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

S1Player

Member
Messages
3,448
Hi.I'd like to do a high gloss finish after staining it with aniline dye. What would be the proper procedure for this? Should I first wet sand it with a heavy dose of mineral spirits/tru oil l? When do I stop using mineral spirits? Is this just for the last coat? Looking for the exact procedure because I want to get it exactly like quarter's super mirror high gloss finish.
Unless you just specifically want the challenge of using the tru oil to get a gloss finish or you want to learn it to do it professionally - I'd highly recommend simply taking it to a finisher and have them shoot clear.

Just for the one or 2 off - I found it very difficult to get a good gloss result. It was also took a long time to add progressive coats. Best use of time on later builds was having the builder shoot clear and be done with it.
 

straightblues

Member
Messages
9,686
Awesome. Thanks for the info. How much tru-oil do you use when sanding it with 600 grit? Also, when you are finished sanding, do you wipe off the excess? Is it suppose to be wet after sanding or should I sand until it gets dry and coarse? Lastly, how hard should I be sanding it? When I tried the wet sand with 400 grit I ended up removing some of the stain.

400 is too course. Use 600 or 800 even. When I wet sanded I used about 5 dime sized drops of oil on each side. Don't over sand in the beginning. You want to leave the layers underneath. I sanded until the paper started to slow down not until dry and course. Remember, Stain, a few layers of Tru-oil put on with a cloth, then sand.

I find Tru Oil really easy to use. I prefer its look and feel more than lacquer.
 

JimmyB24

Member
Messages
10
400 is too course. Use 600 or 800 even. When I wet sanded I used about 5 dime sized drops of oil on each side. Don't over sand in the beginning. You want to leave the layers underneath. I sanded until the paper started to slow down not until dry and course. Remember, Stain, a few layers of Tru-oil put on with a cloth, then sand.

I find Tru Oil really easy to use. I prefer its look and feel more than lacquer.
Thanks. One last question, do you wipe off any excess after wet sanding?
 

JimmyB24

Member
Messages
10
Unless you just specifically want the challenge of using the tru oil to get a gloss finish or you want to learn it to do it professionally - I'd highly recommend simply taking it to a finisher and have them shoot clear.

Just for the one or 2 off - I found it very difficult to get a good gloss result. It was also took a long time to add progressive coats. Best use of time on later builds was having the builder shoot clear and be done with it.
I do appreciate the recommendation but I'm the type that needs the challenge. Once I saw Quarter's guitar's I had to figure this out myself, even if it takes a great amount of energy and time. I'm willing to put in the effort. Quarter truly inspired me. I feel the need to try to get to the level that Quarter was able to achieve with Tru Oil.
 

stratamania

Member
Messages
3,486
400 is too course. Use 600 or 800 even. When I wet sanded I used about 5 dime sized drops of oil on each side. Don't over sand in the beginning. You want to leave the layers underneath. I sanded until the paper started to slow down not until dry and course. Remember, Stain, a few layers of Tru-oil put on with a cloth, then sand.

I find Tru Oil really easy to use. I prefer its look and feel more than lacquer.
You mentioned putting on some layers of Tru-Oil to protect the stain, and then sanding with fine grits to create a wood dust and tru-oil slurry as a grain filler. Something about this seems contradictory to me. If you have enough layers on to protect the stain it would seem that the later sanding with tru-oil would not be sanding the wood underneath but rather the already applied tru-oil.
 

S1Player

Member
Messages
3,448
I do appreciate the recommendation but I'm the type that needs the challenge. Once I saw Quarter's guitar's I had to figure this out myself, even if it takes a great amount of energy and time. I'm willing to put in the effort. Quarter truly inspired me. I feel the need to try to get to the level that Quarter was able to achieve with Tru Oil.
Fair enough, if your intent is primarily skill acquisition instead of timely completion or a perfect finish on the early 3-4 tru oil projects.

My experience - taken with a huge grain of salt - is to go slow with very light coats. And, look back over each coat each time for any runs or noticeable unevenness. Sand very lightly and very carefully to avoid sand throughs.

Also, mask extremely well and extremely diligently. An errant spot of tru oil can ruin a non-tru oil spot quickly. And, can be a huge PITA to fix.

Finally, I'd set my own expectations that you may likely have to redo the first project with tru oil. And, I'd also set my own expectations that the first 3 or 4 projects may not turn out that well.

