Neck finish questions


I've just received my first Warmoth neck (unfinished Maple/Maple) for a Tele that I'm building.

I would like to try finishing it with Tru-Oil as I've heard great things about how it feels. However, I'm concerned about the color. I would like to get a 'vintage tint' look on the maple, but I've heard that the Tru-Oil adds only a very slight amber tint.

What is the best way to get a deeper, more 'vintage tint' looking amber finish with the Tru-Oil? Is there something (tint or dye) that can be mixed with the oil? Or is it something that has to be applied separately (either before or after)?

Aside from the great results I've been hearing about with this method, the ease of application is something else that also appeals to me, so I'm looking for a solution that's not too complicated.

Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Tru-Oil is very amber when its thick, and only slightly amber in thin coats.

In my opinion, Tru-Oil is a poor choice for instruments, especially necks... to me it has that "urethane" feel, and .. well.. not my thing at least.

You have two questions really - one is to color the neck, the other is to finish the neck in an oil type finish.

Tru-Oil is not going to penetrate the maple very well, so its going to build up a finish, and the color will be in the finish.  As the finish wears, the color will wear off.

But, coloring hard maple directly is an iffy proposition at best.

My own choice would be pure tung oil, which you can get in an ambered (dark) form.
Pure Tung Oil provides a hard and tough surface finish that is absolutely waterproof; impervious to dust, alcohol, acetone, fruit and vegetable acids; and it doesn't darken with age like Linseed and other vegetable oils. All of these benefits come at a price - pure Tung Oil takes forever to dry, it doesn't penetrate the wood surface very well, and it is expensive when compared to other drying oils. Tung Oil is a "reactive" finish, commonly called a "drying" oil, in that it will dry and harden when exposed to air.
Everyone asks me about Tung Oil, but nobody wants to use it because Tung Oil is not a fast finish. It takes a lot of time. But, it is a simple and forgiving finish, and when done properly, its beauty is unmatched. Sometimes we try too hard to avoid the slow and simple things in our modern high-tech lives.
I have used the stuff for years and I can share what I have learned. Other oils are commonly used in finishes because they are less expensive. Linseed, Soybean, Walnut, Sunflower, Orange, and other fruit, nut and vegetable oils are oils that make suitable finishes for wood. Linseed and Soybean Oil are most often used in commercial finishes. Although neither are a natural "drying oil", the addition of metallic drying agents make them suitable for finishing.

PROPERTIES AND CHARACTERISTICS:  A Pure Tung Oil all natural finish is water and alkali resistant offering a protective barrier. A Pure Tung Oil finish will not darken with age as other finishes will. It resists marring, penetrates well, remains elastic and unlikely to check. Tung oil builds quickly, consolidates the wood surface and builds a transparent matte finish. Pure Tung Oil finish will not mildew or bleed like linseed oil when dry which makes it an excellent candidate for outdoor finishes. It should be kept in an airtight container with minimum air space. Pure Tung Oil contains no thinners or driers and has a light nutty odor. A Pure Tung Oil finish mixed with Citrus Solvent is a all natural organic finish that is environmentally safe and food safe.

USE:  The surface should be dusted to remove all loose particles. Alternatively, you can lightly sand the first coat before applying a second. Any filling, sealing or staining must be done before the oil is applied. The first coat should be a liberal one, and you can rub it over the wood with your hand, a soft rag. Allow this application to sit for 20 minutes so the oil can soak in, then remove any excess with clean soft rags. Check after about half an hour for any seeping, and rub this off as well. Let dry completely (24-48 hours) between coats. For woods with very open pores, allow an extra 24 hours drying time.

Tung oil can be applied pure or with Citrus Solvent added if a non-toxic finish is required. Thinners can accelerate the drying process and greatly improve the penetration by cutting the first coat of oil with Citrus Solvent, mineral spirits or turpentine by 50%. Remember by adding mineral spirits or turpentine, Pure Tung Oil becomes toxic with these substances mixed into it, although the finish produced is not toxic because the driers evaporate.

