Oil Finish on Poplar

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jaymenonjaymenon Frets: 331
edited September 16 in Making & Modding
I picked up a not too expensive Stratocaster body with a flame Maple top and a poplar back. I thought I would attempt an oil finish, but I wonder if poplar is suitable for this?

I had planned to pick up a bottle of Liberon finishing oil - but will somebody please talk me out of it if it’s a bad idea...!

I heard different things, firstly that poplar will soak up crazy amounts of oil. On the other hand I have also read that it is a small pore wood. I honestly have no idea...



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  • WezVWezV Frets: 10523
    Its is a wood with small pores... but its still very porous.   Its also quite soft for a hardwood. ;)


    My gut feeling is the lighter oils like Danish oil will soak right in and won't offer enough protection. A thicker one like osmo oil might work okay, although dent resistance may still be quite low.  I'm not sure what Liberon finishing oil is like, but their products are generally high quality

    The maple will come up great with most oils.






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  • Jez6345789Jez6345789 Frets: 1363
    As said poplar is a softwood and having bought a few different poplar bodies off ebay to do parts casters with. I can honestly say its a crap wood for oil, takes dyes very unevenly and in general is soft and nasty to sand. That said it's cheap and you will get something out of it. 

    Having a maple top will give you the opportunity to do a nice stain job, put a darker stain on first and lightly sand off to pop up the grain for max effect but sand lightly if its a veneer.

    If I was doing it again now I would probably do the dye thing on the maple, then prime and spray can the back a dark colour  then just do a spray can of clear over the lot. 

    As said Osmo does not afford much more protection than Tru Oil if any so it will show the dings. Also if I was spraying with cans I would not blow a lot of money on Nitro cans on wood like that just cheap and cheerful polyester clear coat unless nitro is really your thing. 
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  • WezVWezV Frets: 10523
    As said poplar is a softwood 
    Sorry for being pedantic, but it is a hardwood.   Its just not a hard wood.

    Balsa is another example of a hardwood that isn't very hard
     :D 

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  • RabsRabs Frets: 1988
    tFB Trader
    I have some experience with oiling Poplar at work... 

    We use various different types of Osmo oil..  What I have found is that in general the white oils work well on light wood but the dark oils can make the wood just look a bit dirty... Where as the dark oils on dark wood really makes them pop.

    With Poplar I would probably advise above..  Spray it a dark colour and then some clear coat after.. 
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  • TTonyTTony Frets: 19777
    There's no reason not to paint the back (Poplar) a solid colour, and oil the top to enhance that lovely piece of maple.



    ;)
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  • jaymenonjaymenon Frets: 331
    edited September 15
    TTony said:
    There's no reason not to paint the back (Poplar) a solid colour, and oil the top to enhance that lovely piece of maple.



    @TTony ;; that looks stunning...!!! How did you do that? Would you please post a picture of the back? That lovely dark chocolate brown colour contrasts beautifully with the natural top.
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  • SCRelicsGuitarsSCRelicsGuitars Frets: 4571
    tFB Trader
    I have found poplar to be a reasonable substitute for alder with respect to finishing. Some poplar can be decent enough to do a trans finish on, most of what I’ve seen isn’t. 

    The last 2 poplar bodies ive had here ended up with metal flake on them. I wouldn’t try to stain or dye it but I’m spraying everything anyway. 

    If you’re doing a solid colour then poplar is a good choice. 
    Aged partscaster specialist, custom builds and refinishing
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  • TTonyTTony Frets: 19777
    jaymenon said:
    How did you do that? Would you please post a picture of the back? 
    The top had a coat of Osmo raw, and then a few coats of Crimson's finishing oil.

    The Osmo raw stops the natural colour of the wood changing too much.  Sometimes the finishing oil adds a golden (or orange/brown) tint to lighter colour woods, and I wanted to keep the maple as "raw" looking as possible.

    The back was lightly stained with Crimson's black stain, prior to another couple of coats of their finishing oil.

    I really prefer to be able to see and feel the natural wood under a finish (one of the reasons that I've never tried to developed any spraying skills), so I never bother with grain filling, etc (unless doing it for a contrast colour in the grain).



    If you wanted a more solid colour on the back, you'd add a few more coats of stain to build up the colour,



    I used car detailing tape to mask the front from the back, to make sure that the black stain didn't bleed into the natural top.

    HTH?
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  • jaymenonjaymenon Frets: 331
    It looks absolutely lovely TTony, but I don’t think I have the skills to do that. I think I’m just going to flog this body...
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  • TTonyTTony Frets: 19777
    jaymenon said:
     but I don’t think I have the skills to do that
    Don't be daft - of course you can.

    Rub on a bit of coloured stain, rub on a bit of finishing oil, job done.

    (OK, there's a bit of a knack to the rubbing-on bit, but "unless you start somewhere, you'll never get anywhere")

    Unless this was a particularly expensive/valuable body blank, seems like it'd be a good place to start developing some new skills.

