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Maple Neck/fingerboard Finishing Alternatives ?


Blackdog
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By a twist of destiny I ended up having a maple on maple neck for my first build (mahogany body) that will have to finish somehow.

I don't have any spraying equipment, I was originally thinking about lightly staining the body and spraying some clear coats from a spray-can. I'm going for a satin type of finish, and was planning on leaving the grain of the mahogany unfilled as I like the look of the pores showing a little.

My original plan was to do pretty much the same with the neck (which was always going to be maple) and just oiling the unfinished fretboard (which was going to be rosewood). But now I have a birdseye maple fingerboard and I don't like the way maple gets dirty when unfinished. (Images of worn-through-the-lacquer Fender maple fretboards come to mind).

What are my alternatives, other than lacquering the fretboard too and scraping the lacquer from the frets Fender style ??

I much prefer the feel of unfinished wood for the fretboard, will any oiling method work ?? Will it seal the wood good enough to avoid the dirty look ?? Shall I apply it before or after fretting ??

Thanks for the help.

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Every Fender guitar I've seen from the 70's and earlier has had very worn down spots in the fingerboard, and they're finished with very strong finishes (polyester or polyurathane, I'm not so sure). There's not much of a point in putting an oil finish on a maple fingerboard, it'll wear down quickly and look quite bad. If you can deal with a dirty looking fingerboard, leave it alone. If you want it to look clean, use a durable finish such as laquer, polyurathane, polyester, or epoxy.

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Tru Oil is great for the back of the neck, but you want something more durable for the fingerboard. Go with rattle-can polyurethane, make sure you scuff-sand with 320 between coats, lay down at least 5 but more like 10 coats (rattle can goes on thin), then scuff up the last coat with 2000 grit or 0000 steel wool for the satin look (or you can shoot satin poly).

Install your frets first, tape off the fingerboard between the frets (NO wood showing on top), then use a Q-tip and apply a thin layer of auto wax to each fret. Remove the tape (tape off the back of the neck if you want to oil that), and start shooting. When you're done, score the edges of the frets with a razor (careful to avoid scratching the new poly) and the stuff will flake right off the frets when you start levelling them.

It will take awhile, but finishing always does. Most guys think they're almost done when the woodworking is finished; really you're only 50% of the way to the finish line (pun intended).

FWIW the early Fenders were all sprayed with nitro (bodies and necks), they didn't switch over to poly until sometime in the very late 60s. There are hybrid '68 or '69 Strats that have nitro bodies and poly necks. Not sure if they went straight to polyester, or started with urethane and switched to ester later.

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Tru Oil is great for the back of the neck, but you want something more durable for the fingerboard. Go with rattle-can polyurethane, make sure you scuff-sand with 320 between coats, lay down at least 5 but more like 10 coats (rattle can goes on thin), then scuff up the last coat with 2000 grit or 0000 steel wool for the satin look (or you can shoot satin poly).

Install your frets first, tape off the fingerboard between the frets (NO wood showing on top), then use a Q-tip and apply a thin layer of auto wax to each fret. Remove the tape (tape off the back of the neck if you want to oil that), and start shooting. When you're done, score the edges of the frets with a razor (careful to avoid scratching the new poly) and the stuff will flake right off the frets when you start levelling them.

It will take awhile, but finishing always does. Most guys think they're almost done when the woodworking is finished; really you're only 50% of the way to the finish line (pun intended).

FWIW the early Fenders were all sprayed with nitro (bodies and necks), they didn't switch over to poly until sometime in the very late 60s. There are hybrid '68 or '69 Strats that have nitro bodies and poly necks. Not sure if they went straight to polyester, or started with urethane and switched to ester later.

Thanks for the replies so far.

Thanks Erik for a very detailed and specific procedure, sounds like it is what I'll be doing. This fretboard is too beautiful to let it get dirty.

So only 50% there, right ?? Oh well...

Erik: if you don't mind me asking: how long do I need to let rattle-can poly cure between coats (before sanding) ??

Edited by Blackdog
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Tru Oil is great for the back of the neck, but you want something more durable for the fingerboard. Go with rattle-can polyurethane, make sure you scuff-sand with 320 between coats, lay down at least 5 but more like 10 coats (rattle can goes on thin), then scuff up the last coat with 2000 grit or 0000 steel wool for the satin look (or you can shoot satin poly).

Install your frets first, tape off the fingerboard between the frets (NO wood showing on top), then use a Q-tip and apply a thin layer of auto wax to each fret. Remove the tape (tape off the back of the neck if you want to oil that), and start shooting. When you're done, score the edges of the frets with a razor (careful to avoid scratching the new poly) and the stuff will flake right off the frets when you start levelling them.

It will take awhile, but finishing always does. Most guys think they're almost done when the woodworking is finished; really you're only 50% of the way to the finish line (pun intended).

FWIW the early Fenders were all sprayed with nitro (bodies and necks), they didn't switch over to poly until sometime in the very late 60s. There are hybrid '68 or '69 Strats that have nitro bodies and poly necks. Not sure if they went straight to polyester, or started with urethane and switched to ester later.

Shouldn't it be easier to tape the frets? I would have thought to tape over the frets, and use an exacto knife to ensure all the wood is showing and no metal is showing. Then spray. Once the lacquer has dried, you can score the edges where the tape meets the wood, to make sure that the lacquer doesn't peel where you dont want to. Finally you could remove the tape and have a finished fingerboard.

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Shouldn't it be easier to tape the frets?

I don't think so. I've never tried it, but it just seems intuitive to me that I would have a more difficult time getting a really thin strip of tape to stay stuck down to a curved bare metal surface, than I would a much larger area of tape stuck down flat to wood.

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