Several oil finishes: clueless!

Orpheo

Senior member
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2,771
there are so many oil and oil-like finishes around here, I've los track. danish oil, tung, tru, linseed... can't make heads or tails out of it.

I have a rosewood bodyback and a purpleheart top in order, and I want at least some protection for my guitar. I want it to give it a warm sheen, but I want it to be able to finish it myself. I don't like the idea of having to smear it on every year for the rest of my life (I'm 22) but if it has to be done for the next 10 years, and after that, its done, its fine by me.

also, I want a rub-on finish. I can't do it with a spraybooth, since I dont have one. nitro wont stick to rosewood, and its a shame to cover up the woods with a huge layer of PU.

is danish oil the best option?
 

Orpheo

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2,771
Max said:
22? You're doing well in life, with that guitar collection!

thats the benefit of living at your parent's place and having a scholarship :p (and having worked from your 16th onwards).
 

Keyser Soze

Senior member
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206
Those woods do not need a finish.  Nor would any true oil finish (that would be the non-varnish based products that do not build and would include tung, boiled linseed, and most danish oil products) provide any significant degree of protection.  Oil finishes are good for two reasons - they give a warm natural look, and they go on super easy, beyond that they have little merit.

A  few coats of a wipe on poly (probably best to use an oil based product due to the rosewood) would provide excellent protection and would probably be thinner than you might think as wipe on's go on thinner than brush or spray products. (FYI - you can turn most any brush on into a wipe on by diluting it 25-50% with an appropriate solvent.)

On those specific woods I would apply a few coats of shellac then rub out with fine steel wool (I prefer the synthetic stuff) and paste wax.  That will give a nice warm  and very natural satin finish while also enhancing the appearance of the wood. 

Shellac will provide a fair bit of protection but will eventually wear from use and will need to be re-done.  This is real easy though, just strip the wax with mineral spirits, clean up the shellac with steel wool then re-apply as before.  Depending on the amount of use/abuse the guitar receives you might have to repeat this process annually or maybe even less depending on how 'new' you like your guitars to look.  Should you ever want to completely re-do the guitar shellac is easily stripped off with denatured alcohol. 

I have two electrics with shellac finishes that are several years old and still look great.  But they are heavier padded on finishes though so are a bit more wear resistant, and each guitar gets maybe a couple hours of playing a week at most.)
 

Orpheo

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2,771
Keyser Soze said:
Those woods do not need a finish.  Nor would any true oil finish (that would be the non-varnish based products that do not build and would include tung, boiled linseed, and most danish oil products) provide any significant degree of protection.  Oil finishes are good for two reasons - they give a warm natural look, and they go on super easy, beyond that they have little merit.

A  few coats of a wipe on poly (probably best to use an oil based product due to the rosewood) would provide excellent protection and would probably be thinner than you might think as wipe on's go on thinner than brush or spray products. (FYI - you can turn most any brush on into a wipe on by diluting it 25-50% with an appropriate solvent.)

On those specific woods I would apply a few coats of shellac then rub out with fine steel wool (I prefer the synthetic stuff) and paste wax.  That will give a nice warm  and very natural satin finish while also enhancing the appearance of the wood. 

Shellac will provide a fair bit of protection but will eventually wear from use and will need to be re-done.  This is real easy though, just strip the wax with mineral spirits, clean up the shellac with steel wool then re-apply as before.  Depending on the amount of use/abuse the guitar receives you might have to repeat this process annually or maybe even less depending on how 'new' you like your guitars to look.  Should you ever want to completely re-do the guitar shellac is easily stripped off with denatured alcohol. 

I have two electrics with shellac finishes that are several years old and still look great.  But they are heavier padded on finishes though so are a bit more wear resistant, and each guitar gets maybe a couple hours of playing a week at most.)

thanks for the detailed answer. I was also thinking of shellac. but: the violin of my sister is also done with shellac, and she doesn't have to repeat the process every year... if she doesn't have to do it, why is it that I should?
 

