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Easiest Finish ever


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Hey all. Just got my first do it yourself guitar. Held off on getting one for this primary reason: how to finish it? There's a stain that caught my eye I'd like to start there. And then I'm thinking several tongue oil applications. How does that sound for a total newbie? I have very limited tools. But I don't mind waiting for stuff to dry. Thank you for any fun info you might share. Have a lovely day.

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Hello and welcome to the addiction!

There's no easy ways or shortcuts in finishing... But your choice is valid and can be done with limited tools and facilities.

It all starts with sanding. And continues with sanding and continues with sanding and continues with sanding and... Truly, sanding is the most crucial part of any finish! So:

  • the first thing to do is to check for any glue squeeze-outs as stain won't stick to them! Scrape and sand, test with a drop of water to see if the drop stays on the surface: That'll mean glue.
  • Sand through the grits starting from 100 up to 400. Wipe with a damp cloth between every change of grit to raise the grain and let dry. Do the 400 a few times moistening in between. The moist surface will also reveal any scratches from coarser grits or other mishaps
  • Some people prefer blocks, some bare fingers when sanding. Both work, although when level sanding a large flat surface a wide flat block can help
  • No matter the preferred sanding method, use a light hand!!! And de-dust your paper often! If the dust clogs on your paper clean or change it immediately. That also tells that you've been pushing too hard so that the friction will heat and caramelize the sugar in the dust and you'll end up having a big hard lump containing loosened abrasives!
  • Think about how sandpaper works: There's millions of tiny sharp edged particles scraping the wood and all the wood dust has to fit between said particles! There's not much space there and you can't push the particles into the wood more than what they protrude from the paper. Sanding is more like wiping than rubbing.

After you've sanded it's time to apply the dye. You can use water based or alcohol based dyes/stains or both depending on your goal. Also you may suffice with one coat or you may need several applications. If the grain raises with the first coat you'll have to lightly sand it (again!) with the 400 grit and then reapply the dye.

Notice that Tung Oil is not clear! It has a deep warm amber/honey hue which emphasizes the natural browns of any wood. Thus yellow, orange and red are quite safe bets but blue and green can easily turn to a dirty brown. Hopefully you have some scrap pieces of the same wood which you can experiment with.

When oiling, there's a couple of things to remember. First, spread the oil liberally especially at the beginning. Apply more if the wood dries fast at some spots. Rub it in properly! Unlike sanding, oiling benefits from a good rub. Second, when the oil starts to feel tacky (about 15 mins of rubbing) take a clean (paper) towel and wipe the wood as clean as you can. Wait for some 15 minutes and wipe any sweated oil off. Oil on the surface will never dry! But it cures inside the pores and slowly fills them.

In normal conditions you should be able to repeat the oiling daily. After the first few layers you may want to try to speed up the buildup which you can do by applying the oil with some 1000 grit wet and dry sandpaper or fine steel wool or fine nylon abrasive mat. Notice that all of these can leave particles into the slurry so especially very pale and porous woods will easily look dirty! Again, testing with a scrap piece is your best option!


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just a suggestion - if you want easy... it just can't be gloss!  I have often wanted to just do tru oil on a body and stop there.  it will protect well enough and if you don't overdue it... ie just maybe 3 or 4 coats - it makes for a nice flat finish.  I can never stop there tho... it's a matter of self control!!


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