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Forum topic by extrabuzz posted 04-08-2021 01:59 PM 320 views 1 time favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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extrabuzz

3 posts in 9 days


04-08-2021 01:59 PM

Topic tags/keywords: tung oil wax-free shellac icbinl luthier guitar bass finish matte satin flame maple natural chatoyance question

Greetings, LumberJocks!

I’m looking for advice on a finish for a guitar kit that I’m assembling.

I’m no woodworker and have little experience with finishes in general, other than painting walls my wife tells me to.

I want the finish to be:
1. Natural, because the maple veneer has a nice flame, and I don’t want to cover it up or ruin its chatoyance
2. Somewhat tough, because I don’t want something like a fingernail to easily mar or dent the surface
3. Matte or satin sheen (flatter is preferred)

I found a video on you tube, where the gentleman outlined a process to do just this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NlNIJKLFtA

Based on this video (and some other nuggets I’ve picked up online), my plan is to
1. Apply a few coats of Tung oil over a few weeks time (I’m not in a hurry on this)
2. Apply the recommended Zinsser de-waxed shellac (a coat or two—or more(?)) on top of the cured Tung oil
3. Apply a lacquer-like product on top (I’m looking at this: ICBINL)

As I mentioned, I really have no clue about what I’m doing. I’m just trying to pick up on the experience of folks that seem to know what they’re doing.

Does what I’m thinking about doing get me where I want to be on the finish?

Is there a “better” way to do this?

Here’s a photo I found online of a guitar (bass) I found that has the exact finish I had in mind above. This is what I’m trying to achieve:

Thank you for your help with this!

buzz


16 replies so far

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SMP

3813 posts in 961 days


#1 posted 04-08-2021 02:29 PM

Well, if you already know one that you like and have the steps that will work but IMHO that is overkill. If you are topcoating the tung oil with shellac, then 1 coat of tung oil will already bring out the chatoyance. However, i did a bunch of sample boards of curly maple, and using tung oil and shellac vs using just blonde shellac basically looked identical. I could “kind of” tell a difference I knew, but nobody else i asked could tell a difference. My advice is whatever you decide, do some samples, preferably with cutoffs from the same wood.

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extrabuzz

3 posts in 9 days


#2 posted 04-08-2021 04:07 PM

@SMP: Thanks!

I’ve heard that as Tung oil “dries”, it hardens, so multiple coats of it would help make the wood less prone to dings, scratches, and marring. Would you agree with that?

I get that the look would be very similar between just the blonde shellac vs the shellac over Tung oil, but I’m wondering if one or more coats of Tung oil under the shellac would add some additional protection to the wood as well, or as you put, is it just overkill in this regard as well?

buzz

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PBWilson1970

196 posts in 449 days


#3 posted 04-08-2021 04:37 PM

By “natural” do you mean as close to the original color of the maple, or will some light amber tint be ok?

Lacquer can be a great finish, but they do break down over time. The whole “relic” style is based on nitro lacquer becoming brittle and flaking off.

If you want to maintain the look of the instrument, I’d try a wipe-on poly. I know that poly finishes are generally frowned upon by the guitar community, but they’ll keep your instrument looking newer longer than most. A first coat of oil or shellac to pop the grain might be nice, but you’ve got a lot of absolutely wonderful and easy to apply finishes to choose from. Minwax Wipe-On Poly is easy to use and is among the lightest and most natural of wipe on varnishes I’ve used. I’ve also used Waterlox a ton and it’s also wonderful, but has a definite amber cast to it. You can make either one satin or matte with steel wool or synthetic abrasive pads if you like. Tru-Oil is another very popular one that instrument makers use often. Ken Parker’s recent archtop videos show his method of applying this finish. Search Youtube for “Ken Parker’s Archtoppery” and see him seal with West System epoxy and finish with coats of Tru-Oil.

That’s a beautiful instrument for sure! Love the old-school semi-hollow short-scale basses!

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning.

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SMP

3813 posts in 961 days


#4 posted 04-08-2021 05:03 PM



@SMP: Thanks!

I ve heard that as Tung oil “dries”, it hardens, so multiple coats of it would help make the wood less prone to dings, scratches, and marring. Would you agree with that?

I get that the look would be very similar between just the blonde shellac vs the shellac over Tung oil, but I m wondering if one or more coats of Tung oil under the shellac would add some additional protection to the wood as well, or as you put, is it just overkill in this regard as well?

buzz

- extrabuzz

All finishes harden as the dry. This can be both good and bad. If it dries hard, but is hard to fix later on, this can be a nightmare. For example, polyurethane film finishes are very hard. If you ding them they are a ton of work to repair. Lacquer and shellac are easier to repair. Oil finishes that don’t build up a film are less noticeable as only the wood really dings. For an instrument though, keep it in a case when not in use, and choose the finish you like the look of. Its not like its a dining room table.

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OSU55

2774 posts in 3045 days


#5 posted 04-08-2021 06:13 PM

Its possible to do a very nice, durable, and repairable satin finish with plain ole minwax poly. Use satin or semi gloss. Sand the wood to p800. Thin the poly 1:1 with ms, flood it on. Keep adding as the finish is absorbed. After 10-15 min, wipe dry. Let dry for 4 hrs, repeat. If desired you can wet sand with higher grits to increase gloss (use semi gloss). Minimum 3 coats. To repair scratches simply apply thinned poly and wet sand or steel wool. Read this. The poly may have more amber in it than you want.

