November 30th, 2009, 10:42 AM
I do not have access to spray equipment and I wont be using any of those aerosol products because i just dont like them and even if I did, they cannot be shipped to Ireland as they are flammable.
Anyway, I was looking at the brushing lacquer from Stewmac.com. And I was also considering an oil finish. Either one of the real oils or the ones that form a film like tru-oil or something like that.
Basically what I'm looking for is ease of application but the finish must look professional. It doesnt really matter if it is not as durable as 15 coats of nitro-cellulose, but I cant have brush strokes or anything like that.
Anyway heres my problem. Lets say I go with an oil finish. Rub on multiple thin coats, flattening with sandpaper or wire wool in between. Perfect. But the fingerboard on my guitar is/will be maple. As everyone knows, ebony and rosewood fingerboards are left unfinished or dressed with lemon oil or something like that from time to time. This is because of the natural oils in these woods. Maple however is always finished. The way it is finished is that the whole neck, fingerboard and frets are usually just sprayed with lacquer and the lacquer removed from the frets later.
I am told the reason that maple must be sprayed is that if you were to rub or brush on a finish, it would gather and build up around the frets.
So where does that leave me? My only option is really a rub on finish (or if i had to a brush on one). For reasons I wont go into, I cant swap the fingerboard for ebony or rosewood, which I would do if I could.
I haven't fitted the frets yet so could I simply apply my rub or brush on finish, then run the fret saw through the fret slots again to remove any finish that builds up in them and then apply the frets at the end? I havent heard this mentioned anywhere?
All suggestions would be kindly welcomed.
November 30th, 2009, 05:26 PM
Well, you can certainly use an oil finish and I think that applying it before the frets are in place is certainly a possibility.
But, even if you don't want to use aerosols, Preval sprayers are available in the UK (and I suppose Ireland). They are inexpensive, easy to use and give great results.
Check out their UK website.. http://www.preval.co.uk/
November 30th, 2009, 05:58 PM
I have used tung oil, danish oil, and a product called Waterlox which is a polymerized tung oil on maple with great results, however the oil will darken the wood just a bit. wipe on, wipe off, allow to dry, repeat as many times as you want. I have done it on both fretted and unfretted fingerboards. On the unfretted boards, i run a saw through the slots after finishing for 2 reasons. Any moisture makes the wood swell just a tiny bit, and cleaning out the slots helps if you use epoxy or CA glue on the fret tangs.
November 30th, 2009, 08:19 PM
I just used tru-oil on a maple top body of mine to make the grain pop before covering it with nitro. While I was researching this method here and at stewmac and guitar re ranch their was much discussion in favor of using tru-oil, (which is sold in sporting goods stores for gun stocks), for maple necks. their was much ranting and even a bit of raving in favor of using this product on maple necks and fretboards.
November 30th, 2009, 11:31 PM
I've done 2 necks with maple fingerboards in Tru-Oil. I applied very thin coats and where the oil seemed to build a little against a fret I just wiped it away with a lint free cloth. Working with really thin coats, this didn't happen all that often.
Also, when building thin coats you really do not need to use any steel wool between coats unless there is some sort of imperfection you need to smooth out. If the coats are going on thin enough, you will not want to remove too much of the finish, but instead let it build.
December 1st, 2009, 12:40 AM
use tru-oil and then apply a coating of birchwood casey gun stock wax. this is the same finish that ebmm uses on their necks. it is a nice flat smooth finish that will not show smudges.
December 1st, 2009, 06:41 AM
That Gun Stock Wax contains silicone. I would recommend that you keep it very far away from your guitar. If you want wax, use pure carnuba. A Tru-Oil neck/fretboard really does not require any added wax and feels great without it.
An unwaxed Tru-Oil finish buffs up nicely with just a cotton cloth.
December 1st, 2009, 07:23 AM
some very useful comments here....appreciate it! JCBurke59, I am particularly keen to hear that you have managed to apply a finish to a maple fretboard without spraying.
I wonder why is the reason that in every book, supplier reference, website, forum, etc., the option of finishing a maple fret board before fretting is never discussed or mentioned? Am i missing some blatantly obvious draw back to this? I mean obviously you have to be careful not to damage the finish but other than that?
