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View Full Version : William King's oil finish/lacquer regime



Pete Howlett
04-29-2009, 04:26 PM
Find it here (http://www.chantus.com/journal/index.php?/search/oil+finish/P7.html)...

And here's a transcript - I've edited it slightly and I am sure William wont mind me posting it here:

Watco is a Danish style oil finish containing tung oil, linseed oil and varnish resins. I think it is superior to pure tung oil, and the finishing regimen is very similiar.

Saturate the wood with the first coat, diluted to 50% if need be, let dry for 24+ hours depending on temperature, then wipe on a coat, sand while wet with a 220 grade sandpaper to cut back any raised grain and produce a wood dust/oil slurry, work slurry into the pores of the wood, wipe down with a rag, let dry 24+ hours and interate until the wood surface is smooth and lusterous. Then wipe on a couple more coats, allow to stand a few minutes then wipe off any surface oil, allow to dry 24+ hours and iterate until the wood absorbs no more oil finish. Finally, let dry for a week and then burnish with a fine cabinet maker's wax using a #0000 equivalent 3m finishing pad to bring up the natural patina of the wood. Drying times depend on ambient temperature.

Periodically, rewax as needed to protect from the environment...

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
04-29-2009, 04:43 PM
I don't care what they say about you Pete, you're all right!:D
I'm sure the grain filler of oil and sanding residue will shrink back in time but it's probably acceptable to most. The only thing I would add is a sealer coat between the grain filler and the lacquer such as vinyl sealer or shellac. I'd be worried about adhesion otherwise, but shoots, apparently it works for King. I'm just super cautious. I'd also buff on the wheel but whatever works.
Thanks for sharing the procedure with us.

Pete Howlett
04-29-2009, 04:52 PM
His lacquer finish is scary - I am trying it at the moment and you do need a vinyl sealer. Actaully I edited the start of this thread with the correct page so we are technically having a private conversation here... This oil finish is great for most of the amateurs that lurk and post here who haven't got spray facilities. They might also try Behlen's wipe on finishes which are also suitable for instruments.

BTW - what is your prep/grain-filling regime Chuck?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
04-29-2009, 06:39 PM
I've been playing a bit with ca glues for grain filling. Some well known guitar builders here had had success with it. Other than that it's Crystal-Lac water based paste filler which is easy to use but continues to shrink forever. I've used linseed oil mineral based fillers but I won't live long enough to see them dry. I've tried epoxy, which I really liked because it stayed in the pores and didn't shrink, but I have had problems with adhesion even when using vinyl sealer. If I were to try it again I'd use shellac as a barrier. Anything will stick to shellac.
A lot of amateur builders and even some semi-professionals here like True-Oil. I never like it because it doesn't hold up well. I'm in the business of building ukuleles, not repairing or refinishing my old ones. Above all, I want my work to last. I just bought some post catalizing polyurethane to try, but I'll need different spray equipment to get the results I'm used to. I've tried French polish as well, I just don't care for the process especially when I'm finishing several ukuleles at a time. I really think it's time to bite the bullet and get into the UV game. That's the future. I've tried just about every kind of finish, trying to find anything easier that looks good and holds up well. I've come to realize there is no short cut to a great finishing job. It's simply a lot of work.
Buffing compounds are a topic for another time...........:shaka:

Pete Howlett
04-29-2009, 11:48 PM
Interesting that you are looking at UV - I shy away from anything that is 'plastic'/ non-organic. I think those 'modern' finishes ruin a good piece of work because they lack 'depth' and look artificial. But I know what you mean - building is the easier part with finish, the part that everyone sees, the nightmare!

Timbuck
04-30-2009, 01:36 AM
Interesting that you are looking at UV - I shy away from anything that is 'plastic'/ non-organic. I think those 'modern' finishes ruin a good piece of work because they lack 'depth' and look artificial. But I know what you mean - building is the easier part with finish, the part that everyone sees, the nightmare!

