How do you get a high-gloss from Tru-oil finish?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Tesla_Energy, Apr 28, 2010.

  1. Tesla_Energy

    Tesla_Energy Senior Member

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    i'm gonna start applying the tru-oil in a couple days on my next project, and i was wondering how to get a high-gloss finish.
     
  2. Bruce Bennett

    Bruce Bennett Senior Member

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    I have a method that was taught ot me by Michael Tobias, its roughly a 5 day process

    once the guitar is well sanded to at least 180 grit ( 220 is better)
    Start with a "soak coat" first
    Use a small rag to wipe on liberal amounts of oil and keep the surface wet for 10-15 minutes. Wipe off excess and let dry for as long as you want. but not less than 24 hours. this coat is very important as it seals the wood and the deeper the oil goes the better your protection against moisture later. pay attention to end grains as they soak up more oil.

    2. Starting with 400 grit sandpaper. dip the sandpaper in a small amount of oil and sand in circular motions in a small area. the oil will begin to make a paste from the sanding dust, that you will want to push into the grain as much as possible. once the oil/dust paste starts to get stiff-ish, wipe off excess paste going across the wood grain. let dry another 24 hours. woods like ash ( or other wide grain woods) may require a sanding block to keep the wood surfaces flat. Clsoe grains like mahogany and Maples usually don't need a block.

    3. Repeat step 2 useing 600 grit.

    4. Repeat with 1200 grit

    5. Take a 400 count cotton sheet and cut into a 12" square. roll into a very tight, smooth surfaced, ball.
    use the ball as you did the sandpapers.. dip into the oil and "polish" the wood surface.
    when the oil gets warm and stiff-ish,
    wipe off VERY vigoursly WITH the grain, with a clean 400 count sheet ( balled up) damped with a VERY small amount of orange or lemon oil.
    Buff and polish during and after this wipe off step and you should have a very nice glossy French polished finish. be careful of fingerprints.. as the oil drys, it will keep imprints in its surface.
    I recommend you wear one cotton glove on one hand to hold the guitar with while you buff. watch for hard items on your worksurface. I fact I recommend that you use something soft to do this whole process on.

    let dry another 24 and your done.

    I prefer General Finishes Seal-a-cell and when I go to the 1200 grit paper i switch to Amour Seal also made by G.F.


    This type of finish is not for the nambie pambie.. It require tons of elbow grease. Do it wrong and it looks like crap. do it right and it looks like a million bucks. if your arm is not hurting halfway through step 2... your doing it wrong.

    Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2010
  3. baimun

    baimun Member

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    The instructions above are very good. I used tru-oil on my spalted topped mahogany guitar... and of course the nature of the soft, porous spalted wood.. that "soak" layer as well as the slurry layers were many more layers and many more days.

    [​IMG]

    I would allow 12-24 hours between layers and then every 3 or 4 layers go back to sanding. The back and sides required maybe 3 reps like this... so with 9 to 12 layers applied, it was probably sanded back to 5 or 6. The top took even more layers and sanding because of how soft the wood is.

    [​IMG]

    After letting the top sit for a couple weeks, the REALLY dark areas in the spalt (where the punkiest areas of the spalt were) the Tru-oil continued to soak in and made little ripples along those dark lines.

    I went back, applied more layers, sanded them smooth (400 to 600 to 1200 and eventually a nice hand buff) and got the finish really looking like glass on the top (I left the back thinner and didn't use any pore filler, so it has a more natural "soaked into the grain" look. (note the sides and back are not as glassy as the top)

    [​IMG]

    Ultimately, it was a very rewarding project... and I will use Tru-Oil on my upcoming Koa project as well. I also love how well tru-oil blends if there are any dings or scratches that you want to blend new finish in to hide. You can't do that with spray on finishes nearly as easy.
     
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  4. baimun

    baimun Member

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    Two more finished pics.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Sam Evans

    Sam Evans Compliance Officer Gold Supporting Member

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    Awesome, Bruce. Just awesome. It took me quite a while to get the gloss I wanted with Tru-oil, and my technique mimics this but with a few changes. I may like yours better though! Well done.

    SE
    CI
     
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  6. chetz

    chetz Member

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    That is beautiful, I haven't built a guitar.....yet but have a lot of woodworking experience. I have saved this thread because when I do a guitar I want to do my neck this way.
     
  7. Ron Thorn

    Ron Thorn Gold Supporting Member

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    For maximum gloss, I reduce the Truoil 50% with naphtha for the final coat. This reduces streaking from the rag too.
     
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  8. Quarter

    Quarter Member

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    This works well, though I use mineral spirits instead, up to 50% mineral spirits is the recommended thinner / max ratio as per Birchwood Casey.