This guitar(s) is actually a research project I'm doing at the moment. Having highlighted my concerns over finishing with my supervisor, he is suggesting polyurethane varnish. Not the sprayable kind, which I believe is different as it undergoes a reaction to cure, but the standard version available in tins from DIY stores, commonly used to finish interior furniture, doors, floors, etc.
This will of course darken the wood but other than that, is this type of finish advisable? I'm kind of edging towards the Tru-Oil myself
December 1st, 2009, 08:45 AM
Tung Oil is the way to go. So easy to use it is almost criminal.
December 1st, 2009, 10:24 AM
shellac is another possibility.
Wich advantages you all find in Tung Oil over shellac?
December 1st, 2009, 10:46 AM
I couldnt comment on Tung oil but aside from guitar making, I normally work on furniture/small wooden items.
Although the properties of varnishes and lacquers are desirable, I have to say that the best all round finishes I have used were oil finishes. Ease of application, enhanced beauty of wood and the quality of finish. Plus it looks very traditional and beats a spray production finish hands down for aesthetical properties.
I would say though that I prefer the oils with additives as they dry better for me, although sometimes an "oil" is changed so much that it actually becomes more of a wipable varnish.
But anyway....as a general rule of thumb, in my experience as a woodworker...I would be a big fan of any oil finish. In terms of guitars.....why not. Perhaps a no if you're gonna jumpin into the pit but still. Also, anyone with some of the figured pieces of wood...oil will really enhance the look of that wood.
I have to say though, in terms of guitars and what I was talking about earlier....i found this link:
As a woodworker, I have often wondered about such an application, since I like the properties of polyurethane (ok so it does darken with age) but have always HATED applying it. This could be my ideal solution for alot of my furniture/craft making and I think for this guitar I'm gonna give it a try.
All I'm really worried about is finishing the maple fretboard.
To fret before or after ?
December 1st, 2009, 11:44 AM
All I'm really worried about is finishing the maple fretboard.
To fret before or after ?
If using an oil finish, I would finish first then add the frets. This is a bit of a luxury that many do not have, thus the added factor of 'finishing around the frets' in some of the answers given. With no frets in the way you can work the entire fingerboard at once, not 20 little sections of it.
I think that a fresh lacquer finish is just too delicate to try and fret over, at least I wouldn't try to do it.
As you point out, extra care will need to be taken not to damage the newly applied finish while installing and finishing the frets - but you seem prepared to be extra careful.
December 1st, 2009, 12:04 PM
Ok so although i wont be finishing for another month or so... I'm almost decided on using on oil-varnish finish:
Either that or Tru-Oil
So...JCBurke59....I hear what your saying about fretting afterwards and that a lacquer may chip whereas an oil wouldnt (as it penetrates the wood)....in terms of a so called "oil-varnish" finish which will be very very thin like an oil but will essentially be a film....could this be a problem in terms of chipping?
December 1st, 2009, 12:44 PM
I used Minwax waterbased Wipe-On Poly, tinted with TransTint Amber Honey, to refinish a maple neck that already had some type of very durable seal coat on it. I was happy with the back of the neck, but I struggled around the frets. Nevertheless, I finally ended with something acceptable. I think that applying it before fretting should work about as well as it did for me on the back of the neck, which was very well. The trick is to be able to wipe on a sweeping, long stroke. The only thing you should have to worry about is runs- I thinned it with water for working around the frets but I think in your case you would not need to do that and it would be more run resistant. Put the coats on every half hour or so to get good bonding between coats, and then finish with extra fine nylon wool to remove any wiping marks, and then polish.
You said it must look professional. Are you a professional woodworker? If not, then I would not expect professional results using a new (to you) finish without some, or maybe a lot, of practice. Also, I should point out that pros generally use spray equipment, so you are starting with another handicap there, but there's a learning curve there also to avoid runs, orange peel, and dry spray. Brush marks should not be a problem because they can easily be polished off with nylon wool as long as the finish is thick enough to allow that.
I also finished a neck with Tru-oil, although it had a rosewood fretboard; it would probably be easier, but there might be some question as to whether a Tru-oil finish looks professional, since it is not usually seen on commercially produced guitars. It does produce a nice finish, though.
December 1st, 2009, 12:46 PM
nice link, thank you 2006ciarn
Do you never use shellac? (fresh or prepared)
December 1st, 2009, 01:38 PM
...in terms of a so called "oil-varnish" finish which will be very very thin like an oil but will essentially be a film....could this be a problem in terms of chipping?
