Danish Oil vs. Tung Oil Finish vs. Tru-Oil: A neck finish report - Telecaster Guitar Forum
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Old June 30th, 2011, 09:10 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Danish Oil vs. Tung Oil Finish vs. Tru-Oil: A neck finish report

Well I've been trying to find the best neck finish over the past year. I had used deft lacquer before on a neck and hated it so I was out to find a nice finish that wouldn't have that "sicky" feel to it. I've read a lot of info about each of these finishes, but couldn't really find any one source that had a comprehensive comparison of all three. Here goes...
Last June I built my first neck, so it was time to experiment. I had read several threads about the three finishes I mentioned above and decided that Danish Oil sounded the best for me to give me a finish but still maintain the raw wood's satin feel.

Danish Oil: can be applied with a little patch of cloth. I applied it so the wood looked wet, let it hang for 10 or 15 minutes, then wiped it off and let it dry. I repeated a couple of times a day for a few days. It never really built much of a finish...and it's not supposed to. They say it is absorbed into the wood and hardens while there.
Impressions-I really liked the way it felt, but again...it leaves the neck feeling very "raw" like with almost no finish similar to some of the Squier necks I've played... so if you like that go with Danish Oil.

My next neck I did for the 2011 Build Challenge. Although I liked the Danish Oil on my first neck I was looking for something that would give me a bit more of a film finish. After much more reading here on the forum it sounded like the other 2 finishes would server that purpose. I wanted Tru-Oil but couldn't find it locally so I picked up Minwax Tung Oil Finish by default.

MW Tung Oil Finish: I applied the same as Danish Oil, but found that it would get sticky and gummy very quickly after applied. If your application cloth isn't sopping wet you can simply wipe down the entire neck so it looks wet and leave it to dry. If your application is much "wetter" you will have to wipe it down right after you apply it. The can says to wait 5 minutes before wipe down, but I found that to be way too long. In most cases by the time you've applied the entire coat the place you started is already too gummy to wipe down. Be prepared to go through some trial and error to figure out a process that works for you. My goal was to get a finish that was nice enough when done that it would require no sanding or polishing in the end. That is what I got...a less than careful application will require some scuffing/buffing most likely.
Impressions-The finish is a very nice. Definitely a film finish unlike the Danish Oil. I applied 5 coats over a couple of days and it appears almost like a semi-gloss lacquer. The final film thickness is so thin you can still see a bit of grain holding it up to the light. I stopped after 5 coats because it was getting more glossy after each coat. It feels very similar to a neck I finished with rattle can Satin Deft...but it's a hard durable finish. My favorite neck finish at this point.

Last week I decided to take some more wood off of my first neck(the Danish Oil neck)which was very fat...
I was in our local sporting goods store that I had previously called to find Tru-Oil but they told me they didn't have it at that time...well low and behold they had 2 of the 3oz. bottles hanging there...I picked one up.

Tru-Oil: First thing I noticed is that it was much thicker than the Tung Oil Finish and got gummy very quickly. I actually had to strip it once with lacquer thinner it was so bad at first. I ended up taking the advice of several on the forum and just used my fingers to apply it in very thin coats. Despite my attempts to apply in very thin coats it seemed to keep my finger print ridges as it dried especially across the fretboard. It just seemed like it wouldn't flow out and finish smoothly. I put on 5 coats over 2 days and used synthetic steel wool to knock down the gloss and smooth things out. It looked great everywhere but the fretboard. I'm not a fan of trying to level a finish on the fretboard because I guess I just don't have a solid technique or process for it. It proved to be difficult for me to get that done. I ended up using a bit of rubbing compound on it to buff it out some on the back of the neck and it ended up very nice. However, I stripped the Tru-Oil off of the fretboard and started using the Tung Oil to finish it up there.
Impressions- I just didn't like the Tru-Oil...it wasn't any more difficult to apply than either of the other finishes, but it wasn't a very good "put it on and be done with it" type of finish like the other 2. I probably won't use it again, but if you are looking for an alternative to spraying lacquer this could be it. Building enough coats can easily yield a high gloss finish after buffing it out if that's what you're after.

Overall: I like Danish Oil, but I would rather have a bit of a film to the finish. Tung Oil Finish seems to accomplish that...very satiny smooth yet protective. In my estimation it is the easiest to deal with if you don't want a high gloss finish on a neck. It looks good with no scuffing or buffing...by far the easiest finish I've used. It will be my go to neck finish hands down. Tru-Oil builds a film much faster than either of the other 2 and can behave very similarly to lacquer without the spraying IMO. I just have no patience for the tedious job of dealing with the fretboard. Maybe as I've done on this neck Tru-Oil can be used everywhere but the fretboard and then finished out with the Tung-Oil Finish on the FB. Could be another option I suppose.

