Misadventures in Swirling

Discussion in 'Luthiery, Modifications & Customizations' started by Element0s, Mar 13, 2017.

  1. Element0s

    Element0s Low Fantasy/Black Denim

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    WARNING: Lotsa text ahead. It's about the journey here.

    My girlfriend broke up with me a couple weeks ago and I've been feeling pretty crummy lately. I decided to teach myself to swirl paint about it.

    This thread will be a log where I can post my tests, progress and results along with notes, thoughts and general musings/rants/cries for help as I descend into a pastime of huffing mineral spirits and oil enamels. Follow along as I ruin my garbage cans and completely nullify the damage deposit on my basement suite. Feel free to comment, cheer, jeer, insult my ancestors, ask questions or offer advice if you feel so inclined, 'cuz swirling is lonely hobby and I need folks to hold me accountable for my progress--or lack thereof, such as the case may be.

    Materials.

    So this is probably the most important part of the whole shebang. I spent hours upon hours pouring myself into the YouTubes, looking for answers on Paints, primers, thinners, Boraxes and water heaters. My favourite how-to video had an Asian guy who swirled an electric cigarette. Those things are massive; like sucking on the input jack of an Fulltone OCD. Whatever makes your cherries squirt, I guess.

    Anyways the paint needs to float on water, so you gotta use oil paints. Of course. And Enamel paints make a nice, hard surface when they've dried which lends itself well to guitar finishes. Ok, sure. A bunch of faceless goons on the Ultimate-Guitar forum recommended Humbrol enamels. Like any reasonable 20-something-year-old, I listen to what the strangers on the internet tell me. The same goons also posted extensively about not using glossy paints—flat colours only. Huh. And don't even think about metallics unless you want a lifetime of pain and suffering. Well ok then.

    Hop on Amazon. Humbrol paints run for about $27.89/ml in Canada. .... that. I see a starter pack of Testors with 9 colours and thinner running for $15 so I snap that up, plus an extra pack of badass (or fruity, depending on your Views) fluoro colours as well. A few people mentioned Testors being decent to work with, so why the hell not. A little more internet searching brings me to https://www.sunwardhobbies.ca and they'll get me Humbrols for $3.29/14ml. Much better. They've got a lot of colours, but the flat/matte selections are pretty bleh. Everything's all “military-this” and “Aircraft-that” and I'm aiming for more “Tasteless and Obnoxious”.

    Screw it—I order a bunch of gloss.

    An hour of wandering around Canadian Tire (Lowe's with an entry-level car shop) bags me the rest of the gear I need: Rubber gloves, Borax, pipettes, little paper cups, poly clear coat, rattle-cans of primer/paint, toothpicks, mineral spirits (thinner) and a parts organizer, plus a big 'ol box 'o rags. No dice on a tiny-ass water heater though. I'll just freewheel it.

    I drive behind a Home Depot and nab myself about a billion scrap chunks of MDF and pine wood. Some people can chuck a bunch of paint in a can, dunk a guitar and come out with solid gold on their first try, dust of their hands and call it a day. I'm not one of those people. There's gonna be some serious R 'n D on my end. Plus, as I warned you, this is about the journey.

    Testors and Humbrols arrive at my office a few days later.

    Oh, baby.



    Prep.

    So this is probably the most important part of the whole shebang. After more hours spent combing Jemsite and squinting at videos by Deanswirled I feel about ready to worship at the altar of razzle-dazzle 'lectric djent-sticks. But first I gotta prime my wood.

    Rattle-cans make me nervous. Partially because I'm an inept buffoon who's likely to unintentionally give himself a dose of black-face. Also, I'm worried that the nice Croatian lady upstairs is going to hear/see/smell my racket in the backyard and start asking questions. She's a sweetie, but I'm pretty sure the sight of a Vai-swirled Jem would fly her straight into Cardiac Arrest Land with no return ticket.

    I do a few pieces in black and a few pieces in white. The white primers doesn't run so much as sprint off the MDF pieces. Each piece gets two coats of primer. Some look less like crap than others. Too embarrassed to take photos of this step. Memo to self: scuff pieces up with medium-coarse sandpaper before blasting them. Forty lashes for my lack of foresight.