    What's to lose??
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  • SteveRobinsonSteveRobinson Frets: 3604
    edited September 15 tFB Trader
    I sprayed a poplar body in satin lacquer a little while ago, it was very easy to work with. One coat, denib then another coat and done. I'm in two minds about the colour/s but the lacquer definitely improved it. 

    It depends on your piece of wood (and yours is much more even in colour) but I do think poplar is more suited to a solid colour finish.




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  • jaymenonjaymenon Frets: 331
    I think you underestimate your own skills TTony :-)
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  • jaymenonjaymenon Frets: 331
    I sprayed a poplar body in satin lacquer a little while ago, it was very easy to work with. One coat, denib then another coat and done. I'm in two minds about the colour/s but the lacquer definitely improved it. 

    It depends on your piece of wood (and yours is much more even in colour) but I do think poplar is more suited to a solid colour finish.




    That looks lovely Steve, but you are an expert and you have the facilities to spray stuff. I am just an at home DIY person, and I’m not even very good at that..,
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  • SteveRobinsonSteveRobinson Frets: 3604
    tFB Trader
    jaymenon said:
    That looks lovely Steve, but you are an expert and you have the facilities to spray stuff. I am just an at home DIY person, and I’m not even very good at that..,
    Thanks but I don't, I just sprayed it outside in the garden 
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  • jaymenonjaymenon Frets: 331
    With a rattle can?
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  • SteveRobinsonSteveRobinson Frets: 3604
    tFB Trader
    jaymenon said:
    With a rattle can?
    Yep
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  • RabsRabs Frets: 1988
    tFB Trader
    Yeah I think you should try it yourself too.. While it does require some learning, its not that hard really.

    And as long as the maple cap is a thick cap and not a veneer you can always sand any finish off again if you dont like it.

    Watch lots of youtube vids of other people doing it, it helps  :)
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  • jaymenonjaymenon Frets: 331
    It’s 1/4” thick
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  • jaymenonjaymenon Frets: 331
    edited September 16
    Okay chaps - please educate me.

    The top: I think I can manage with an oil finish (with or without prior staining).
    So that would be a water based stain, then rub off and sand by hand to 400 grit right? Then start oiling...

    The poplar back / base:
    Apparently will not take stains well? (blotchy? unevenly?)
    Do I apply a stain?
    Or spray paint it with a rattle can?

    I guess I should mask the top with newspaper, and apply masking tape to the edges / masking accurately the junction between the poplar 'base' and the maple 'top'

    What paint do I use please? Something Opaque?

    please bear in mind that I’m completely ignorant so don’t take any knowledge for granted please. please be clear and prescriptive, I shall just follow instructions, I do have a decent pair of hands, And could probably  make a reasonable job of it.
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  • jaymenonjaymenon Frets: 331
    edited September 16
    TTony said:
    jaymenon said:
    How did you do that? Would you please post a picture of the back? 
    The top had a coat of Osmo raw, and then a few coats of Crimson's finishing oil.

    The Osmo raw stops the natural colour of the wood changing too much.  Sometimes the finishing oil adds a golden (or orange/brown) tint to lighter colour woods, and I wanted to keep the maple as "raw" looking as possible.

    The back was lightly stained with Crimson's black stain, prior to another couple of coats of their finishing oil.

    I really prefer to be able to see and feel the natural wood under a finish (one of the reasons that I've never tried to developed any spraying skills), so I never bother with grain filling, etc (unless doing it for a contrast colour in the grain).



    If you wanted a more solid colour on the back, you'd add a few more coats of stain to build up the colour,



    I used car detailing tape to mask the front from the back, to make sure that the black stain didn't bleed into the natural top.

    HTH?
    So the back of that guitar is Poplar @TTony ?

    and a black stain winds up giving you a chocolatey colour?

    also, would that be crimson’s penetrating finishing oil, or the high build finishing oil? I think the latter is slightly thinner...
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  • mikem8634mikem8634 Frets: 261
    Just getting over the fear of it is a really big thing. At least it was for me. Once you dig in and start it gets easier. There's plenty of good advice and support to be had on here if goes in a direction you didn't quite intend, but you may and up loving it, quirks and all, because it becomes yours in a way that an off the peg guitar can never be.

    Good luck.
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  • hoopshoops Frets: 128
    I sprayed a poplar body in satin lacquer a little while ago, it was very easy to work with. One coat, denib then another coat and done. I'm in two minds about the colour/s but the lacquer definitely improved it. 

    It depends on your piece of wood (and yours is much more even in colour) but I do think poplar is more suited to a solid colour finish.





    That's amazing - I love that!
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  • TTonyTTony Frets: 19777
    jaymenon said:
    So the back of that guitar is Poplar @TTony ?

    and a black stain winds up giving you a chocolatey colour?

    also, would that be crimson’s penetrating finishing oil, or the high build finishing oil? I think the latter is slightly thinner...
    No, it's Idigbo (Korina alike). 

    It's "chocolatey" because  I like chocolate.  If you wanted a deeper and more consistent black, you'd apply a couple more coats of the stain.

    I think I used the penetrating oil on that one.  But I've got both, so could have been either!!
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