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DIY Les Paul Guitar Kit (Part 3: Applying Tru-Oil Finish)



Tru-Oil Guitar FinishSo I’m back with my DIY Les Paul guitar kit and I am here to show you how to apply the Tru-Oil finish. This oil finish will provide a very protective layer over the previously applied stain on the guitar’s Spalted Maple top. See my previous article to find out the steps I took to stain the guitar.

Here’s some reasons to why I decided to go with a Tru-Oil finish. The ease of application, no need for costly spray tools, and no toxic fume spreading throughout the area. Applying several layers of this oil will provide a protective and glossy finish for your DIY guitar project.

The Tru-Oil is made by Birchwood Casey and is marketed as a gun stock finish. Now this product may be very difficult to find in stores, especially if you live in California. I visited many stores (gun stores, sporting good stores, and even Walmart) and this product was nowhere to be found. Apparently there are some regulations regarding the bulk shipments of this item and the availability of Tru-Oil in your state may differ.

Nevertheless, I was determined to use this oil as the finish for my DIY guitar and decided to purchase the Tru-Oil online. The best place I found to buy this product was here on eBay. It was very inexpensive and delivery was lightning fast. You can also find Tru-Oil on Amazon. Once you have the bottle in your hands, you are now ready to apply the oil finish onto your guitar.

Items you will need need:

  • Pair of gloves
  • 00 steel wool
  • Tack Cloth
  • Clean Cloth/Rag
  • Bottle of Tru-Oil

When applying the oil to bare wood, first make sure your guitar is clean by wiping it down with a tack cloth. The tack cloth will remove any dust and debris from the surface of your guitar. While wearing your gloves, pour a small amount of Tru-Oil on to a clean rag and simply rub the oil into the surface of the guitar, applying more as you see fit. A little amount of oil goes a long way.

Let the oil dry for a couple hours until it fully hardens then apply additional coats of oil. The objective is to apply and build up several coats of oil over time. By doing so, the layers of oil will become thicker giving you that nice glossy and protective finish.

Before applying each additional coat of Tru-Oil, you will need to scuff up the previous coat to a dull finish. Use the 00 steel wool for this steps but be very careful with the first few thin coats of oil. The last thing you want to do is to sand through the layers of oil and into the wood stain that you worked so hard to apply.

Repeat the process of cleaning with a tack cloth, rubbing in the oil, and letting it harden. Do this over and over until you are satisfied with the thickness of the Tru-Oil finish. For my project, I applied at least 10 coats of oil and am very pleased with the results.

That’s it, you’re done! Stand back and stare at the beauty you have created!

The next step in this DIY Les Paul guitar project is to glue the neck and body together. As always, I will document this process and share the steps I take to complete the project.

Click here to view entire project.
Stay tuned!

(Get this DIY Les Paul Guitar Kit here or here on Amazon)

 

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42 comments

  1. Can’t wait to see your next video. You’ve done a great job so far! I just ordered myself a DIY PRS guitar. You’ve definitely inspired me.

    Thanks for the informative videos!

    • Thank you for the kind words! I’m glad my videos/articles helped out. I am sure you will have a blast building your guitar. Let me know if I can answer any questions you may have.

    • Truly impressed with your video instruction on finishing DIY les paul. Very informative, very well put together not condescending like some other sites. In other words. Well done! Thanks for posting. Found your site on you tube

  2. was the blue dye for a printer like the black or something else?

  3. Hey Fred great project, I have just completed the body and neck, and am getting ready to do the electrical work. Have you started yours? is there a website I can use as a guide? The ebay sellers dont provide much as far as instructions. Thanks for everything, love the site

    • Hey Jay, I did finish the electrical work but I have not had a chance to edit the video yet. It should be up soon though. I am not aware of any guides online, although I am sure there are some. Good luck with your project!

  4. Hey Fred, I see in this video that you’ve cut the headstock to more of a ‘traditional’ LP shape. How did you do that? Thanks for the clear, concise videos! Thinking about building one of these for my 30th.

    • Hi Matt, the shape of the headstock was just drawn out by hand. I then used a rotary tool, like a dremel, to cut out the shape in the wood.

      Good luck with your project, if you decide to do it. I would encourage you to try it out!

  5. hi fred,
    enjoyed your video; wondering how the finished project played out: it sound! am looking to buy one for myself, but having trouble with providers shipping to Canada; do you have any suggestions–i am left handed!

    • Hi Joe
      I would contact the seller that I have linked to and see if he has left handed guitars and if he ships to your area. You may be able to work something out. Thanks for the comment!

  6. Hey Fred great job so far with the guitar. I’m using the same products you have used to build my bass. And I am wondering how long did you leave the ink stain dry before applying the tru oil?

    • Hey Ryan, I probably waiting a couple days just because I had other projects going on at the same time. I would recommend a minimum of 24 hrs. You really want to make sure the wood is dry before applying finish.

  7. I recently bought one of these kits from the same company you did and I am amazed at its quality. The price was right too! Unfortunately I haven’t done as fine a job as you have on its building. My first and only question in this email is, how did you finish the neck head the way you did? Did you have a template and if so, where can I get one? What tool did you use to cut out the wood in that classic Les Paul shape. I tried to mimic one but failed. The drawing I used was not to scale and it turned out miserably.

    Any help you can render would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • Hey Michael, all I did was draw out the shape by hand. I didn’t use a template. Then I used a rotary tool like a dremel to cut out the shape. Basically, I just free hand everything. Hope that helps!

