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Tung Oil Myths Dispelled?

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Chewy, Jul 18, 2013.

  1. Chewy

    Chewy Tele-Meister

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    Howdies.

    I am expecting a USACG neck today or tomorrow (hoorah...) and have been going through the usual agony over the decisions that follow, specifically the finish.

    I have a can of Minwax "Tung Oil Finish" in front of me - this was my original plan, as a rubbed on/off oil seems less likely to gum up frets, and spraying nitro will be tricky in my situation. I have been reading online how this is not TRUE Tung Oil, contains no real Tung Oil, is really boiled linseed oil mixed with polyurethane, etc.. Minwax lists zero ingredients and apparently speculation is rampant and perhaps a touch cynical.

    So after spending several hours trying to find some real answers via Google, I ended up calling the number on the can. The nice lady politely informed me that this product is 50% *real* Tung Oil, the other half being "other oils and solvents," and that it contains zero polyurethane.

    Also, despite the "non photochemically reactive" note on the can, she said that it will amber over time. Good news to me.

    Thought I would share and try to inject what I hope are some facts into what seems to be an ongoing debate.

    Also, this is my first finishing job and would love any comments, or tips. Strongly considering trying to do re-ranch, since I was also really hoping to do an as-accurate-as-possible vintage repro, but I just think I have a better shot at pulling off a good finish with this stuff.

    Cheers!
     
  2. Codger

    Codger Tele-Meister

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    Good info, thanks forwarding that.

    I always felt the best ting oil products came from Waterlox. Their "original" is best for most things. Here in NJ it failed VOCs when sprayed. It passed when not sprayed, so the same product is sold here in a can labeled "Marine Sealer".
     
  3. backporch guy

    backporch guy Tele-Afflicted

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    2 words: Tru Oil
     
  4. Chewy

    Chewy Tele-Meister

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    2 more words: please elaborate.

    :) Seems 50/50 tru vs tung from what I see on the web, one works better for one guy, the next for the other. Would love to hear your thoughts. I do know that Tru contains linseed oil and no tung oil. Don't know what the advantages or disadvantages are of one vs the other.
     
  5. CapnCrunch

    CapnCrunch Friend of Leo's

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    I believe Tru Oil is a polymerized oil and I think it has other additives beyond linseed oil. You can apply a built up finish with it. Non polymerized Tung oil will not build at anywhere near the same rate.

    I am not an expert with either, though I have applied many, many finishes to jewelry boxes, Cigar Humidors, and household furniture with good old Tung Oil. If you are looking for a finish that will allow you to "feel" the wood, then Tung Oil may be for you. I personally like about 6 to 8 coats of Tung oil applied in the following fashion. 1. Soak a clean cotton rag generously with oil. 2. Apply to work piece so that you flood the oil onto the piece. 3. Rub the entire piece vigorously until the rag feels warm in your hand. 4. Take a clean dry lint free cloth and wipe all of the excess oil off. 5. Let dry for approximately 24 hours. 6. Repeat above process.

    After 6 to 8 applications as above, let dry for a couple of days, and then apply a quality paste wax with 0000 steel wool. Rub the wax in with the steel wool and let dry for 15 minutes (don't mind the little steel fibers, they will wipe right off). Then buff it off with a soft clean rag. It is, in my opinion, the best finish for wood products that are meant to be touched. Nothing else I've tried feels like it. It's also probably the easiest finish in the world to repair if you scratch it.

    A word of caution however. A tung oil finish is not a true "film" finish. It offers some protection over simply leaving a piece "in the white" but it won't offer the same level of moisture and humidity protection as lacquer, poly, or Tru Oil. You could end up having issues with a neck because of this. However, there are a lot of oil finished basses out there that seem to survive just fine. Also, it will yellow quite a bit.

    Edit: Since this is your first go at finishing, Tung Oil would definitely be much easier than Lacquer. You won't have to do any wet sanding, and if you use the Steel wool trick described above, you will end up with a really beautiful Satin/Semi gloss finish. Also on the plus side, if you don't like it, you can skip the wax (or strip it off with Naptha) and shoot lacquer over the oil (as long as it is dry). I've done that many times as well to pop the grain before I spray lacquer. Good Luck.
     
  6. bettyseldest

    bettyseldest Friend of Leo's

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    Sorry to hijack your thread, but maybe someone can help me with a Tung Oil problem. My Rickebacker 650S has a Walnut body finished in Tung Oil. A previous owner left it in the case with the black leather strap still on, as a result it has a discoloured band where the strap was. How can I deal with this? and are any recommended products available in the UK? Thanks.
     