Keyser Soze

Senior member
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206
Her violin is probably finished with a padded on shellac (equal to many more coats than what I've suggested.)  Or quite likely is finished with a violin varnish - typically a mixture of shellac and various natural or synthetic resins (things like amber, dammar, and copal) often called spirit shellac varnish.

The other thing to consider is that a violin typically does not receive nearly the thrashing that a typical guitar does - especially around the area where the forearm contacts the guitar body.  But, as mentioned, you might go a lot longer before it would ever need retouching (just don't expect it to last forever like a poly would.)

In one of Jeff Jewitt's (a woodfinishing guru) books he performed a series of durability tests on boards finished with shellac, solvent based lacquer, and water based lacquer.   He subjected each to things like 95% alcohol, 50% alcohol, 10% alcohol, ammonia, water, scratching with various hardness pencil leads, etc.  Shellac performed about equally with the water based lacquer (the book is a few years old - these products have improved dramatically) and was only slightly less resistant than the solvent based lacquer (95% alcohol and ammonia being bad news for shellac.) 

I finish most of my home furniture with shellac (only the family room and dinette stuff gets poly/acrylic as I have small kids)  and it is surprisingly durable (and incredibly easy to repair.)  The best durability and water resistance comes from dewaxed shellac that you mix up from dry flake and use when it is very fresh - the older it gets the less hard it dries.  Leave a dissolved solution sitting around for a year (or less in the summer) or longer and it may never fully harden at all.  The premixed stuff is ok - just check the date on the can and get the freshest you can find.

Amber makes for a really nice vintage type tint on maple necks but for most other applications I prefer garnet in a 2 pound cut.

You could do a padded on finish, but they are more involved and would give you a look more like your Sis's violin - less natural and more built up/glossy.  If you like that idea I'd recommend a trip to the library or bookstore for a good book on natural wood finishes.  Padding is a streamlined version of french polishing without some of the specialty items (no pumice) but it still requires some sort of grain filling and is a technique that needs to be done right to look decent. 

Here's a Jatoba top done with padded shellac.

DSCF6947.JPG
 

Orpheo

Senior member
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2,771
Keyser Soze said:
Her violin is probably finished with a padded on shellac (equal to many more coats than what I've suggested.)  Or quite likely is finished with a violin varnish - typically a mixture of shellac and various natural or synthetic resins (things like amber, dammar, and copal) often called spirit shellac varnish.

The other thing to consider is that a violin typically does not receive nearly the thrashing that a typical guitar does - especially around the area where the forearm contacts the guitar body.  But, as mentioned, you might go a lot longer before it would ever need retouching (just don't expect it to last forever like a poly would.)

In one of Jeff Jewitt's (a woodfinishing guru) books he performed a series of durability tests on boards finished with shellac, solvent based lacquer, and water based lacquer.   He subjected each to things like 95% alcohol, 50% alcohol, 10% alcohol, ammonia, water, scratching with various hardness pencil leads, etc.  Shellac performed about equally with the water based lacquer (the book is a few years old - these products have improved dramatically) and was only slightly less resistant than the solvent based lacquer (95% alcohol and ammonia being bad news for shellac.) 

I finish most of my home furniture with shellac (only the family room and dinette stuff gets poly/acrylic as I have small kids)  and it is surprisingly durable (and incredibly easy to repair.)  The best durability and water resistance comes from dewaxed shellac that you mix up from dry flake and use when it is very fresh - the older it gets the less hard it dries.  Leave a dissolved solution sitting around for a year (or less in the summer) or longer and it may never fully harden at all.  The premixed stuff is ok - just check the date on the can and get the freshest you can find.

Amber makes for a really nice vintage type tint on maple necks but for most other applications I prefer garnet in a 2 pound cut.

You could do a padded on finish, but they are more involved and would give you a look more like your Sis's violin - less natural and more built up/glossy.  If you like that idea I'd recommend a trip to the library or bookstore for a good book on natural wood finishes.  Padding is a streamlined version of french polishing without some of the specialty items (no pumice) but it still requires some sort of grain filling and is a technique that needs to be done right to look decent. 

