Jump to content

a cheap and easy finish


Recommended Posts

alright guys,

I've been building this guitar for the past couple of months or so and it's goin really well for a first attempt, thanks to all the great advice on these forums and the tutorials on the main site.

well, it's almost over and i've just got to do the finishing and fretting now. i'll post pics when it's done. (it's just a bog standard metal guitar with a fixed bridge and a sort of carved top)

so i need to finish it on the cheap (realistically less than £10 if possible) and easily as i'm quite good at screwing things up. i couldn't care less about how the finish looked as long as it protects the wood from moisture and beer-stains etc. somthing that would last years and years would be quite nice too. I was thinking a natural finish, but i have no idea about these things.

at the moment it's raw plain old ash for body, and maple-wenge-maple neck with an ebony fretboard and head veneer.

any suggestions?



Link to comment
Share on other sites

another good product for a cheap protective finish is basic minwax tongue oil. don't know if it's available where you are but if not i'm sure there's some brand of tongue oil or even plain linseed oil.

most of the guitars i make have a hand rubbed oil finish and i mix up a recipe of what i call LTV. it's equal parts of linseed oil, turpentine and varnish. mix together thoroughly then flood the entire guitar with a brush or pad. let sit ten-fifteen minutes and wipe dry. after an hour or so you can apply a second coat and then maybe a third the first day. now let it cure over night. on the second day your subsequent coats should be adding a shine to the guitar. with enough coats and some hand polishing you can get a pretty glossy finish while still being able to feel the grain of the wood.

generally after 6-7 coats i'll let the guitar cure for a few days then polish with a good quality floor paste wax.

i'm not exactly sure how much ten pounds is but these things aren't expensive in small quanities. (how much is ten pounds now anyway?)

hope that helps

Link to comment
Share on other sites

tru oil is a hard finish...it will protect the wood better than tung oil,and a thin coat will feel "naked",but the thicker the coat,the better it protects...

it makes a very good ,non suffocating finish

but let me be clear...i just finished a v in which i used 2 cans of acrylic white and 3 cans of deft nitro...and it is the most tone rich guitar i have at the moment...more so than even my tung oiled guitar...

bottom line is that it is tight tolerances and good woods that make a guitar sound good,not the finish

maybe polyester or polyeurethane is different...but i doubt it at this point

(btw i know you did not even imply that but it sounded like i was inferring it with the "non suffocating" part,so i wanted to be clear)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've used the Tru-Oil, as well as some other brands Tung Oil on various woods.

Stay away from the Fornbey's Tung Oil; it's for suburbanites, and it runs like water.

Birchwood Casey sells some good stuff, but the rub-on stuff does better then the spray-on. The Tru-Oil seems to have a faster drying time, and it seems to do better (umm... less bad) on the oily woods. (Tung Oil does NOT set up on Purpleheart; it just turns into a goooy mess.)

Personally, when I want a killer finish, I rub in numerous coats of Gillespie Tung Oil. This stuff is thick, it helps to bring out the "fiddleback" in semi-curly wood, and it's beautiful when it dries! (Lowes used to carry it, but they quit.)

But I don't let every coat dry; when the wood is still "thirsty" I put on a coat, let it soak in, then another coat, let it soak in, then another coat. Depending on the wood, I may repeat that process for 2 hours straight. This causes the Tung Oil to soak in really deep, instead of just filling up the wood near the surface. The deeper the Tung Oil goes, the harder it is to put dings in the wood.

After making sure I have a deep coat of Tung Oil, then I can really sand and coat and sand and coat the wood. I usually repeat this process until the wood feels like glass... but you can put on fewer coats, do less sanding, and have a great "natural" finish.

Drying times range from 1-2 days per external coat, depending on the wood and your woodshop. (Have I mentioned that Tung Oil and Purple heart are a bad combination?)

After all of that, I rub it down with some Boiled Linseed Oil and polish it lightly.

If you want to preserve a Tung Oil finish, I highly recommend a coat of good wax.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Can it be buffed out to a gloss finish? Do you need to grainfill the wood underneath it?

If you use the technique I mentioned above, the Tru-Oil is your grain-filler AND top-coat. This gives it added integrity; each coat will soften up the surface of the previous coat, so the coats become more like one coat and not just layers stuck together.

I wish I could take a decent picture of the thumbhole stock I just finished for my brother. He brought an aftermarket stock to me; it was made out of some cheap Walnut that had some major grain-filling issues. But after about 12 coats of Tung Oil, and a lot of light sanding, the grain is perfectly level and smooth... and actually beautiful.

However, Tung Oil and Tru-Oil are not as scratch resistant as urethanes. When I built a custom stock for an 1891 Mauser that is just going to hang on the wall, I built up the Tung Oil to a deep glass-like finish. But, when I built a stock for a friend's hunting rifle, I just used polyurethane. (For the record: The only things I "kill" are paper and metal targets.)

If you want a "natural" looking hard finish, you can use the oils. If you want a glass-like finish, I would not recommend using oils.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

thanks so much guys.

i've looked for a few places for tru-oil, but the only place i know that sells it (a gunshop) is only open when i'm at work. however, i found this other shop on my way to work that sells teak oil and rustin's danish oil. would this be any good straight on top of my raw ash?

thanks, Marek

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...