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How Do You Feel About Tung Oil?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by XylemBassGuitar, Mar 27, 2009.

  1. XylemBassGuitar

    XylemBassGuitar Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 14, 2008
    Durango, CO
    Owner and Operator, Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars
    From a player's standpoint and/or a builder's standpoint?

    I've never used the stuff and I'm interested in trying it out as a finish for an entire bass...just wanted to get some of your impressions.
  2. etoncrow

    etoncrow (aka Greg Harman, the curmudgeon with a conundrum)

    There is a great deal of information and opinions on this subject in the archives. General consenus is that it seeps in high humdity situations. There are better alternatives such as Birch & Casey Tru-Oil; particularly in neck applications.

    edit: Also, make sure what you calling tung oil is just exactly that. Most are actually compounds and not pure tung oil.
  3. Scottpro1969


    Oct 10, 2005
    Townsend, MA
    I used it to refinish a Peavey T-40 body and love it!!! It's really easy to work with, but you have to be patient and let each coat dry completely between coats. I put five coats on the body, lightly rubbing 0000 steel wool between coats and it came out fantastic....low sheen finish, nice to the touch and feel. I highly recommend it.

  4. I worked in a cabinet shop that did a lot of tung-oil finishes; I love the stuff. What Scottpro said- be patient, in particular. I did an alder P-Bass body when I worked at a different shop, adding coats of oil & letting it soak in over a period of weeks(!) It came out BEAUTIFUL- very rich amber colored, w/a ton of depth.
  5. I used it on my rosewood Fender neck. Still looks great to this day!
  6. Gubna


    Oct 21, 2006
    San Francisco
    I heard that it takes along time to cure so I used Casey Gunstock Tru-Oil and was happy with the results.
  7. the engine

    the engine Guest

    I love it. It's on the back of all my necks (except the one on my shoulders).
  8. Dirk Diggler

    Dirk Diggler Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Anytown USA
    I don't like tung oil at all, takes way too long between coats, I prefer real Danish Oil. It just feels more natural to me, the tung I could always feel it was on there even after drying.
    Maybe it's just me or the tung I used.
  9. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    From a player's standpoint, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it.

    For a builder, it's one of many options available. It looks good on some woods and offers fair protection. It's one of the easiest to apply.

    There are many brands of tung oil on the market. Some have long drying times, some you can apply 2 coats per day. Many of them have no tung oil in them at all. Most are a combination of oils (tung or otherwise) an alkyd resin and solvent. Real 100% tung oil is also available. It usually has a longer drying time. The best of these I've used is Waterlox Original Sealer Finish. It's a favourite with hardwood floor installers. Wonderful stuff, but more expensive and harder to find. You can build this up to a thicker coat than you can with many of the other oil finishes. It's not at all hard to apply.

    Rather than using a stain under tung oil, consider using a dye. A water based dye would be best and wouldn't "bleed" through the top coats of oil the way oil based stains and dyes can.

    Practice on scrap wood before you start putting it on your bass. It'll save you a lot of grief later.

    Go over your bass body carefully and check that your sanding is perfect. Any small blemishes now will magnify as you apply a finish.

    Wipe it down with paint thinner and look it over while the thinner is still wet. That'll show up bad sanding and places where you need to sand out dings you might have missed.

    True Oil is nice looking too. You'll need many coats of it for a nice finish. It protects reasonably well. It's basically a very thin oil/varnish mixture.
  10. JmJ


    Jan 1, 2008
    True Tung Oil does not fully evaporate unless it has "dryers' in it.
  11. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    Adding a bit of Japan dryer solves that problem
  12. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    I was just looking at a maple tabletop I did about a year ago for my wife's computer desk. I finished it with about 6 coats of Minwax Antique Finish. It looks very gorgeous. Not glossy. It's very much an "in the wood" finish. It feels great to touch. It darkened beautifully over time and brought out the grain in the maple better than just about any other oil finish I've used. It's another option worth considering. It looks great on darker woods too. I did a small red cedar cigar box with it too about the same time. Beautiful rich colour now.

    You could use it over a water based dye and get great results.

    But it does not build up to a thick, on the surface film and won't polish to a high gloss the way some of the tung oils and oil/varnish blends will. It sure looks good on some woods though.
  13. XylemBassGuitar

    XylemBassGuitar Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 14, 2008
    Durango, CO
    Owner and Operator, Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars
    etonCrow, you mentioned Birchwood-Casey Tru-Oil. It seems like that finish penetrates the wood and hardens within it, similar to Danish Oil. In your experience, is this how it actually works?

    Does the finish build up after a few coats, or does it just penetrate and seal?

    Once it has cured on an instrument (or whatever it goes on) does it get sticky when it gets hot (or humid), or does it maintain its satin-y feel?
  14. Bofee


    Aug 19, 2005
    Grass Valley, CA
    I've used Tru-Oil on several instruments I've built, basses and Ukes. It can build up a nice finish if you are patient and put on 6 or 7 coats. I've never had any issues with it being sticky even after a couple of years of regular use here at home in the cold and wet, or in Hawaii in the hot and wet. The only place I've had any issues is wearing on the top of a Lacewood Uke and that has more to do with the softness of the wood between the rays than the finish itself. A harder finish may have been a better choice in that instance.
  15. XylemBassGuitar

    XylemBassGuitar Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 14, 2008
    Durango, CO
    Owner and Operator, Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars
    Thanks Bofee,

    I'm actually looking for something that doesn't build up (like a nitro-cellulose or french polish builds up) and doesn't get sticky when it gets hot/humid. I've noticed that the Danish oil I've used gets a little sticky in the heat and humidity.

    Again, thanks for the info, I'll probably give the Tru-Oil a shot on a bass or two.
  16. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    Sutherland Wells (http://www.sutherlandwelles.com/) makes excellent Tung Oil most of which is Polmerized which means it is modified and has driers. This is a wipe on wipe off finish - you apply it, let it soak in then wipe off the excess. The humidity and temperature of your shop effects the drying process (dry & warm is better). I like tung oil because it is relatively clear/non yellowing and dries to a nice sheen. It allows a more tactile feel of the wood as opposed to the dipped in plastic look.
  17. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    Danish oil is made from Linseed oil which is notorious for long dry times, bleeding and a sticky residue. Again, applying and completely wiping off the excess is essential as well as a dry, warm environment.
  18. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I Grow Organic Carrots
    I have 5 tung oil basses ... I love the look the feel and the tone from these basses give me.

    I like to take tung oil and mix in a little mineral spirits. The mineral spirits makes the tung oil dry faster and makes it protect the wood better as well.


  19. :eek: those have got to be the most amazing looking basses ive seen here in a while.
  20. Just makes me look at my crappy gear and :bawl:

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