Finishing Mahogany with Tung Oil


Senior Member
I'm looking at finishing a mahogany telecaster body in tung oil. The body has a quilt maple top. Am I right in thinking the Mahogany back will need a couple of coats of standard wood filler before starting the application of tung oil? Should I just put Filler over the top as well?

Then once I begin the coats I'm assuming I'll have to buff or sand inbetween coats once they are dry. What is recommended for doing this? 600 sandpaper?

Sorry bout the simplicity of these questions, I'm new and everything I read seems controdictary!!!!

The StewMac (Behlen) water based grain filler in brown is a good choice, and yes, you'll want that.

Use pure tung oil.  No need to sand.  You probably want to thin the first coat for better penetration.  Use their thinner (smells like oranges) or turpentine (smells like my sisters licorice).

When you have a nice finish build up, you can "buff" with just a rag and some polish.  Thats about all you need.  Consider a drying time of a week or so with pure tung oil.
Thanks ever so much CB.

I'll follow your advice. Just one last question: Do I need to add any Filler to the maple top or avoid doing so?

That depends on the top - most maple does not need it, but some really figured maples might have a full tear outs and such, because the wood is so hard it can do that. 

If you "fill" the maple, what it will do, is enhance the grain.  Maybe post a shot of your top?
Right, that sounds pretty cool, I'm just ordering the body tonight but its T780 in the showcase (unfinished thinline telecaster) LINK:

Its a pretty mellow flame but I'll probably put some filler on the top as well if it will enhance the grain. What do you think?

Would you advise 2 coats of filler on both the mahogany and the maple then let it dry and start the tung oil process?
If you're going for an oil finish... you wont need to fill the maple... its not going to be a high gloss finish... it'll probably look ok. 

If you want to enhance the grain, filler will do that a bit.  You want to get as much filler/sealer off the wood as possible before it dries... its a cranky @#$@#$ to get off once its set up.

Some of what you're asking depends on how you want it to look... so ... up to you man
A light coat of Minwax oil stain in a very light color like "Natural" or "Golden Pecan" can be applied to the flame maple prior to the tung oil finish, it'll bring out the grain not really add a lot of color.

The top I'm starting this weekend will have black grain fill on maple, then sanded back, black dye, sanded back, then blue dye.  It all depends what you're after
-CB- said:

The top I'm starting this weekend will have black grain fill on maple, then sanded back, black dye, sanded back, then blue dye.  It all depends what you're after

What grit sand paper do you use on a maple top? I don;t wanna do any damage!

Also do you remove as much of the filler from the mahoganny before it dries as well or just remove it from the maple?
I'd use 320 paper on the back, sides and top, followed by 400 paper after all the filler was completely level, and only lives in the pores of the wood.  Be prepared to use a LOT of paper.  Get yourself a 3m sanding block from Home Depot too and use it!  This is no time for hand held sandpaper.

Filler dries rather rocklike.  You want to scrape it off as it begins to set up.  Work in small sections, because when it sets... IT SETS.

The more you get level by scaping the less you gotta sand, and sand and sand.....

When you scrape the filler off the wood, you can use the edge of an ice cream stick (tongue depressor).  Scrape at an angle to the grain - bout 45 degrees.  Cant do that on end grain... so just do what you can.

You'll probably not need a 2nd application of filler, unless you mess up on the first... and do some touchups.  But oil finish, is low luster, and rather forgiving when it comes to that sort of thing... you'll have to use - (oh no!) JUDGEMENT to see if its going as you like.

The top wont really need much filling at all... there are so many variables to consider.  You've not said what you want it to look like... so advice is tending to be generic
Hey Man!  Good Luck on your project.  Just a few notes to add.  Be sure you do your reading/research on finishing systems.  Meaning if you're gonna use Tung Oil, realize that many manufacturers of "Tung Oil" may not have any Tung Oil in the product at all.  I'm sure you already know this, but rememeber to purchase "Pure Tung Oil".  If it doesn't say that then it's not.  There are two types of "Pure Tung Oil" which are Polymerized and Non-Polymerized.  Polymerized has been cooked(might have additives) and shorter drying time and also can give a gloss sheen.  The standard "Pure Tung Oil" will need to be cut with mineral spirits for the first few coats and then you may apply straight Tung Oil after.  Remember...patience.  Wipe off all of the remaining oil after the rub.  Check it again after a few minutes to see if it's seeping out and wipe it off again.  The oil will get really tacky on the surface if you don't.  Lots of thin coats over a period of a couple of weeks (no more than 1 coat every 24 hours) will give you great results with a real natural organic feel.  My personal favorite.  The stew-mac Behlin Pure Tung Oil is a good choice. 

Aloha, Shane :headbang:
Hey shane, are you a friend,  relative, son, cousin, brother to CB?  He says the same thing about tung oil all the time, I took his advice and tried it, the results were awesome. Especialy after i buffed it on the big buffer wheel.
Hey Man!  CB knows what he's talking about!  I've made alot of mistakes w/ wood.  Luckily wood is pretty forgiving and you can sand it down most of the time.  I've got hundreds of dollars worth of various stains, varnishes, laquers, polyuerthane, oils, etc.. that I don't use.  It's tough to know what to use because there is so much information out there now, so many products, and many more variables that can affect a project.  I finally started taking notes and was able to finally nail it.  I'd rather help folks save money on finishing products, so they can spend it on GEAR!! :guitaristgif:

Later Man!