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Wood Filler and Finishes

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by SRCRS, Jan 22, 2013.

  1. SRCRS


    Apr 23, 2012
    Hi Everybody,

    So I was wondering about wood fillers. What different types are out there? Should I use a specific type for a lighter wood or for a darker wood (Granadillo by the way). I'm really just looking for any type of input/help you guys can give.

    Secondly is there any reason I shouldn't use polyurethane as a finish for a solid body? Or is Nitrocellulose more preferable for some reason?

    Thirdly, anybody happen to know what kind of finish Rickenbacker uses on their fretboards?

  2. wcoffey81


    Feb 3, 2012
    S/E Michigan
    if the bass is going to finished in a solid color, grain does not show through, then any decent wood filler is ok. i actually suggest a two part automotive type filler (bondo) some of the new finishing compounds are really nice to work with.
    today most modern basses are finished in poly and some of the nitro finished ones use a 2k primer/grain filler. the nitro/poly issue has been covered in quite a few other threads
  3. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    When you say wood filler, are you talking about something to fill deep dents and gouges in the wood. Or something like a pour filler, to fill the grain so finish lays down smooth and level with no low spots?

    Secondly, Polyurethane is a more durable finish than nitro. But nitro is more easily repaired.
  4. SRCRS


    Apr 23, 2012
    Hopkins, I'm looking for a pour filler so the finish is smooth with no low spots.

    Wcoffey81, I don't plan on painting the guitar, but thanks for the bondo tip I'll keep that in mind for future reference
  5. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I use either a brown or natural water based product made by Behlen

    I usually do any grain filling after I spray a light wash coat of sealer.
  6. SRCRS


    Apr 23, 2012
    Thanks hopkins! Do you have any experience with UV Laquer?
  7. FatherG


    Dec 16, 2009
    This is a walnut bass that I finished in Tru-Oil - not to be confused with Tung Oil. It is a rub on finish and is outstanding, made for gunstocks - so the finish is more natural and not glossy.

    Attached Files:

  8. JoeDeF


    Apr 15, 2009
    Granadillo is such a beautiful wood! It is your bass, and your creation to do with as you see fit, of course. If you like that billiard-ball smooth look, then fill the pores.

    If you match the color of the filler to the color of the wood, the results may be a bit bland, which might be OK if your design has other attention-getting features, such as a bold outline and contours, hardware and pickguard styling, and the like.

    If you try a jet black filler instead, you may get a pleasingly subtle mottled look that calls a bit more attention to itself but is richer looking. So, experiment with those options.

    I think that a lighter filler would call attention to itself in a negative way as a somewhat foreign intruder into the wood (kind of the "pickled" look), but that's just my opinion.


    However, before you do decide to fill the wood, consider this quote from the great artist-level master woodworker Tage Frid:

    Take a piece of wood - plane, sand and oil it, and you will find it is a beautiful thing. The more you do to it from then on, the more chance that you will make it worse.

    I believe that several different species are sometimes labelled granadillo, but most woods I have seen labelled as such are really beautiful, and would look just smashing when smoothed and oiled.

    So, I would suggest that you take a surface that is likely to be machined off during construction, and plane and smooth and oil it and really polish it up to a nice shine (you can add wax if you like), and see how you like it.

    (In fact, there are some naturally oily woods such as some rosewoods and cocobolo that I have finished as follows: smooth the wood and polish vigorously with 4/0 steel wool. Done. As beautiful as possible, IMHO!)

    I think that many artisan-level woodworkers would agree that an oiled finish with open pores invites touch. You see it and you want to touch it. That's a nice attribute for a musical instrument!

    All IMHO, of course.....
  9. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    No, I sure haven't. I use primarily a two part automotive urethane clear these days. Its fully dry and ready to sand and polish over night, is durable, it builds much faster than nitro, and looks great.
    I have kind of gotten away from nitro, but will still use it on request.
  10. SRCRS


    Apr 23, 2012
    JoeDeF, thanks for the "less is more" prospective, I'll definitely take that into consideration!

    Hopkins, do you have a website or anything that I could check out?
  11. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I don't think the stuff I use has a website. I buy it from a local auto body supply
  12. SRCRS


    Apr 23, 2012
    Thanks Hopkins!