I suppose it could, but it seems somewhat tougher than lacquer to me. I've never done it this way (frets last), but I wouldn't be afraid to try it.
Tru-Oil also 'touches up' very well. One of my necks required a little work to the fret ends and the finish (vintage amber stain under Tru-Oil) got a little scarred. I was able to apply more stain and then Tru-Oil for an undetectable repair.
Whether you're applying the finish for the first time or doing a repair, the final buffing process really cleans things up. I use Scotchbrite and then a piece of old denim and it leaves a beautiful soft gloss. While there may not be too many instruments that come stock with this finish, I think it looks quite 'professional'.
I realize that at this point I have a strong bias in favor of this finish. I am just an amateur builder that has gotten excellent results with this particular product. I find it easy to apply and work to a beautiful (to me) lustre. I also prefer it to other finishes I've tried with respect to 'feel' when playing the guitar.
I have not tried all of the other available finishes out there but just found something that I really like and intend to stick with. I'm sure there are other excellent options and the preferences of others may be different than mine.
For those that are curious - Buy a small bottle (enough for 10 necks or more)for $7-8. Try it out on a scrap of maple - I find that extremely thin coats work best. You can work on your technique and after it dries see how it shines up and feels. This would be a very cheap experiment that would help you rule in or out this particular finish option.
December 5th, 2009, 10:50 AM
I'm thinking now of buying a HVLP spray system. I was looking at the Earlex HV5000 which retails for about 200 EURO / 350 DOLLARS.
Im just really not happy about the issue with the frets and I think that a spray finish would solve a lot of problems.
But as I said, I made experiment with a few different options.
December 5th, 2009, 11:06 AM
After having used ALL of the aforementioned products (except for Waterlox, which I will someday try), I don't think it gets any better looking, more durable and easier than Tru-Oil. If you do a few forum searches, you will come up with some pics of serious grain-popping and serious built-up luster using Tru-Oil.
As far as lacquer is concerned, if you can find good canned lacquer (like Liberon), and then find Preval loadable paint sprayers, you can turn out a very professional looking lacquer finish. However, like ALL lacquer, you will STILL have to wet-sand and buff. Tru-Oil is MUCH easier.
December 5th, 2009, 11:27 AM
well, i done professional painting for years. the HIGH QUALITY work. and i did do a refinish on a guitar of mine with the brushing laquer. i will tell you. make sure its a cool day, u may want to thin ur laquer, u dont get a second chance, some of it says it'll give u 30 minutes working time, WRONG, u brush one way, u cant brush back or u'll be stripping it off.
once u get used to how it works, u can do a GREAT finish with it, but be advised, it takes some getting used to.
December 5th, 2009, 02:37 PM
Well i had intended using the range of waterbased lacquers from Stewmacs.
This is presented as an alternative to nitro lacquers.
One finish I wouldnt consider using is Polyester lacquer. This is the one typically laid on 1/8" thick and gives a plastic look. Very thick and dampens tone.
But Stewmac say that the majority of finish thickness for their water based lacquer should be achieved with the water based sanding sealer and then 3 to 4 top coats. The instructions/contents of this sealer say that it contains Polyester resin.
So i'm wondering now if this water based finish will have a similar effect on the guitar as polyester?
Tru-Oil still remains an option.....
December 6th, 2009, 01:05 AM
How does tru oil react with a waterslide decal ?? I want to use it, but I want my decal to lok good also.
December 6th, 2009, 01:39 AM
This was my first neck, done before fretting.. First few layers were shellac, followed up with a few coats of Formsby's tung oil.... I'm very pleased with the results...
December 7th, 2009, 02:26 PM
wowazeplin that neck looks amazing !
Anyway i think Ive finally got this whole issue sorted, I've order a HVLP sprayer and am going to spray the whole neck with water based lacquer and scrape it off the frets afterwards.
I've also ordered some Tru-Oil, because as a general woodworker this stuff sounds very good.
Can i just say thanks to everyone for their advice on this. I dont get on here that often so I really appreciate the help.
Just to let people know, this guitar is part of a research project and I have more information and a blog available on my Irish website
Theres also a new general woodwork forum set up there if any Irish woodworkers are looking for a home !
THanks to all