  7. backporch guy

    backporch guy Tele-Afflicted

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    Tru Oil is a gun stock finish, so it's designed to be tough, yet can be a very beautiful finish. It's cheap (about $5 for a bottle), easy to apply, and can be wet sanded, buffed, and polished. it's probably one of the easiest finishes to apply. Just follow the instructions on the bottle. It's hard for it to not come out good. It's not an oil finish, as someone above pointed out.
     
  8. CapnCrunch

    CapnCrunch Friend of Leo's

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    Start with the least aggressive options first, then work your way up. Have you tried wiping it off with a towel, and some serious elbow grease? If that doesn't work, I'd try some Naptha on a clean rag and see if you can wipe it off. You can also try more aggressive solvents like Acetone, but I'm not sure how that will react with the existing finish. If it discolors the finish, you could simply apply more Tung Oil. If it discolors the wood, you may have to sand

    If the above techniques do not work, you can always sand the mark off with 400 grit paper and apply more Tung oil. That is one of the beauties of Tung oil. It is very easily repaired.

    Caveat: The above advice is based on you being absolutely 100% positive that your existing finish is Tung Oil. However, you could do the same with a linseed oil finish or other true oil (not Tru Oil) finish. If it is not a true oil finish, then you could have some problems with solvent, or sanding and re-application.
     
  9. Chewy

    Chewy Tele-Meister

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    Thanks for the advice, all! Very very good to know that I can still spray Nitro over Tung down the road. Kinda makes Tung a no-brainer for me at this point.

    I have the Minwax "Tung Oil Finish," not straight tung oil. I believe it is more similar to Tru-Oil than to raw tung oil, in that, like Tru, Minwax added solvents and varnish and whatever to make it a wiping varnish - it is polymerized, but (from what the web tells me) there are multiple ways to polymerize an oil finish - some have polyurethane, some have "Akyl" (whatever that is) and there are other methods. Digress. Looks to me like Minwax T.O.F. is basically very similar to Tru Oil, but uses Tung Oil as opposed to Linseed oil as a foundation. Maybe Tru uses poly to help it out while Minwax uses something else (maybe Tru does not use poly though, I am not certain).

    At any rate, thanks again. Love the good folks at tdpri!
     
  10. kwerk

    kwerk Poster Extraordinaire

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    I believe the linseed oil acts as an agent to evenly distribute the polymer on the surface. During the brief curing process, the oil is absorbed into the wood, offering the deep protection, whilst the polymers remain on the surface as a surface protection and a kind of moisture lock. At least that's what I was told, anyway.

    I haven't tried tung oil so I can't offer a comparison, but Tru Oil is very, very good, and ridiculously easy to get a great looking finish.
     
  11. CapnCrunch

    CapnCrunch Friend of Leo's

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    Chewy,

    The application process I detailed above will work with what you have. When you have it built up as much as you want, you may even be able to wet sand if you want to. You can also use the steel wool and wax for more of a semi-gloss. I've never used the Minwax polymerized tung oil, but I have used other brands. It'll make a beautiful finish, and you can still spray lacquer over it if you want. If you're thinking you might want to spray lacquer later, I would hold off on the wax. It will make spraying easier later.
     
  12. Chewy

    Chewy Tele-Meister

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    Gotcha. Thanks again, Crunchy! ;)
     
  13. bettyseldest

    bettyseldest Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks for the response, the application of elbow grease failed to make any impact. I did manage to find this in the manual section of the Rickenbacker website:

    Beyond routine cleaning, the best way to maintain a hand rubbed oil finish (as seen on Rickenbacker Models 650D, 650S, and some older models), is with Tung oil and a 3M Scotch-Brite™ Ultra Fine Hand Pad (#7448.)
    Using small amounts of oil at a time, wipe down the instrument until there is a relatively uniform coating on the surface of the guitar. Going with the wood grain, use the Scotch-Brite™ pad to lightly sand the surface until it begins to take on its original silky smooth feel.


    It also offers and alternative This procedure can also be performed using ultra fine, light or gray colored sandpaper. A minimum grade of 1200 should be used to avoid damaging the surface of the wood. I'll give it a go in a few weeks time when I have gotten the holidays out of the way.
     