I can't argue with that...The wife puts the finish on for me ..and She says "there's a lot of finnicky buggers out there" Typical Yorkshire Lass.:D

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
04-30-2009, 09:11 AM
Tell that to Kanile'a. You're not going to find a better finish suited for a production setting. It's also used by some of the best custom guitar builders in the world.
BTW, I use traditional McFadden nitro cellulose guitar lacquer. Slow and painful.

Pete Howlett
05-04-2009, 11:55 AM
I tried it and it works a treat - no more paste filler for me!

Pete Howlett
11-13-2009, 08:55 AM
I must have been dreaming when I contributed to this thread... I think there are substantial problems with those UV finishes apart from the fact they look and feel wrong. Agreed Chuck: they are a must for production builders. Have you researched the Collings fix? They use UV as an intermediate process and cellulose as the final finish. Seems to me like a lot of faffing about...

I recently tried epoxy on my burry uklectics but with my method sanded back to the surface grain leaving the pores filled and it worked a treat. My mate Dave King had one of his epoxy filled guitars in for repair - 10 years old and still no sinking underneath the cellulose finish. My only reservation with this is it's introducing a synethetic plastic into the wood so I won't use it for my acoustics.

I had great success using pumice and french polish as a base coat once with cellulose over it - very traditional but then I have a ukulele with volcanic rock as the filling agent - great for playing rock uke on :D

It really is a conundrum for us builders and one there is not a good answer to. i visited today with a guy who plays out one of my ukes and in the course of a year has already started to wear through the finish on the back of the instrument... so you can't win really!

My guitar finished by Bill in Akron Ohio with 'conform' lacquer is still as good as the day it was done. I pase filled the back, sides and neck and he just did the rest - straight from the gun noiseless satin finish.

erich@muttcrew.net
11-15-2009, 12:32 AM
I had great success using pumice and french polish as a base coat...

Our experience with pumice (in shellac) was not so happy. We must have done something wrong because there were clouds in it afterwards. We used alcohol to brush them out as well as we could, but it broke the finish in places. :(

I wish one of you guys had been around. Anyway, we gave up on pumice and just use extra coats of shellac, fine sanding between coats, or Clou grain filler if the pores are really deep.

Pete Howlett
11-15-2009, 04:20 AM
Shellac/French polish is to my mind not a good enough finish for themodern ukulele player. However, if you grain fill using the shellac method it should provide an excellent base onwhich to spray lacquer.

erich@muttcrew.net
11-15-2009, 06:35 AM
Shellac/French polish is to my mind not a good enough finish for themodern ukulele player. However, if you grain fill using the shellac method it should provide an excellent base onwhich to spray lacquer.

:agree: That's what we do now. Alas, you learn the hard way more often than not.

William King
11-30-2009, 01:12 PM
Just a few quick comments are in order here as my name is in play on this thread ...

Yup, finishing is hard, harder than the woodworking IMO. I don't pretend to be an expert on finishing - i publish my notes for general interest and reserve the right to change my mind, learn and develop my craft as i practice, just like the rest of you. To get the whole picture on my views on something it's usually not adequate to rely on an old entry in my journal without checking to see if a more recent entry addresses a similiar issue.

I haven't had issues with lamination failure of lacquer finishes over a Waterlox based grain filler regimen, but i make sure the Waterlox is nice a dry and i finish sand after grain filling. Sometimes i even use a shellac wash between the two. Having said that, i'm sure if you swing one of my tenors at a telephone pole, some finish is going to get damaged !

These days i mostly just use LMI's glass bead/acrylic based system, which is ok if you seal with shellac first, unless i am doing an oil finish in which case i follow the oil/sanding filler regimen. I'm not the perfectionist that many of you seem to be when it comes to finishes - and of the time budget i can afford to allocate to each instrument i'd prefer to spend it on making it sound better with top tuning than scrub away at endless coats of lacquer with 4000 grit micromesh pads ;-) I used to be more that way, but after seeing how lots of players treat their instruments, i don't obsess about it too much now.

Just a note on the current state of my oil finishing regimen - i now use Waterlox traditional instead of Watco because it dries more quickly. It used to take Watco a loooooooong time to dry unless I worked in a really warm room. I've read but can not personally verify that Waterlox has a higher percentage of the good stuff - tung oil - than other similiar oil based sealers/finishes. It definitely has more driers, and i think the visual effect on koa is a little better than Watco also.