Here's a Jatoba top done with padded shellac.

DSCF6947.JPG

ho ho, this is too much. All I need is a simple protector for the wood, but mostly: something to enhance the grain...this is too much for me. Besides, I dont have maple, but rosewood and purpleheart.
 

Keyser Soze

Senior member
Messages
206
Then go with a few coats of Zinnser pre-mixed amber shellac (or clear if you don't want as much warmth.)  Allow it to cure overnight then buff out with synthetic steel wool and paste wax (or wool lube if you can find it.)
 

Orpheo

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2,771
Keyser Soze said:
Then go with a few coats of Zinnser pre-mixed amber shellac (or clear if you don't want as much warmth.)   Allow it to cure overnight then buff out with synthetic steel wool and paste wax (or wool lube if you can find it.)

sorry, I'm tough: we don't have 'zinnser premixed shellac' where I live, only the pure flakes :D  :hello2:
 

neuftone

Senior member
Messages
110
Orpheo said:
Max said:
22? You're doing well in life, with that guitar collection!

thats the benefit of living at your parent's place and having a scholarship :p (and having worked from your 16th onwards).

Been there, done that.  Most of my guitars were purchased while I was at home and going to college.  When I got married, got a real job, and a house...let's say, its been many years since I've bought a guitar, but by the same token, I acquired enough nice ones during my younger years that I've got all the tools I really need.

My Rickenbacker was paid for with what is basically a scholarship refund...unused money from a scholarship.  I have the people of the state of Missouri to thank for that bass...
 

Patrick from Davis

Senior member
Messages
2,197
I would tung oil it to get the figure enhancement you mentioned, and then after 6 or so coats let it sit for 3-4 weeks, and follow that with some wax and polish it up to go from a matte finish to the level of sheen you are after.  At that point, if you wear through the sheen you just reapply the wax and polish, but the tung oil will always be a protective finish under it.  How much polishing and how much you dislike polishing is another thing altogether.

The Tung oil polymerizes with air to make a very nice and permanent oil finish that resembles antique furniture.  It will darken the wood, like finishes do, but it generally also makes the subtle intricacies of the wood come out.  The wax just fills in the gaps and makes a polishable surface, once again it looks like fine antique furniture. 

Sorry if you already know all of this, but the original post looked like you were frustrated with oil finishes.
Patrick

 

Rick

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4,530
Rosewood doesn't need a finish, so just wax, and I don't know how to finish purple heart.
 

Orpheo

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2,771
@patrick; thanks, that cleared things up a bit.

I have another question. Which oil finish can block uv? purpleheart will turn brown over time, and I prefer to keep it a bit more purple than nature allowes. will tung oil work?or tru oil? or maybe even danish oil...?
 

Patrick from Davis

Senior member
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2,197
Oils do not generally block UV.  Most of the time there is something added to it that will take care of the UV.  Most all modern finishes will have it in them, but the pure oils will not.  I would guess that the oils that are like Tru Oil or Danish oil (not truly an oil finish in the strictest sense) that have solvents and other flammable organics (the label will have a "flammable" warning) will probably also have the UV protection in it.  You would have to dig through the interweb to see if the brand you can get is UV resistant.
Patrick

 

Orpheo

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2,771
Hi Patrick, thanks for the insight, once again, I think I understand it even better.

Just one, final question about oil finishes.

You talked about wax and polishing or so. I suppose thats only if you want a glossy finish right? I'm just aiming for a bit of protection and UV blocking, so polishing is not really neccasary I guess, right?
 

Patrick from Davis

Senior member
Messages
2,197
The wax is just for gloss.  The oils (the pure oils that is) will leave a pretty matte finish.  You can still polish the oil finish a bit, but if you want it glossier, you add some wax on top.  If you do not want anything more than what the oil finish adds, then no wax is needed.  Again, it is just to adjust the level of gloss.
Patrick

 
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