Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

Want to hide these Google ads? Join the Players Union!
Aug 3, 2020 - 3:19:10 PM
896 posts since 2/21/2011

Would Watco Danish Oil be comparable to Tru-Oil for bare wood neck and reso finishing?

Aug 3, 2020 - 3:43:51 PM
likes this

2924 posts since 2/18/2009

Having used both (but for different things) I would say they're pretty different. Tru Oil builds more of a finish on the surface while Watco Danish Oil seems to soak in more without leaving as much surface film. I used to use the Danish Oil on wooden toys we used to make for the refugee program in Syracuse since it was supposed to be less toxic than other finishes, according to a book we have, but I don't know if that's really true. It certainly has a very strong smell.

Aug 3, 2020 - 3:44:23 PM
like this

11086 posts since 6/2/2008

Watco Danish Oil doesn't build a film finish.

TruOil does.

Aug 3, 2020 - 4:11:14 PM

896 posts since 2/21/2011

Thanks very much to both of you.

Should I first put a sealer on bare wood prior to the Tru-Oil?

Edited by - 1xsculler on 08/03/2020 16:16:11

Aug 3, 2020 - 5:23:53 PM
likes this

4520 posts since 11/20/2004

I have used Danish oil on rims where I wanted to seal the wood without building a finish. I use truoil directly with no sealer on necks. I do grain filler on mahogany, then dye stain, then truoil.

Aug 3, 2020 - 5:43:15 PM

11086 posts since 6/2/2008

On my grand total of one TruOil project on a mahogany neck and resonator, I did seal first with Zinsser's SealCoat Universal Sanding Sealer (dewaxed shellac) because I used  black-dyed drywall compoud for pore filler and I wanted to protect the wood against staining. I scraped off as much filler as I could. After letting it dry -- maybe overnight -- I sanded off the remaining filler down to the sealer. Then I applied TruOil over that.

I believe the sealer was necessary to keep the wood from staining, but I don't know if applying TruOil over a sealer was good or bad. I used SealCoat because it's universal: goes over and under anything. Avoids adhesion problems.

If you use the Hangout search tool (magnifying glass icon in the left column) and search for "TruOil slurry" you should find posts from people who fine sand as they apply the early coats to create a sludge that fills the pores. I've never done it so I don't know how long it takes.

Good luck.

Aug 3, 2020 - 5:50:23 PM



2229 posts since 9/16/2007

I tried Tru-oil years ago and though it worked well, it was difficult to source locally. I began using Formby's tung oil finish and liked the results better, plus all the hardware stores carried it. and it cost less.

Minwax acquired Formby's and now produces a very similar product: .

Penetration is less than Watco, only a few thousandths of an inch. Incidentally, if you add a quantity of drier, you wind up with something resembling Tru-oil.

A heads up: Some woods will present problems getting this finish to set and cure.

Aug 3, 2020 - 6:54:38 PM
likes this

7617 posts since 8/28/2013

One piano dealer I worked for used Watco only on the cheap pianos they sold, but never on the good ones. Every technician on staff hated the stuff. It smelled horible and the finishes it produced looked even worse than the pianos actually were. One of the techs always added a "T" to the beginning of the product name.

Personally, I wouldn't use Watco on my worst enemy's banjo.

Aug 4, 2020 - 10:31:34 AM
likes this

11086 posts since 6/2/2008

Originally posted by mbanza

Minwax acquired Formby's and now produces a very similar product: .  Penetration is less than Watco, only a few thousandths of an inch. Incidentally, if you add a quantity of drier, you wind up with something resembling Tru-oil.

Formby's always was a varnish, not true or pure tung oil, which is why it was available in low and high gloss finishes. Tung oil was only one of several oils in it. 

According to this article by Bob Flexner -- a wood finishing authority -- Homer Formby created the wiping varnish market with the introduction of his "tung oil finish."  It's extremely informative reading.  His use of the "tung oil" name was mainly a marketing device to make the product seem different or exotic (and worth its price) when it was nothing more than varnish thinned enough enough to wipe on.

As the article said, his success spawned imitators, some of which were also wiping varnishes and some of which were pure tung oil -- which was a mistake, since pure oil is not a finish.

I have to admit I liked Formby's. Used a lot of it (and also Formby's furniture refinisher) on the 1880s door and window casings in my house after we stripped paint from them. My recollection is that the instructions said to apply with one of Formby's applicator pads, which were #0000 steel wool. So you were smoothing the wood even as you applied the finish. Clever.

