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Neck Finishing

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Dumb question but do all neck woods need to be finished or can all be left natural? Do fretboards need to be finished or can they be left natural? Thanks.


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Yes and no. Most woods require some sort of finish, whether lacquer, varnish, oil, etc., to prevent possible warping due to temperature and moisture changes, not to mention the acidic sweat that comes from your hands that can literally dissolve the wood after a long enough time. Some woods, like good ol' wenge, are very oily by themselves and don't need to be "finished", per se. On some of their basses Warwick just waxes the neck and recommends it to be rewaxed on occasion. But most necks need to have an external finish applied to remain stable.

As for fretboards, it also depends. It has become somewhat standard to finish maple fretboards the same as the neck, though that was originally developed in line with doing things as quickly and easily as possible, but it still works. Most other woods used for fretboards are left unfinished and merely have some oil applied to them which can be reapplied when necessary.

I would say that the vast majority of the time the neck should have a finish applied, whatever variety, but the fretboard is a toss-up. It just depends what you're going for.

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A finished neck is protected from the elements, swaet and dirt, humidity changes etc. You can leave it bare if you want but there is no garantee that it won't get damaged. Oil is not a good protection but is better than to leave it bare. I have my Epi LP, bare and oil with lemon oil weekly, so far no damage, but thats a risk I'm taking.

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