Fyi tung oil, blo, shellac, solvent lacquer, and solvent poly will all provide chatoyance (pop the grain) by themselves. No need to to multiple finish types. Amount of Chatoyance is affected by gloss level – higher sheen shows more chatoyance.

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extrabuzz

3 posts in 9 days


#6 posted 04-08-2021 09:09 PM

Thank you for all the replies! I’ll need to digest this info this evening.

I see multiple recommendations for (Minwax) Wipe-On Poly.

I see two types of the wipe-on poly available: water- and oil-based. Do your recommendations apply to one of these specifically, or is this a you-can’t-go-wrong-with-either scenario.

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Foghorn

1149 posts in 442 days


#7 posted 04-08-2021 10:15 PM

Some good suggestions. I’ve only ever used nitro lacquer sprayed with a gun. Reasonably durable and very easy to repair. Aerosol cans work quite well from what I’ve seen but require a lot more coats due to containing a lot less solids. Many luthiers don’t like things like tung oil especially on the top due to it’s damping effect. You can get a satin effect with nitro but areas of contact will eventually shine up over time. It really brings out the chatoyance of flamed maple though. Good luck.

-- Darrel

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SMP

3813 posts in 961 days


#8 posted 04-08-2021 10:29 PM



Thank you for all the replies! I ll need to digest this info this evening.

I see multiple recommendations for (Minwax) Wipe-On Poly.

I see two types of the wipe-on poly available: water- and oil-based. Do your recommendations apply to one of these specifically, or is this a you-can t-go-wrong-with-either scenario.

- extrabuzz

Sometimes you don’t have a choice. Here in SoCal you can only buy the water based stuff. The newer water based stuff is much better than in olden days. However, it also only seems to come in gloss or semi gloss. So to get satin you need to rub it out etc. Just adds more work, and also can yellow with age. Some of the Bona floor finishes seem to be less yellowing.

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

3251 posts in 1659 days


#9 posted 04-08-2021 10:39 PM

This is something that some luthiers that I know use and what I have used. Love this stuff. Durable, smooth, permanent and easy to apply.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

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Andybb

3251 posts in 1659 days


#10 posted 04-09-2021 12:04 AM

Also, you might want to look at some youtube videos of Charles Neil's technique of trace coating that will make the figure stand out in the wood. Here are some before and after shots of the same figured maple that I used his technique on. Makes the figure “pop” and look almost 3D.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View Axis39's profile

Axis39

460 posts in 653 days


#11 posted 04-09-2021 12:22 AM

I have a telecaster I made a decade ago and used nothing but shellac. I used some clear and some amber.

I’ve used this guitar a lot, and never treated it like a princess. It’s a road dog… But, the shellac has held up better than I anticipated. It does show some wear, but like I said, it hasn’t been babied, seen a lot of gigs, practices and sitting around on the couch.

I did it with thin coats, some olive oil and a soft rag. I did a kinda sorta French Polish (heavier coats, spaced a little further apart).

I agree, I think the tung oil is overkill. Some shellac and if you want lacquer on top will be a nice finish.

-- John F. SoCal transplant, chewer uppper of good wood

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Bob Gnann

58 posts in 728 days


#12 posted 04-09-2021 01:04 AM

First off, I’m not a luthier by profession. Are you making an acoustic guitar or electric? Big difference in what you might choose for finish. An acoustic guitar will generally have a spruce top. This wood naturally is very light weight and vibrant. Tung oil seals the top and dampens its natural ability to transmit vibration. Polyurethane further seals and dampens the wood. In fact polyurethane, while it gives a hard shiny look is actually frowned upon for higher end Acoustic instruments. My only experience making an instrument was a lap dulcimer. Walnut back and sides, spruce top and maple neck. I used simple spray on semi-gloss lacquer. Some luthiers call this nitrocellulose lacquer. About 8 to 10 light coats. No stain, although you could before applying a finish. Repairing a lacquer finish is easy. Just respray another coat. And nicks and dings are now referred to as “distressing”. Play it, enjoy it.
Electric guitars, well I’ve seen everything from bare wood to poly finish that looks like linoleum. You can make a lot of music just playing through pickups. Just saying!

-- Bob Gnann

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Foghorn

1149 posts in 442 days


#13 posted 04-09-2021 01:32 AM


This is something that some luthiers that I know use and what I have used. Love this stuff. Durable, smooth, permanent and easy to apply.

- Andybb


It’s quite popular and a decent alternative to lacquer but has its own issues as no guitar finish is perfect. Also takes a lot of work similar to French polish as the coats are very thin (30 coats or so). Easy to repair but not as durable as nitro.Much better for your health though.

-- Darrel

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Andybb

3251 posts in 1659 days


#14 posted 04-09-2021 01:35 AM

As always, many, many ways to skin that cat.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

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Foghorn

1149 posts in 442 days


#15 posted 04-09-2021 01:36 AM


Also, you might want to look at some youtube videos of Charles Neil s technique of trace coating that will make the figure stand out in the wood. Here are some before and after shots of the same figured maple that I used his technique on. Makes the figure “pop” and look almost 3D.

- Andybb


Many luthiers and production guitars are done this way such as PRS guitars. It enhances the grain but loses some chatoyance compared to a clear finish. It tends to “freeze” the figure somewhat and loses chatoyance compared to a clear lacquer finish but still looks beautiful.

-- Darrel

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