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sticky neck and linseed oil

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Steve Killingsworth, Mar 17, 2003.

  1. I have recently arrived at the conclusion that I have to do something about the neck of my Swingmaster. Over the weekend I played with a warpspeed bluegrass group in a PACKED auditorium. This combination led to perspiration which led to the back of the neck becoming sticky which led to very difficult shifts which led to somewhat jerky playing.

    I read an earlier thread about removing the gloss and treating with boiled linseed oil and lint free cloth. Does this cause any serious discoloration of the neck? That is a price I am willing to pay to get a more playable instrument but I dislike nasty surprises and want to know what to expect.

  2. jimclark68


    Dec 16, 2000
    Morganton, NC
    I deglossed my neck and rubbed it with boiled linseed oil. I have been told that it is slightly darker; I am no longer able to detect subtle visual differences due to retinal damage from light reflecting off of my Engelhardt's finish.

    Seriously, it's an easy job and well worth the time. Check out the past threads on the subject.
  3. Jim--

    Thanks for the quick response. I will be shopping for boiled oil soon.


    First point=amen. I have learned that thumb contact is vastly superior to gripping the neck like a ballbat. The problem is that in bgrass the bass tends to be 1-5-1-5-1-5 with an occasional walk between chords. Also, bgrass has several different styles and I favor the "traditional" one which usually features 3 chords and a cloud of dust. All this combines to accentuate my natural laziness. If I am not vigilant my thumb tends to slip around the neck and voila, I am squeezing the bloody thing.
    It is something I am working on.

    Second point= no true teacher. I live way out in the sticks and the only ub teacher I have found willing to work with me is in Nashville--140 miles away. Unfortunately, the only time available was unacceptable to me because as a high school history teacher I am unable to leave an hour before my students. I have found an accomplished musician who has taken me under his wing and provided invaluable assistance on theory, timing, intonation, etc. He primarily plays the fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and banjo. The problem is that while he can play one, he is not a ub player and has only provided me very rudimentary advice on technique. Consequently, the TB forum and occasional tidbits of advice dispensed by you old salts is invaluable to me.

  4. It may turn it a little darker, but it won't be ugly.

    I prefer to treat glossy necks by removing all the finish. Use progressively finer sandpaper or a scraper. Then wet the neck slightly to raise the grain and finish with a sharp cabinet scraper.
    This leaves the neck silky smooth and beautifully grained.
    I don't like to use drying oils because they tend to de-polymerize or turn gummy with perspiration, especially if over-oiled. I prefer to leave the wood unmolested and protected by skin oil.

    I finish fingerboards similarly, though using a light coat of light mineral oil to protect.
  5. It must be the weather in Chicago:D . I've never seen that happen with a drying oil in Kansas City over the past 40 years or so. They must have poured the drying oil on to make that happen! I would be more inclined to worry about the non-drying light mineral oil seeping thru the pores or small cracks in the ebony and getting to the maple under the fingerboard. Hide glue doesn't stick too well to minerial oil. Welcome back Pete.
  6. Boiled linseed, tung, and various nut oils are considered drying oils, though this is somewhat a misnomer. It is actually their reaction to oxygen that crosslinks molecules and polymerizes them.
    This chemical reaction can be very slow and unpredictable, sometimes taking years.
    My observation has been that the finish is not rock hard or highly stable, and tends to dissolve with certain oils, solvents, and acids, some of which are present to varying degrees in perspiration. The resulting gunk leeches out creating a nasty, waxy feel.
    I think your suggestion to keep it light is on the mark Bob
  7. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Hey Pete!
    How's Studebaker?
    I use Watco Danish Oil on necks and boards. It works like a champ. My bud Dan Hachez uses it, too. If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me.
  8. Watco Danish Oil is my drying oil of choice too.
  9. Is this Watco Danish available at hardware/Lowes/HomeDepot type stores or something that must be ordered from a specialty supplier? Also, once you have completed the initial treatment is it necessary to repeat on occasion?
  10. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    It's available at most woodworking and hardware stores. Watco products are very mass market.

    The Watco Danish Oil is, like most premixed "oil" finshes, actually a varnish. It's an oil base with resins, thinners and driers added. I used it on a lot of projects over the years.

