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Aug 6, 2020 - 5:44:05 PM
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1345 posts since 4/13/2017

I am finishing up my second banjo now. On my first one, the ebony overlay showed streaks through it after I applied Tru-oil. It looks like the finish has cracked, although I know it hasn't because I just put it on there. You can see it in the attached photo, which uses 8 coats of Tru-oil, wetsanded to 3000 between every 2 coats. I sanded the ebony to 220 grit, raised the grain, sanded to 220, raised the grain, sanded to 220, then wiped with a tackrag. This new banjo doesn't seem to be as problematic in this area as my first, but its still does not have that solid look of so many other banjos. I understand most are finished with lacquer, but I don't have this problem with mahogany or maple or cherry. What am I doing wrong?


Aug 6, 2020 - 6:41:27 PM

jamesinkster

Canada

237 posts since 5/25/2010

I've experienced streaky ebony (and rosewood) using TruOil and have since decided to just not oil it at all -- i find ebony buffs to a beautiful natural shine by sanding, and then rubbing down with an old paper bag (one of my favourite tricks!)

Aug 6, 2020 - 7:14:12 PM

roydsjr

USA

676 posts since 5/17/2007

lacquer does very well on it.

Aug 6, 2020 - 7:35:21 PM

1345 posts since 4/13/2017

quote:
Originally posted by jamesinkster

I've experienced streaky ebony (and rosewood) using TruOil and have since decided to just not oil it at all -- i find ebony buffs to a beautiful natural shine by sanding, and then rubbing down with an old paper bag (one of my favourite tricks!)


What grits do you sand with? Do you raise the grain between sandings? Wet sand? 

Aug 6, 2020 - 7:38:29 PM

2919 posts since 2/18/2009

My experience is that I can't put more than five coats or so of Tru Oil on ebony without it getting odd. I leave ebony and rosewood fretboards unfinished, but for overlays and heel caps I do use Tru Oil like on the rest of the neck. I find that I have to apply very thin coats to ebony especially, or else it doesn't seem to dry right.

Aug 6, 2020 - 10:10:05 PM

jamesinkster

Canada

237 posts since 5/25/2010

I rarely find ebony needs sanding beyond 400.
I don't want it to look like black plastic, I want it to look like beautiful ebony wood :)

Aug 6, 2020 - 10:18:41 PM

ackeim

USA

180 posts since 8/22/2005

Tru oil doesn’t do well on ebony or rosewood. It’s ok do a couple of coats, but you will need to steel wool it back to get a consistent look. 8 coats is overkill and won’t improve things. Remember, finishes like tru oil are only designed to only build up so much, after a while it’s just adding goopy buildup.

Aug 6, 2020 - 10:30:57 PM
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Bart Veerman

Canada

4697 posts since 1/5/2005
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You're not doing anything wrong: most ebony pieces these days have gray & brown stripes in them, pure black ebony is available but it costs a lot more...

Aug 7, 2020 - 1:06:59 AM

189 posts since 8/11/2015

I'm a bit confused from the explanation if it was sanded to 3000 or 220? Should you really sand Tru Oil to 3000? With most oils I wouldn’t think that would be a problem but doesn’t Tru Oil have some of the properties of lacquer, in that it hardens? I don’t know, I’m only asking. With finishes that harden and where each new layer doesn’t melt into the previous one (like with Shellac) but lays on top of the previous one, you don’t want to sand too smoothly or the molecules of each layer don’t have anything to grab on to and the finish will crack in time.

Edited by - Random Scandinavian on 08/07/2020 01:08:52

Aug 7, 2020 - 3:58:41 AM

2124 posts since 2/7/2008
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The headstock in the picture looks great, but sometimes dense or oily woods act funny with finishes. Often a seal coat of thin dewaxed shellac can help. I've also found that with oil varnishes, it's really important to let it really fully cure before sanding. As others mentioned, 3,000 maybe a wee bit finer than needed.

Aug 7, 2020 - 7:00:12 AM
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RBuddy

USA

1578 posts since 7/2/2007

There might be a couple things going on by the looks of the head plate.

It looks to me like the plate may not have been sanded dead flat in the beginning. Make sure to use a dead flat sanding block with tight fitting sandpaper. I'd have taken the ebony to 400 grit that way.

