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Protecting without smothering-Finish for walnut bass

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Jontom, Nov 11, 2002.


  1. Jontom

    Jontom

    Mar 11, 2002
    New York
    My next Warmoth project is a Walnut J-bass body with Wenge J-neck and gold hardware. I want it to have a natural finish to let the beauty/tone of the wood show through. But I also want to seal and protect the wood from chipping/denting/cracking. The neck I will probably wipe down with some Warwick wax and the fingerboard with some lemon oil. The body I'm kind of up in the air about. I've done other basses with polyurethane and nitrolacquer, but when I used those it hid the tone of the wood. I'm leaning toward a stain for color and possibly a danish oil or tung oil as a protectant. Whats good for protecting without smothering?
     
  2. Oil would be my preferred method. Use a "polymerized" tung oil or TruOil. The latter was specifically developed and marketed to gun owners for the stocks of their weapons. And with that application comes the best proof that the oil finish will do what you want - can you think of any other wood item that can get more scratches or blemishes than a hunting rifle or shotgun?

    As for dents, you are on your own about that. No finish will prevent a ding. If it's a thick poly, it will just crush the top coat so that doesn't help. Neither will the oil but a hardening oil (the polymerized versions) will develop a built-up finish and do as much as any clear coat. It will also look a lot better.
     
  3. Jontom

    Jontom

    Mar 11, 2002
    New York
    Thanks Hambone. I take it that the Tru-oil won't mess with the tone too much?
     
  4. In the interest of accuracy, I would have to say that unless you had 2 identical basses - one with poly and the other with oil - there would be no real way to tell if the oil had any affect on the tone. Tone really starts with the woods and construction. To compare oil to poly without also comparing each to a bass with no finish would only give you a portion of the story. Oil is the least "smothering" and most natural for wood and IMO will allow the best characteristics of the wood to be heard.
     
  5. Jontom

    Jontom

    Mar 11, 2002
    New York
  6. By the way - The chambered Jazz that I've shown in another thread is mostly walnut and it's going to have an oil finish. I've taken the lazy route to natural finish basses and use oil exclusively. It's easy - even stupid easy, and really can't be screwed up if you are patient. The quality of an oil finish is directly related to the amount of time you put into it. If you go over on the MIMF forum and look at the gallery of instruments (mine too!) you'll see oil finishes that look like lacquer. Of course these took a long time to finish but at any point in the process the builders could have stopped with satisfactory results. That's what's so cool with oil - a little looks good - more looks better!

    Another little caveat about oil - make sure your wood preparation is complete. Oil will make the figure stand out but you've got to have a VERY smooth surface to begin. Microplaning is recommended using a scraper or glass microscope slide. After doing that, I recommend "sizing" the wood using egg-whites. Brush on the egg-whites and let them dry until they are a powder. Wipe off the residue before oiling. This is one of the secrets of the top builders for bringing out the figure of the wood.
     
  7. Jontom

    Jontom

    Mar 11, 2002
    New York
    The egg whites would be before or after I stain for color? I'm planning on a minwax dark walnut. And the Tru-oil would be a wipe-on application?