If someone knows about a good grain filler that is easy and safe to use in a one man artisanal style workshop that doesn't shrink, ever, at all, even the least bit, dries fast, is easy to color and apply, easy to sand, is compatable with lacquer and shellac finishes and doesn't involve obnoxious chemicals, i'd love to know about it.

I looked at the UV filler products McFadden (are they still in business ?) offered and thought they might work well with a lacquer finishing regimen. Then i looked at the cost of the UV equipment, protective gear, etc and the impact adopting the technology would have on the way i work and decided to give it a pass. If i had a factory that had to meet production quotas to stay and business and produced dozens or hundreds of instruments a month, i'd probably revisit the issue.

Pete Howlett
12-01-2009, 01:37 AM
At last - thank you for posting William. Stick with us - we could do with sharing your huge fount of knowledge and also some images of your excellent work. :)

RonS
12-01-2009, 05:16 AM
i now use Waterlox traditional instead of Watco because it dries more quickly. It used to take Watco a loooooooong time to dry unless I worked in a really warm room. I've read but can not personally verify that Waterlox has a higher percentage of the good stuff - tung oil - than other similiar oil based sealers/finishes. It definitely has more driers, and i think the visual effect on koa is a little better than Watco also.

Watco was purchased by Rust-Oleum a few years back. When the company switched hands they changed the formula. Now instead of using tung oil, they use soybean oil and added cobalt driers (since soybean oil doesn't dry).

I'm also a big fan of Waterlox (red can), mainly because of the high percentage of tung oil and phenolic resins in the can.

One major problem with Waterlox is that it gels quickly once it is open. I've tried many methods to prevent this and found that if I decant the liquid from a freshly open can into smaller glass jars, filling them up to the brim, I no longer have the problem. I use baby food jars.

William King
12-01-2009, 08:47 AM
G'day to you Mr. Howlett. Hope all is well in Caerdydd.

Ron, yes that's definitely an issue with Waterlox. It's not inexpensive and it will gel in the can if there is any oxygen available. I have had sunlight set the stuff off, even when broken down into smaller bottles.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-01-2009, 08:48 AM
Welcome to the board William. Good to see you here.

RonS
12-01-2009, 09:12 AM
I have had sunlight set the stuff off, even when broken down into smaller bottles.

I never had that happen to me. Thanks for the heads up.

Makes me glad that I store my finishes in a fire proof cabinet.

William King
12-01-2009, 09:12 AM
G'day to you too Mr. Moore !

Pete Howlett
12-01-2009, 10:00 AM
My mate Dave King is looking at spraying epoxy as a filler....

Flyfish57
12-01-2009, 10:20 AM
My mate Dave King is looking at spraying epoxy as a filler....

Wouldn't you have to reduce it to the point of a sealer or clearcoat? I have visions of trying to sand off all the build up where I don't want the filler. But it might have potential!

Pete Howlett
12-01-2009, 10:45 AM
Going to spend some time with Dave soon so I'll return and report folks... isn't it used in the automotive industry?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-01-2009, 10:46 AM
SystemThree makes a clear coat that will work OK is brushed on. Two coats is minimum, sanding between each. Thicker epoxies will also work and need to be spread on with a razor blade or similar. With epoxies, or any filler for that matter, the idea is to get just enough on to fill the surface voids. Just as with auto body or drywall work, put on the minimum in order to have to spend to much time removing the stuff. Some fillers are easier to remove than others. Epoxy is one of the more tenacious ones. Power sanding works well if you are careful. If you're not and you've removed the top surface of the wood, exposing new pores, then you'll need to go back and hit those areas again. Do this too much and you can get a blotchy look. I've tried using the LMII micro-balloon silica as a thickener but couldn't really tell if it was doing anything. With epoxies you need to wait until it is fully dried before applying a sealer or your finish coats. I've had trouble with adhesion before and I believe it's because I didn't let it dry long enough. I don't think 72 hours is too long.
FWIW, epoxy filling is not for the faint of heart. You've been warned.

erich@muttcrew.net
12-01-2009, 11:36 AM
FWIW, epoxy filling is not for the faint of heart. You've been warned.

