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A little neck maintenance

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by StuartV, Feb 5, 2014.

  1. StuartV

    StuartV Out of GAS!! Supporting Member

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    My EBMM Sterling 5 has been telling me it wanted a little lovin' ever since I got it (last May or so). It's a 2008 and I'm not sure it has ever had any of the EBMM-recommended maintenance. So, I finally got busy with it last night.

    First of all, some info that took several emails to EBMM to get:

    This bass has an unfinished maple fret board. There's plenty of info out there on how to maintain a rosewood board, but not so much for maple. What I finally got out of EBMM Customer Service is:

    - don't use lemon oil on it. Use orange oil, or diluted (3:1) Murphy's Oil Soap. EBMM Wonder Wipes fret board cleaners are good - they have orange oil and linseed oil.

    - the back of the neck is treated (at the factory) with Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil and then Birchwood Casey Gun Stock Wax. These same 2 things are safe to use on the maple fretboard also, and won't damage dot markers or inlays.

    Second, some additional info on oil finishes that I discovered in my Googleventures:

    - There are different kinds of oils you can use to finish wood. One kind (of which Tru-Oil is an example) is called a "polymerizing" or "drying" oil. That means that it dries and hardens when exposed to air. I never understood why anyone would consider an oil finish to be very protective of the wood. Now, I understand! A few coats of an oil like Tru-Oil actually DO help protect the wood from getting dents/dings - plus the obvious benefit of keeping out dirt and moisture.

    The back of my neck had developed very noticeable (to the touch) grain. So, the first step was to sand it down some to smooth it out. There have been a number of threads where use of Scotch Brite pads is recommended to take the gloss of a neck or otherwise sand a neck. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any place local that sells the Scotch Brite Hand Pands (Fine, Very Fine, or Ultra Fine). And online places only seem to sell them in 20 packs, which is way overkill.

    Yesterday, I finally discovered that Lowes carries 3M (the maker of Scotch Brite) sanding pads in 2 packs. They are not the same as the Scotch Brite Hand Pads. At least, they aren't packaged or labeled the same. The sure look like the same thing, though, just a little smaller. I also looked at Home Depot and they did not have these products. I got:

    3M Final Stripping Pads (Green)
    http://www.lowes.com/pd_335870-98-1...L=?Ns=p_product_qty_sales_dollar|1&facetInfo=

    3M Between Coats Finishing Pads (Grey)
    http://www.lowes.com/pd_335873-98-1...L=?Ns=p_product_qty_sales_dollar|1&facetInfo=

    3M Final Finishing Pads (White)
    http://www.lowes.com/pd_335895-98-1...L=?Ns=p_product_qty_sales_dollar|1&facetInfo=

    They're $2.77 each, for a 2 pack.

    The Green were the most coarse and White the most fine.

    They worked perfectly for sanding down the neck.

    Many people seem to prefer to tape off the body and headstock for this. I just took the strings off the tuning pegs and unscrewed the neck and removed it from the body. I put some painters tape around the nut area to mask off the parts that are "finished" (i.e. not oil/wax). This ensured that I wouldn't accidentally scuff the body paint with the sanding pads, while also allowing me to get the whole neck surface, so the appearance would remain even.

    It only took a few minutes with each sanding pad to restore the back of the neck to baby bottom smoothness.

    Then a few minutes with some diluted Murphy's Oil Soap to get it clean. I used a paper towel to wipe it on the back of the neck and on the fretboard, and then used a toothbrush with the Murphy's to really scrub the fretboard. Then a clean paper towel to buff it all off.

    Then I used a paper towel to wipe on Tru-Oil (a tiny bit at a time!), first on the back and then on the fret board. By the time I finished wiping it onto the fret board, I was ready to go back to the back, with a clean paper towel, and buff it off. Then over to the fretboard to do the same - making sure to not leave any pooled up right against any of the frets.

    I then immediately applied a second coat - and almost immediately after that wished I had followed the EBMM directions and let the first coat dry for an hour or two before I applied the second coat. It was no big deal, it just felt like buffing the second coat off was a lot harder than it should have been because the first coat wasn't dry yet.

    So, I left it to dry overnight and I'll put another 1 or maybe 2 coats on tonight (with drying time in between, this time), then apply a coat of the gun stock wax and screw her back together.

    The neck and fret board already look a lot nicer (and cleaner) than they did. And the back of the neck feels so nice and smooth now! I can't wait to get it finished and play it some!

    Anyway, my main point here was 2 things: One, to give some info on how to take care of maple fret boards, and, two, where you can get good sanding pads for working on the back of the neck of your bass.

    Armed with my new knowledge (and tools and materials), I am seriously thinking about sanding down the neck on my SB-2 next and giving it the oil/wax treatment. I LOVE the way the oil/wax neck feels - like bare wood. Never sticky feeling.

    I hope this helps somebody else! :D
  2. MaddAnthony_59

    MaddAnthony_59 Supporting Member

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    Very interesting Stu. I think I'll switch to Orange Oil. I use Murphy's Oil Soap already. Most of my unfinished fretboards are Wenge, which like Lemon Oil after a good Scrubing with Murphy's. But my Ebony & Pau Ferro boards seem to get "Cloudy" after a Lemon oil treatment. My only Maple boards are finished, but I have had a bass in the past that was "Raw Maple". Great Post!:D
  3. StuartV

    StuartV Out of GAS!! Supporting Member

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    Thanks, Anthony!

    I think, if I were not using Tru-Oil on an unfinished board, I would probably just keep a supply of EB Wonder Wipes on hand and use those.

    In the case of my Sterling, though, I want my maple board to take on the same somewhat-finished appearance, and slight tint, as the back of the neck. So, Tru-Oil, it is.

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