    I use a lot of True Oil on my lap steels and one thing I've found is that TO is a very forgiving finish and everyone finds a way that works best for them.
    My method has been a moving target and evolves a little each time. My way is certainly not the only way, its just a way that works for me.

    For grain fill, I do the slurry wet sanding with True Oil much like Bruce described, though I use a big pink eraser as a block and sand with the grain.
    Once I get the grain filled, I use a combination of wiping it on with a piece of lint free cotton, (large pre-cut gun cleaning patches), and then either spray the last couple final coats with a small gravity feed detail gun or do the thinned "glaze coat" as Ron described.

    Given normal temps and conditions, you can recoat TO in a couple hours. The 'trick' is to not slop it on, full and even light coats works best.
    For building body, I'll generally do 3 light coats a day wiped on with the direction of the grain. No need to over work it, I just lay it down with full long strokes and then give it a couple hours before the next light coat. Again, the key here is light coats, avoid the temptation to lay it on thick.
    The next morning before any more coats, I take a small flat hard block and lightly wet sand with 1000 grit and a little spritz of mineral spirits for a lube.
    For me, 1000 grit seems to be a good balance of grit at this stage as cuts fast enough to work without being overly aggressive on the new finish. Once I get a good level film built, I move up to 1500 for a day, then 2000 for a day. After the 2000, I do one light / full / quick "glaze coat" or spray the last coat and let cure a week.

    A couple misc notes, Birchwood Casey does have True Oil in a spray can. Not a lot of places carry it, but its available direct from BC's web site. For best results with their spray can, warming the can in warm tap water helps.
    On big flat surfaces, I prefer wet sanding with a block over steel wool if I'm going for that mirror finish.

    And here are some pics of my results.

    .
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  9. Bruce Bennett

    Bruce Bennett Senior Member

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    damn Quarter! I thought that was lacquer.. Not true oil.

    My hats off to you.. thats better than anything I ever did. and I got rave reviews over my Oil finishes for years.

    its official You da man
     
  10. Quarter

    Quarter Member

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    Thanks Bruce! It can be a chore to do, but I just love the look and feel of True Oil. What I do sometimes for a nice amber on maple is to first do a couple wash coats of a 1 lb cut amber dewaxed shellac flake.

    .
    [​IMG]
     
  11. paintguy

    paintguy Long Hair Hippy Freak Silver Supporting Member

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    Very nice work Quarter!:aok
     
  12. cherrick

    cherrick Member

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    Have you guys heard the new Tru-Oil trick? Apply it with a soaked pad made from a brown paper bag (i.e. grocery store).
     
  13. Quarter

    Quarter Member

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    Thanks paintguy! I'm a big fan of your beautiful work :)

    Thats a new one on me, I'll have to check it out sometime. It just goes to my previous point, there are lots of ways to get great results and everyone will find the way that works best for them.
     
  14. Sweetwood

    Sweetwood Member

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    GREAT WORK Quarter! I'm really impressed. I don't just say that. Looks amazing!!!
     
  15. luchof26

    luchof26 Member

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    Great info. Thanks guys.
     
  16. Quarter

    Quarter Member

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    Thanks Sweetwood!

    Glad you found it helpful and wish you luck on any future projects. You don't have to put a bazillion coats on for a nice and protective finish. My examples are just to show how far you can take it if you want.
     
  17. Quarter

    Quarter Member

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    I get a lot of questions on Tru Oil and I've found that linking this thread has been very helpful for many so I thought bumping this one back up might be helpful for those that missed it first time around.
     
  18. Rod

    Rod Tone is Paramount Supporting Member

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    Thanks for all the info guys...I have a beautiful 2" thick honduras mahogany body that I want to do a Tru Oil finish to....A good winter project when the snow flies
     
  19. GLosch

    GLosch Member

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    Thanks, Quarter. I did in fact miss this the first time around! And it'll be very helpful once I'm ready to finish my current project. I don't have a spray setup, so it was either Reranch, something from Stew Mac, or a hand-applied oil. Maybe I'll go for Tru-Oil. I have a bottle lying around somewhere.
     
  20. Roman Rist

    Roman Rist Member

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    I am one of those that wrote quarter for tru oil info. He directed me to this thread which was very cool, because I was unable to find it. :D

    Being relatively new to tru oil, before this thread, I was treating it differently. It is completely different to work with compared to lacquer, or even other oils, so you have to teach yourself to rethink finishing.

    As stated in an earlier post, if your arm doesn't hurt you are doing it wrong.

    My observations are that it takes practice and patience.

    Finally after much of both, I am starting to get satisfactory results where it actually approximates the look of lacquer. Not quite there, but getting closer.

    Thanks for this thread! here are some of my results........Tru Oil on spruce.

    [​IMG][​IMG]
     

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