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Tru-oil question

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Groovecenter, Nov 22, 2006.

  1. Hi everyone,

    Just bought myself an unlined fretless warmoth neck and had a few questions on the finishing of the instrument.

    Warmoth says the only non poly, non lacquer finish they'll accept is tru-oil. I therefore intend to finish the neck with tru-oil, as I lacquered my last warmoth neck and was not impressed by the results, both feel wise and look wise.

    1. Is there any prep work needed before applying the tru-oil?

    2. Is there any work in between applications of the tru-oil?

    3. How many coats may be considered a durable finish? (obviously I'm expecting a ball park figure, not set in stone numbers)

    4. The fingerboard is Satine (bloodwood) and unlined, the back of the neck is a beautiful birdseye maple. Should I and can I apply the tru-oil to the fingerboard as well? I've heard problems with oily woods and repelling finishes, I know not whether satine is such a wood.

    5. What should I expect drying time between coats to be approximately?

    6. What work needs to be done after application of all the coats? (sanding, steel wooling, paper bag rubbing, licking)

    7. Can tru-oil be used safely in a relatively small area with moderate ventilation? (this area being my apartment with only open windows)

    I hope the way in which I posed these questions was helpfull to those who might wish to answer and I thank you ahead of time.
  2. bryanjnkns


    Oct 18, 2006
    i'm afraid i don't have any answers to your questions but i do have experience with oil finished maple necks. They get dirty and stay dirty.(or i should say they show dirt more so than a darker wood) Wood has a nice way of soaking up the acids from your hands and once its there, its there; it's not like you can just wipe it down and expect it to be clean like you can with a laq or poly. But then again maybe my hands are more acidic than others, however IMHO i would not finish your beautiful birds eye with just oil.
  3. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    Well, Tru Oil doesn't have much of a smell, really, so I think you could use it in your apartment with a window open.
    Don't know about Satine being oily... just try it on a small area and see if the Tru-oil dries overnight.
    It's just sand, wipe on some Tru-Oil, let it sit overnight, repeat until you get the depth you want. Just keep using finer grade sandpaper each time. I like to finish off mine with extra-fine steel wool for a satin finish.
    Tru-Oil is actually very friendly stuff.. hard to make a mistake, about the worst thing it will do is develop a "run"... which you just sand out with the next coat.
  4. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
  5. thanks for the replies.

    Bryan, your concerns are noted. I don't sweat all that much and I'm set on the idea of an oil finished neck. I want to appreciate the beauty of the wood, but if it comes at the cost of comfort it's not worth it.

    Mr. Ogle, thanks for your response, knowing the way I am, the closer something is to idiot proof the better.

    Jazz dog, couple of questions:

    1. The neck I have is sanded and had been dipped in an "oil based penetrating sealer" (warmoth website). Per your instructions, should I still be sanding with the lower grits in between coats? Also, I don't know for sure but I don't think maple is an open grained wood, does the sanding in between coats still help to achieve a shinier finish?

    2. I've already applied two coats with no sanding, just application of a thin coat and buffing with a cotton rag; with your wood experience do you think it a bad idea to use the neck at a gig transported in a very protective gig bag, as it is not even oil finished at this point? Also, should I do anything with the neck to make up for missed sanding from the coats applied before reading this thread?

    thanks again, Steve
  6. The number of coats in a Tru Oil finish can vary widely, from a few up to 40-50 depending what you want to accomplish.

    If you want a "satin" type of look, then on birdseye you need only a few coats, but don't leave more than about 20 minutes between them. If you do, then you need to do some scuff sanding with fine grit for mechanical adhesion before applying the next coats. Tru Oil is like a varnish, there is no chemical bite-back into the underlying coats if they have dried.

    A bloodwood fretboard needs no finish, it is so hard (as hard or harder than ebony) it will buff up pretty nicely on its own. In any case, Tru Oil is a very poor choice for a fretless fingerboard, it dries hard enough for bodies & necks but not fretboards. The strings will eat into it pretty quick.
  7. Thanks very much for your reply Erik.

    Just to be sure, are you saying that for a nice satin look I should apply a coat, leave for about 20 minutes than apply another coat with no sanding in between?

    I also plan on finishing the neck- after the tung oil- with tru-oil, as I heard that tung oil can work underneath tru-oil for a nice look and protection.

    Good to hear the bloodwood needs no further finishing, as so far the feel of the naked wood is amazing. Even after two applications of oil the birdseye is popping and man does the neck ever feel sweet, not in the least like the sticky-ness of the nitro on my other neck. (not saying all nitro is sticky, but in my experience it sure is sticker than oil, and not as pretty in my eyes.)
  8. Yeah, some people call these "tack coats" in that they are tacky to the touch, still enough solvent left to let the next coat bite back a little bit.

    You're probably fine with 20 minutes, I apply my coats very very thin, so I wait only 15 minutes. And no more than 5 of these coats before I let it dry completely (overnight) and level-sand before the next batch of coats.

    But if you're after a more satin kind of look, 5 coats is probably enough. It should be nice and smooth, if it still feels a little sticky to you (like the nitro) you can leave it for another day, then scuff it with 0000 steel wool and it'll be nice and smooth to the touch.
  9. thanks for the reply.

    Have you ever applied tru oil over tung oil?
  10. Nope. Never used tung.

    Why do you want one kind of oil finish over another?
  11. I had read a testimonial wherein tru oil was described as a a harder film though less penetrating than tung oil. It was then recommended to start with tung oil and finish with tru. I'll look for the thread in which that statement was contained and hopefully produce a link.

    edit, found the link- It's Ken Smith's first post, and then JSPguitars gives an explanation as to why the two oils would not work in reverse.

  12. Interesting, thanks for the post CG. True Oil seems to penetrate pretty well for me (judging by how well the wood drinks up the first 2-3 coats), but I can't argue with Ken Smith.

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