Saturday, November 2, 2013

Tru-Oil for your guitar!

A few years ago I assembled a Stratocaster up from parts. I bought an unfinished neck and treated it with Linseed oil. The linseed oil treated neck works perfectly and delivered a smooth backing on the neck that would resist most conditions; the key word in the last sentence is "most." Over time the linseed oil will need to be coated again to help preserve the wood and prevent neck twist. I wanted to finish the back of the guitar neck but still maintain a minimal smooth satin like finish that is also more durable. One of the best off the shelf products that is easy to use is called Tru-oil.

Warning, all of the chemicals used during the course of this article are very flammable and harmful. Follow all safety precautions and stay alive and well!

I prepared the neck by sanding and obtaining a smooth surface. That portion I accomplished a number of years ago. I won't put you to sleep by describing basic sanding but take my word for it - The back of the neck was smooth. Because the guitar has been in used I needed to clean the neck prior to applying the Tru-oil. I cleaned the back of the neck using(Lighter fluid - Beware Flammable) naphtha. I wiped it on with a towel and cleaned all of the neck to be certain that the surface would be free of substances that could cause orange peel, ridges, bumps, and any oil ugliness that could react with the new finish. Side note: when you open the Tru-oil, do not remove the entire foil seal, remove only part of it that way you can control the dispense of the fluid. Removing the entire foil will also expose more air to the TRU_OIL and since it will evaporate quickly due to the low vapor pressure of the substance.
Back side prior to applying finish.


Once I was certain that the neck was clean; I applied a very thin layer of Tru-Oil. I would recommend using your gloved finger to apply the oil as you can control the amount of finish. When I apply Tru-oil I STRONGLY recommend using a lint free drip rag.  The current temperature in my house is 71.0 degrees F, with relative humidity at 46%, that is a very benign condition for applying finish and it allows for the Tur-oil to harden within about two hours but sets very hard within 24 hours. I prefer to let the finish dry as long as possible prior to finish sanding.

Wood with dense properties simply takes longer to dry - The Rosewood fret board has longer drying times, be aware of that if your neck is maple with rosewood fret board..
Below; is the untreated neck.
Coated neck after a few hours 
 Nice shin - lacquer is hardening well.
 You can see the effects of light surrounding the machine head placement.
 It's difficult to show the shin of the lacquer but it's there! Ya'll see that bike wheel - nice!
 The reflection of my room blinds show off the gloss finish that...
 I coated the head stock as well for preservation.
 Another attempt to show the gloss lacquer coat.
 Showing the gloss again! 
Now that I have a hardened finish, I buff the neck with 0000 steel wool!
I lightly buff the finish to get a satin like finish that is also humidity resistant and provides some bump protection. 
 You can see that the gloss is knocked down and there is less reflection of light from the surface.
 Another angle - You can see that the reflection properties have diminished on the neck. I chose to not buff/sand the head stock.
 Nice smooth finish with no coloration from the Tru-oil.
I achieve my goal; a satin hard durable finish without burning the house down with nitro lacquer!

Now it's time for a setup; I won't go into the details of the setup but I will tell you that I used Gorgomyte fret and fingerboard cleaner. Below is an example of the tarnish I removed from the frets, makes ya hungry doesn't it!?

After the Gorgomyte fret cleaning,  treat (use sparingly - don't flood the fingerboard!) the fingerboard with Roche'-Thomas Premium fingerboard oil. The combination of the two products will preserve the fret board (not the frets - Duh!) for about a year of normal playing.

Add the machine heads and guides! Be sure to not over tighten the nuts which will dent your headstock!
 Another angle of the assembled headstock.
Cleaned and treated fret board is a happy fret board! 
 The Fret board with a flash shows the shiny frets!
 Head stock is not buffed shows a reflection of the machine head in the glossy finish.
 It's difficult to see the delineation of the satin to gloss finish  but rest assured - It's there!
 Smooth and protected.

Applying Tru-oil to your neck is a painless process that yields favorable results. The task of road proofing this guitar took me a couple of days only because I was not on a time budget. The finish hardens and protects just like the finishes of vintage guitars. Polyvinyl and Urethane finishes are much more durable but they are also prone to chipping. When those finishes are chipped - there is nothing you can do about the chip aside from filling the chip. Filling those chips is tedious and timely process and for most luthiers - not worth their time because the ROI is poor. Granted, the poly protects against hits that would dent the Tru-Oil finish but that is a risk I am willing to take. I am happy and my guitar is happy so what else matters!?
Caio!

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