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Best Matt Finish For Neck?


bluesy
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I have just reshaped and thinned a neck I made a while ago, and I wanted to try a nice matt, natural feeling finish. In this attempt, I have used a light matt polyurethane (3 coats). It has dried and feels very nice, except for a few little imperfections that I suspect are bits of stuff that stuck to the poly as it was drying. I was thinking of using 0000 steel wool for a final smoothing. Would this work?

Also, what finish do you use for the most natural/wood/matt feeling neck?

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I do all my guitar necks with lightly rubbed-on coats of tung oil. In between coats, I use 0000 steel wool to give it a very smooth, natural, and soft finish. It also brings out a satin-like luster in the wood. IMO, this produces the best finish on maple necks, but it works on any type of neck/wood.

Here's a neck I just finished cleaning up for my current project. Nothin' but tung oil and lots of love with 0000. The picture doesn't do it justice at all, but I thought I'd share. :D

neck04.jpg

-Roger

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I do all my guitar necks with lightly rubbed-on coats of tung oil. In between coats, I use 0000 steel wool to give it a very smooth, natural, and soft finish. It also brings out a satin-like luster in the wood. IMO, this produces the best finish on maple necks, but it works on any type of neck/wood.

Here's a neck I just finished cleaning up for my current project. Nothin' but tung oil and lots of love with 0000. The picture doesn't do it justice at all, but I thought I'd share. :D

neck04.jpg

-Roger

How many coats of tung oil do you apply?

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How many coats of tung oil do you apply?

The neck I posted was a Jackson DXMG neck purchased for my current project. I cleaned up a few nicks, scratches and imperfections in it but much of its original finish was still clean and intact. And it's a gorgeous piece of maple, so having a really nice piece of wood from the factory helps. That neck only got a couple of coats of pure tung oil applied on top to seal where I sanded it.

If it were a new neck made from scratch/bare wood, I'd layer 3-5 coats depending on how the neck feels to the touch. I like the wood to be sealed enough to prevent staining/dirt from becoming embedded, but thin enough that the feel of the wood is still evident. For the first 2-3 coats, I like to use naphtha to cut the tung oil down and help it penetrate better in the initial coats. Successive layers (3-5, sometimes more) will be applied at full-strength and the final layer is always pure TO. It gives a really silky, wet-wood look and creates a translucent matte finish. As you can see from the neck I polished up, any figuring in the wood is amplified and takes on an almost 3D look and the grain underneath is clearly evident.

I experimented on a lot of necks to come up with that... all my guitars are treated to this because that's just a feel I enjoy in a guitar neck. And to be honest, I can't take credit. WAAAAY back in the 80's when I was learning to play, I read an interview with Steve Stevens (Billy Idol's guitarist). He said he required all his guitars to be made with a bare wood or oil-only necks. He did this contrary to advice at the time which said that unsealed necks were more vulnerable to warping. So I took my Charvel (which I still have!), removed the neck, stripped it, and played around with the finish until I got it where I liked it. Ever since... I've been doing that to my guitars.

One thing's for sure: I'll never own a guitar with a painted neck. Not being able to feel the bare wood in my left hand takes away a lot of the pleasure of playing for me. :D

-R

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