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Tru-Oil, Tung Oil, or MinWax Wipe-On Poly?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Bob_Ross, Feb 20, 2014.

  1. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    ...third in a series of my DIY Finishing saga.

    Backstory: Getting a Warmoth body, alder with a quilted maple top laminate. Want to do a clear non-glossy finish that's requires as little special equipment or infrastructure as possible. I'm happy with the idea of Wipe On/Wipe Off/Let Dry/Sand/Repeat ...anything more involved and I start to get out of my comfort zone.

    Anyhow, based on some cursory reading and youtube-ing I thought I wanted to use Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil. But after a trip through my local paint & hardware store I realized I could either A) go with Formby's Tung Oil, 2) go with MiniWax Wipe-On Poly, or 3) find another paint & hardware store that actually carries Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil.

    Anyone care to opine on the pros & cons of any of these three products, and weigh in on which would be your preference, especially given my inexperience with this whole wood finishing gig?

  2. rumblinbass


    Aug 22, 2003
    Wimberley, TX
    also interested in any input as well for a parts bass I am working on right now.
  3. StuartV

    StuartV Finally figuring out what I really like Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Manassas, VA
    All I can contribute is that I just finished re-finishing the neck on my EBMM Sterling. Thus, I needed Tru-Oil and couldn't find any locally. I ordered a big bottle of it from Amazon and it arrived fairly promptly.

    If you don't need it immediately, may as well order it yourself (if you decide to use Tru-Oil).

    Be advised, once you open a bottle of Tru-Oil, it gradually will go bad from being exposed to air. It doesn't go off quickly, but don't buy a big bottle expecting to use half and keep the other half around for months until your next project.

    Tru-Oil is a hardening oil (thus, going bad or hardening when exposed to air). I *think* Tung Oil is, too. Not sure about the MinWax. Personally, I would definitely make sure whatever I used is a hardening oil.

    After I finished my Sterling neck, I started using the rest of my Tru-Oil to put a finish on a nice piece of birch plywood that I am using as the top, for a workbench I'm making. I've done about 10 coats, so far, and I'm really happy with the way it's coming out. I may actually be done putting oil on and ready for the final light sand and buff. If you want, I can take a couple of pictures of the finished and unfinished sides of the plywood so you can see the effect the Tru-Oil has on the appearance.
  4. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Formby's low gloss is very easy to work with, and will give you the finish you are looking for.
  5. Fair Warning

    Fair Warning Deliverin' the Goods! Supporting Member

    My Tung Oil over stained Ash turned out absolutely PRO! Cant get any "non-stress" as the Tung Oil.
  6. lbridenstine


    Jun 25, 2012
    I think any of them would work fine for you. Tru-oil isn't something they seem to sell in hardware stores, it's more at gun shops and online.

    I think the wipe on poly will get harder with less coats than the others. They all look good in my opinion.
  7. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    I have a tung oil finished bass. The finish is not very protective at all. The bass is dinged to hell and back! I was contemplating hitting it with wipe on poly.
  8. StuartV

    StuartV Finally figuring out what I really like Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Manassas, VA
    That's why I like Tru-Oil. It hardens, so if you get enough coats on the wood, it seems to give it a nice protective shell. Or you can put less coats on and still get some protection, but not build up any gloss or any feeling of having a protective shell on the wood, if you want.
  9. Bullitt5135


    Nov 16, 2010
    SE Michigan
    Check your local gun shop for Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil. That's where I found mine. You might even find it at Wal-Mart.
  10. TexasTodd


    Jan 10, 2013
    I've used the satin wipe-on poly on an antique bed frame I refinished -- I know, not a bass. But, it went on very easy and looks great. I did about 4 or 5 coats, but I'd double that for a bass. Can't comment on the gloss finish, but the satin is very nice.
  11. mrz2u


    May 10, 2012
    If you mean this... http://www.formbys.com/products/tung_oil/...well then that is not pure tung oil and really not all that much different than the wipe on poly after its dry. I tried that stuff once, by accident because I took the labels word for it that it was actually Tung oil and it barely even had any in the blend. I find it to be a horrible finish that is not even remotely as close to as easy as pure tung oil and the results are nowhere as close either.

