Finish on guitar?


Mr. Redwood
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Hey everyone, I have worked myself into a corner and am now sending out an SOS. I have just finished staining a guitar that I've been paid to build, and I have come to a crossroads. The body is made of red oak (1½") and the face is white oak (¼") the issue I have is the guitar is hollowed out below the "veneer" so I need a finish that can seal and protect it from moving alot (that has already happened with past guitars) I currently have applied 3 coats of black minwax oil stain (5-10 minutes of dry time buffed off excess) and it has been sitting for 2 days, I leave for college in 10 days and I would love to have it roughly finished and curing while I'm gone. I was leaning towards brushing lacquer but I would love the look of a hand rubbed finish that will seal and protect the guitar. For you guys I'm sure this is a no brainier but I'm stuck between

1.) brushing lacquer (watco)

2.) Wiping varnish (general)

3.) Danish oil/wax and (watco/minwax)

4.) Giving up because I despise finishing

Any insight will be greatly appreciated, as an FYI a poly or plasticity looking finish wouldn't be ideal, and if you couldn't tell already I'm quite novice when it comes to finishing (just impatient)

Thanks Alot guys!

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2 hours ago, Mr. Redwood said:

I need a finish that can seal and protect it from moving alot

2 hours ago, Mr. Redwood said:

I would love the look of a hand rubbed finish

These 2 seem to contradict to me.

If this was me I'd probably bust out the HVLP and spray it with something. That said spray can lacquer is a 2nd option to that. Otherwise I'd stick with a wiping poly / danish oil of some sort. The wiping finishes won't do much for sealing the piece like you mentioned. That said none of the other finishes will seal the wood to the point that they stop moving either.

The best thing you can do with finishing is NOT #4. That's a surefire way to stay frustrated for ever. Practice is huge for finishing. I don't think i ever started to figure it out until i just did a lot of tests to see what works and what doesn't work.

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What do you mean about wood moving a lot on past guitars? Did the face and body separate or delaminate? Different species can have drastically different movement rates, but red and white oak should be pretty close.

The best your finish can do is slow down the uptake and release of moisture, and therefore movement. A thick film seems to make the best barrier to moisture, and it needs to cover every nook and cranny to be effective.

I'm with @Chestnut, spray lacquer is your safest bet.

BUT... unless the guitar is going from Tuscon to Miami on a regular basis, I can't see the oak giving you much trouble. Assuming the materials were dried to equilibrium in tbe first place. If you are sawing the face veneer in-shop, inadequate acclimatization afterwards may be the source of your troubles.

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14 minutes ago, wtnhighlander said:

BUT... unless the guitar is going from Tuscon to Miami on a regular basis, I can't see the oak giving you much trouble. Assuming the materials were dried to equilibrium in tbe first place. If you are sawing the face veneer in-shop, inadequate acclimatization afterwards may be the source of your troubles.

Indoor humidity swings in MN are 15% winter to 65% summer so that swing would happen twice a year at least.

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33 minutes ago, wtnhighlander said:

What do you mean about wood moving a lot on past guitars?

The veneer would move and the glue lines (on the veneer) would raise through the finish. But to be fair that guitar was an experiment that I finished with spray paint and buffed with wax. It was definitely more of a wood issue than a finish issue... Probably a mix of both, but I was wondering if there is a finish that would help combat that issue.

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21 minutes ago, Chestnut said:

Indoor humidity swings in MN are 15% winter to 65% summer so that swing would happen twice a year at least.

Luckily I'm shipping it off to the Salt Lake City area so perhaps it won't be that bad. The buyer is an experienced player so hopefully he knows how to care for wood. The finicky thing is that top because some of the wood is floating while the rest is sealed to the body with titebond 3.

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12 hours ago, Mr. Redwood said:

The veneer would move and the glue lines (on the veneer) would raise through the finish. But to be fair that guitar was an experiment that I finished with spray paint and buffed with wax. It was definitely more of a wood issue than a finish issue... Probably a mix of both, but I was wondering if there is a finish that would help combat that issue.

Glue lines sometimes do that. I think it's less wood movement and more related to the glue.

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16 hours ago, wtnhighlander said:

it needs to cover every nook and cranny to be effective.

Unfortunately I didn't finish the inside of the hollow cavity (would have been hard to trace and paint the inside without missing or over doing it) so the back of the veneer is raw wood. Would an oil work better?

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No, oils apparently remain more permeable to moisture, even though they seem to pentrate the wood surface. I have never tested that hypothesis myself, but anecdotal evidence seems to support it. 

Your guitar body design seems like a good candidate for a pre-finishing plan. Mask off the glue surfaces, and finish the remainder with at least one coat before assembly.

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  • 2 years later...

Hi, have you found a better way to do this? It seems to me that the oil option is best suited here. For a wooden guitar, the oil will serve as a cream that will not allow the instrument's body to form cracks. Such damage is very much affected.t on the sound, and then you won't be able to play it properly. I advise you to use only oil, and I'm telling you this as an experienced guitar player. I can also recommend a website where you can order cool guitar knobs. You will need them at the last stage of creating a guitar, and this site will be just the perfect option. They have very high-quality guitar accessories and service

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