View Full Version : Pore filling demo

01-22-2011, 12:21 AM
I just shot my very first video's covering pore filling and levelling as I'm asked constantly how to get the finish I achieve on my instruments. Most think that there must be some great secret, or special luthier tricks.

It all starts with the preparation and there really aren't any short cuts that get great results. This is the pore filling method that I've settled on that works for me every time and stays looking good years later.

Hope that you find them useful.




Pete Howlett
01-22-2011, 12:55 AM
I went straight into the workshop to practice on a piece of scrap. Anxiously waiting for the next video - How not to sand through!

mm stan
01-22-2011, 02:12 AM
Aloha Allen,
Thank you for graciously and generously sharing your knowledge and experience to us....We appriciate it soo much!!! MM Stan

01-22-2011, 02:38 AM
Thanks, this is great! Where to you get that vacuum clamp that you are using? And what exactly is the substance you are using for the pore filling??

01-22-2011, 04:48 AM
Great videos Allen. I always enjoy seeing how experienced craftsmen make beautiful things.

01-22-2011, 05:10 AM
Allen: Great video; thanks for sharing with us. Question: Why do you use a narrow plane blade as a scraper rather than an actual scraper with a bit more width?


Ronnie Aloha
01-22-2011, 05:28 AM
Nice video Allen. Its great to see how these techniques are actually applied. I can see why production companies like Kamaka and KoAloha do not pore fill their ukes. It would really show down their production.

Pete Howlett
01-22-2011, 05:52 AM
Vacuum clamp looks like an LMII job...

01-22-2011, 07:44 AM
Great videos Allen. I really have to try epoxy for pore filling someday, seems much cleaner than pumice.
That's some beautiful wood you're working on too.

01-22-2011, 09:16 AM
The vacuum clamp is a custom made job from Bob Garrish in Nova Scotia Canada. Based on the LMI model, but I managed to set up a group buy for most of the moderators and a few others on the ANZLF, so that we got a heck of a deal.

The epoxy that I use is WEST Systems with the 206 hardener. It's bloody hot here, over 40 C in the shed most days this time of year so the slow hardener is the only one I can work with.

That's the first time I've used that little plane blade as a scrapper. Usually have a large one on hand but a mate sent that one to me to try out. Lovely little thing and works like a charm.

Pete, I always take the pore filling back to bare wood and then will give the entire instrument a wash coat of epoxy that I've cut with lacquer thinners. Say about 200% just as if I was rubbing on oil. The ratio isn't all that important. You want it thin though so there isn't any build. Just enough to give a nice uniform wet look. Takes care of any cut throughs that may look very apparent with some woods. Prior to spraying it just gets a very light "tickle" with a 3M foam sanding pad. I use the ones designated Super Fine or sometimes they have 1000 on them. It's not the same grit as P1000. More like P600.

And putting on a gloss finish is a lot of work. I'd estimate that it's fully 1/3 of the time devoted to an instrument. Hard thing to charge enough for when you tell someone that in all reality it should add $600 to the cost of the instrument.

01-22-2011, 10:21 AM
I have quick question? I have been using zpoxy for pore filling it works great with lacquer but will it be ok under truoil ?

Thanks Perry

01-22-2011, 04:06 PM
I used Zpoxy followed by a couple coats of shellac, then tru oil and it worked fine. I sanded through the finish at the end, but until then it looked great.

01-22-2011, 04:07 PM
Never used zpoxy nor truoil.

We've got one member on the ANZLF that recently has been seeking advice about the combination you want to use. He's used it on a guitar neck and has had to refinish 2 times now and it looks like a 3rd time is in the works. Comments were that he either has toxic sweat or that he's got amine bloom on the zpoxy and this has given him problems. If you don't know what amine bloom is then Google is your friend.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
01-22-2011, 04:36 PM
Nice videos Allen. For some reason I never thought of scraping a filler. You need to do another one now on necks. Find a piece of Spanish cedar and show us what fun that is to fill!

01-22-2011, 07:31 PM
Thanks for the video Allen. I also use West Systems as a pore filler, but have had occasional problems with the cloudiness if it is on too thick. Please put some sunscreen on your head when you are outside..

01-22-2011, 08:08 PM
Mahalo Allen, I've used West Systems for several years in composite aircraft construction, but never thought of using it as a pore filler. Thanks for the heads up.

01-22-2011, 08:43 PM
Seems that not many people have thought about scraping Chuck. Doing what I do every day, you learn how to make tedious tasks go easier, and not waste consumables like sand paper.

Necks are a bit of a pain in the arse for sure. I've done the neck on this Terz today and it's looking pretty good after a couple of sessions. It's Brazilian Mahogany, so has some pretty big pores. I've done tops and necks of Australian Red Cedar (toonis australis) and those pores go very deep. Takes at least 4 sessions to get them to level. You just can't beat the look of it though.

Thanks for the video Allen. I also use West Systems as a pore filler, but have had occasional problems with the cloudiness if it is on too thick. Please put some sunscreen on your head when you are outside..

