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Adding Color To Hand-rubbed Oil Finish

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That's an interesting question. I've never seen an opaque oil-varnish finish. And I doubt that 100% opacity could be achieved. You can't build up a thick enough film.

With a pure oil finish it would certainly be impossible. But with an oil-varnish finish like Danish oil, you could achieve some degree of opacity, probably more with darker colors than light.

It's common to stain wood before applying an oil finish. That would give you the color, but not the opacity.

Some finishers apply oil-varnish with sandpaper instead of cloth. That gives you a flatter finish with a more even color. The pores of the wood are filled with the sludge, a mixture of the finish material and the sanding dust. And the resulting color is sort of the average color of the wood itself, or the color tends toward the darker colors in the wood.

Oil finishes are typically used when the wood is beautiful and you want to see it and feel it.

If you want solid Candy Apple Red or Sea Foam Blue, do what Fender does. Go down to Sherwin-Williams and pick up a can.

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I tried this with a shellac finish. The shellac was cut with alcohol so I used an alcohol soluble dye (black) thinking I could make it opaque. It doesn't work. Like Ken said, you need too many layers but it will also streak, especially if it's hand applied.

The guitar I did this too turned out to look vintaged so I left it as is. Being my first guitar I was a bumed it didn't look as good as it could have but it is pretty unique to say the least.

Edited by NoSaintNick
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Adding pigment to an oil finish is kinda like making an oil stain. Oil stains are sometimes nice for certain kinds of furniture, but almost never preferred for guitars. You can stain the wood and follow with an oil finish. Different woods yield better or worse results when the raw wood is stained, often irreversibly. Test on scrap!

Check out the RED Tele with a Floyd Rose on the USA Custom Guitars forum:


Stained the wood, followed by Tru-oil.

And look here for a Gibson style red dyed mahogany followed by tru-oil.


Ristguitars answers a number of questions in the thread on his technique.

Next, pickling stain followed by Tru-oil for a Fender blond translucent finish here:


Lastly, a pigment will produce a more opaque color than a dye. I've bought some Mixol pigment to experiment with, but I haven't tried it as yet.

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