I hope my less than technical reviews will be of some use to those wondering which "oil" finish they should choose.

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Old June 30th, 2011, 10:13 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I prefer danish oil (Watco) over pure tung oil. I thought tung oil didn't fully cure.

I recently used this on an Allparts neck. Using a foam brush.



http://www.generalfinishes.com/retai...ethane-topcoat

It leaves a really nice smooth velvety finish which feels great.
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Old June 30th, 2011, 10:52 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I prefer danish oil (Watco) over pure tung oil. I thought tung oil didn't fully cure.
You're right, pure Tung Oil won't work...

I'm referring to Minwax Tung Oil Finish as I mentioned above. Minwax TOF incidentally actually contains no Tung Oil...that's why it's called Tung Oil Finish. It is supposed to produce a type of finish that a polymerized Tung Oil would produce.
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Old June 30th, 2011, 11:08 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by dilbone View Post
You're right, pure Tung Oil won't work...

I'm referring to Minwax Tung Oil Finish as I mentioned above. Minwax TOF incidentally actually contains no Tung Oil...that's why it's called Tung Oil Finish. It is supposed to produce a type of finish that a polymerized Tung Oil would produce.
I guess I should read the post a little better
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Old June 30th, 2011, 11:58 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I did just try one more thing with Tru-Oil to make sure I give it a fair shake...
I took a small scrap of t-shirt and got it wet with mineral spirits first, then I added a little dab of TO and wiped it across the fretboard. I then wiped it off so as to produce an even thinner coat similar to the Tung Oil Finish. While I was at it I went ahead and wiped down the rest of the neck too. It looks like this might be the best way to apply Tru-Oil for me. That way I don't have to actually cut it in the container.
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Old July 1st, 2011, 11:27 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by dilbone View Post
I did just try one more thing with Tru-Oil to make sure I give it a fair shake...
I took a small scrap of t-shirt and got it wet with mineral spirits first, then I added a little dab of TO and wiped it across the fretboard. I then wiped it off so as to produce an even thinner coat similar to the Tung Oil Finish. While I was at it I went ahead and wiped down the rest of the neck too. It looks like this might be the best way to apply Tru-Oil for me. That way I don't have to actually cut it in the container.
Tru Oil is funny because, I don't think I have read any two people who use the same method to apply Tru Oil. Its drying time is so variable based on how thick you put it on and the climate, that everyone has their own little tricks to overcome Tru Oil's application nuances.
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Old July 2nd, 2011, 11:22 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Tru Oil is funny because, I don't think I have read any two people who use the same method to apply Tru Oil. Its drying time is so variable based on how thick you put it on and the climate, that everyone has their own little tricks to overcome Tru Oil's application nuances.
I'll have to agree Colt...at first I thought there's just no way I can use this stuff, but like all types of finishes I think there's a certain amount of trial and error needed to find a process that works for the individual.

I'm still not sure I like the amount of gloss that naturally comes with Tru-Oil, but it can definitely produce a usable result for me. The tung oil finish is more matte and is more to my liking overall at this point.
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Old July 2nd, 2011, 12:50 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Tru Oil is funny because, I don't think I have read any two people who use the same method to apply Tru Oil. Its drying time is so variable based on how thick you put it on and the climate, that everyone has their own little tricks to overcome Tru Oil's application nuances.
So very true. Its a very forgiving finish and everyone will find a way that works best for them, even my method of madness is an every evolving process. There are many ways to get good results and not much you can do to screw it up thats not easily fixed. Regardless of application method, the best advice I could give is keep the coats thin.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dilbone View Post
... I'm still not sure I like the amount of gloss that naturally comes with Tru-Oil, but it can definitely produce a usable result for me. The tung oil finish is more matte and is more to my liking overall at this point.
For a less glossy result you can hit it with some 0000 steel wool or equal synthetic after. A neat "trick" for satin / silky sheen is to do what I call a glaze coat after the steel wool. Use a lint free cotton swatch and apply a few drops of TO directly to the cloth. Wipe it on very sparingly and don't over work any one area. You want just enough TO on to lightly wet it ... almost a dry wipe. Swap out to a new swatch of cloth if / as the one your using starts getting too saturated.
Depending on the freshness of your TO, or for more subtle results, you can add a few drops of mineral spirits to the cloth first and or thin the TO directly.
Experiment a bit and see what you like. If the results are not to your liking, a little steel wool = a reset button.
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