The number of coats of oil to be applied will be determined by the intended use of the piece. Two to four coats are enough for decorative work, paneling and moulding. Surfaces that receive moderate to heavy use or handling could need up to six coats for maximum protection, plus a light renewal coat a couple of times a year. Apply till the surface reaches the saturation point. This will be evident as the surface will not absorb more oil.  Renewal and building coats are quickly applied with cheese cloth, a lint free cloth or old nylon stockings. This process will give you a surface that will stand up to vigorous use and spills: water will bead on the surface.

Pure Tung Oil is recommended for wood finishing of kitchen tables, chopping blocks, wood and concrete counter tops, wood floors, concrete floors, refinishing wood floors, outdoor decks, outdoor furniture, wood siding, log homes both interior and exterior and similar uses. Its non-toxic nature makes it particularly appropriate for children's toys and furniture. It gives good protection to wood paneling and molding.

Pure Tung Oil's matte finish will do nicely on certain pieces of furniture, but if a glossy finish is preferred you will need to buff and wax the finish, or use polymerized tung oil or a formulated tung oil based product.

We have found tung oil to be a valuable helper in the workshop. It adheres very well to metal, and a light coat rubbed onto tool steel is an effective rust inhibitor. Wooden handles will also benefit from the occasional coat.
I've used pure tung oil on cabinets, desktop accessories from organizers to lamps, gunstocks including very expensive figured english walnut and claro, and on one guitar neck... the results are hard, if impossible to screw up.

As the piece said, its only drawback is slow dry, a matter of a few days to a week, but... well well well worth the time.  And it smells fantastic!  Just thin it 50/50 with turpentine (or that citrus solvent... which BTW in a 90/10 mix with tung oil does great jobs on rosewood and ebony).  Do the 50/50 on the first heavy coat.. .so as much soaks in as possible.  After that, straight up.  Nice finish that stays "silky" feeling after lots of use.  You'll not got a big "shine" out of it, unless you wax it.  Think - totally satin soft, like playing on powder.
Thanks CB.

Apparently (and unfortunately) the only 'oil' finish that the Warmoth warranty will honor is Tru-Oil. For some reason, they don't consider Tung Oil to be a 'hard finish' (I'm not sure why).

From what I've gathered so far, Tru-Oil works best when applied in thin (rather than thick) coats... so the 'amber' effect is lessened.

I'm still open to other ideas... anyone else have any experience with tinting neck finishes?
I wasn't aware of that about Warmoth policy.  But I can see it, as TruOil "is not an oil" finish.  If you'd applied it, you'd know.  It gets sticky almost immediately... like hand rubbing urethane or other varnish.

Having said that, I did a nice stock for a BSA/Martini .22 target rifle in pure tung oil (or as I say, real tung oil), and hot dang... what a finish.  It was Claro and.... beyond description.

I'd not hesitate to do a neck in tung, but I see your concern.

Ever thoguht of lacquer?  Its pretty easy to apply to maple, just scrape the frets every few coats with a little (easy to make) tool.  Lacquer on maple goes exceedingly fast too.  Surface prep is nil (wash with naphtha).  Drying time is such that you'll be able to start Saturday morning, finish by the afternoon.  I'd not play it for a week or two... or three. 

You can dye Deft brushing lacquer, brush on the bottom coat, then clearcoat with aerosol over that.  Deft will dry down flat and not leave brush strokes if you are anywhere near careful (I did a set of shelves in Deft, no issues with brush strokes at all!).
I'm not familiar with Deft. Is that similar to the laquer that ReRanch sells (nitrocellulose)?

I had considered the ReRanch stuff, but was hoping to just pick my supplies up locally (apparently ReRanch is mail order only).

How would you compare a laquer finish to an oil finish on a neck?
Hey CB- You have done a great job selling me on tung oil, I have two bare necks, and two swamp ash bodies right here, I will try it on one neck soon. maybe today.

When you say it takes forever to dry, does forever mean a week?  You mentioned above days to a week.  Is that per coat, or do you mean, if you apply any "next" coat at the soonest appropriate time, the process will take a week?

I am in no hurry at all, and I also like the idea of rubbing in by hand the finnish, as opposed to dealing with sprays, runs drips etc...

I am assuming tung oil is applied with a clean cloth? wipe on nice even thin coats? let dry to the touch then add next coat?

