Waterbase Finishing Schedule

A step-by-step flow chart of water based finishing.


Special waterbase application tip

Waterbase finish doesn't look wet and glossy as you're spraying, unlike nitrocellulose lacquer. Be careful not to lay it on too thick, looking for that glossy wetness. Good lighting is very important. Spray light coats, carefully overlap your spray pattern by 1/3-1/2 for coverage with uniform thickness.

This newly-sprayed coat is wet, but looks dry and pebbly (like orange peel).

Moments later, it turns wet and glossy.

When finally dry, it turns satin-smooth.
Wood preparation
Clean surface of dust and oils.
Sand to 220-grit.

Stain (optional)
Use ColorTone Stain
dissolved in water or alcohol.


Porous wood
Rosewood, Mahogany,
Ash, Koa, Walnut, etc.
Non-porous wood
Maple, Spruce, Alder,
Ebony, Basswood, etc.


Washcoat (optional)
1-2 coats • 1 hour apart
Thin down lacquer for a wash coat by mixing it 50:50 with water.

Grain filler
Fill wood with
ColorTone Grain Filler.
Sand with 320-grit before next coat.

Clear base coats
3-4 coats • 90 minutes apart
Use ColorTone Waterbase Guitar Finish.

Color coats (optional)
ColorTone Concentrated Liquid Stain
or pigment
can be added to finish.
1-3 coats • 2 hours apart

Clear topcoats
6-8 coats • 90 minutes apart • 3-4 coats per day
The total number of top coats is subjective to the final finish required by the builder. Sand with 1000-grit sandpaper to remove surface defects.
Allow to cure for one week prior to sanding and buffing.
Use ColorTone Waterbase Guitar Finish.

Wet-sand and buff
Allow finish to cure for one week
Wet sand with 1200-grit and finer sanding papers.
Buff to a high gloss.
More info on wet sanding.
More info on buffing.

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