Mike's Oud Forums

neck varnish / tru-oil / advice

suz_i_dil - 7-12-2011 at 08:33 AM


I had to sand down the varnish of an oud.

I first tried to varnish it back with spray lacquer but the result was really bad looking, and had to sand it back.

1/ is the neck really has to be varnished for its durability?
( by the way I noticed the syrian oud of Adel Salameh from Matthias Wagner doesn't seem to have varnish on the neck).

2/After a search on the forum I think tru-oil would be the best option for the best looking result in my case, I mean no experience at all in making varnish.

*from where can I buy this kind of product, not tinted. I only found tinted tru-oil while looking on the net.
*Do I have to prepare the wood out of sanding before applying tru-oil?
I'm particulary thinking of the texture of the wood, rosewood and probably mahogany. Is there any kind of filling to apply before the tru-oil? And which one? To the eye there is clearly some very small holes in the texture of the wood.

Thank you for your guidelines in making this repair.

Dr. Oud - 7-12-2011 at 09:20 AM

You'll find Tru-Oil gunstock finish at your local gun shop or sporting goods store. You can rub it on with a cloth pad or your fingers. Apply several thin coats rather than trying to brush on a thick coat. It is very good for necks because it is very durable and has a smooth velvety feel when it's cured. It is an oil based varnish. It's best to apply it on bare wood, it will not stick to lacquer (nothing does). If you want to fill the pores in rosewood or mahogany, apply a wood filler according to the directions or you can make a filler paste with hide glue mixed with sawdust. You'll have to wait 1-2 days depending on the temperature for the glue to cure before sanding. I don't bother filling the pores because the color will be brighter without the stain found in most commercial fillers.

suz_i_dil - 7-12-2011 at 09:53 AM

Thanks for your advice Richard.

Checking the bowl, I think the luthier choosed your prior option of not filling the pores.

For aesthetic, I need my varnish to be glossy like on the bowl and not tinted.

Does tru-oil will give me this result?

In France, it is not in gun stores, or at least in the ones I went. They were just proposing a linseed oil, not polymerised.

Any american or british ressource where I can safely order on line for this product?

Thanks for helping.

suz_i_dil - 7-12-2011 at 10:04 AM

there is this product on ebay UK, but I don't understand if it is tinted or not:


Dr. Oud - 7-12-2011 at 10:06 AM

Tru-Oil will finish with a slightly glossy surface, not as shiny as lacquer, but not as matte as plain oil.


Linseed oil will seal the wood, but you need to apply paste wax over it or it will feel gummy or sticky. Waxing is also requires repeated applications.

You could also use Tung oil on the neck only it is an oil finish that dries with a hard surface finish that does not need waxing. It's not as durable as Tru-Oil however, so you need to re-apply it when it wears out, usually 1-3 years depending on your climate. Clean hands will maintain the finish longer.

suz_i_dil - 7-12-2011 at 10:55 AM

Between Tru-oil and Tung oil, which would be the more glossy and the less tinted to approach the bowl finish?


bulerias1981 - 7-12-2011 at 09:45 PM

yeah, I just used tru-oil, and very satisfied with the finish. However, my one complaint is that its a little dark (tinted) in color. Does anyone know about a transparent/clear formula?

Greg - 7-13-2011 at 03:46 AM

This picture of an oud I finshed in Tru-oil may help you to decide.
As far as I can tell, it did not change the color appreciably.

Haluk_Model_3 004.jpg - 165kB

bulerias1981 - 7-13-2011 at 05:56 AM

Greg, nice finish. did you use a pore filler?

suz_i_dil - 7-13-2011 at 09:04 AM

Great, it seems to be really whar I'm looking for.
Indeed, did you use any pore filler?
How many coats did you apply, and did you polish with steel wool each coat (and if the case which number for steel wool)?

jdowning - 7-13-2011 at 12:02 PM

I have not used Tru - oil on instruments but I have used it on Walnut gun stocks to good effect. It is easy to apply, quite fast drying and provides a durable satin finish (but does not fill the grain).

According to Material Hazard Reports, Tru-oil is a mixture boiled linseed oil (11%) mixed with (33%) 'modified oil' diluted with 56% mineral oil. It is what is often called an oil/varnish or 'Danish Oil'. 'Modified oil' is just another term for synthetic varnish. So if you cannot obtain the stuff locally then the alternative is to mix your own formula testing first on scrap material to obtain the best result.

There is a good article on making these varnishes in the "Fine Woodworking" magazine published in 1979, issues 14 to 19 (not sure which one) entitled "Oil/Varnish Finishes - experiment to find the right proportions" by Don Newell. The author tested various proportions of varnish and boiled linseed oil for hardness and speed of drying - the varnishes tested being readily available alkyd, polyurethane and phenolic.
Complete drying time varies from 'never' in the case of 100% boiled linseed oil to about one day for 100% varnish. The author suggest a good starting point is a 50% - 50% mix of oil and varnish giving a satisfactory hard finish after less than 2 days per coat complete drying time. More oil = slower drying time and softer finish. A completely dry finish is not a 'dry to touch' finish
(that only takes about 5 hours to achieve).
Thinning the varnish/oil mix is recommended for the first penetrating coat used as a sealer - if the varnish/oil mix is to be applied in the usual way with a brush. However if a hand rubbed finish is required the varnish probably should be diluted - but more coats will be required in order to build up a finish.

