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Finish that feels as unfinished as possible

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Will_White, Mar 19, 2014.

  1. Will_White


    Jul 1, 2011
    Salem, OR
    I am going to be buying an unfinished bass soon and I am going to try to give it a rustic look by burning it and doing some pyrography on it. I want the finish to protect the wood decently but I don't want to change how it feels to the touch very much, what do you guys recommend?
  2. Triad

    Triad Commercial User

    Jul 4, 2006
    Luthier - Prometeus Guitars
    Well, you could finish it with a scraper and leave it alone but it will get grey/dirty soon. I think one coat of oil or even only wax on it will slightly seal the grain without giving the "plastic feel" of synthetic finishes.
  3. StuartV

    StuartV Finally figuring out what I really like Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Manassas, VA
    I'd go with 2 or 3 coats of Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil (i.e. gun stock oil - yes, the oil they use to finish wooden stocks on rifles, but with many more coats).
  4. interp

    interp Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2005
    Garmisch, Germany
    I have a Road Worn Precision bass on which I removed the light lacquer finish on the back of the neck--down to the bare wood, sanding it to a very very smooth finish. I then applied multiple coats (5 or 6) of boiled linseed oil, wiping the excess oil off and using 0000 steel wool between coats. The neck is the smoothest and most natural feeling one I've ever played. I occasionally touch up the oil finish, but it's been two years and the wood is in beautiful condition.
  5. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    No more than two coats of Formby's Tung Oil, the satin version. It will darken the wood somewhat, but the feel is very natural.
  6. floydman

    floydman Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2002
    southeast CT

    +1 Also to Tru-Oil, but that does have a higher solids content which tends to feel more like a built up film finish the more coats you put on. keep it thin and it'll be great.

    My Formby's tung oil finished neck is my favorite yet. Feels like smooth, satiny maple. you have to expect that the level of protection from dings and such provided by this super thin, in the wood finish, is lower than a hard film finish. plus side is that you are that much closer to the wood, each time you pick up the instrument.
  7. Will_White


    Jul 1, 2011
    Salem, OR
    Obviously it won't protect it from dings and scratches as well as a hard finish but how does it do against dirt and grime and, while this shouldn't happen it is a possibility, stray drinks.
  8. JIO

    JIO Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    Pacifica CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    I like the sound of that! I've made artwork in the past using ground-based fireworks on a surface to create cool burn patterns. Camilla Flowers I think they are called - they buzz around the ground like the Tasmanian Devil (cartoon character) while changing colors.
  9. floydman

    floydman Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2002
    southeast CT
    I think it should be just fine against normal dirt, grime, drinks etc. main thing would be as with any fine finish, if something spills or gets on it, clean it off asap. the nice thing about an oil finish, boiled linseed or tung oil, is that it is very user serviceable, e.g. no spray equipment required. if you need to do a touch up or want to refresh the whole neck, just clean off any grime, and sand if necessary, and apply your touch up or full recoat.
  10. Will_White


    Jul 1, 2011
    Salem, OR
    I don't think I will do anything like that on this project, because it's an archtop but that gives me ideas. Just to bring out the grain, a logo on the headstock, some scorching like it got to close to a campfire, and maybe a saying or motto on the soundboard with a torch blued steel truss rod cover.
  11. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    May 3, 2009
    N.E Illinois
    Way back in the way back, when I was 23,I had a wild idea.I took a propane torch to a stripped down bare wood bass body and scorched it in selective places.I then wanted to apply a clear reddish/orange finish,but didn't have the finish or sprayer.I remember I had located a local guy who repaired violins,cellos and upright basses.I took it to him to apply that violin varnish to my bass.

    It turned out alright except that the finish tended to check and crack on the most charred burns!It was still pretty cool!

    I still think that a sparsely scorched surface with a clear reddish/orange lacquer would look very cool.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2014
  12. Nidan


    Oct 31, 2008
    Duluth , Ga
    +1 on the Tru-oil , I've also used French polish sanded to 1200 and buffed for a nice feeling natural look while still sealing the wood.
  13. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Just my personal opinion, Formby's low gloss is a better product for this application. Tru-Oil is better for a high or semi gloss sheen. A couple coats of Formbys's will feel like it has no finish at all. The bass in my avatar is finished in Formby's low gloss.
    Morten_B likes this.
  14. pasco jacorius

    pasco jacorius

    Jan 4, 2010
    True oil or high grade poly satin
  15. I'm about to do a Tru-Oil finish on a beat around I'm tricking out. I'll let you know how it goes, if you haven't already decided by then!
  16. I have worked with both tung-oil and tru-oil, they are very different products... For a finish that look as unfinished as possible I will recommend tung-oil (dries slowly though) and maybe wax on top. This gives that ''raw'' look and feel. Tru-oil dries fast and is wonderful to work with, but it becomes glossy after just a few coats, more like a laquer, and to me it does not sound like what is needed here. That's my experience...
  17. What, sort of like this bass?


    Reclaimed Kauri pine + Butane blow torch + oil/poly mix handrubbed finish.

    Basically the mix is equal parts;
    Boiled linseed oil
    Satin polyurethane finish
    Mineral turpentine
    Pretty much the same as truoil only cheaper and takes a little longer to dry.

    I can't remember how many coats I put on. Maybe six coats? Out of all the basses I've built, my wife loved this finish the most.

    More pics of it here...