    A similar product is Water-Lox, which I used to finish every square inch of wood trim in my house with. I also used it to touch up my old King bass and another old plywood bass I restored some years ago.
  11. While it might be technically a varnish, we don't use it as a varnish in luthery. The idea is to wet the surface of the neck or fingerboard with Danish oil, let it set for an hour or so (If the surface appears dry after an hour, repeat the process) and then wipe off with a paper towel before it has a chance to set up on top of the wood. Most the dryed Danish Oil coating is at or below the level of the wood - not on top of it.
  12. Hey Bob, how many coats do you apply or how do you tell when you have enough?

  13. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    You can get polymerized tung oil and linseed oil. These are NOT varnishes, they are natural film-drying oils that have had some heat treatment and a little chemical hit. They will dry much more quickly and reliably than a normal oil or an oil varnish.

    In the States, "Tru-Oil" is a polymerized tung oill there are probably others. You can also buy it from Lee Valley under the name "polymerized tung oil". Very pricey stuff compared to straight oil.

    I've used both natural tung oil, natural linseed oil, and polymerized tung oil for refinishing the back of instrument necks. The polymerized tung is fantastic; I don't believe it will ever get gummy, this oxidization is complete.... You certainly can get problems with straight oils.

    I haven't got Pete's experience, but I would never use a non-polymerizing oil (like mineral oil) on a wooden product. Well, maybe I would as a lubricant. It's never going to dry, and it's just going to stay oily. My belief, anyway: I'm probably wrong.

    There is also a brand of finishes out these days called "Tried & True" that offers a polymerized oil product.
  14. I would consider the polymerized tung oil and linseed oil in the same category as Danish Oil. They are technically varnishes. Most violin oil varnishes are in fact based on polymerized linseed oil, tung oil, walnut oil, etc. The other product that Damon mentioned may be fine for fingerboard and neck surfaces, but I prefer Danish Oil simply because I've used it for over 40 years and I know how it respond over a long period of time.

    Steve - you know when when you have enough when you get to the point where the wood apprears to not be absorbing the oil (i.e. the surface still looks "wet") after letting it sit for an hour or so. Usually, two or three coats will do the job.
  15. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Well, if finishing doesn't create more kerfuffle over terminology than any other shop subject, I don't wanna know about that other topic...

    I understand "varnish" to be some sort of resin that's cooked in an oil (linseed, tung), resulting in a film-type finish. Varnish mixed with yet more oil and solvent is oil varnish.

    I just consulted Flexner's Understanding Wood Finishing and he says that "any curing or semi-curing oil can be heated in an oxygen-free environment to around 500 degrees Fahrenheit to increase its gloss and hardness and reduce its curing time. Oil processed in this manner is called polymerized or heat-bodied oil."

    The polymerized tung I've used definitely dries faster and harder than the straight oils.

    BTW: the heat treatment applied in polymerization does not constitute boiling of the oil. Who knows, I guess it boils, but that's not what you're getting when you hear of "boiled linseed oil". They used to need heat to get the added chemical drying agents to dissolve. Boiled linseed oil is still hit with chemical driers, but the manufacturing process doesn't require heat.
  16. In Violin varnish (see William Fulton, Terpene Violin Varnish) a resin is added (heated) to oil to create an oil varnish. A resin disolved in alcohol is a spirit varnish.

    My point is that if you consider Danish oil to be a varnish, you have to consider polyerized linseed, tung, walnut, etc. to be a varnish. If you don't consider Danish oil to be a varnish, then I would agree that the polymerized oils are not varnish. Take your choice!
  17. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Gotcha. Who's on first. What's on second?

    Thanks for the reference, Bob. 'preciate it.
  18. The MSDS for Watco Danish oil shows it contains
    Mineral Spirits
    Raw Linseed Oil
    Zirconium Drier
  19. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Cool. Thx, Pete.

    According to my way of describing things, the presence of the resin in the Watco Danish Oil makes it a kind of varnish.

    I'm looking right now at a tin of Lee Valley polymerized tung oil. They claim it's a pure natural tung with "no additives other than the thinners and driers needed to speed the drying process."

    Thinners = solvent (like the mineral spirits in the Watco danish oil)
    Driers = something like that zirconium stuff

    Only thing missing is the resin. In my books, that means the polymerized oil is still oil. Performs like varnish though.

    The poly tung is good stuff, I've used it and liked the results. It's expensive though. Works good for necks.
  20. Pete - Where did you find that information. The MSDS site I found on showed the ingrediants as:

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