The tropics is pretty tough on the old nut. First day we haven't had rain in over 3 months and was outside today for just 20 minutes working in the garden, and it's a bit tender to the touch.:(

The cloudiness is Amine blush. It's all bad. Caused by chemical reactions going wrong. Not enough fresh air going over the surface and too much CO2. You can not sand it off, nor scrape it. No good trying to use a solvent like metho etc. You must use soapy water and scour it before you commence sanding and or scraping. It will cause all kinds of problems with adhesion etc. down the track. Google amine blush.

02-14-2011, 07:05 AM
Great Demo: I just ordered a uke kit and I'm going to try this. I've done gunstocks, so I should be able to make it work. thank you very much!

02-18-2011, 08:54 PM
For anyone that's interested I've just added another video to the first post of this thread covering "Wash Coats". It's the last thing I do prior to be ready for spraying. I'll get some videos of the rest of the process up soon, but will start another thread for them.

03-07-2012, 06:17 AM

I just wanted to thank you for posting these videos.....very helpful for a new builder like me. I also looked at your wet coat video and that was great. I am just working on finishing my first tenor uke and have made lots of mistakes (and learned lots too). I am going to use Zpoxy on the uke and just had a question on the neck.

I am planning on using zpoxy on the body and the neck (both mahogany) and was going to use a product called EM6000 on the body and truoil on the neck. Do you see any issues with that?

Thanks in advance for your input.


Pete Howlett
03-07-2012, 06:30 AM
You should be able to buy Smiths Industries finish epoxy in the US - I find it is much better than Z -Poxy with lkess tendency to blush. This stuff is formulated for 'skinning' model aircraft wings so it transfers its purpose well to musical instruments.

I do my necks last when the epoxy is starting to go off. Use a rage to really force it into the neck contour. Standing on the shoulders of an Australian giant here :)

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
03-07-2012, 06:38 AM
Use a rage to really force it into the neck contour.

I too sometimes get upset when pore filling necks. Especially with Spanish cedar.

Rick Turner
03-07-2012, 07:59 AM
I'm now using Smith & Co.'s CPES...Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer for the first "tie coat"/pore filler/pre-sealer, and then the Smith laminating epoxy for the real pore fill stage. Both are low or no amine formulas designed for finishing over with just about anything from oil to catalyzed materials. I've also done this with two coats of the CPES, but you don't get quite the pore fill as with the second application being a thicker material.

For scraper/squeegees, look on line for blank PVC credit cards. They're perfect for scraping the fresh epoxy into pores.

You can also do a wonderful job scraping cured epoxy down really flat and smooth with single edged razor blades with the corners slightly ground "safe".

The trick is in getting the last coat of epoxy as smooth as possible and as down to the wood surface as you can. Then anything you do for top coats will be really easy.

And as Allen stresses, the sooner in the process you get it all leveled and perfect, the better...and thinner will be the final finish. You cannot really fix things in subsequent coats. Get it right in the prep, sealing, and pore filling.

Pete Howlett
03-07-2012, 08:27 AM
Those typos are especially for you Chuck :)

03-07-2012, 08:29 AM
+1 for taking things flat as soon in the process as possible. Pores and any types of depressions tend to stay as depressions through subsequent coats. After a surface is truly flat, clean applications tend to stay relatively flat. The first sanding couple sandings require the most effort

Steve vanPelt
03-07-2012, 08:49 AM
+1 on using credit cards for pore filling duties. It has been my experience that the higher the interest rate, the greater the joy in using the card to squeegee epoxy.

03-07-2012, 08:58 AM
I've not used either of the top coat products you are talking about Tom, but I don't see issues in using them on a suitable base. Not used ZPoxy either. I can't comment on many products that are available in the US market. They simply are impossible to get here in north Australia.

For pore filling necks I've evolved my process to now try and spread the epoxy on as evenly as possible with a credit card type applicator early on in the session. Do the body while that soaks in on the neck. Then revisit the neck. Add some more epoxy if the neck looks like it's soaked it up. Happens on the end grain of the heal and the ear transition into the headstock. I'll apply more epoxy to these spots and anywhere else that I think needs it. Then I take a paper towel or scrap of old cotton t-shirt and very gently wipe the neck in as smooth and single swipe following the grain as I possibly can. This in an attempt to leave a better surface finish on the epoxy, as the credit card will leave facets and ridges in the finish. I don't leave much at all on the surface, but don't want to pull too much out of the pores either.

It's really cut down the amount of time I need to spend on getting the neck smooth and ready for finish.

Rick Turner
03-07-2012, 10:58 AM
Amen to Allen's comments.

03-07-2012, 03:15 PM
Thanks for all the comments guys. I will look for the Smith's products. And I think I do have an idea now on how to do the neck.


03-07-2012, 05:57 PM
Tom, if you can't find suitable epoxy locally, you might try here;


They sell both Smith CPES and System Three Clear Coat, which are a good, Turner-approved combination, so you only have to pay one shipping charge.


Pete Howlett
03-07-2012, 10:49 PM
Remember for West System you need a set of fine readout digital scales to accurately measure the hardner and resin. Get this wrong and it wont cure. Smith Industries epoxy are for those of us who don't have this sort of stuff lying aropund the workshop and are band from using stuff found in the kitchen cupboards :)

Liam Ryan
03-07-2012, 11:00 PM
you can get a digital jeweler's scales that reads to 1/100th of a gram from ebay for $6