First build: tung oil on ash?

jwyse

New member
Messages
6
I'm starting my first build, and I'm super excited about it. I've got an unfinished ash body from Warmoth. I already have a natural-finish Fender FSR Precision (mine's the same color as this image from Musician's Friend, but with a tortoise-shell pickguard), so I wanted this one to look a bit different, although still an ash-bodied P-bass.

230446.jpg


I'm kinda going for a slightly darker color than the natural FSR -- maybe a light brown -- and I definitely want a satin rather than glossy finish.

From all my reading here and on the TalkBass forums, I'm under the impression that multiple coats of tung oil will gradually darken/brown the color until I get to a shade I like. I don't have a specific target shade in mind, so I'm really hoping that I can just keep applying tung oil until I decide it's "done." Is that accurate, or am I going to end up disappointed after many coats and much work with no color change?

I'd like to get some scrap ash to play around with before doing much with the real body.  Anybody know where I might be able to pick up some ash scraps? Or are there other readily-available types of wood that are similar in color, open-pore, etc. that would be acceptable substitutes for the purpose of trying out the oil and maybe playing with some stain?

I read the FAQs and searched these forums like mad, and didn't find any other posts/examples that clearly answered my question. I apologize if I missed one though. Thanks!
 

UTSC

Senior member
Messages
200
remember, ash is a porous wood and needs to be grain filled if you want a mirror finish.
 

jwyse

New member
Messages
6
Yep, I'm planning on using one or two applications of waterbased grain filler (clear) first, according to the many great posts I've read here from ==CB==.

As far as a "mirror" finish goes, I'm not going for a glossy/reflective finish, but I would like it to be pretty smooth.  Not sure whether you were referring to the shine, or the surface.
 

jackthehack

Senior member
Messages
5,630
1.) A pure tung oil product is not going to add much color/tint; don't know about changes in coloration over time. You CAN find tung oil with some added tint, or get some universal dye product like this one to add to the tung oil to get the shade/hue you want:
http://www.woodcraft.com/family.aspx?familyid=5522
2.) While on that same Woodcraft.com page, you can get test boards in a wide variety of wood species to do your experimentation on. Check the store locator, there might be a store in your general vicinity.
3.) You will definitely need to grain fill swamp ash.
4.) Tung Oil will turn out more glossy than satin, another alternate you could try is Deft Satin Brushing Lacquer; you could either tint it with the dye recommended above, or mix that dye with lacquer thinner and dye the body with it and use the Satin Lacquer for the top coat; see this link:
http://www.unofficialwarmoth.com/index.php?topic=4659.0
 

mcjt

New member
Messages
14
i've used circa1850 mixed tung and teak oil for some time- i love it! it penetrates and makes a fairly hard coat.
i've put it on mahogany, maple, walnut, alder...

it only adds a little bit of colour- not much to speak of.
 

jwyse

New member
Messages
6
My body arrived the other day, and last night I got it sanded and built a rig to hold it horizontally while I'm working on it.  (I'm proud of my rig!  :))  Tonight will be the first application of grain filler (I'm expecting to do 2-3 applications total).

While I was waiting for the Warmoth delivery, I got a couple pieces of light-colored oak from Home Depot (I'm told that the grain, pores, color are sort of comparable to swamp ash).  I tested/practiced with the grain filler and tung oil on those, and I think that REALLY helped me to understand what I'm doing, figure out the "technique", and feel confident doing this stuff to the actual body.  On the first scrap piece, I applied a thick coat of thinned (50/50 w/mineral spirits) tung oil and didn't wipe it off at all -- just because I didn't know any better at the time.  Took forever to dry.  On the second scrap piece, I used the same 50/50 thinned mix, applied a heavy coat, and wiped it down after an hour.  It dried much faster and the color is lighter.  So I've got a pretty good idea of the resulting color difference between light and heavy coats of thinned tung, and I like what I see so far.  I think I'm going to stick with the pure tung, because it looks like that can get me to the shade I'm going for.

Thanks again for all the input!!
 

jwyse

New member
Messages
6
Well, I've got a total of 4 coats of tung oil on now (the first two were thinned 50/50 with mineral spirits), and it looks like the color is just slightly more amber than the original ash.  I know a lot of you said to expect this with tung oil (in this thread and many others), but I went ahead based on a couple of tests with some oak scraps.  The oak started out about the same color as the ash, but the color changed a lot more with just one coat of thinned tung oil.  After talking to a local luthier, I learned that apparently it's normal for oak to redden/darken more than ash.

At this point, I really want to add stain to darken the color.  I think if I keep going with pure tung oil, I'm going to end up wanting to redo it at some point in the future, so I'd rather take my do-over now.  I've picked up some oil-based stain (Minwax brand) and plan to mix it with tung oil before applying.

I've read a lot of mixed opinions about whether you can stain on top of tung oil.  It seems to me (keep in mind, I'm a newbie at this) that if you can mix stain+tung together and apply multiple coats of that, it shouldn't be much different to mix stain+tung together and apply that on top of existing coats of pure tung.  I suppose the only question would be whether the existing coats of tung oil are completely sealing the wood at this point, compared to the first couple of stain+tung mix applications being able to soak into the wood.

My other option seems to be sanding the body all the way back down and starting over.  :sad1:  It's a lot of extra work, but it'd be worth it in the long run to end up with something I can really be happy with and proud of.  I'm a lot more nervous about this approach because it seems like it'll be a lot more difficult to find the right color without going TOO dark and not being able to go back.  After seeing the differences between how oak and ash take tung oil, I don't know if testing on oak will be very reliable (I haven't been able to get my hands on any ash yet).

I like the idea of mixing stain with tung instead of applying the stain first (by itself), because it seems like I'd have a bit more control in gradually darkening it.  But if I can't add stain+tung on top of what I've already got, I'll probably run into a similar situation if the stain+tung seals the wood to the point that additional stain doesn't affect the color any more. :dontknow:

Anybody have any suggestions, before I give myself brain damage by overthinking it?  :tard:
 

Rick

Senior member
Messages
4,154
Anybody have any suggestions, before I give myself brain damage by overthinking it? 

Welcome to the world of wood finishing.
 

jwyse

New member
Messages
6
Gee, thanks!  :-\

I've decided to sand it all down and start over.  Now I think I may run into problems because I'm using water-based grain filler and oil-based stain.  On my test pieces of oak, the stain isn't soaking into the grain-filled wood very well at all (no big surprise there).  I'll have to make sure I sand all the grain filler down all the way, but even then I don't know if I'll have similar problems getting the water-based grain filler to "stick" on top of the oil-based stain.  If any grain filler gets left behind, there will probably be splotches with little or no stain.

I wish CTRL-Z worked in real life.
 
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