats when staining the guitar and allow some dry time between each coat.

After the first two coats of the blue stain was applied, I decided to try and achieve a sunburst effect. An additional mixture of stain was prepared by combining the blue ink with a couple drops of black ink to darken the color. This mixture of guitar stain (eBay) will be applied only to the outer edges of the body.  With the stain still wet, blend the blue/black mixture with the original blue used for the first two coats. The key to achieving a sunburst effect is to feather the edges of dark stain with the original blue stain while both are still wet. You want a smooth transition from dark to light by avoiding any clear lines separating the colors. After I was satisfied with the color of the top of the guitar, I wanted to move on to staining the back of the Mahogany guitar body.

A Minwax water based stain (eBay) was used to darken the Mahogany body. This stain comes in a tube and should be available at most home improvement stores. The Minwax wood stain was very easy to apply but did have a slight smell to it. Two coats of this stain were applied before I was satisfied with the overall look of the guitar.

It is now time to move on to the next process of building the guitar. The next step will be coating the body and neck of the guitar by applying a protective oil finish. So for the next article in this series, I will document the process I took of applying Tru Oil (eBay) on to the guitar.

Click here to view entire project.

Stay tuned!

(Get this DIY Les Paul Guitar Kit here (eBay) or here on Amazon)

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  1. ted"gypsy"gerling

    i feel lucky to have run across this video since the color choice is what i have been thinking about. one question;i noticed you sanding across the grain on the veneer,i thought you couldn’t do that. very helpful video,thanks.

  2. What type of blue ink did you use?

  3. Nice les paul! When are you going to build the Jem, and are you painting or staining, cause this video inspired me to get an explorer kit, and my luck with spray cans has not been so good.

  4. Hey Fred,

    Thanks for the vid. I have watch the vid about 10 times to make sure by the time I do myne it will look great. I have the exact same build at the moment. Just want to find out. How much did you sand down after the black ink was on? Didn’t the black ink start smeering once you put on the blue? when you sanded down before you started how much did you sand down?

    • Once the black ink was dry, there was not much smearing. I didn’t sand down too much. Just enough to get everything smooth.

  5. How did you keep from getting any stain on the white binding? Or if you did get anything on it, how did you get it off?

  6. Michael Icefire

    That top was Quilted maple, not Spalted maple. It matters. Spalted maple ahs soft and hard areas, the spalt is caused by fungus. Quilt is just flame to the extreme, and stable. You would have trouble staining Spalted maple.It can be done, but not this way.

  7. What color did you do the front of the headstock
    And did you put a logo , and if so did you design
    And get one printed?
    Regards Kevin

    • Hi Kevin, the headstock is the same blue ink as the body. I did not place any logos on it for this guitar.

  8. Hi Fred, after following your videos I ordered a PRS kit with flamed maple but I got spalted and I read that it was going to be difficult to stain but I haven’t found exact instructions on how to dye but anyway, in your LPS did you apply any lacquer sanding sealer as for your JAM first or just sanded and then dyed? Thank you, I love your videos!

  9. How easy is it to sand through the veneer? I’m thinking of getting one of those kits and finishing it similar to the way you did. I’m a little paranoid that I’d sand through the veneer. How much sanding would you have to do in order to sand through?