White streaking on tung oil finish?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by sotua, Jul 21, 2013.

  1. sotua


    Sep 20, 2004
    Somewhere in time

    I got this custom bass done by a local luthier. Finish is tung oil. A few months after receiving it, it developed white streaks, on the grain (see pic).



    Any ideas of what causes this, how to avoid it, how to fix it?

  2. P Town

    P Town

    Dec 7, 2011
    Could it be water?
  3. sotua


    Sep 20, 2004
    Somewhere in time
    Don't know. Water as in "has water been in contact with the finish?". Not on my watch, at least. No contact with fluids except perhaps sweat since I received it, and I don't sweat on those areas of tha bass :D

    Moisture on the original wood? Could be. I have no idea on how the guy sources his wood and/or drying policies.
  4. AltGrendel

    AltGrendel Squire Jag SS fan. Supporting Member

    May 21, 2009
    Mid-Atlantic USA.
    Have you tried cleaning it? I thought tung oil was pretty hard once cured and fairly water resistant. I'm presuming it really is tung oil.
  5. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    That looks to me like someone applied polish over the tung oil finish, and the result is polish in the grain.

    You're the owner - have you been rubbing polish on it?
  6. sotua


    Sep 20, 2004
    Somewhere in time
    Nope, no polish.

    AltGrendel: I'll try a soft toothbrush, since it looks deep in the open grain. Good point on the "is it really tung oil"?
  7. Scott in Dallas

    Scott in Dallas Commercial User

    Aug 16, 2005
    Dallas, north Texas
    Builder and Owner: DJ Ash Guitars
    Might check with the person who did it to find out what they used. If it's not tung oil that could be wax or something else settling in there. Let us know how brushing it goes.
  8. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Tung oil has become a generic term for a boiled linseed oil and varnish blend. There aren't many differences between any of them.
  9. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    You find might some information that will help you in the thread (link below) on applying a sanded-in oil finish.

    FWIW, I've tested several of these finishes, and found them as different as night and day with respect to appearance, durability, moisture resistance, abrasion resistance, coloration, ease of application, and so forth.
  10. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    A toothbrush with really soft bristles might indeed help. I'm tempted to suggest using such a toothbrush and mineral spirits in one small, hard to see area. It wouldn't affect most finishes, but there's always that chance.

    Yes, I agree it would be a great idea to find out what specific finish was used.
  11. PawnBass


    Jul 15, 2013
    Could be air pockets. Ice in the winter looks white when air is underneath. Or oxidation of a metal atoms, micro parts of the wood or oil.
  12. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    I bought on an antique oak buffet that was filthy: waxy dirty buildup from decades. I cleaned it with mineral spirits and steel wool. It went all milky white. I rubbed on tung oil with a cloth and rubbed it in good. That was fifteen years ago. It sits in my kitchen and is a catch all and the finish is durable. We never wax it or polish it. It remains beautiful.

    My advice is that you wipe it hard with a softy cloth with mineral spirits. Let it dry. Then rub tung oil in hard with another soft cloth. That white is caused, imo, by the continuing process of moisture and sap leeching out and affecting the tung oil. At any rate, cleaning with mineral spirits and rubbing more ill into it will in no way harm it.
  13. sotua


    Sep 20, 2004
    Somewhere in time
    Maybe. Received it in late summer, temps have been falling.
  14. Dean N

    Dean N

    Jul 4, 2006
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I used (100% real) tung oil once to finish something with very similar grain and did a bad job wiping off the extra oil that absorbed and then released out of the wood. It ended up curing with a whitish film in the grain that looked like that. I used a cheap nylon brush, mineral spirits, and a lot of elbow grease to clean it up before a second finish attempt.
  15. P Town

    P Town

    Dec 7, 2011
    When I suggested: "water", I was not clear on what I meant. I should have said it looks like the finish was affected by moisture. From what the OP has said about the care, and handling of the bass since new, the moisture may be coming out of wood that was not at a low enough moisture content when the finish was applied, and probably not atmospheric humidity.

    Rubbing with mineral spirits to partially dissolve the finish down to the inner damaged layer may work, and restoring it with the same materials as used originally may work, but if the problem was caused by internal moisture content, and the level is still too high, the problem may return.

    It is worth a try, and if it returns, I would strip the finish, and dry the body.

    You can check the moisture content with a "Lignometer", if you can find a wood shop equipped with one, but they do use two pointy probes that would leave marks, so if you really want to measure it, I would try to test it in an inconspicuous spot.

    (Edit) Now, I see it was made by a local builder not too long ago. I would take it back to the builder, and see what they have to say.
  16. sotua


    Sep 20, 2004
    Somewhere in time
    Yeah, the builder has agreed to fix it, and that explanation sounds logical to me. As I said, I know for sure he doesn't have his own drying facilities and know.nothing about how much does.his source dry before selling.