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How many coats of Tru Oil Do I really need?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by gjbassist, Apr 26, 2010.

  1. So I'm building a jazz bass with a natural finish on a swamp ash body. After reading the many positives of Birchwood Casey Tru Oil I decided to give it a try. I really like how it is looking so far. I have read posts were it says it will take 30 coats to finish it properly. Is that really the case? I'm on coat eight right now. 30 just seems excessive. What is the benefit of that many coats and how will I know when I have enough?
  2. Lonnybass


    Jul 19, 2000
    San Diego
    Endorsing Artist: Pedulla Basses
    Tru Oil is great stuff. You'll see it start to build after a few coats, depending on how thickly you apply it and the condition of the wood you are putting it on. A lot of it comes down to how you are planning to buff and polish your final layer, as you can eat through coats real quick with even fine sandpapers. What kind of a look are you going for in the end?
  3. I would like it to have a nice gloss look to it. What is the best method for the final polishing?
  4. Did you fill the grain and level everything before applying the Tru Oil?

    Swamp ash has huge grain pores, too large and deep to completely fill with TO unless you've filled them.

    Though you can work up a decent gloss with TO, it is very difficult to get that "dipped in glass" look with it - and especially so on woods that have big pores. I have a bass I finished with ~40 coats about 5 years ago (padauk, bocote, walnut, maple, ebony), and at that time I had all the pores filled. But over the years the TO has continued to shrink a little, and now I can see the pores on everything except the maple and ebony.
  5. Greenman


    Dec 17, 2005
    Ontario Canada
    The nice thing about Tru oil is that its pretty forgiving. You can always re due a finish years down the road. I've had gunstocks that the finish has shrunk as Erik said and just added a few coats to bring it back. Tru oil is not that hard of a finish so think twice about a gloss especially on a wood such as swamp ash.
  6. Greenman


    Dec 17, 2005
    Ontario Canada
    Now that you have me talking. :D
    I've seen a few natural finish swamp ash basses that the grain actually showed and they were quite nice. I'm to lazy but do a search. :)
  7. praisegig

    praisegig Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2008
    Stephenville, TX
    Here is a couple of pics that I sprayed with Tru-oil. I sprayed 10 coats of a mixture of Tru-oil/naptha 75/25%, through a HVLP detail gun. After cure I wetsanded up to 1000 grit and polished with pumice and rottenstone. Auto compounds can also be used during the polishing stage. In using Tru-oil over a natural finish will give some ambering as seen in the second pic. There I used it over an aluminum flake base color coat, but you can see the ambering effect. Nice a golden color, in the right lighting, which I like.

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    Attached Files:

  8. jworrellbass

    jworrellbass Commercial User

    May 17, 2009
    Colorado Springs CO
    Owner, builder: jworrellbass
    I like working with tru-oil. I sand to 400 grit and then use micro mesh. I find that a good buffing with cheese cloth in-between coats really gives it a sweet finish. I think the last bass I put 30 coats on and then used Renaissance wax. Came out beautiful.

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