Easy finish for alder body?

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by MrHolland, Mar 30, 2020.

  1. MrHolland

    MrHolland TDPRI Member

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    Hey all,

    I just ordered a kit guitar from to StewMac to keep me sane in isolation and I’m trying to research ways to finish it. I’m not too keen on doing a Nitro finish because I’ve never finished anything before and I don’t have the patience to wait two weeks for it to dry. It’s an alder body. Would love a very dark or black finish that still has traces of the grain.

    I love the highlighted grain in this video:


    though it’s an alder body. Could something like this work on alder?

    the other idea was to torch and oil it like in this video:


    Here’s something I found that I like with torching an alder body:
    http://offsetguitars.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=106078

    Any tips or recommendations? If I were to oil it could I put a clear coat of poly for more protection? True oil? Tung oil? Linseed oil?

    thank you!
     
  2. El Tele Lobo

    El Tele Lobo Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I think torching is a great idea, but it's more dramatic on guitars with more dramatic grain like pine or ash. The grain on alder has never been very inspirational to me. I did some videos on the torching process on my channel. If you go through my posts, I think I posted them here at one point.

    I'm a big fan of Tru-Oil. But application process is critical. You have to work quickly with it to spread/thin it out over your body and get it oriented in the direction of the grain (to avoid/hide witness lines). Wet sanding technique is critical too. Even slightly overdoing it can cause rub-outs and/or witness lines. Everyone has different application methods/techniques. I've posted some in past posts and so have several others. Experiment on scrap wood and find the one that works best for you. Or, if you're adventures (or reckless or nuts) do like I did and try it right on your project. Just be prepared to sand back and start over if it doesn't work out.

    I've never used tung oil or linseed oil but have seen great results of both from others. However, it should be noted that these finishes do not harden like Tru-Oil to produce a protective finish. They do protect the wood from dirt and drying out or soaking up moisture and skin oil, but they don't protect like other finishes.

    If you're looking at wipe-on finishes, consider researching shellac (though I would mix your own, unwaxed, from flakes, rather than buying the off-the shelf stuff in cans...it's usually waxed and there's no telling how old it is) or even wipe-on poly. Look for examples/pictures of each and find the one that is most user friendly for you while yielding the results you want.

    If you have a really primo piece of wood, I would recommend doing another build first with a lesser piece of wood to work through your whole process and get comfortable. It doesn't guarantee you won't make mistakes on subsequent builds (you will), but it gets over that first time jitters/brain farts on something you aren't as attached to. Consider getting a cheap pine body from Tone Bomb or somewhere similar and working through a finish job on it, focusing particularly on sanding/prep, burn technique (if you use a torch), finish application and wet-sanding/leveling/buffing.

    Most of all, have fun. This is very rewarding, meditative work and can be very relaxing. It can also be stressful. That's why I say, don't start with a supreme piece of wood. You can always finish a body or two to get practice and then sell them. Then go to your nice piece of wood.

    It's important to remember with wood finishing (and slightly less so with woodworking) that most (but certainly not all) mistakes are fixable/redoable/hideable. It just depends on how obsessive you are about the issue. The best approach is to go in aiming for perfection and willing to settle for slightly less...maybe considerably less if you're doing a rough style or relic style build.

    Good luck. Have fun. And post a build thread so we can follow along, make suggestions, help with fixes and cheer you on.
     
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  3. mjstamos

    mjstamos Tele-Meister

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    Great post! I am a Tru Oil believer and you are right it's all about the application process. That said it is as easy to use as really just about anything and the results speak for themselves!
     
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  4. telepraise

    telepraise Tele-Holic

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    I would think a wipe on poly finish might be the easiest and quickest way to get a protective finish on it (after staining of course)
     
  5. Jlwctn

    Jlwctn Tele-Meister

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    Welcome!!!
    I'll "third" on TruOil. I've used everything else, and this is, by far, the easiest I've used. The results can be as good as you want them to be.
    (Personally, I don't want to spray anymore.)
     
