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Old January 8th, 2013, 01:43 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Wood Stain and Tru Oil

Hi all

Long time creeper, infrequent poster, and finally starting my own Tele build with a question I haven't really found an answer to. Please try to follow me as I spell out what I'm attempting to do. I have a swamp ash body (rough-sawn which I used a rasp and sand paper to make tummy & fore-arm contours which turned out ok) and what I'm attempting to do is use a couple different colors of Stains (I don't think I need to use a grain filler but if I do there's this) on the wood, sanding, and what not, to get the desired color/effect (Kinda like this video or this video). Well after stain and sealing the grain, one would usually spray the wood with nitro or shellac or something. In one of the videos, the guy actually uses shellac then Tru-Oil, I believe I watched that correctly... Anyway, what I'm getting at is, is there a way to go straight from the stain to the Tru Oil or a similar kind of treatment without smudging/smearing/etc... see I don't want the wood to get sealed if it's at all possible. I'd like to see if there's a way to let it breathe... and for that matter does Tru Oil allow the wood to breathe? Is this just utter foolishness? I am prepared to hear that it very well could be!

I read somewhere that Stradivarius used some combination of 20 minerals and oils when he made his instruments, and while I know that's a lofty idea, I was just wondering if anyone did anything like that, if there were other methods that may not be as durable as Polyester finishes, or yellow like Nitro is said to do over time. Something that allows to wood to age properly, breathe, possibly sound better over time?

I'm experimenting... I've got my new toy (neck for Christmas to go with the body I've had for a while) and I'm like Frankenstein over here. Maybe even Young Frankenstein. Anywho, any input would be greatly appreciated. I'm leaving in the morning, so if I don't respond right away it's only because I'll be at 30-50,000 feet). Thank you all for all the posts collected here and in advance for any responses!

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Old January 8th, 2013, 02:18 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I think the breathing part is foolishness, but the T-O over stain part is not. I did it. There was no problem with smudging or smearing.

This is pine, stained with Colortone in water, sanded, stained again, sanded a little, then 6 or so coats of T-O.



I don't know if it's breathing or not.
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Old January 8th, 2013, 06:35 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Tru oil WILL seal the surface. It's nothing exotic - it's a dark tinted varnish. Somehow it's become a snake oil product around here, but it's not significantly different from Minwax or other combination stain/varnish products.

Understand, however, that oil stain seals the wood as well! About the only thing that won't at least partially seal it is a totally resin-free water-based dye.
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Old January 8th, 2013, 06:42 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
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...it's a dark tinted varnish.
Sorry to disagree, but in my experience it is no darker than a slight amber.
Similar to other 'ambering' clears, I'd describe it as 'clear', just not 'water-clear'.
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Old January 8th, 2013, 07:09 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Correct

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Sorry to disagree, but in my experience it is no darker than a slight amber.
Similar to other 'ambering' clears, I'd describe it as 'clear', just not 'water-clear'.
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Old January 9th, 2013, 12:24 AM   #6 (permalink)
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But how will I get a lively tone if it can't breathe... surely it will die ;)

Good to know about smudging/smearing... also great to know about the amberish hue that it will bring out...

So, let's say one opts not to dye the wood before applying Tru Oil, would that yield more of the 'vintagy' (if there is such a word) yellowish kind of color that one might see from nitro as it ages, perhaps more toward the orange hue? I'm using subjective reasoning here and not objective so there's no real absolutes here, just ball-park guessing what a finished product might resemble. Oh, and my understanding is that amberish hue becomes more prevalent the more Tru Oil one uses...

Am I close on this? Have I missed something?

Oh and thanks for the responses, I really appreciate all of your input.
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Old January 9th, 2013, 08:52 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I'd suggest that you do a few test blocks to get a feel for your process and the materials and 'colors' involved.
I think you may be over-emphasizing the ambering effect of the Tru-Oil.

The Tru-Oiled necks I've done may have ambered slightly with age, but not to any great degree - as always, YMMV.

And yes, Tru-Oil is a varnish that will seal the wood - certainly not a bad thing, but maybe not what you want.
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Old January 9th, 2013, 11:53 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Well I did do a bit of reading before picking the materials... it is my understanding that Tru Oil is relatively easy to work with and provides a pretty nice finish (Gun Stock Oil... my dad collects guns). As for the stain part... I planned on testing colors first, so you're right.

When I get around to staining this, I'll put some pics up.
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Old January 9th, 2013, 12:02 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Well I did do a bit of reading before picking the materials... it is my understanding that Tru Oil is relatively easy to work with and provides a pretty nice finish (Gun Stock Oil... my dad collects guns). As for the stain part... I planned on testing colors first, so you're right.

When I get around to staining this, I'll put some pics up.
I agree that it is an easy finish to work with, but there is still a bit of 'technique' involved. Taking a little time up-front to get comfortable with the process will increase your chances of a great result on the real thing.

Tru-Oil over stain can give a really beautiful finish. When working with stains, I also prefer to use different shades on successive coats. Hard to describe, but you seem to get a richer depth of color. When testing, be sure to try changing the order of application for each shade, do a "dark to light" sample and a "light to dark" sample. The variation may surprise you.

