Can I use Oil Based paint?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by rubo, Nov 30, 2004.

  1. rubo


    Aug 25, 2003
    Hi, my friend who's a car mechanic has a body man, who's very good painter as well - he can paint it for me, then I'll finish it myself. I want to finish my body with 3 tone sunburst, but here is the catch.

    I want to use Oil Based Translucent paint, and then finish the body with some type of oil. The reason for this, I want the body to breath more thru oil which will get me better resonance, because it's not possible with Lacquer. Plus i like the smoothness of oil body (I know what you're thinking - I like that one too) ;)

    1) Has anyone tried any oil based translucent paints, and what are the results. Which brand would you recommend.

    2) Will the oil finish penetrate thru the translucent paint at all? Or will it make a big mess?

    3) What colors i need to buy to achieve that vintage 3-tone sunburst color. And in what is the order of each color i need to apply?

    4) Can a regular spray gun work with oil based translucent paint. If not what is a quick and cheap alternative?

    5) What's the best brand of Tru-Oil?

    Any other tips would help.

  2. You're all over the place here rubo. Take a deep breath and lets go over this so you have a better understanding of the process and what you wind up with. First off - you don't put oil over any painted surface. The paint seals the wood and that is the enemy of a good oil finish. Oil MUST penetrate the wood to bring it to life. Once in there, the Tru-Oil hardens and builds up to a glossy finish.

    Again, not under the oil. Of course, other "oil" based paints will work on instruments but that covers a wide range of products. Lacquer is an "oil" based paint and is one of the best for traditional guitar work. That's why it's used. I've used 2 part acrylic polyurethanes (automotive style paints) with great effect. These coatings mimic the stock Fender type finishes.

    No. In fact, if your body has some water on it, the oil won't penetrate. Watch your salad dressing tonight. :)

    Traditional sunbursts are done 2 ways. Either by staining the wood and then using clears to bring the depth up OR by using translucent stains on top of clears for an even deeper looking blend. Good sunbursts aren't the easiest thing in the world to do. Go to for a good tutorial on sunbursting.

    Sure, I use a pint capacity automotive touch-up gun for my high pressure spraying and I use an airbrush for small stuff. Soon I would like to get into an HVLP system.

    There is only one "Tru-Oil". Tru-Oil is the brand name of Birchwood Casey's gunstock finish. You'll find it in sporting goods stores usually.

    Hope this helps
  3. rubo


    Aug 25, 2003
    Hambone your answers are always dead on. Now what if i did two coats of Tru-Oil then applied paint then another few coats of Tru-oil to seal it off - would that work. Next what type of paint should I buy or brand that would be the thinnest less toxic and mostly the body will breathe thru it. Are there any paints made from natural products, or at least have most of it;s components made from natural products.

  4. For my answers to be "dead on", I sure don't know what target I've been hitting. :confused:

    Here's the simplest rule to base the rest of your planning on:

    Tru-Oil or any other "oil" only goes on raw wood - never on painted or clear-coated wood

    If you want an oil finish, that's all you use and that's all you get - oil. Oil does not seal wood like lacquer, poly's, acrylics, or any other coating used on guitars. It does make the wood water repellent, but it doesn't seal the wood from the air. The other finishes do a better job of that. You can use Tru-0il under a clear coat or a transparent color BUT remember that stong warm colors will tend to lessen any tint the wood gained from the oil. TO puts a golden hue into white woods. If you coated that with a transparent red and yellow in a burst, the organic golden color would be filtered by the red and yellow. At this point the only reason to have oiled the wood would be to make the grain pop but that would have happened when the clears went on anyway. That's the point I"m trying to convey - a handrubbed Tru-Oil finish and a tradtional hard coated sunburst finish are two entirely different animals and their DNA ain't gonna mix.

    You could get real with this and do an oil burst. Using dyes and oil, you could put a sunburst tint right into the grain and then do the buildup oil surface like Philthygeezer is doing on his P. That would look tremendous. THEN if you really liked what you did and wanted to protect it better than just the oil itself, you could put a nice glossy clear coat of polyurethane or lacquer over it and seal it in.
  5. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Just wanted to add that the oil in oil-based paint does the opposite of letting the wood "breath." The oil in most oil-based paint cures over time, meaning it hardens as it dries and becomes glass-like and fragile. Depending on the oil to paint ratio, the oil can also crack in this fragile state due to vibrations or weather changes. It also yellows over time, although this usually takes a long period.

    Using something like Tru Oil on the wood itself is different, as the oil is basically being absorbed into the wood itself, not applied onto it.
  6. rubo


    Aug 25, 2003
    So what type of paint would you recommend?