First bass build finishing advice

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Darryl Cameron, Dec 11, 2016.

  1. Darryl Cameron

    Darryl Cameron

    Dec 11, 2016
    I am getting close to finishing my first bass build and I can't decide on what type of finish to use. I'm looking for all of your experienced advice. I was thinking either tung oil or truoil but can't decide whether I want a glossy or matte finish. Plus, those 2 options come from my limited knowledge of guitar finishing (that is to say I have read some stuff on the internet) so there may be way better ideas for finishing. I've included a picture of the bass as it sits today. The body wood is walnut on the top, layers of maple and wenge, and mahogany on the back. the neck is maple and walnut. The bridge, pickups and tuners will all be black.

    In case it matters, this bass is for a female bass player. I would love to have a woman's opinion.

    Any finishing advice is appreciated. From both a technical and an aesthetic perspective.

    Last edited: Dec 11, 2016
  2. Will_White


    Jul 1, 2011
    Salem, OR
    For matte and semi-gloss I prefer tung oil, mostly because that's what I'm used to, but the advantage of tru-oil is that it can just be wiped on so that it's matte or semi gloss or buffed up to a nice high gloss finish. Now to get some women's opinions, @mapleglo @lbridenstine @SamanthaCay

    What's going on with the neck, that could effect our recommendations.
    mapleglo likes this.
  3. Darryl Cameron

    Darryl Cameron

    Dec 11, 2016
    Thanks for the reply. The neck still has some more inlay work to come. Here is a basic rendering of where I am headed with it.

    Will_White likes this.
  4. I used Formbys miniwax low gloss tung oil on mine, which is also walnut and maple. The only issue with it is that it needs a light wire wool and recoat every year or two depending on usage. If you were building for yourself, that would be less of an issue but if you are building for someone else, they may want a finish that requires less maintenance.
    Pic below so you can see what to expect from it:-

  5. iTzPrime


    May 30, 2016
    Warwick Bee Oil is also really nice (dont know the price in the US)
  6. SamanthaCay

    SamanthaCay Like bass guitar OMG! Commercial User

    Nov 16, 2008
    Denver, CO.
    QC technician for WMDevices
    So I use minwax wipe on poly pretty religiously, mostly because it's easy to obtain but it is also pretty easy/ forgiving to work with. The poly label from I understand is a bit of a misnomer being that it is actually a sort of oil polymer blend much like tru-oil and the like.
    It has been quite a few years since I've used tru-oil but I think to compare wipe on poly with it wouldn't be too far of a stretch.
    You can get it in gloss simi flat variants however I always go gloss as it's easy enough to flatten a finish with sandpaper and having the gloss leaves me with more versatility.

    Another thing to consider is the yellowing factor, both wipe on poly and tru-oil are gonna do that (maybe a little more with the tru-oil if I remember)
    You'll have to do some homework on that as I can't tell ya off the top of my head what's out there that won't yellow but I do believe there is some wipe on products that cure more if not totally transparent (I've read about it I just can't remember where)

    As far as applying wipe on poly I kind of go about it in two ways. If I want a more satin natural feel I generally go pretty light with it, wiping it on into the grain and wiping off the excess as I go so it produces a pretty light finish that may even seem raw to some. Depending on the wood, it's grain and just kind of feeling it out as I go will usually determine the number of coats.
    The second way I go with (gloss) is to apply it heavy. A brush or better still a foam brush works well. I'll apply a heavy coat, let it dry, sand till it's as flat as I can get it without sanding through, and then repeat until I can get it all flat and buffable. I will say I've only done this one in small areas, fingerboards, repaired areas and the like as it's pretty time consuming. That said for me if I really want a high gloss on a whole bass or anything big for that matter the best option is to just find a place to do a spay finish as that ends up being a lot less work.

    Anyways hopefully that makes some sense and as well definitely do your homework. Youtube is great, somebody here linked this one awhile back that I thought was pretty good (be it I'm still in my bubble using minwax :D) but as far as seeing how a handful of oils compare this is a good one.
    rwkeating likes this.
  7. Randyt

    Randyt RAAPT Custom Wood Productions

    Jul 21, 2010
    Barrie, Canada
    Hey help nail down your decision...ive always asked the customer what they are looking for...then I decide what products i will use for finish!..hope that helps your quest!
  8. Darryl Cameron

    Darryl Cameron

    Dec 11, 2016
    Thanks Randy. The bass is a christmas present and the recipient doesn't know about it yet so I was hoping to not ask. That would make the decision on what sheen to go for much easier. :) I may end up asking so I get it right.
  9. Darryl Cameron

    Darryl Cameron

    Dec 11, 2016
    Thanks for the info and the video link. Very helpful.
  10. lbridenstine


    Jun 25, 2012
    First off, very nice looking bass! The inlays look great and I really like the wood combo.

    I can't think of any reason why a finish would be any different for a woman than a man...

    I think the woods you used would look really good no matter if it's glossy or matte. Oil based finishes will have that yellowing effect that Samantha mentioned, which looks really good on walnut. It won't really look "yellow", but it's just going to be darker than it would be with a water based finish which goes on more clear. The other woods would look good with oil based too (maple would be slightly amber), but the wenge will most likely turn black.

    Both tru oil and tung oil will give you a very smooth feeling neck and I think that's pretty important. If you go gloss, you can go over the neck with 0000 steel wool, grey scotch brite pad, or really high grit sandpaper to take away the sticky feeling you get from a gloss finish on a neck if there is one.

    Tru oil is probably a little more protective than tung oil (if we're talking Formby's or Minwax that are not real tung oil).

    Another consideration - if you go with a gloss finish, you'll want to grain fill the wood, if you go matte you don't really need to, although a lot of people still do.
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