I realize this is a repeat and please ignore if you need to: if I needed clear coat and my finish guy couldn't shoot it for some reason - I'd build my own spray booth and learn to shoot clear.
 

waygorked

Member
Messages
604
There are a ton of ways to work with Tru Oil, which is one of the things that keeps bringing me back to using it. A good Tru Oil finish requires playing a long game, but the results are absolutely worth it. The gear investment is negligible. You don't need to build a spray booth or put on an environment suit. Unlike lacquer, Tru Oil doesn't try to destroy your lungs, cause your immune system to attack your tissues, or rewrite your DNA. It doesn't have that beautiful nitro smell, which means it isn't gassing off volatile carcinogenic organic compounds for the first year or so that leech into your body. Nothing feels like Tru Oil on a maple neck, other than maybe the super thin UV catalyzed poly that Doug Kauer is using on his guitars.

I've done about 6 Tru Oil projects, and at this point can get any level of gloss I desire with enough time and effort. I have done some where I do one coat a day for a few weeks, and others where I have tried to pull the whole thing off in a short period of time. I have found that the key to pulling off a high gloss, at least for me, is to make it a 3 weekend process. I lay down 6 on the first weekend starting with a surface sanded to 600. I resist the desire to mess with the finish at all until the next weekend. Since Tru Oil does not have any burn in like lacquer, having the finish harden a bit before any leveling seems to increase the margin for error. On the second weekend I level with some 600 and a few drops of oil, then build another 6 coats, with an extremely light leveling with 600 after every 2nd coat. I let it sit until the next weekend, when I wet sand with a full set of micro-mesh 3x4 pads. These get you to 12,000 grit. A few minutes with a buffing wheel attached to a drill and some Meguiars gets it up to mirror levels of gloss. From there it is important to understand that the finish is still somewhat soft, and will be for a couple of weeks. I have learned to resist the desire to start assembling the guitar until the next weekend.
 

JimmyB24

Member
Messages
10
There are a ton of ways to work with Tru Oil, which is one of the things that keeps bringing me back to using it. A good Tru Oil finish requires playing a long game, but the results are absolutely worth it. The gear investment is negligible. You don't need to build a spray booth or put on an environment suit. Unlike lacquer, Tru Oil doesn't try to destroy your lungs, cause your immune system to attack your tissues, or rewrite your DNA. It doesn't have that beautiful nitro smell, which means it isn't gassing off volatile carcinogenic organic compounds for the first year or so that leech into your body. Nothing feels like Tru Oil on a maple neck, other than maybe the super thin UV catalyzed poly that Doug Kauer is using on his guitars.

I've done about 6 Tru Oil projects, and at this point can get any level of gloss I desire with enough time and effort. I have done some where I do one coat a day for a few weeks, and others where I have tried to pull the whole thing off in a short period of time. I have found that the key to pulling off a high gloss, at least for me, is to make it a 3 weekend process. I lay down 6 on the first weekend starting with a surface sanded to 600. I resist the desire to mess with the finish at all until the next weekend. Since Tru Oil does not have any burn in like lacquer, having the finish harden a bit before any leveling seems to increase the margin for error. On the second weekend I level with some 600 and a few drops of oil, then build another 6 coats, with an extremely light leveling with 600 after every 2nd coat. I let it sit until the next weekend, when I wet sand with a full set of micro-mesh 3x4 pads. These get you to 12,000 grit. A few minutes with a buffing wheel attached to a drill and some Meguiars gets it up to mirror levels of gloss. From there it is important to understand that the finish is still somewhat soft, and will be for a couple of weeks. I have learned to resist the desire to start assembling the guitar until the next weekend.
I'm currently wet sanding my wooden base (alder wood) with tru oil on top of a water based aniline dye stain. I started with 220 grit underneath the aniline dye stain. After that I did a heavy coat of tru oil over the stain with a lint free rag. I did a few thin coats of TO after that with a lint free rag. Once that was dried, I started wet sanding with tru oil with 400 grit, however, the aniline dye stain was coming off from the edges. I started all over again, this time using 600 grit, but when I hold the wooden base at an angle, I can see streaks from the sandpaper. Is this normal? What am I doing wrong here?
 

waygorked

Member
Messages
604
I've had that happen a couple of times. Depending on the color of the stain, sometimes you can just apply another coat of stain without starting over. As the dye is water-based, the areas that are sealed won't absorb any color. If you are getting lots of issues with the edges, use 0000 steel wool instead. It is friendlier to corners than paper, albeit more of a pain to clean up after. I also make sure I have at least 4 coats on, 6 if possible, before I try my first leveling.
 