Pics are always good!
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Old January 9th, 2013, 12:59 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Could you expand on this?
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...When testing, be sure to try changing the order of application for each shade, do a "dark to light" sample and a "light to dark" sample...
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Old January 9th, 2013, 02:22 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Could you expand on this?
Sure, let's say you're staining with 3 different shades: shade 1 (lightest), shade 2 and shade 3 (darkest). When preparing samples, try changing the sequence of the stain coats.
Do one in order: shade 1 (allow to dry), shade 2 (allow to dry) then shade 3.
Do the next in reverse order: 3, 2, 1.
Then mix it up: 2, 3, 1 and finally 2, 1, 3.

The appearance of each sample should be slightly (or noticeably) unique. Where there are differences you may have a preference, so go with that one on your final project.

In my experience the wood is most absorbant on the first pass and gets less absorbant on each subsequent pass. The stain used in the initial pass will be the 'dominant' shade in the finished color. Additional shades (separate coats) serve as 'toners' that can enhance the appearance of the 'base' color. If you start with a dark stain and work through lighter coats, you will end up with a darker overall color. If you start with a lighter stain, the wood will be partially sealed by the first coat and will take less dark stain when you get up to that step.

The difference between your stains might be in 'hue' rather than lightness or darkness. For example, a red mahogany stain followed by brown walnut stain will look different than brown walnut followed by red mahogany.

I've only done one guitar like this (and it's long gone), but I have also done numerous furniture projects using this technique with good results.
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Last edited by JCBurke59; January 9th, 2013 at 05:06 PM.
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Old January 9th, 2013, 10:47 PM   #12 (permalink)
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my advice is to seal first with clear truoil
then follow up with a couple more whisper thin clears
then you can start in with shader coats - [truoil with stain] - build up till you have the colour depth you want

if you hit it first with a stain loaded truoil it may leach into the timber and be impossible to get off if you dont like it or it gets messed up

if you have clear on first you can go back to natural wood and start again if you need to
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Old January 9th, 2013, 11:33 PM   #13 (permalink)
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A brand new maple neck with only Tru-Oil will darken by itself over time. Mine did. It was pretty white when it was new, but it has mellowed nicely over the last 2 years.
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Old January 10th, 2013, 01:49 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jupiter View Post
I think the breathing part is foolishness, but the T-O over stain part is not. I did it. There was no problem with smudging or smearing.

This is pine, stained with Colortone in water, sanded, stained again, sanded a little, then 6 or so coats of T-O.



I don't know if it's breathing or not.
Ok Jupiter....now take a deep breath.
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Old January 10th, 2013, 01:56 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Ok Jupiter....now take a deep breath.
I did, but nothing happened....
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Old January 10th, 2013, 11:07 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I think all dem fumes gettin' folks agitated :)

In all seriousness, thank you for your input. I'll give that a whirl just as soon as I get back home.
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Old January 10th, 2013, 11:51 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by old_picker View Post
my advice is to seal first with clear truoil
then follow up with a couple more whisper thin clears
then you can start in with shader coats - [truoil with stain] - build up till you have the colour depth you want

if you hit it first with a stain loaded truoil it may leach into the timber and be impossible to get off if you dont like it or it gets messed up

if you have clear on first you can go back to natural wood and start again if you need to
This is the best technique in my opinion.
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Old January 11th, 2013, 11:52 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Silverface

Quote:
Originally Posted by JCBurke59 View Post
Sorry to disagree, but in my experience it is no darker than a slight amber.
Similar to other 'ambering' clears, I'd describe it as 'clear', just not 'water-clear'.
Is trying to say the same thing. Simply that TO is not crystal clear, it is tinted.

OBTW Silverface knows more about finish formulation than most any of us painters here on the page. He was in the "business" for many years.
Rob
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Old January 11th, 2013, 02:59 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Is trying to say the same thing. Simply that TO is not crystal clear, it is tinted.

OBTW Silverface knows more about finish formulation than most any of us painters here on the page. He was in the "business" for many years.
Rob
Rob, I always read Silverface's comments with interest as it is clear that he brings a highly experienced perspective to the forum. My comment was in response specifically to the 'dark tint' part of his post. I did not mean any disrespect to him, only to clarify (if you'll pardon the pun) the specific point on the 'color' that Tru-Oil may contribute to the final finish.

Joe
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Old January 12th, 2013, 03:16 AM   #20 (permalink)
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I'll clarify my comment:

I meant dark in relative terms. Varnish is generally clear or very slightly amber - and I would not call Tru oil slightly amber. It's in between an amber and walnut in shade...but these terms are all subjective.

My primary point was that it's a tinted varnish that forms a surface film, sealing the wood. Most stains will also seal the wood, as they have some binder (resin) component - not as much as "varnish", generally, but enough to eliminate "breathing".

And "breathing" on a finished guitar surface is one of the least desirable characteristics. You want the finish to protect the film from damage by impact, spilled liquids, sweat - and a "breathing" film is an absorbent one, resulting in staining and discoloration of the finished product.

The need for solid body guitars to breathe is, IMO, snake oil. Hollow body guitars are another story, where finish applied to only one side of a surface provides all sorts of variable acoustic qualities.
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