As with the sunburst, the starting point for recreating the look of Gibson cherry for the neck and back has to be finding out how they originally did it. Mahogany is an open-pored timber that needs grain filler if you want a smooth surface after spraying and polishing. Grain filler paste is brushed on and once the surface starts to dry it's wiped off across the grain, which forces it into the recesses. Once dried overnight, wiping with white spirit cleans up any excess.
This is a standard wood finishing technique, but Gibson used special grain filler that was actually dyed red so that it filled and darkened the grain while simultaneously dyeing the wood. Once the filler had dried, clear coats were sprayed over the top and the dye bled into the lacquer. Then, over the years, the clear layers darkened up while the red pigment in the grain filler often faded.
I cut a few pieces of mahogany veneer and applied various mixtures of filler, dye and lacquer (pic 1). I settled on some Fiddes medium oak grain filler mixed with Fiddes white spirit-based red dye to create a deep crimson paste (pic 3 & 4). Once that was dry I followed up with Manchester Guitar Tech's naphtha-based cherry dye diluted to 50 per cent with Hammerite thinners and wiped on with a clean cloth. Spraying the top first protects the maple from these vigorous stains, but you should mask off all the binding and fingerboard very carefully (pic 2).
3. Les Paul Relic : Part 2