JimmyB24

Member
Messages
10
Thanks. I plan on starting over and ensuring I have enough coats. It seems the corners do not soak up as much oil so I will be paying more attention to that with the initial coats. Thanks again for the suggestion.
 

Charlie G

Member
Messages
6
Hey guys, Just got this neck in from warmoth. The quartersawn mahogany is awesome, and the ebony fretboard sets it off. I decided to do the whole guitar in tru oil. First I got it the neck nice and smooth with 400 grit sandpaper. So I started with 4 thin coats. The 5th coat was an attempted wet sand, using 400 grit as the applicator. Seemed to go well.. 24 hours later it feels a little bit rougher than when I started.. I'm thinking maybe I sanded too hard through the 4 coats. It looks nice, but I feel like I'm feeling the grain more than before. Thoughts?
 

JimmyB24

Member
Messages
10
Hey guys, Just got this neck in from warmoth. The quartersawn mahogany is awesome, and the ebony fretboard sets it off. I decided to do the whole guitar in tru oil. First I got it the neck nice and smooth with 400 grit sandpaper. So I started with 4 thin coats. The 5th coat was an attempted wet sand, using 400 grit as the applicator. Seemed to go well.. 24 hours later it feels a little bit rougher than when I started.. I'm thinking maybe I sanded too hard through the 4 coats. It looks nice, but I feel like I'm feeling the grain more than before. Thoughts?
You might not have a good foundation of tru-oil. Quarter and others recommended an initial "soak" layer to fill up the wood. It seems to me you did not build enough layers so you're actually cutting through the Tru Oil film and into the wood itself. I recommend doing at least 8 coats (if you're going to apply them thin) before you start wet sanding. The other way is doing an initial thick coat then subsequently adding 3 to 4 thin layers after that. Also when you wet sand make sure you use a very small sanding block like an eraser and work in small sections. Always sand gently. A large sanding block is much harder to maneuver.
 

Mangus_pt

Member
Messages
12
I'm a total noob. If someone could look at my plan and see if You'd recommend doing something different I would much appreciate it.

I'm about to stain a basswood body black and finish it with Tru-oil. I've sanded the body to 600.
I'm going to stain it, leave it to dry for two days,
sand back using 800, stain again, sand back with steelwool(0000) and see.
Start the TO process with:
1 - thick layer using a paper towel, wait 15 minutes and rub off excess with dry paper towel or old tshirt and let cure for a day.
2 - apply thin coats until I have 6 coats and level sand with steel wool(0000).
3 - Repeat step 2 about 3 times and apply the last two cut with naphta(50%).
4 - Let Cure for 2 weeks;
5 - Polish

Again, advices are welcome. Please be judgemental.
 

eugewong

Member
Messages
726
My only 2 comments with my limited experience are to work with thin layers all the way (build up thickness with thin layers), and, the oil gets sticky pretty quickly. I would avoid paper towels and stick to old tshirts.

Another piece of advice, if using the Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil bottles, poke a hole in the foil using a pin, and squirt out the oil that you need per coat into another container. - Instead of ripping off the foil completely - I found that I actually needed less oil per coat than expected, and the oil that was in the bottle started to get sticky by the 3rd or 4th day, even thought it was kept capped. By then, it did not go on as smoothly as before and much more prone to streaking...etc.
(I read this tip either in an earlier post or got this advice from somewhere else on the forum)

Purely my 2c.
 

eugewong

Member
Messages
726
I was just reading back through the thread... check out....

Page 4 - tips from Home Grown Tele

And my posts are from Pg 7 - the HSH walnut tele. if you want to see what I was going for... more of a semi-gloss Myka & a little bit Warwick bass kind of vibe.
 

DaveNJ

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,666
My only 2 comments with my limited experience are to work with thin layers all the way (build up thickness with thin layers), and, the oil gets sticky pretty quickly. I would avoid paper towels and stick to old tshirts.

Another piece of advice, if using the Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil bottles, poke a hole in the foil using a pin, and squirt out the oil that you need per coat into another container. - Instead of ripping off the foil completely - I found that I actually needed less oil per coat than expected, and the oil that was in the bottle started to get sticky by the 3rd or 4th day, even thought it was kept capped. By then, it did not go on as smoothly as before and much more prone to streaking...etc.
(I read this tip either in an earlier post or got this advice from somewhere else on the forum)

Purely my 2c.
thank you! I'll stick to old t-shirts and thin coats. Is there a way to prevent it from drying up?
Great tips - the other thing to do is when you have the hole poked in the bottle, store them upside down so that a film doesn't develop near the hole.
 






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