Oil/varnish coatings sometimes do not fully dry when applied over 'oily' woods such as Indian or Brazilian Rosewoods and can remain 'sticky' to the touch. Some recommend teak oil varnishes in these cases.

suz_i_dil - 7-13-2011 at 01:07 PM

Thanks Jdowning,

Your scientific approach is always of interest.
But for a single using, on a small area, I prefer an easier way with a ready made product .
Actually I found tru-oil in british on line stores.
I'll have a search for teak oil, thanks for the advice.

Also, Greg, may you precise the issues I'm wondering about? Just a reminding, in case you didn't see my last message.

francis - 7-13-2011 at 01:15 PM


You can try this link:


Dave is an english friend, living near Royan, who restore old mandolin family instruments.
He use true oil when necessary.
Il pourra certainement te renseigner.


Greg - 7-13-2011 at 08:58 PM

Quote: Originally posted by suz_i_dil  
Great, it seems to be really whar I'm looking for.
Indeed, did you use any pore filler?
How many coats did you apply, and did you polish with steel wool each coat (and if the case which number for steel wool)?

This oud was already pore filled when I got it, but not finished.
I applied about six or seven coats and used steel wool Grade 0000 (super fine) between each coat.



suz_i_dil - 7-14-2011 at 03:00 AM

so I'll go for it.
Thanks all forl your advices. I'll update to show the result.

Merci pour le conseil Francis, j'appellerais peut être Dave quand j'aurais reçu les produits.


SamirCanada - 7-14-2011 at 04:52 AM

I am very interested in this finish, I think I will be using it to finish my next oud. Does anyone forsee any issues using it on Indian Rosewood? I dont beleive its a very oily wood like say, cocobolo...

I still remember the satin feel of Jameel's sandwich top oud. It was finished with tru-oil and it had a lot of deapth to it.

finaly, how big a bottle should I get to finish a oud? I found it 3 different sizes online.

Merci :)

Jonathan - 7-14-2011 at 10:24 AM

I've used Tru-Oil, Shellac, and polyurethane on my ouds. Of the three, tru-oil is my least favorite. It is ridiculously easy to apply, but I have to admit that I really love the warmth that the slight amber color of shellac gives to the wood. I put truoil on my first oud (mostly maple), and while the finish is just fine, the maple stayed that same bright white as the day I first sanded the oud down. I'm sticking with shellac. Less durable, perhaps, but really beautiful.

jdowning - 7-15-2011 at 04:28 AM

The only way to determine if a wood has significant oil content that may prevent proper curing of a varnish is to run a test on a scrap piece of the wood before applying the varnish to a completed instrument. Always a prudent thing to do with any finishing material in any case.
Also any grease on the surface of the wood can affect curing of the varnish - so clean gloves should be worn when handling an instrument during the varnishing operation to prevent skin oils from contaminating the surface.

One disadvantage of polyurethane varnish is that once it is has fully cured it becomes so hard and brittle that overcoating - say, in the case of a repair - may require sanding down to bare wood to ensure proper adhesion. As full curing is time specific, application of each additional coat must be done within a critical time period (usually 12 hours or less - see the instructions on the varnish container). It can be applied to give a clear glossy finish that is hard and durable so might be considered as a suitable coating for the back of the neck of an instrument.

bulerias1981 - 8-8-2011 at 09:59 PM

Quote: Originally posted by suz_i_dil  
Between Tru-oil and Tung oil, which would be the more glossy and the less tinted to approach the bowl finish?


I'm curious about this question myself. No one really answered it.
Does anyone on here have experience with both Tru-oil and Tung oil finishes? I'd also like to know which is glossier.

Also, sometimes the neck is made from a soft wood, lighter in color to the pegbox and bowl. Does one stain it slightly darker to match walnut as an example?

bulerias1981 - 8-9-2011 at 12:15 PM

Another question. If one stains the neck with lets say a Minwax stain product. Will Tru-oil adhere to that stained surface?

Brian Prunka - 8-9-2011 at 01:36 PM

Quote: Originally posted by bulerias1981  
Another question. If one stains the neck with lets say a Minwax stain product. Will Tru-oil adhere to that stained surface?

I don't know about minwax specifically, but a typical water or alcohol based stain will not interfere w/tru oil. of course the stain must be completely dry.
Lots of finishing info is available at the reranch forums. A lot of people seem to have success using coffee filters to apply tru-oil, with no sanding between coats.

It does have a very slight amber cast to it, but not nearly as much as shellac.

Tru oil is a great neck finish, as it feels very smooth, close to bare wood (not sticky like lacquer or poly finishes).