    I grab the grab bin from my bedroom and line it with a plastic shopping bag (probably the smartest thought I've had in a decade), fill it with about 1.5 gallons of water. I nuke a heaping tablespoon of Borax in the microwave for 30 seconds, dump it in and stir up the mixture with said spoon. Memo to self: use a different spoon to eat the instant noodles looming in my grim not-so-distant future.

    Going for Yellow and Blue Humbrols on white. Glance at the clock. I've got tickets for Uli Jon Roth, and the gig starts in under an hour.

    Pray for me.


    Paint.

    So this is probably the most important part of the whole shebang. I scrolled through Ben Eller's old blog page, reading the text in his signature Tennessee drawl until the jelly from my eyeballs dribbled onto my shirt.

    I go without thinner. Gotta start somewhere, so let's start at "Zero". A few drops of blue, about half an inch above the surface of the Borax'd water to kick things off...............

    ZAP. Thin tendrils of livid sapphire whip across the surface of the water and the colour slams against the sides of my container faster than you could say “jet fuel doesn't melt steel beams”. Damn. Ok. I think I read that too much Borax will cause that. So let's add some more water... m'kay, the next coupla drops look much better. Add a few drops of gloss yellow and you got yerself a nice little fireworks display in that there garbage bin. Neato.

    I relax, and give it another squirt of blue and yellow and they wisp around a bit more. In goes a toothpick, and I start swirling... except it's not really swirling. It's globbing onto the tip like a totally tubular tye-dye booger. Pretty sure that's not supposed to happen. ABORT ABORT ABORT ABORT

    Lose the toothpick. The paint's already starting to develop a surface “skin”. .... it, it's now or never.

    In goes the piece of wood, primed white. She dives deep, nice and slow. I can see veins of colour through the water. It's very cool. She's completely under there now. I splash the leftover paint away with my free hand like the monkey I am and hold my breath.

    Swish.

    [​IMG]

    I've convinced myself that this is what my sad, sorry destiny looks like.

    More test runs real soon.
     
    NickS, J_Mac, crayzee and 9 others like this.
  2. LiveOVErdrive

    LiveOVErdrive SS.org Regular

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    Looking forward to more of this.
     
  3. Leviathus

    Leviathus Psychotic Monster

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    Yo, heard your ancestors were a buncha lames!:lol:

    Seriously though, this is ballin and I'm lookin forward to more of this thread.:yesway:
     
  4. downburst82

    downburst82 SS.org Regular

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    Nice I love threads where people go through learing stuff from scratch. Your test looks pretty good for your first ever attempt :yesway:
     
  5. electriceye

    electriceye SS.org Regular

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    You don't learn if you don't make mistakes. :) At least that's what I have to tell myself all the time. :D
     
  6. FrznTek

    FrznTek SS.org Regular

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    Nice! I too lookin forward to more of this thread.
     
  7. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    This is the most important part of the whole shebang: practice makes better.

    Also, and this is the most important part of the whole shebang: clear your mind of expectations and let the swirl become an extension of yourself in that exact moment when you dunk the guitar.

    Finally, and this is the most important part of the whole shebang: have fun with it!

    I mean, it doesn't look super professional, but it looks fantastic for a first try.
     
  8. raadoo

    raadoo SS.org Regular

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    Is it wrong that I think that tiny piece of white / blue / gold MDF looks really, really cool?
    To me, if this is just a test, then I'm sure to love whatever comes next.
     
  9. marcwormjim

    marcwormjim SS.org Regular

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    He could get away with sneaking it into a gallery and leaving it there.
     
  10. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Man, the upper-left of that swirl is just bananas! :)

    Seriously, this is a really cool thread. I love the premise of this and the humour contained within is a nifty bonus appeal.
     
  11. LiveOVErdrive

    LiveOVErdrive SS.org Regular

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    Dammit now I want to try this. I have too many projects already.

    Keep it coming.
     
  12. Element0s

    Element0s Low Fantasy/Black Denim

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    I'm writing when I should be sleeping. Was up 'til 2am last night setting up Gatekeeper's new jam studio with Tom-Tom and I'm staggering on about 4 hrs sleep. slightly less than I usually get these days.


    Attempt #2: Green Gloss + Metallic Silver on Black

    ”Oh, to dream...
    To lay with you in meadows,
    Baked in the warmth of solvent-based fast-dry paints...”


