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How to tell whether finish has been applied?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by mlauritsen, Mar 14, 2014.

  1. mlauritsen


    Sep 21, 2013

    I am a novice wood-worker and bass builder, who is just starting out
    and has a lot to learn. Sorry if I am posting in the wrong place - I
    did read the Howto and FAQ, but the question I'm asking is pretty
    specific, hope that's ok.

    I was lucky enough to take over an e-Bass Building project from
    somebody who lost interest a long time ago. (And hence whom I don't
    want to bother with questions)

    Basically, I got a quite advanced-state Body and Neck.

    The body is stained, some kind of brown-burst, IMHO beautifully, but I
    am not sure whether any finish has been applied. I put the instrument
    together to make sure everything was ok, and the bass plays great, but
    after 10 minutes happy plunking, I noticed that the colour of the body
    throws - what I mean by that is that my palm was dark where it had
    rested on the body while I was playing.

    This is suboptimal - I'd like to take this bass places without
    worrying about leaving traces.

    I am pretty sure the body is not lacquered (that would be obvious,
    right?), but how can I tell whether it has been oiled?

    If the body is not finished, I was planning to do it with danish oil
    (or whichever equivalent I can locate here in Switzerland...) - any
    thoughts on that?

    Will the colour be "sealed off" if I oil it?

    If pictures would be helpful, I'll try and post some (that seems to be more difficult than I expected...)

  2. Manton Customs

    Manton Customs UK Luthier

    Jan 31, 2014
    Shropshire, UK
    Luthier, Manton Customs
    If the dye is coming off, then there isn't a finish, unless you have worn through the finish completely, but that would be obvious. So it sounds like it was never finished. I'm guessing it's a water based dye if it's coming off on your hands as the moisture/sweat from your hands is what is removing the dye, so keep this in mind (don't get it wet before there's a finish on it!). Yes adding an oil finish will seal the colour and prevent it happening anymore, you'll need a few coats though. Adding a finish will also make it look a lot better!

    Hope this helps :)
  3. mrz2u


    May 10, 2012
    But...depending on what that stain/dye actually is the oil finish may also cause the stain/dye to run.

    If you don't just want to put a spray on clear like lacquer or poly then I say Bother the guy you got it from for this one thing and learn what he used.

    Just my $.02
  4. Manton Customs

    Manton Customs UK Luthier

    Jan 31, 2014
    Shropshire, UK
    Luthier, Manton Customs
    I have never come across a dye which will run with oil. If you thin your oil excessively with naphtha and it's a alcohol based finish then it may. But as this one sounds like water based and if he does not thin it, he will be fine. But common sense still applies...test it somewhere inconspicuous first.