Stain & Grainfill

Rick Ames of our Private Stock team stains a 25th Anniversary Dragon guitar.

The first step in the finish process is stain. For PRS, the stain bench has always been an artistic and innovative part in the process. Most stains are developed in-house, and they each have a unique formula and procedure. Our stains are used as single stains, double stains, and “sandout” colors that accentuate the features and quality of the woods we buy. The intention is not to mask the wood or force it to look any certain way; the wood helps decide what color and type of stain to use. The goal here is to bring out the personality of the wood.

After all the surfaces that are not going to be stained are masked, the stain is applied in a uniform, solid coat with a rag. Having the right amount of stain on the rag is important…you want enough to stain the entire top at once without applying an excessive amount. The application of stain transforms the top into a 3 dimensional object with depth that is accentuated by each successive step in the finish process. For example, as the curl of a maple top changes (from dark to light) the color of the stain also moves, leaving a beautiful palette of colors from just one color pass (called “popping” in the music industry). The grain pattern of stained ash or mahogany seen through a translucent finish is also stunning.

After the guitar is stained, it is taken to the Basecoat Spray Room and sealed with a thin layer of finish. This sealer coat protects the stain and provides a base for the grainfiller. After the sealer coat has dried for a minimum of 45 minutes, the fingerboard is taped-off and the grainfiller is applied. Grainfiller provides a level surface for the basecoat, so that the finish does not sink into the wood’s pores. Any excess grainfiller is wiped off with a burlap cloth. The tape is then removed and the guitar is wiped down with a clean rag to remove any residue. The grainfill is dried overnight, and the next morning the guitar is prepped for Basecoat Spray.

A guitar should do three things: look, sound, and feel good. PRS takes great care in all three of these areas. When Paul first started, one of the ways he got people to pick up a PRS and play it was by making the guitar irresistibly beautiful. They would open the case, see a beautifully stained maple top, and reach for the guitar. The rest, as they say, is history.