A little more explainer first. Recently on LJ a rookie posted a question about what finish you use. You can imagine the responses: “I use this and always have” “My buddy has always used this:” etc. That’s the predictable part. What surprised me is the OP responded by saying, “Ok, thanks, I’ll go out and buy all of these and try them.”
And get back to us 6 months later?
It struck me that I could offer more by recounting my process in greater detail than a forum response allows, set it up so I am learning something myself, and speak about attitude and approach as well as product and process.
The sanding table is built from a Rockler kit with Dri-Dek tiles attached to the top (no scratching). By the time we’re to this stage, the body has been sanded to 150 but has also been moved about, routed, hand sanded here, had inserts pounded in there, etc. The golden light you see is a yellow-frame imported halogen work light on a benchtop stand that allows me to tip it. It is important that it be close to horizontal to pick up the dents and tears and whacks and contusions and sanding scratches.
Most of these dent defects rise with a dot of water (or several) applied with a brass rod. I sometimes use heat to hasten the process. I try to avoid filling, but sometimes that is the only real option. I go a shade darker on the putty—a darker spot is less obvious than a lighter spot.
I sand to 150 with a Makita BO4510 and a Rockwell 332 Type 2 (avoid Type 1).
I have a rack with verticals on which in can place up to 5 bodies. I spritz them with water and let them dry thoroughly (hour or two with moving air on them).
Then I check them again with the horizontal light, sand to 180, and fixture them for the finish room.
The fixtures are 90o offset, so the body can be rotated to four different positions and stays stable in all four.
This image shows a bass done natural, which is achieved with Sherwin Williams Wood Classics Natural. Sort of a stainless stain: It is a wonderfully rich oil that ambers the wood and brings out contrast without any visual artifices.
-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"