  8. Hi Fred, first of all, your video series on the LP guitar kit was fantastic. I’m in Ontario, Canada, and your kit provider for this build ships to Canada thru Ebay – I just bought an ES 335 kit from them because of your build.
    My question is this, when you feel that you,ve applied the last coat of TRU-OIL, do you leave it alone, or do you still buff it out with the steel wool – thanks for your help

    Jim in Cornwall

    • Hey Jim, you can wetsand and apply some guitar or car polish to make it really shine and smooth.

  9. Hi again Fred, thanks for your reply. I just received my SES-30, ES-335 type kit today, and it is beautiful. Of course now that I’ve seen it, I have a couple more questions for you if you don’t mind – (1) watching you apply the ink (for about the 10th time, lol), I notice that it doesn’t seem to stain the binding – is this true? Also, (2) once you achieved the colour you wanted, did you sand or buff the final “raw” stained top befpre your first coat of tru-oil? And lastly, (3) my kit is basswood – do you think it will show the grain well if I try the black ink then the blue?
    Thanks again for all of your help, and I’m looking forward to the next installment of your new kit build.
    Jim in Cornwall

    • Hi Jim,
      The dye did stain the binding slightly but was easily removed my scraping it with a razor. You could also tape off the binding but I decided not to. Once the staining was complete, I didn’t do any additional sanding. I just made sure it was completely dry before applying the tru oil. The basswood should show the grain but it will probably not be as vibrant as my spalted veneer. Hope that helps!

      • Hi Fred, thanks again – your advice is greatly appreaciated. I thought you might say that as well, so I’m going to get some raw basswood and try dying it to see how it turns out before dying my kit. I’m also looking at the Minwax Express Colour as an alternative – their Indago or their Emerald stains may work better with the basswood, who knows, lol. After the 335 kit, I may have to try your ink finish on the next kit (aaahhh!!!!)
        Jim in Cornwall

  10. Hey Fred, Thank you for answering my last text above. You did a great job free handing the head stock. I wish I could have talent like that but I’m sure with enough time an a good supply of kits I will get better.

    My question this time is: Is it necessary to finish the guitar with tru-oil, or varnish, before attaching the neck? You videos show that you did your guitar in that order.

    Thanks again in advance!

    Michael Green

    • Hey Michael,
      You can attach the neck prior to finishing or even staining if you wanted to. Its really just personal preference.

  11. Hey Fred, i was wondering if you can get a satin/matte finish with tru-oil, and if so, how? thanks

  12. hey fred, i would like to ask if linseed oil can replace the tru oil one? thanks

    • Yes definitely! I almost went with Linseed oil but decided on Tru-Oil because it gives it a harder finish based off of what I researched.

  13. Hi,
    How did you stop the dye from getting on the outer white edges of the guitar? Thanks

    • I didn’t mask the White bindings, so it did get on it. However, you can use a razor to scrape it off easily after dying.

  14. Thanks, also what did you do regarding the frets? I have found my frets to be quite rough in texture compared to my shop bought guitars. What would you suggest? Thanks

  15. Hello again Fred…
    Curious….I notice some, what looks like, pitting in the true oil finish. Were you able to get those smoothed out? Or were they actually on the wood? Or am I just seeing things? lol That is very possible as well.
    I was just wondering if starting with a water based wood filler as you did on your new build would be a good idea with one of these les paul kits. Just not sure how that would affect the stain (ink).
    Maybe I’ll do a test run on a scrap board first and see how it looks,

    Again, great work! We appreciate you taking the time to make these videos.

  16. I noticed that there were a couple of patches here and there on both the front and back that might have been glue stains in the wood that weren’t taking to the ink and wood stains right away. I’ve had that problem with these kits that I’ve put together before…..How did you over come that?

  17. Dude. What happened to your arm hair? Do you shave your arms?

  18. Fred,

    Thanks for your detailed video series. I’m in the process of building a guitar myself, and have a question regarding the Tru-Oil finish. Did you apply your “at least 10 coats of oil” throughout the guitar or just at the blue top? I’m currently at 8 top coats and 4 neck/side/bottom coats.

    Thanks, Ralph

    • hi Fred, i will be trying out the minwax express mahogany stuff on my kit lp and want to know if the tru oil worked well over the top of the minwax. i have seen your pics of the lp and it looks great but i didnt see you putting tru oil over the minwax, did you end up doing that, i also black inked my flame but chose green stamp pad ink on mine and it looks amazing, i have tru oil over the veneer and it looks beautiful considering i had broken this guitar and rebuilt the entire neck pocket and had to rout out a section of mahogany and fit a new piece of mahogany in, my kit has been through hell, so i want to make sure the minwax and tru oil wont cause any reaction to each other. thanks

  19. I watch these videos often, thanks for it. You said that if you were to make this project again, you would use the filler stained in black ink. Are you referring to the first black stain where you wanted to raise the stripes on?

  20. Hey Fred Just watched the videos for the Les paul and was impressed at the results with a shoe string budget. Been doing a lot of research on refinishing my Ibanez sr 500 Bass and your videos are right in line with what I was planning to do Great Job nice guitar Enjoy playing it Thanks

  21. Did you only use 220 grade sand paper? And did you use a sanding sponge or sand paper? I just bought a 220 grade sponge for my project so I was wondering if that is all I will in need in terms of sanding.