    Pure tung oil is a beautiful finish if you have wood worth looking at and dont want a high gloss finish. Its perhaps the easiest finish to apply...you really cant screw it up and you can give it a coat once a year to keep it fresh if you like! I love it!

    Unless you put a very high build spray on poly nothing you rub on from the box stores is going to do much to lessen dings...not prevent, nothing prevents them except not hitting things.
  12. k31bassman


    Feb 4, 2010
    I've taken marbles to displace the "air space" remaining in a half full bottle. One year later, the remaining Tru-oil seemed the same as when I originally opened the bottle. (Of course, I had access to a bunch of "free" marbles so it didn't cost me anything.)
  13. nightwulf


    Feb 27, 2011
    Edmonds Wa
    The tung oil finish is not waterproof, and will need to be redone every year or so...half a dozen coats of wipe on poly provide much better protection....just wipe on the poly, allow to dry, hit it with )))) steel wool, wipe down with a tack cloth and repeat....It'll take you a week to get finished, but you'll have a good finish....and you have the choice of gloss, semi gloss or flat....My advice would be to hit it with a light coat of orange shellac before putting on anything else, as that will cause the grain to "pop" and become far more visible...and either the tung oil or the poly can go over it...
  14. bassdog


    May 23, 2005
    Atlanta, Ga
    I did my swamp ash PJ with wipe-on satin poly. Turned out great. It is fairly rugged and still lets the woodiness (is that a word?) through. Easy to apply. I did about 12 coats.

  15. I've used tru-oil on a number of instruments now and it's pretty good I reckon. Tru-oil really seals and hardens the surface. It's designed for all weather gunstocks so you know it's gig worthy.

    You can make your own version of tru-oil if you like. It's super cheap and the mix is as follows...

    1 part boiled linseed oil/1 part gloss urethane timber sealer
    Just shake and it's ready to go.

    If you want it to dry a little quicker...
    1 part linseed oil/ 1 part urethane/ 1 part turpentine

    If I can say just two more things.
    1. A great oil finish is sanded in. Expect to spend a lot of time doing it properly. There are some threads with how tos on here so do a search for them.

    2. DON'T use steel wool. Small bits of it will stay on the finish no matter how much you wipe off. This can result in rust stains down the track. Wet and dry or sand paper work better anyhow.
  16. Means2nEnd

    Means2nEnd Supporting Member


    If it works for Carl Thompson it just might work for you.

    I have personally had mixed results with Tru-Oil and to me it smells like garbage.

    I have had excellent results with wipe on poly and seems to cure slow too but once cured it's more solid and permanent and it polishes up like glass.
  17. tungx


    Mar 8, 2013
    St. Louis
    I am, of course, partial to tung oil. But I would certainly use some kind of polyurethane if you want something that will protect a bit from minor dings and scratches.
  18. mrz2u


    May 10, 2012
    Another thing you can do with the oils that oxidize is to buy some of this stuff to seal up your bottles.


    You can fine it at any good wine shop locally I would imagine.
  19. 1958Bassman


    Oct 20, 2007
    If you're looking for a hard candy coating, thin coats of wipe-on finish isn't gonna do it. Physical dings will compress the wood with almost any finish, hard and thick, or not.
  20. 1958Bassman


    Oct 20, 2007
    MinWax has a wood floor poly that comes in various gloss levels and it dries faster than most. It also offers more protection than other types. You can wipe, brush or spray it on. I used this for my kitchen cabinets and it turned out great. I used an HVLP conversion spray gun from Harbor Freight- I bought it when it was on sale, just to see if it could do a decent job and it does- I used it to spray shellac on the wooden cases for two McIntosh power amps and my SD Curlee body, too. If you still want to use ScotchBrite on it, you can.

    My best advice- if you're not experienced with wood finishing, get some scraps from any source and practice. A lot. Wipe it, brush it, dip ScotchBrite in it and work the finish and use the wood that's removed by the abrasive into the grain and make notes. This last one is a quick way to fill the pores without having to buy anything else and it build very quickly. You can use wet/dry sandpaper and a wooden block (flat pieces) for this, too. On curved pieces or turnings, you would use the ScotchBrite.

    Look for videos on YouTube, for more instructions.