Friday, 29 May 2015

Aussie Oil for Guitars?

Recently I came across an Australian online woodworking retailer called U-Beaut Polishes. They offer a wood polish called Aussie Oil that's based on White Shellac and is reportedly easy to use and fast drying. Hmm thought I, given that Tru-Oil is getting harder and harder to source from online retailers due to postage restrictions, maybe Aussie-Oil could be a viable alternative for finishing guitars. Now that you can easily order the stuff from DIY Guitars (the U-Beaut site is, frankly, a pain the arse to order from) I decided to give the product a try. My bottle finally arrived yesterday and I put it to work on a pine guitar blank that I had lying around the man cave.

Aussie Oil, it's full of shellacy goodness.
The bottle recommends working on small patches at a time, using a very small amount of oil and rubbing it in until it shines. Unfortunately, this method, and the product in general, seems to be targeted at small wooden items. For larger guitar bodies, a different method is called for if we are to avoid the creation of tide lines and uneven coats all over the place.

Based on my experience with Tru-Oil, yet keeping in mind that Aussie Oil is based on White Shellac, here is the method I came up with to apply the oil. I applied the oil to a pine blank, roughly sanded to 400 grit and with really rough end-grain. Of course, finer sanding will lead to better results, so make sure you put the time into your preparation!

Step 1. The Initial Soak Coat
Here's how I applied the first soak coat. Firstly, get yourself at least 2-3 squares of soft cotton rag - one to apply the oil and one to clean off the excess. A third rag might be useful to remove the remaining excess

Get plenty of soft cotton rags, and shake the bottle well.
Next, shake the bottle up until it gets cloudy. Squirt out a good dollop of oil on to the wood and use one of your rags to spread it around the entire surface. No matter how hard you try, some oil will go over the sides - you need to be prepared to soak the sides as well in the same session or else you won't get an even soak into the end-grain (tide lines are the worst!). Still, try your best not to get too much on the end-grain at this stage.

You can't have too much oil for your soak coat - it just costs money!
Keep moving the oil around until you have an even soak into the wood. You will be able to see that there are no patches that are darker than others, and that there are no tide lines shown. You need to move relatively quickly (don't dawdle!) to get the coat even, but the secret is to use a lot more oil than you actually need and to get your rag going in large circles.

Keep moving the oil over the surface, allowing it plenty of time to soak into the wood. Keep moving the excess around - the oil dries pretty quickly and you'll want a nice even coat. After about 1 minute of spreading, take your clean cloth and start rubbing in the excess oil. Keep trying to get an even coat, but in reality you are slowly removing the excess during this step. Keep rubbing in circles - you should see the surface of the wood start to shine up. As you rub the excess will disappear (a lot will be soaked into your clean rag). If you see that you rag is putting oil down rather than taking it up, then swap to a clean rag again and keep going. Now you are effectively "polishing" the surface using the little remaining surface oil.

Soak coat is on and polished a little. Straight on to the end-grain!
Once you are fairly happy with the coverage (it should be thin and look almost dry) you can move on to the sides. For this job I used my original oil-filled rag and poured generous helpings of oil onto the rag itself. The end-grain is very thirsty on this first coat and will soak up the oil very quickly. You should use a lot of oil and move quickly to avoid tide lines, trying to replicate as much as possible the process used on the top of the guitar. One thing to be careful of at this stage is that you don't get any excess oil back on the top of the guitar - keep checking for it and removing it with a clean rag as you go.

End-grain is now done as well. Use enough oil to saturated the
wood and remove tide-lines.
With your soak coat completed, leave it for 24 hours to dry completely. You can see from my picture above that the oil is really starting to pop the grain - even with this single coat. I'll update this post again once the 5th coat goes on. Shouldn't take too long at the rate this stuff dries!

See Part 2 of the Aussie Oil evaluation for the second phase of application and final evaluation.