    One thing I see consistently in swirl threads made by freaks (mostly on Ultimate-Guitar) who never EVER post pictures of their swirl attemps is “Metallic paints don't work,” and “you'd be better off drinking the thinner”, so I figured why rain on that parade next?

    I went for ~192oz of water in the bucket with 1 tblsp of Borax plus change. Used warmer water this time, no idea about temperature. More than room temp, I'm sure. Couldn't be bothered to use a thermometer because I'm lazy af & I hate myself.

    Noticed some tiny specs of dust and debrise in the bucket. Hmmmm......... will deal with later???

    The next victim: a scrap chunk of long, hard wood primed black.

    If that sounds dirty, it's because it ....ing is.

    Went for the Humbrols again. Still no thinner—already changed the amount of Borax + the water temp. Don't want to get ahead of myself more than I already have......

    The green paint liquid separated quite a bit from the solid gunk and even after a vicious toothpick shanking, I couldn't get it mixed to a completely satisfactory level. HHHHHHHHHHhhhhhmmmm...... whatever let's give it the drip anyway

    Bloop, bloop

    The green hits the water, sets up a little shanty town where it landed with only a coupla wispy tendrils of paint spreading across the surface. Prodded it with the eyedropper and it started to shuffle around a bit.

    Now for the real test...

    Blip

    Metallic silver did not sink to the bottom like the Ultimate-Guitarists warned. Little buttons of silver bobbed up n' down like baby specks of mercury. If my heart wasn't already an empty husk, it would have skipped a beat in sheer joy. Downside? The silver completely failed to spread what-so-ever.

    After some more stabby-stab persuasion, I got the little bastards to dance in the bucket a bit more. Didn't get to swirl with much effectiveness as the damned stuff had already skinned over on me.

    … and this little piggy went for a swim.

    Swish



    [​IMG]

    So let us analy-size, shall we?

    Obviously, swirling onto a black base is gonna leave yer hues subtle and if that's your goal, then have at 'er. If you want one of these colours, such as the green, to POP then you're gonna want to basecoat in green. Maybe even white. The dark green blotches are the spots where the liquid element of the paint spread out and the brighter bits are where the solid parts clumped. The colour is interesting at points but it texturally-speaking it's kinda lumpy and feels about as amateur as Cameron Canela (ask yer dad).

    The grey (or “lighter black” if you must) must be a thin film of silver paint... It's not metallic but it kinda gives the black base a bit of depth.

    Pattern-wise? Not completely ....ing awful. A little more “Parthenon” than “Passion and Warfare”.

    Lessons Learned:
    Paint needs to be mixed properly to float evenly. Metallic enamels can float. Surface skin = world of PAIN.

    Ok. Onward to sleep. Perchance to dream.

    More soon.
     
  13. Lemons

    Lemons SS.org Regular

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    Loving this thread so far, it'll be a great source of info for other members once you get it right!
     
  14. WiseSplinter

    WiseSplinter SS.org Regular

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    Yes! This is so great!
    Thank you for letting us vicariously partake in your misadventures.
     
  15. Petar Bogdanov

    Petar Bogdanov SS.org Regular

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    Keep on stabbing!
     
  16. FrznTek

    FrznTek SS.org Regular

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    I dig it, looks like black marble.
     
  17. LiveOVErdrive

    LiveOVErdrive SS.org Regular

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    Yep. A black marble guitar would be sweet.

    Also, thanks for actually sharing what you're trying. So many of the swirling threads out there are like, "its a super secret club so I won't share my borax ratio or how much I thin the paint".
     
  18. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Looks pretty good to me. Thanks so much for trying this out!
     
  19. LiveOVErdrive

    LiveOVErdrive SS.org Regular

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    Now what if you put a sparkle clear coat over that, then swirled it again. Then repeated that process a few more times. Might get a cool 3d marble swirl pattern.
     
  20. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Cool idea. I've had the thought myself, but I don't know how well the swirl sticks to clear coat.

    My thought was actually to do something like a transparent white finish over some really grainy ash, then swirl a medium gray and cleacoat heavily, then swirl an ice blue over that, to give a sort of winter swirl, where it looks like the gray could be ground showing under the ice. It'd be a lot of work, though.
     

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