  14. CapnCrunch

    CapnCrunch Friend of Leo's

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    Sounds like you've got it sorted. I would use the scotchbrite or a very fine steel wool before I used the sand paper, but that is just my own personal preference. Cheers.
     
  15. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    Minwax bought Waterlox and I don't trust them to use the same formula. Woodworking catalogs have finishes with more honest explanations. Many of these wiping finishes that are labeled "oil finish" or "Danish oil" are just thinned down varnish (not to suggest that you make your own, but just understand that they've got the same ingredients as regular brushing varnish). Varnish contains oil, resins, solvent, and other additives like driers and sacrificial UV inhibitors. Resins used to be phenolic, then alkyd, then polyurethane which was such a modern marvel that everybody wanted to see that word printed really big on the can. Truth is, the resin isn't that important except that polyurethane is probably the lightest in color. The solvent is usually naphtha or a mixture of petroleum distillates (paint thinner) and thicker varnishes are made to flash off more slowly so they level out. Solvent isn't really important to your choice of finishes unless of course you're getting into the emulsion waterborne-coatings world. Oil is an important ingredient and traditionally was linseed oil, but more expensive tung oil is also used (either mixed in a secret percentage so they can use the word on the can, or actually using it as the only oil ingredient). TruOil used to be made with only tung oil, now it's a mixture like the other big brands. Restoration varnishes are usually tung oil, but a good description should tell you (and Minwax won't).

    Having said that, I've gotten good results with Minwax Danish Oil and with (pre-Minwax) Waterlox (which is an oil varnish, and has nothing to do with water except it's wet appearance). Remember that with any oil finish you really need patience and time since it takes so much longer to accomplish than any kind of sprayed lacquer.
     
  16. drmcclainphd

    drmcclainphd Tele-Afflicted

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    I'm usually a Minwax fan, but they've dropped the ball on this.

    Tung oil "finish" (including Formby's) is not tung oil. It has some tung oil in it, but as the name says it is a finish, not something to penetrate, fill and preserve a porous wood like rosewood. However, read the directions. It says it can be applied over another penetrating oil. And what's the most common, most penetrating of oils?

    WD-40.

    I started using this for cleaning strings and necks while on tour quite a while back. Works great in all respects. Any residue that doesn't soak in protects the neck from icky finger junk. I tried Formby's on a new neck and just got P.O.'ed by the results. I tried some over a neck I'd just 40'd, and lo and behold I got a beautiful finish that went into the rosewood, filled it, and even brought out slight differences in the color.

    The "finish" has its place, but they're not telling you that place is with something they don't sell.

    As for Tru Oil, it's use is predicated on the fact that it works well on gun stocks, some of which are "rosewood".

    That's wrong. "Rosewood" gunstocks are African rosewood, or bubinga, which is not a true rosewood. It's far denser than the stuff on a fretboard, much like walnut in density and porousity. Tru Oil works great on this stuff. It works on the oil-thirsty stuff on a fretboard -- kind of -- but not really very well at all. Sure it looks good, but in a couple years your fretwire ends are going to start to stick out because that thirsty real (porous to the point of spongey) rosewood needs fed again, but you've gone and coated it with something that's going to prevent rejuvination by coating it with something *intended* to prevent penetration by other oils, be it hand oils or barrel cleaning oils. Tru Oil is *not* intended for the kind of wood on your fretboard. Maybe over a 40'd surface it might do OK, I don't know because I haven't tried it. And I'm not likely to, given my range of experience, from 200 year old Chinese lychee to aerospace graphite laminates on 1/64" "aircraft" three ply white birch, between which my luthier work is much simpler.

    But hey, don't believe me. Do your own research outside the over-specialized guitar hacking cloister. Just don't believe anyone else that hasn't either.
     
  17. adjason

    adjason Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I would use tru oil if I was doing a hand applied finish. I would suggest buying a couple of cans of reranch and giving it a shot-much more professional looking results and its not hard to do if the humidity is not too high. If you don't like it its pretty easy to strip off. Try on scrap first of course
     
  18. kwerk

    kwerk Poster Extraordinaire

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    I don't know many here in the "over-specialised guitar hacking cloister" (actually I think builders is the preferred term, but there you go) that would recommend Tru-oil for a fretboard finish. Most people use lemon oil or something similar. Tru oil is a polymer finish, why would anyone recommend it for a fretboard?
     
  19. CapnCrunch

    CapnCrunch Friend of Leo's

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    I'm guessing for one piece neck or a Maple f-board????? Dunno tho.
     
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