Color Theory, Fretwork, Repairs

We each made a sample board of aniline dyes

We each made a sample board of aniline dyes

We’ve been charging ahead, padding lacquer, brushing shellac, spraying lacquer, level sanding, and buffing. Meanwhile, We’ve been exploring basic color theory, matching sample colors and watching the effects of film finishes on color. I cannot wait to lacquer and buff my new guitar!

Repairs Class has gone swimmingly. We bring in instruments to repair, rework, and setup. We’re assigned points depending upon the tasks undertaken, and graded based upon previously observed standards. That is to say, we must do good work to pass. I’ve done two full fret dress/level/setups on a mandolin and purty little Larrivee Parlor guitar in the first two days. The mandolin went quickly and well, but the Larrivee had more issues.


Leveled, flattened frets before crowning and refining

Leveled, flattened frets before crowning and refining

Crowned and refined frets, awaiting polishing!

Crowned and refined frets, awaiting polishing!


Because we estimate our time per job, we also get to make a comparison between expected time and actual time on the bench. This is something I’ve never done at home. It actually felt great to haul butt and get some professional instrument work done. This really feels like where the rubber hits the road. I’m planning out the final two days of class, deciding whether to tackle a neck reset or just pack in some more fret dresses and setups. I’ve still got instruments at home that could benefit from some classwork.

In other news, my girlfriend flew out from Portland, Oregon for the weekend. We had a ball, played in the snow, and Mimi from Sea Wolf Tattoo Company gave me a beautiful cowgirl tattoo!


5 thoughts on “Color Theory, Fretwork, Repairs

    • cmillerguitars says:

      Sure, Mark! We didn’t go into color theory extensively, but covered the basics and applied it to the guitar world. Some theory and plenty of practice has eased my anxiety of doing touch up on a repair, or achieving a nice classic sunburst on a new build.

      For practice, were tasked with matching four unique colors using tempera paint. I would start by referencing our RYB color wheel, and begin making a base color to get in the ballpark. We’d have primary, secondary, and tertiary colors to choose from. Once in the neighborhood, I would either add red to warm or blue to cool the color, working very gradually and testing constantly. It was useful to critically examine the color, or compare it to other color samples, to decide whether, for instance, it might go towards olive or brown. It might take me 4 hours to achieve an acceptable color match, but it was great practice. Like much of the finishing course, it demystified the process. Although I’m no expert (yet), I feel that I’ve got a solid foundation.

      Hope that answers your request.


      • Scott says:

        Thanks Chris!

        Have you ever read “Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green” by Michael Wilcox? That one helped me a lot, but I still have much to learn. That’s the best part!

        All the best,

      • cmillerguitars says:

        Thanks Scott, I’ll have to check out the book. It is definitely fascinating stuff. Is your interest in color for varnishes, or for non-violin stuff?

      • Scott says:

        Color for varnishes. Right now I have pigment in the ground coat/sealer, pigment in the color coat/glaze, and colored resin in the top coat varnish. The goal is to get them each beautiful on their own, but also beautiful added up, and have the layers work to show off different colors at different slants of light and levels of light. It has happened more by accident than anything I can quite predict. It is one of those fascinations I will probably still be playing with in my grave!

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