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View Full Version : The Two Tone Ukulele: Both Oil and Lacquer Finishes



sequoia
12-26-2014, 07:25 AM
I have to admit that I am a sucker for a glossy lacquer finish, but believe it can kill tone on a top. So why not get the best of both worlds by using high gloss lacquer on the neck, back and sides and finishing off the top with a thin coat of oil (Tru-oil, tung oil, etc.) with a mat finish. Why not? Would it look like the builder forgot to finish the top? Funky transitions?

I have a really live top I'm putting on a body and I just hate the idea of covering it with lacquer no matter how pretty it will be. Of course I could just oil the entire instrument and that will look just fine, but I'm considering the two tone idea.

NewKid
12-26-2014, 08:36 AM
Why do you believe a lacquer finish can kill the tone of the top? I have fabulous sounding ukuleles with lacquer finish. I also have a satin-finished uke and it sounds great too.

I agree with you that a two-tone finish would look funky but as long as you like it that's all that matters.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-26-2014, 09:53 AM
I have to admit that I am a sucker for a glossy lacquer finish, but believe it can kill tone on a top.

I think you would be wrong in your belief. It's the mass of the finish that you need to concern yourself with. Some people substitute lacquer for proper technique and tend to build the coats too thick in an effort to get smooth finish. All of that effort could be eliminated by proper prep work. I use 6 coats of lacquer (cut 50/50), it's barely 4 mils think when finished.

Brian1
12-26-2014, 10:03 AM
** edit : CHuck's post was written before I was finished typing.


Why do you believe a lacquer finish can kill the tone of the top? I have fabulous sounding ukuleles with lacquer finish. I also have a satin-finished uke and it sounds great too.
.

I have often heard that the glossy finish will deaden the sound a little bit, but I have always been skeptical as to if that was really the case.

When you look at the carbon fiber tops, they are completely sealed in polymer and many say they sound as good or better than wood tops.

Does anyone have any idea what the reason for this assumption is ?

As for the question sort'a asked in the OP - I don't think the Oil and Lacquer sounds like a good idea, but I would have to see it.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-26-2014, 10:34 AM
** edit : CHuck's post was written before I was finished typing.



I have often heard that the glossy finish will deaden the sound a little bit, but I have always been skeptical as to if that was really the case.

When you look at the carbon fiber tops, they are completely sealed in polymer and many say they sound as good or better than wood tops.

Does anyone have any idea what the reason for this assumption is ?

As for the question sort'a asked in the OP - I don't think the Oil and Lacquer sounds like a good idea, but I would have to see it.

It's a fact that it is relatively easy to get a glossy finish simply by building up as many layers of lacquer as you can. A lot of imported ukes have far too much finish on them because it is faster than doing the necessary prep work to attain a thin finish. Many years ago, with my first experience with lacquer I was spraying as many as 20 coats. (This was pre-Internet and I didn't know better.) A thick finish adds mass that will hamper the tone somewhat but that mass doesn't have the same qualities as the wood mass does. Some builders, myself included, believe that some finish enhances the tone. You get too much on and the curve goes downhill. There's a sweet spot in the middle and for me that's 6 coats for a glossy, mirror finish.

pondweed
12-26-2014, 11:19 AM
I spent far too much time stripping the laquer off an ohana sk35g
It was very thick!
It felt lighter and sounded and felt better once prepped well and just with hand wax on it.

Obviusly it felt pretty good to start with...

Kekani
12-26-2014, 06:39 PM
I have to admit that I am a sucker for a glossy lacquer finish, but believe it can kill tone on a top. So why not get the best of both worlds by using high gloss lacquer on the neck, back and sides and finishing off the top with a thin coat of oil (Tru-oil, tung oil, etc.) with a mat finish. Why not? Would it look like the builder forgot to finish the top? Funky transitions?

I have a really live top I'm putting on a body and I just hate the idea of covering it with lacquer no matter how pretty it will be. Of course I could just oil the entire instrument and that will look just fine, but I'm considering the two tone idea.

Even though Chuck said it already, I'll say it again because it seems fallacies like this just won't die on the internet, like splitting subwoofers within a wavelength because that's "the way they were designed." No, that's the way its marketed to the buying public. Huge difference.

Lacquer doesn't kill an instrument more than any other kind of finish, unless its done too thick. If you truly wanted the thinnest high gloss finish, I would suggest looking at French Polishing. Completely different animal, though.

In your case, I'd do the opposite - gloss the body and matte the neck. There's just something about a good matte neck that cannot be touched, and I can't do as well as a full no-pore gloss finish. Maybe its because I only buy gloss finish ;)

rudy
12-27-2014, 05:25 AM
Since the OPs original idea was a Tru-oil finished top, I'd add that in my experiance Tru-oil is NOT a particularly good finish on a soft wood top, as it will not resist pick and fingernail damage nearly as well as well as many of the other protective finishes. I have three instruments whose tops were finished with Tru-oil that show damage after many years of use.

IMHO you must balance the finish's ability to resist wear with other factors such as ease of application, and more importantly, sound. I've found absolutely no difference in the ability to produce sound if lacquer finishes are used instead of oil finishes.

If you're going to all the work to produce a fins sounding (and good looking) instrument then there's nothing wrong with using a finish that also protects it from long-term wear and tear. If looks don't matter we might as well not bother sanding or finishing in the first place.

ksquine
01-02-2015, 07:03 AM
Getting back to the original question...Separate finishes for the neck and body are fine. Usually the body is gloss and the neck is satin, but I don't see why the reverse wouldn't look good.
Whatever the finish, it always looks better (to me) if the neck and body are done separately and don't match. Looks like the builder has some important technical reason for doing the parts differently. They really are different parts with different functions so there's no real reason why they need to match

Michael Smith
01-02-2015, 10:39 AM
Ive done quite a few with a tru-oil neck and lacquer body and headstock. I prefer the feel of a truoil neck in hand but believe like many it not protective enough for especially a softwood top for most people. The exception to this are folks that embrace wabi sabi as I do and find beauty and character in small dents and marks.