Aug 4, 2020 - 11:08:48 AM

774 posts since 9/7/2005

I get Tru Oil via eBay in 32oz bottles and it works out to be -much- cheaper.

under $25 with free shipping. I use it for a lot of stuff besides banjos so it works for me. To avoid "skimming over" and leaving chunks in the fluid, as the level goes down in the bottle, I toss in kids marbles in till the level comes to the top. At the end of the bottle I just pour the marbles out into a strainer and collect and use the last bit on my project. I love the stuff as it is so easy to use, easy to repair, goes forever and works out to be cheap if you buy it by the quart.

Aug 4, 2020 - 11:23:57 AM
likes this

2924 posts since 2/18/2009

I get it in quarts too, but I save empty small jelly jars and such and cut a paperboard gasket to go inside the lid of each one. When I open a new quart of Tru Oil I pour it into three or four jars, and as long as each jar is full it stays as good as new. I like the marble idea, I'll have to give that a try. Do you clean the oil off the marbles at the end when you dump them out, before you start the next quart?

Aug 5, 2020 - 9:07:09 AM

774 posts since 9/7/2005

At the very end of the bottle I put the marbles in an old colander over a dish in a warm spot and they drain off pretty quickly. (You likely have a wood stove up in your area, I was brought up near Mexico, N.Y. about 25 miles from you.) I collect about two or three shots worth + - rinse off the marbles with solvent, let dry and put them aside for the next quart. Doing this I get no dried “skin” in my fluid. I also put a bit of vaseline jelly on the cap or thread area of the bottle so the cap comes off easy and cleanly as I use the bottle.

Edited by - Dogfeathers on 08/05/2020 09:13:03

Aug 5, 2020 - 3:11:54 PM

7780 posts since 1/7/2005

I'm pretty sure that TruOil is nothing more than oil varnish with added mineral spirits to make it wipe-able rather than brush-able.
TruOil is easy to apply in very thin coats. You wipe it on, wait a few minutes and then wipe it off. With regular varnish, you brush it on, but don't wipe it off. Obviously, TruOil will require more coats to build a protective finish than will varnish. In most cases, MANY more coats.
A good varnish finish will be thicker, harder, more resistant to scratches, liquid, water vapor, sweat and dents. You can't dent a hard varnish finish with your fingernail. That's why they use it to finish flooring on indoor basketball courts.
Of course, you would not be running around on your musical instrument, but you will bump it, sweat on it, and expose it to temperature and humidity changes.
If you don't want a surface finish on your banjo, and don't care about durability, TruOil is a better choice than any of the drying oils or waxes--which in turn are better than penetrating or non-drying oils.

Always test your proposed finish choice on scrap wood if you've never used it before. The proof is in the result, which you can only judge with experience ( which can be costly) or testing.


Aug 5, 2020 - 7:09:33 PM

4520 posts since 11/20/2004

I have never wiped TruOil back off after wiping on. That sounds like a sticky mess. If you wait a few minutes, it has started drying.

Aug 5, 2020 - 7:13:08 PM

2924 posts since 2/18/2009

Originally posted by lightgauge

I have never wiped TruOil back off after wiping on. That sounds like a sticky mess. If you wait a few minutes, it has started drying.

Me either.

Aug 6, 2020 - 2:27:58 AM

Polle Flaunoe


5429 posts since 3/7/2006

Originally posted by lightgauge

I have never wiped TruOil back off after wiping on. That sounds like a sticky mess. If you wait a few minutes, it has started drying.


I apply Tru-Oil with the use of a small piece of smooth paper - with only enough oil for the surface to get a wet look - and with no excess oil to be wiped off.

Twice during a day - the following day I´ll for a start slightly polish the surface with 0000 steel wool and then add a new layer - and by the end of the day yet another layer.

And so I´ll go on - till appr. 16 layers have been added.  Once the layers are building up it´s sometimes necessary letting the oil cure for a day or so before adding new layers.

I´ll then let the oil cure for minimum a week - slightly wet sand it with 1200-2000 grit paper - and then polish/buff it in the same way as going for lacquer. If I´ll want a semi-gloss look (which I normally do) I´ll after the wet sanding slightly matte the surface with 0000 steel wool.

Edited by - Polle Flaunoe on 08/06/2020 02:30:46

Aug 6, 2020 - 5:43:24 AM



2280 posts since 11/29/2005

I’m thankful all of you sharing as I’ve got a nice oak bed kit for my 66 Chevy swb truck I’ve been needing to “get on”. So, your comments are well appreciate beyond banjo world, as I’ve been wanting to tung oil those boards and put my bed back together and on.

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories