New Warmoth Tele: Part II The Finish

I’m a huge fan of the legacy of a company from the 90’s called Stephen’s Stringed Instruments. Stephen Davies and team created some really unique guitars and they are becoming increasingly difficult to come across these days. The old website is still up and I love reading the specs page. I really like his comments around finishes and this meshes well with my experiences.

My last guitar came out a darker brown than a lot of the Stephen’s instruments I’ve seen online. While I don’t mind how it looks I reached out to both Stephen Davies and Richard Weikum, who did a lot of the finishes at Stephens, to see what kind of tung oil they used. Both of them were kind enough to respond. Stephen said, “We used a tung oil from a local large finishes wholesaler, but as far as I know tung oil is tung oil. We didn’t cut it.” Richard thought it was simply the piece of wood I was using that was determining the color, as it was “more brownish”. He recommended using Watco tung oil and said he had good luck repairing N4s w/ that.

Here’s a picture of a Davies N4 Richard refinished w/ Watco tung oil. The man does amazing work. Check him out here

Back to the Tele, these come sanded to 220. I hit it with 220, and then moved to 320. I also did a fair amount of wet sanding to raise the grain and get it smoother.
I also wanted to roll the fingerboard edges before applying the finish. A really simple and effective way to do this is to apply pressure using the side of a regular screwdriver. It bends the wood fibers easily and doesn’t take long.
I’ve had good results with tung oil on necks, but I chose to stick w/ gun stock oil on the neck. This is after the first coat. The grain jumps out a lot more as soon as the oil hits it. It’s a fun process. I’m mostly following the process from Ben Eller’s video on the subject.
The wet sanding is complete, and getting ready for the oil.
A quick shot of the back after the first coat.
You can see how much the end grain soaks up the oil and how dark it gets.
Getting ready for the top.
It’s amazing how the wood just drinks this stuff up.
The oil applies very easily using a old t-shirt as a rag.
I did two light coats of oil.
A quick shot of the neck after 4 coats of gunstock oil.
This is what the body looked like after two coats.
A shot where the heel joint is visible. It’s important to wipe these off a few times while drying. The oil can ooze out of the pores and you want to get the excess off before it drys.
A view of the completed finishes in better light.

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