  6. PapaWheelie

    PapaWheelie Tele-Meister

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    Agreed. Minwax Wipe on poly is probably one of the easiest to apply topcoats around. I've even used it in an airbrush unthinned to produce some beautiful finishes on surfaces that would otherwise be difficult to avoid runs on.
    Another you can try is Formby's Tung Oil Finish. The Formbys is an excellent product, easy to apply with great results and readily available at most big box hardware stores. Very nice hard finish. I did my solid oak kitchen table with it, probably 6 coats, and its held up to a lot of abuse.
    I've tried Tru Oil with ok results but prefer the wipe-on or Formbys
     
  7. Switchy

    Switchy Tele-Holic

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    Stain and then rubbing wax
     
  8. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    This stuff is easy. It can be wiped on or brushed on. It flattens out fast just brushing. No buffing etc required. Here's 2-3 coats brushed on alder with it. It says Tung Oil but it's pretty much a varnish.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  9. Mike Simpson

    Mike Simpson Doctor of Teleocity

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    If you want highlighted grain alder is the wrong wood. There is a reason that Fender chose it for their painted finished and Ash for the finishes that show grain. Open grain woods like ash lend themselves to grain filling with contrasting colors.
    I am not a fan of burning or flame darkening because it always looks splotchy or uneven to me and it is rare they don't look a little "folk art". I suppose if they are not sanded back and left fairly black that is not as much of an issue but then you could just use dye.

    Note the first video says "this only works on open grained woods like ash, mahogany or palowina" and the second video is using an ash body as well.

    .
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2020
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  10. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Really? Straight Alder, no stain.
    [​IMG]
     
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  11. PapaWheelie

    PapaWheelie Tele-Meister

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    Just to add to the mix, here is a scratch build I did with the body painted with Krylon canvas white rattle can enamel and the neck stained with honey amber - then both were top coated with General Finishes water based polyurethane. Once I sprayed water based poly I was converted. No odor, easy (and I mean easy) cleanup, and you can see the results. I did wet sand and buff after letting it sit for a week.
    20190919_151442.jpg 20190919_151458.jpg 20190919_151510.jpg 20190919_151638.jpg 20190919_152950.jpg
     
  12. MrHolland

    MrHolland TDPRI Member

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    Thanks all for the advice!

    Is there a type of stain or dye you would recommend? Pretty much looking to get as dark or as close to as possible. I've read that alder can be difficult to stain and is prone to becoming blotchy. I'm amicable towards the idea of using a stain or dye and then a wipe on poly.

    Will these oils work well after dyeing or staining?

    Any chance you can link or PM me your channel? Would love to see that.
     
  13. Mike Simpson

    Mike Simpson Doctor of Teleocity

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    Read the OP and look at the videos of the finish proposed. My response was referring to the questions asked by the OP.
    Alder is a great wood for guitars and I have made guitars using it however it does not lend itself well to contrasting grain filled finishes the OP is seeking.

    .
     
  14. Dismalhead

    Dismalhead Poster Extraordinaire

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    My only advice is to use Tru Oil rather than real Tung Oil. I did a Tung Oil guitar last year and the drying time took FOREVER - took like three months to do multiple coats. Lot more drying time than a Nitro finish takes. It was sticky for months after that too.
     
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  15. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    For that black finish I would finish one coat black. Then wipe on white and wipe it off quickly. That should leave white in the grain as shown. Then clear coat with whatever you want. The clearer the product, the less it will make the white off white.

    It's going to depend on how much grain your particular piece of wood has though. Alder can have a lot of grain showing or be a pretty solid continuous grain without swirls etc. as Mike Simpson indicates.
     
  16. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    "Another you can try is Formby's Tung Oil Finish.

    Will these oils work well after dyeing or staining?"

    The Formby's isn't really an oil finish, although it's named Tung Oil. It dries fairly quickly like Varnish or Poly.
     
  17. TelenTubes

    TelenTubes Tele-Holic

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    I was thinking about this for a tele to match the Gretsch in my profile pic...

    What about:

    1) a wipe-on clear shellac seal coat, then
    2) one or more wipe-on coats of the shellac sealer, tinted with aniline dye (in this case, black), then
    3) Clear top coat of your choosing?

    I plan on trying this, although I am going to do a spray nitro finish for the clear coats.
     
  18. El Tele Lobo

    El Tele Lobo Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I'll do you one better. Here's a link to the thread, which has much more information than the videos.

    https://www.tdpri.com/threads/new-build-s-underway-2-pinecasters-finally-get-their-due.908927/
     
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  19. El Tele Lobo

    El Tele Lobo Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    This is as I suspected also.
     
  20. MrHolland

    MrHolland TDPRI Member

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    Can you dye shellac black? I would love to see an example of what that might look like. Thought of doing something like that for the neck just to give it more of an aged tint. My dad built my wife a table using shellac over walnut that was beautiful.
     
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