As a couple others have mentioned, oily woods like rosewood and ebony do not work well with oil based finishes like TruOil. As I understand it, the natural oil in the wood reacts with the oil finish drying properties and it can remain soft or sticky for months or longer. So there needs to be a barrier between the wood and oil finish. As Quickstep mentioned a few coats of dewaxed shellac or Zinnser Seal Coat (which is dewaxed shellac) will do the trick under TruOil. I use the shellac as a sealer and filler sanding it back till the surface is flat with no grain showing. Even then, I'd follow with a wipe on coat of shellac in the French polish method to make sure all the raw wood had a coating of shellac before moving on to TruOil. In my experience the rosewoods are usually worse than ebony, but a finish that doesn't dry is such a big problem the ounce of shellac prevention is worth it on exotic woods that can often be oily.

Looking closely at the head plate, there are areas that do not exhibit the "streaking" like the area north of your logo. That is telling me that the streaks aren't in the wood but in the finish. It looks like what results from not sanding the finish to a dead flat condition before the final coats. The area north of your logo looks like it had enough finish and WAS sanded flat eliminating the steaks.

You know the finish is flat when it has a uniform satin surface and zero shiny areas (low spots in the finish).

I'd suggest watching some youtube videos on guitar finishing, sanding between coats, etc, to learn the process. When sanding between coats, the object is to build enough finish so you can sand it flat without going back to bare wood before the final coats are applied. If you see any shiny spots after level sanding you will need more finish and sanding.

Your streaks look like low areas in the finish.

I'd practice on a scrap piece of ebony till you get it down.

I use a fair amount of TruOil. It takes practice and there are lots of ways to apply it for different effects.

Good luck!

Aug 7, 2020 - 7:41:21 AM

1345 posts since 4/13/2017

quote:
Originally posted by RBuddy

There might be a couple things going on by the looks of the head plate.

It looks to me like the plate may not have been sanded dead flat in the beginning. Make sure to use a dead flat sanding block with tight fitting sandpaper. I'd have taken the ebony to 400 grit that way.

As a couple others have mentioned, oily woods like rosewood and ebony do not work well with oil based finishes like TruOil. As I understand it, the natural oil in the wood reacts with the oil finish drying properties and it can remain soft or sticky for months or longer. So there needs to be a barrier between the wood and oil finish. As Quickstep mentioned a few coats of dewaxed shellac or Zinnser Seal Coat (which is dewaxed shellac) will do the trick under TruOil. I use the shellac as a sealer and filler sanding it back till the surface is flat with no grain showing. Even then, I'd follow with a wipe on coat of shellac in the French polish method to make sure all the raw wood had a coating of shellac before moving on to TruOil. In my experience the rosewoods are usually worse than ebony, but a finish that doesn't dry is such a big problem the ounce of shellac prevention is worth it on exotic woods that can often be oily.

Looking closely at the head plate, there are areas that do not exhibit the "streaking" like the area north of your logo. That is telling me that the streaks aren't in the wood but in the finish. It looks like what results from not sanding the finish to a dead flat condition before the final coats. The area north of your logo looks like it had enough finish and WAS sanded flat eliminating the steaks.

You know the finish is flat when it has a uniform satin surface and zero shiny areas (low spots in the finish).

I'd suggest watching some youtube videos on guitar finishing, sanding between coats, etc, to learn the process. When sanding between coats, the object is to build enough finish so you can sand it flat without going back to bare wood before the final coats are applied. If you see any shiny spots after level sanding you will need more finish and sanding.

Your streaks look like low areas in the finish.

I'd practice on a scrap piece of ebony till you get it down.

I use a fair amount of TruOil. It takes practice and there are lots of ways to apply it for different effects.

Good luck!


So if I sand it to 400 grit, put shellac on it, sand again, shellac again, then the coats of Tru oil itll be completely and uniform?

Aug 7, 2020 - 8:49:28 AM

RBuddy

USA

1578 posts since 7/2/2007

So long as you sand to a flat uniform surface and then TruOil, then yes.

Of course, that's if you want the flat glossy surface most BG banjo builders are after.

There are whole books about finishing wood and musical instruments. All the options and techniques can't be covered here.

Like I said, watch some youtubes on guitar finishing, they all cover the process in detail. There are plenty on TruOil application too.

Your work is getting better and better Hunter. Instrument building usually can't be rushed without it showing.

Aug 7, 2020 - 10:25:58 AM

2124 posts since 2/7/2008
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By the way...

I’ve been using a finish from General Finishes called “Salad Bowl Finish” on Peppermills. (That’s what my lathe makes when it’s not making banjos).

The finish wipes on just like Tru-Oil, but builds gloss that rivals lacquer (see photo). It dries slowly enough to flow out and level, but quickly enough to not collect dust nibs.