You also said when dry it is waterproof, tough impervious to a bunch of other things  -  I don't know why, but can you paint over it when it's dry?

The thing I do not like about sprays, is I dont do it enough to get real good at it. I either get runs from spraying too much, or, I dont spray enough and get orange peel finnish that then needs to be sanded etc... you know what I mean.

Thanks good buddy :icon_biggrin:      John
I'm not familiar with Deft. Is that similar to the laquer that ReRanch sells (nitrocellulose)?

Deft is nitrocellulose lacquer, with flow out and no-blush added in.  It comes in gloss, semi-gloss and satin.  Its similar, but its also best to not mix lacquer types, although... for only a thin color coat, followed by clear coats, the color coat could be another nitrocellulose brand.  That is, ok for a Mohawk or ReRanch color coat - thin - then clear coats of Deft or what have you, as long as its all nitrocellulose based.

I had considered the ReRanch stuff, but was hoping to just pick my supplies up locally (apparently ReRanch is mail order only).

Deft is sold at Walmart!

How would you compare a laquer finish to an oil finish on a neck?

Totally different beasts.  Lacquer is a hard finish, TruOil sort of hard I guess, while real oil finishes are what I'd call soft.  Lacquer is really king,  not too bad to use on maple.  That is, the prep work isn't too bad, and the finish leveling and such, ok too.

If you use lacquer, then you can clean between coats with naphtha (Home Depot).  Sand after the first three coats of clearcoat, and level it a bit.  It doesn't have to be perfect, just... smoother, less texture.  A few more coats, and ultra fine sand down to say 1500 grit.  Some guys keep going to 2000 grit the buff..... but I like to stop at 600 grit, or maybe 800, and give one light shot of lacquer.  It flows in all the sanding marks, and leaves that last bit of sanding easier.  Maybe even one quick shot after 1500, then buff that.  Lacquer melts in the undercoats, so you can use that to your advantage if the wood prep is there.

If the wood prep is NOT there.... then you have more work.  Maple needs no grain fill, but things like mahogany... woooboy lots.  Even then, its best to shoot three or four medium to heavy coats and let it sit three weeks just in case it sinks in.  You can level the finish after three weeks and not have too much more shrink if you go light on the rest of the coats and just let it build.

I like working with lacquer.  Its stinky for sure, and you need to do it outside in the shade.  BTW, drying outside once initially "set up" is a good thing and hastens drying.  Heat and fresh air make it dry quicker.  Expect some dust, and if you get some, just do a real light sand out and keep going.  Lacquer is pretty forgiving too that way.  I did a Les Paul top in lacquer and crap...a CAT HAIR right in it I only noticed when I was done.  No biggie.  Sand it out... feather the finish, spot spray a few coats, sanding lightly between... after a few coats the finish is all nice and level again, and give it a few more to build it a little... let it dry a few weeks.

The thing with lacquer - always to remember - is to let it DRY fully.  It takes ages for it to fully cure and shrink in, but after two or three weeks its done 95 percent of what its gonna.
Alfang said:
Hey CB- You have done a great job selling me on tung oil, I have two bare necks, and two swamp ash bodies right here, I will try it on one neck soon. maybe today.

When you say it takes forever to dry, does forever mean a week?  You mentioned above days to a week.  Is that per coat, or do you mean, if you apply any "next" coat at the soonest appropriate time, the process will take a week?

PURE TUNG OIL only please, not the home depot stuff which is essentially another petrochemical varnish

That stock I did I added a coat or two per night, three nights a week, over about a month.  Then I let it sit about another two weeks.  That pretty much did it.  The stock was in a shop I worked at part time, hence the schedule.  But that schedule seemed to be exactly the right one.  Its a slow build finish... but also completely fixable in case of wear.  Just thin out coat #1 and go heavy with it, allowing it to sink in as much as you can.  After it has, wipe and let dry couple of days and straight up after that.

Should also say - tinting, staining... works better on things like mahogany or other open grained woods.  Maple... tends to not absorb so evenly, so you pretty much need a color coat as your first coat.

