tiger stripe maple neck - tung oil?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by AndyPanda, Oct 27, 2016.

  1. I have resurrected a badly abused bass - it's turned out to be a very nice playing bass now but the back of the neck was covered in dents. I generally prefer an oiled neck anyway so I sanded it down and it feels really nice - has a very good profile. I was just going to do a tung oil finish but it has a lot of stripes - I don't usually see this on bass necks and wonder if I should do anything special or just oil it like normal?
    Here's what it looked like before - it was like this over the entire neck:
    And here is what it looks like now:
  2. Means2nEnd

    Means2nEnd Supporting Member

    Just know it still can take on moisture. Meaning it can be affected by moisture possibly move as in twist or warp much more so than if it had a poly or lacquer or something like that. I prefer and oiled type finish on a neck myself but they don't really seal the wood as well as the other finishes. That said rock it how you like it.
  3. joinercape


    Dec 22, 2007
    That's lovely figure, nitrocellulose lacquer would make those stripes jump out and protect the neck too. That being said, on my own instrument necks(classical guitars, electric and upright basses) I like French Polish, which also looks and IMHO feels the best, lasts many years, and repairs very easily. I have been getting my shellac flakes from Luthiers Mercantile for decades, and use walnut oil as the medium. The technique requires a bit of practice if you haven't done it before, but there are plenty of resources online to help you out. It isn't nearly as hard as people like to try to make it, and an old beater instrument is a good place to practice. Another big plus is shellac finishes can be removed completely without hurting the wood. It is used on museum quality antique restorations all the time for that reason.
    AndyPanda likes this.
  4. What do you use to strip the shellac off?
  5. joinercape


    Dec 22, 2007
    Simply brush on denatured alcohol, let it soften the shellac, then use steel wool (000 or 0000) or 3M pads to wipe off the residue. Then clean up with alcohol again. Sometimes it takes several applications. Apologies to the OP, I do not mean to hijack the thread! But perhaps it is useful info.
    AndyPanda likes this.
  6. No apology necessary - this is right on topic and exactly the sort of info I am interested in. I have been very curious about shellac and the french polish technique - have watched a few videos and intend to order some shellac flakes and give it a try. How does the shellac finish feel on the back of a neck? I don't like the feel of lacquer neck unless I scotchbright it.

    I have already done this particular neck in Tung Oil and it came out really nice. I used Formby's which apparently doesn't have much, if any, actual Tung Oil in it? - but I've always liked it. I was getting impatient because the Formby's just wasn't setting up hard this time (probably because it's cooled off and been raining a lot) and the neck felt tacky to the touch even after a week or two. Then I got this bright idea (meaning I felt really dumb for not thinking of it before) and set the bass in front of a sunny window and after about three days of letting the sun beat on the neck it had hardened up nicely.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2016
  7. joinercape


    Dec 22, 2007
    I have not used Formby's but did finish a classical guitar once with an oil finish by request of the client. I used Waterlox, which is a tung oil based varnish which I have used for years on furniture, and can be applied in very thin coats with a fob (a golf ball sized wad of soft lint free cotton cloth), like French polish. It came out looking great but the client's personal chemistry ate the finish off the back of the neck in about two years, making it soft and gummy! I have never used oil finishes on instruments since (that was in 1997). After I cleaned up the finish and French polished over it, no more problems! As to lacquer, it is probably the most accepted instrument finish, it's hard, relatively easy it repair, and does a great job of bringing out any figure in the wood. But I agree with you, I can't get comfortable playing gloss lacquered necks without breaking the gloss.
    As far a shellac goes, it feels slick and smooth, completely non sticky, and is very easy to touch up.
  8. I'll have to try the shellac. When I do tung oil, I do it very much like a french polish with a cotton ball wrapped in a golf ball sized t-shirt material. Once the wood has soaked up all it will, you can build it up like french polish (but have to wait day or more between coats unlike french polish) but I don't like to build it up on the neck, I leave it feeling like wood but there's enough finish soaked in that the wood doesn't ever discolor from hands sweat/oil and I've never had it get gummy (once you finally get it to set up the first time).
    joinercape likes this.