I just love it.


 

Edited by - Quickstep192 on 08/07/2020 10:27:40

Aug 7, 2020 - 10:39:29 AM

rcc56

USA

3091 posts since 2/20/2016

Hunter, you might want to consider getting a spray can of Deft or nitrocellulose instrument lacquer. But whatever you use, you will need to pre-sand to 400, perhaps de-grease the surface with alcohol, seal with two to four coats of thin shellac, and re-sand until the surface is dead flat and the grain and pores are filled.

Tru-oil appears to me to be popular mostly because it is easy to wipe it on.  But I believe that there are much better finishes for instrument work.  They may take more skill to apply, but the results are worth it.

Edited by - rcc56 on 08/07/2020 10:41:49

Aug 7, 2020 - 3:50:10 PM

1345 posts since 4/13/2017

quote:
Originally posted by RBuddy

So long as you sand to a flat uniform surface and then TruOil, then yes.

Of course, that's if you want the flat glossy surface most BG banjo builders are after.

There are whole books about finishing wood and musical instruments. All the options and techniques can't be covered here.

Like I said, watch some youtubes on guitar finishing, they all cover the process in detail. There are plenty on TruOil application too.

Your work is getting better and better Hunter. Instrument building usually can't be rushed without it showing.


I visited both of my local hardware stores, and neither of them had shellac. However, as I was in one of them, I remembered that I have the Sealer and Filler that is made by the company that makes Truoil. Will that accomplish the same thing using the same steps?

Aug 7, 2020 - 4:18:59 PM

2124 posts since 2/7/2008
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Well, the Birchwood Casey Sealer doesn’t contain shellac, so it’s hard to say How it would react to the ebony.

By the way, if you do find shellac, you want the de-waxed variety.

I’m surprised you didn’t find it. The de-waxed goes by the name seal-coat. It’s pretty much ready to go from the can, but I still like to thin it about 50% with denatured alcohol.

Aug 7, 2020 - 4:41:49 PM

rcc56

USA

3091 posts since 2/20/2016

Except for sandpaper and Titebond Original glue, there are very few things that are suitable for instrument construction or repair that are available at the local hardware store or building supplier.

Sooner or later, you will find it a good idea to become familiar with the standard suppliers for materials commonly used in lutherie. A partial list includes, in no particular order, Luthier's Mercantile, Stew-mac, International Violin Co, Allied Lutherie, your local Woodcraft store, and the local liquor store.

I make my own shellac from shellac flakes and pure grain alcohol. That's why the liquor store is on the list. I get my shellac from International Violin. I also get my hide glue from them. Woodcraft sells several shellac products, both liquids and flakes.

You might want to investigate the formula for "1704 Varnish." It is an old fashioned spirit varnish that is fairly easy to make. A recipe for a variation that is deemed to be suitable for fretted instruments is available here:  http://www.violins.ca/info/docs/pdf/1704i_varnish.pdf

Seedlac is shellac flakes, available from most of the above sources.  Sandarac, gum mastic, and lavender spike oil are available from violin suppliers such as International Violin Co.

Aug 7, 2020 - 7:44:50 PM

Fathand

Canada

11636 posts since 2/7/2008

If you are going to shellac, there us little need to use tru oil on top.
Lately I use Tru oil on necks for the slick feel but shellac on the overlay which is good for embedding the logo decal.

I use the Zinsser aerosol shellac which is dewaxed and available at home depot. It also makes a good sealer under grain filler before using nitro.

Once I have a few coats of shellac on the headstock I wet sand to 600 or 1000 with a styrofoam block then buff.

Edited by - Fathand on 08/07/2020 19:45:20

Aug 7, 2020 - 9:06:41 PM

RevD

USA

120 posts since 4/8/2019

If its any conciliation , I think that color on the headstock is cool. *shrug* I know its not what you looking for though.

Aug 8, 2020 - 6:03:42 PM

2124 posts since 2/7/2008
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by Fathand

If you are going to shellac, there us little need to use tru oil on top.
Lately I use Tru oil on necks for the slick feel but shellac on the overlay which is good for embedding the logo decal.

I use the Zinsser aerosol shellac which is dewaxed and available at home depot. It also makes a good sealer under grain filler before using nitro.

Once I have a few coats of shellac on the headstock I wet sand to 600 or 1000 with a styrofoam block then buff.