There is a technique.... dare I say it.... for rubbing dry dye into maple that works pretty well.  I've used it.  You'll get unevness on the open ended areas, like the edges of the headstock... it will be a bit darker there.... but it works.  Mohawk powdered pigments do a good job at this, as they're ultra fine ground (and get EVERYWHERE when you use em).  You can lacquer right over them, and I'm sure oil over them too but I've not actually used the oil-over-powder technique.  When you rub in the pigment, it stays in the wood, even maple, and you just wipe it down with a clean rag, and shoot over it.
Tinting maple? I swear by Fender Neck Amber in the spray can; you can put whatever clear coat finish you want on top of that; I typically use nitro, but have used tung oil (Formby's Gloss, much to CB's horror...) as well.

If you're using Tung Oil/Tru-oil that dries to a hard finish, I have a hard time imaging that you could run into a warpage situation that preclude warranty issues; you''d probably have to drop the axe in the pool overnight.

If you're using a non-hardening type oil finish, like say Watco Danish Oil, you have to keep reoiling it on a real regular basis as it WILL dry out and allow for moisture absorbsion and potential waprage situations.
dont get me started on danish oils!

MOST (not watco btw) are paraffin dissolved in mineral spirits and naphtha, with coloring

the solvents let the wax penetrate the wood, and it "hardens" when the spirits evap.  A really poor finish
I've read a lot of good about danish oil finishing. That being said I'm going to use TruOil on my neck when the time comes.
WOW!! this thread was so damn interesting and informative, that I almost wish my next neck wasn't going to be Wenge (no finish needed), cause Im sold on Tung Oil now as well.
Im not one to have to rush through any of the processes, time not being a factor for me, so this is something I will have to get my hands on and do down the road, like you said practically impossible to mess up.....thats my kinda finish there.....
I wouldn't worry about needing a neck warranty myself, because if I buy Maple it will always be Quarter sawn and a FatBack so I feel its unlikely to warp...
Nice Thread CB......... :icon_thumright:
======CB - "MOST (not watco btw) are paraffin dissolved in mineral spirits and naphtha, with coloring"===============

Which is why I said Watco Danish Oil, which is the ONLY "Danish Oil"  that should be considered for guitars should one go in thet adirection...
dunno if its the - only - but I added what I did to emphasize what you said....  all that Formby, Minwax, etc etc... not really the best stuff out there.  Mass market big box poo is all it is.

I seriously considered doing the back of the BFG in danish oil.  The reason I didn't - is that danish oils dont really "toughen" the wood.  Even tung oil (pure) will give it a little bit of strength (not much), but lacquer seems to prevent a lof of those dings and such.  Its just a tougher finish, so I went with that.
I did a Watco Danish Oil finish on my Rosewood laminate mahoghany Strat and on the matching Rosewood/mahoghany neck; wound up shooting the back of the neck with a couple of light coats of nitro, as I didn't like the "feel".
Thanks to everyone for all of your help... a lot aof great information!

I finally found a bit of free time to start putting my Tele project together. And now I have another 'neck' related question...

I've heard some folks refer to "rolled edges" on a neck or a "rolled fretboard edge", etc. I'm assuming that they're referring to taking the "hard" edge off of the sides of the fretboard to give it a bit of a more 'softened' or 'rounded' profile llike that of an older, much-played and well-worn guitar. One person mentioned the idea of rolling a socket wrench (?) along the edges to dull them a bit.

Is this a good idea? Or is there another/better way to achieve this?

Thanks again in advance!  :)
tru oil is a great finish for a body or a neck. it takes multiple thin coats to do it right so be prepared. it is almost clear so stain to suit first, then finish. be prepared for about 7 coats on a maple neck and two or three times that on a body, with steel wooling between coats, and wet sanding and buffing when finished for best results.
first post. very,very cool forum. alot of extremely cool guitars floating about. i don't think i'll ever buy a shelf guitar ever again... i have a finished korina strat body coming next month, & an u finished maple/ebony neck also. i was considering using the tung oil & heard warmoth did not prefer this. i sure like the sound of tung oil though! the other thing they suggested besides the "tru-oil" was minwax brush or wipe on finish. does anyone have experience with this product? i need some advice. thanks & keep up the amazing work guys. :rock-on: