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Coating fretless maple fretboard?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by fourstringbliss, Nov 26, 2012.

  1. I'm planning on doing a fretless conversion on my maple fretboard jazz. I'd rather not strip/sand the original poly, if I can avoid it. Should I use superglue?
  2. I'd strip the fingerboard ONLY and refinish it later - leaving the back of the neck and headstock alone.

    • Build a masking tape dam all around the FB.
    • Pour the surfacing ingredient of your choice into it.
    • Let it dry/fire off.
    • Sand to correct dimensions/shape.
    • Restring.
    • Play.

    I question the efficacy of using a SG dose to repair any divots in the FB since the miscibility is questionable at least and might be a bad idea.

    Then again - you might get away with it for a while. Or a long time. Or the SG can fall out onto the floor when you put the strings on.

    Any way it comes out - it's a crap-shoot to mix different compositions in a surface that receives an abrasive and somewhat untoward wear situation.
  3. Good call. If I was only using flats would it be okay to just sand the poly back to bare wood and play it that way?
  4. I'd certainly give it a shot since the wood is fairly hard anyway.

    Were you concerned about having to strip the whole neck? If so - just sand off the FB and go from there.
  5. No, I knew it would just be the fretboard. Just sounds like a PITB, though.
  6. Not really - just a challenge.

    Rise to the occasion and just do it!
  7. Yup.
  8. You'll get 'em.

    Right now I'm looking into whether I can use Target Coatings EM6000 to coat the fretboard instead. It's a water-based resin laquer that hardens and polishes like nitrocellulose lacquer and it's self-levelling. I have half a quart at home and it sprays pretty well with a Preval sprayer. It burns into itself nicely. If that would work then I'll defret, glue in styrene plastic strips, radius sand level and then spray the EM6000. After it's cured (a week or two) I should be able to wet sand and get the nut right.
  9. I have tried the "expxy" thing in the past - I really don't recommend it, at least as it is usually described (leaving behind a glass-like surface).


    That said, the fretless I tried that on had a padauk fingerboard and when I decided that I really hated the thick, glass-like epoxy coat (see above) I ended up scraping and sanding it down almost to bare wood leaving behind a subtly matte finish - and I love it. I don't have a pic that shows the results - but it looks great, feels great and sounds great.

    It was essentially a mistake that ended up OK. In a nutshell, it's a very thin coat of epoxy. If I were to do it over again, I think I'd just opt for some sort of rubbed in oil finish - Tung or similar - mostly to seal and protect the wood, not for 'hardness'.

    YMMV, and I am definitely not an expert.
  10. Yeah, I've decided that I'm not doing the epoxy thing. It's too expensive for the little bit I'd use for coating the fretboard. I'm pretty sure the EM6000 I mentioned should work just fine and I alreay have that at home. I think I'll only do a few coats - just enougn to build for sanding purposes.
  11. BobWestbrook

    BobWestbrook Mr.

    Mar 13, 2006
    Philly suburb
    I used Polycrylic in the past with good results on defretted rosewood fretboard.
  12. You'll get good advice from SurferJoe and BobWestbrook - I mostly wanted to chip in the 'anti-epoxy' vote, for what it's worth.
  13. It's worth a lot, in my book. It sounds like too much trouble and expense. I'll report on my EM6000 findings.
  14. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Instrument Technician, Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    It's not a good idea to leave maple unfinished. Unlike rosewood, maple is reactive to humidity changes and must be coated to be stable. It's plenty hard, just not stable when left exposed. That's why maple fingerboards are finished where most rosewood boards aren't.
  15. Good to know - thanks!
  16. rogerb


    Aug 31, 2010
    Well you've got to fill the frets somehow. I used titebond wood glue and some wood veneer. That was OK. I did the poly coating, I did a couple of thin coats, after a year, it had worn through or maybe was absorbed by the wood somehow. Looked terrible but played fine, really.

    Anyway, I just redid it by building the damn with some masking tape and putting on a thicker poured layer. I've been playing it for a month and it seems fine, I 'think' it is holding up better.

    You may be able to just add the veneer to the fret slots and then sand back the fretboard finish and flatten out the fret slots. Wood glue and wood may be better there as superglue may be hard to sand back to level. It needs to be flaaaaat.

    You could try that first, then epoxy as a backup plan!
  17. I'm going to fill the fret slots with styrene plastic strips. I'm going to glue them into the slots, cut them down with a razor blade, and then use a radiused sanding block to sand the board smooth and level. Then I'm going to spray on around six coats of the EM6000 and let it cure for at least a week. After that I'll use the radiused sanding block to sand the coating smooth and level.