My first banjo is completely finished with shellac. It still looks good and has held up well. Kinda makes me wonder why I keep trying lacquer (unsuccessfully :)

Aug 8, 2020 - 7:03:44 PM

Fathand

Canada

11636 posts since 2/7/2008

quote:
Originally posted by rcc56

Except for sandpaper and Titebond Original glue, there are very few things that are suitable for instrument construction or repair that are available at the local hardware store or building supplier.

Sooner or later, you will find it a good idea to become familiar with the standard suppliers for materials commonly used in lutherie. A partial list includes, in no particular order, Luthier's Mercantile, Stew-mac ...


Due to the exorbitant prices, I buy as little as possible from specialty luthier houses. I only turn to them when I cannot find an item elsewhere or if they have a competitive price, usually a sale. Fretwire is one of the few things I consistently buy from a luthier supply or perhaps a tone ring or flange.

Wood stores, metal stores, hardware stores, sawmills, amazon and similar online sources or rarely woodworking stores make up the rest.

I am a hobbyist having built less than 20 instruments. I have to conserve my financial resources while learning skills at the same time. 

Aug 8, 2020 - 11:49:08 PM

rcc56

USA

3091 posts since 2/20/2016

I also buy as little as possible from luthier supply houses, but many of my common supplies, such as fret wire, bone, ebony, hide glue, shellac flakes, etc, are not available from most hardware stores. If I used more lacquer, I would get it straight from Mohawk.

I had a great supplier for wood, bone, bindings, purflings, etc, but he retired last year and I am having to get the stuff from other sources. Needless to say, the better known sources all charge more than my now retired supplier. Stew-mac's prices on some items have gotten ridiculously high. LMI used to have the highest prices, and I avoided them for years. Their current prices on bone are not too bad, though.

Hardware stores are good for Titebond, sandpaper, steel or plastic wool, files, etc. I have yet to find a hardware store that carries a finish of my choice, except for Deft.

I got a good deal on ebony suitable for bridge blanks from Woodcraft a few years back-- a package of 5 or 6 for about 18 bucks or so. Around the same time, my local store also had a couple of ebony chunks big enough for several fingerboards at a low price, which I should have bought, but didn't.

Aug 9, 2020 - 9:16:45 AM
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10819 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Bart Veerman

You're not doing anything wrong: most ebony pieces these days have gray & brown stripes in them, pure black ebony is available but it costs a lot more...


Fiebing's Leather Dye and India Ink have been in use for decades (over a century?) to cover up streaks in ebony. Art supply stores, stationers (are there any left?), Stew-Mac and Amazon sell India ink; cobblers and Amazon sell Fiebing's. India Ink is normally water-based but comes in different formulas. Since Stew-Mac sells theirs specifically for dying fretboards, that's the stuff I would look for. Fiebing's is alcohol based.

In high school, working a summer job at a fiddle shop on local school district instruments, I was finally allowed to plane my first bass fingerboard. When the first brown streak appeared, I was horrified thinking I had burned the fingerboard or otherwise screwed up. To make matters worse, this was the bass that I played in my high school orchestra! When the laughter in the shop subsided, out came the bottle of Fiebing's and all was right with the world. This wa the summer of 1970 IIRC.

A year or two later, Guitar Player published a tour of the Martin factory along with interviews where they spoke of having been dying the ebony for many years.

Edited by - mikehalloran on 08/09/2020 09:22:30

Aug 9, 2020 - 10:01:15 AM
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rcc56

USA

3091 posts since 2/20/2016

True, naturally jet-black ebony is getting hard to find these days, and is expensive if the seller knows what they have.
Most of the raw ebony that we see today either has brown streaks or has been pre-dyed.

Aug 9, 2020 - 5:13:40 PM
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1050 posts since 11/11/2003

I can't speak as to what might be the problem with the peg head overlay mentioned above as I haven't had it in my hands. I can say, I have finished over 800 banjos, most were Ebony and most were with Tru-Oil. I spray a mix of 50/50 Tru-Oil and Naphtha. We sand with 4-0 steel wool between coats. We use about 8 sprayed coats. We use no Tru-Oil Sealer or under coat of any kind, filling open grain with the finish itself and getting a smooth filled finish.  Never had a problem with Ebony or Tru-Oil. Of the many finishes I have use, Tru-Oil for me, is the best all around finish I have used from every angle I can think of. This is just my experience and opinion, others opinions may vary.

If I had to guess from experience, about the peg above. I would guess the surface was not sanded back flat between coats. Tru-Oil does not burn into the previous coat so one should make sure to move forward between each coat with a completely flat surface.

Hope I step on no toes here.

Edited by - Chuck Lee on 08/09/2020 17:17:03

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