Chuck, can you explain what you mean by "not for the faint of heart". Is it tough work, noxious, a PITA, ... ? We are about to fill a slight gap at the edge between the alder body and purpleheart top of an e-bass and were planning to use 2C epoxy glue as the filler.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-01-2009, 11:55 AM
Chuck, can you explain what you mean by "not for the faint of heart". Is it tough work, noxious, a PITA, ... ? We are about to fill a slight gap at the edge between the alder body and purpleheart top of an e-bass and were planning to use 2C epoxy glue as the filler.

I've always found epoxy messy to work with. It gets on everything and i don't want to be bothered with gloves. Also, in the semi-production environment that I work in, it's difficult to wait as long as you need to in order to do a good job. I'm talking about a week for the grain filling process before you can begin sealing and finishing. Still, it's not going to shrink back like other organic fillers will. I think it's best suited for the occasional builder.
Again, I've only worked with Systems Three Clear Coat. I don't know what the 2C epoxy is that you're referring to.

Pete Howlett
12-01-2009, 12:23 PM
Kathy Matsua documents the epoxy process pretty well. I squeegee a full strength 15 minute epoxy coat on first, sand it after the first day then leave it a day to harden. I then use a thinned coat wiped on with cellulose thinners - worked fine for me.

However, there is an amazing grain filling video on YouTube where that guy who does stuff for LMII (Robert O'Brien I think) uses drywall jointing compound as a grain filler. Now that is thinking outside the box if you ask me.

Dave King reckons pore filling is just to 'bing up' the pores and it's this that stops the lacquer 'sinking'. He doesn't obsess about getting the pores 'filled', just sealed. I've been using a high build sanding sealer to provide a flat surface after grain filling - WK method plus grain filler and epoxy. I'm trying to find one that I am comfortable with. I've actually managed to tint a paste filler that doesn't darken the koa...

Gonna have some tuition with dave in a couple of weeks I think...

Timbuck
12-02-2009, 03:41 AM
I gave one of my latest uke's a try with Epoxy for filling..I have a good supply of some 2 part adhesive made for "Bosch Communication Systems" that I use for Loudspeaker repairs, it's thinner than most Epoxy's that you buy in the local stores, and it sets very hard..But it takes 24 hours to cure..if you warm it up a bit before application it spreads much better and it can be wiped on with a lint free cloth..It worked ok but it was a bit sticky on the fingers.

Dave Higham
12-02-2009, 04:23 AM
Apart from West Systems, the other epoxy which is very popular with luthiers is Z-Poxy Finishing Resin.

http://www.lmii.com/CartTwo/thirdproducts.asp?NameProdHeader=Z-poxy

You don't have to get it from LMII. It's generally available from model makers' suppliers, even in Europe (although I had a hard time finding it in France, but I seem to have a hard time finding most things in France:().

I must stress, however, that it's the Finishing Resin you want and not the 5-minute or 30-minute adhesive. The finishing resin is easy to sand and the adhesive is almost impossible.

One of the reasons that people like it is that it really 'pops' the grain, if you know what I mean. Gives it that appearance as if you can 'see into' the wood, as opposed to the Martin Guitars sort of finish that kills it stone dead. Robbie O'Brian's tinted dry-wall filler probably does block the pores to prevent the lacquer or whatever sinking into them, but I imagine, being opaque, that it blocks the light too and gives that dead looking finish.

Timbuck
12-02-2009, 11:17 AM
This is the Epoxy I used..It is specified for use on "Electrovoice Loudspeakers" (i'm an approved repair man for EV,thats how I got it) It's very high quality..expensive about $150 plus per Litre...sets clear and hard...Heat resistant..dosn't shrink.. Cures in 24 hrs ..but be careful co's it's "No Dangerous Good" :eek: whatever that is ???...but it sands down well.
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/PICT5564.jpg