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Epoxy on fretless neck: The Pour vs The Wipe

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by The Alexander, Feb 23, 2014.

  1. Hey there LC,

    I have a defretted Ibanez SR506 that I would really love to apply a epoxy fingerboard coat to, but I'm having a lot of trouble deciding which of two methods to use.

    The two methods that I am referring to are what I call the "pour" method and the "wipe" method.

    The pour method, documented here:


    As I see it, the primary advantage of this method is:

    The self-leveling characteristics of epoxy will result in a virgin, flat fingerboard surface.

    At the moment, the bass has some minor fingerboard imperfections that cause slight buzzing at a few locations. I feel that beginning with a completely flat fingerboard surface would allow me to minimize these imperfections more easily than trying to correct them with the wood itself.

    The primary disadvantage I see with the "pour" method is that re-radiusing of the fingerboard is required, and obtaining the correct profile will be very challenging.

    Additionally, the "pour" method seems to allow a high probability of imperfections such as air bubbles forming within the epoxy to occur, primarily because a large amount of resin is required.

    The "wipe" method, documented here:


    The primary advantage that I see with using this method is the opposite of the primary disadvantage of the "pour" method. That is: utilizing the present radius of the fingerboard wood will minimize the amount of manual shaping required -- given that the fingerboard is already at an almost-optimal shape, board-shaping labor would be drastically minimized.

    Another advantage is the opposite of the secondary disadvantage of the "pour" method stated above; the possibility of imperfections is lowered due to the smaller amount of resin used.

    The primary disadvantage that I see with the "wipe" method, though, is that obtaining an even coat is not entirely assured, which may result in the requirement of large amounts of shaping labor.

    If anyone has any insights as to which method would be better suited to someone who has never done this kind of thing before, please feel free to share them. If my analysis of these two techniques is missing any important issues with either technique, I will be glad to hear any critiques.


  2. 1958Bassman


    Oct 20, 2007
    Don't count on the finish to stand up to wear from the strings without wood to back it up. You'd be better off flattening the surface before coating it. If you want to see where the imperfections are more easily, wipe a coat of something with high gloss onto the surface, let it dry/cure and clamp the neck in place so it's totally flat and straight. Use a long, flat strip of wood with medium grit sandpaper and go over it a couple of times. The high spots will show up as dull and you'll see what it needs.

    Once the fretboard's surface is known to be smooth, flat and straight, wiping the epoxy on can leave it just as flat, but thinner. You can brush it on, too- use long, slow strokes. When brushing most finishes with thick consistency/viscosity, this is very important because moving fast will leave small bubbles and they won't necessarily disappear. Epoxy can be thinned, too- acetone is the usual solvent but you'll want to do this outside, with the correct type of respirator filter.
  3. JayGunn

    JayGunn Supporting Member

    Some people heat the epoxy with a hair dryer or propane torch to temporarily thin it out and get the bubbles to rise up and pop.
  4. lbridenstine


    Jun 25, 2012
    I think it's self-leveling regardless of whether it's poured or wiped.
  5. kohntarkosz

    kohntarkosz Banned

    Oct 29, 2013
    Edinburgh - Scotland
    I think it is the carbon dioxide from your torch that pops the bubbles. I find breathing on epoxy will also clear the bubbles.
  6. 1958Bassman


    Oct 20, 2007
    BTW- the propane torch is supposed to be unlit- I know someone who tried this when he refinished the top of his bar and didn't know about NOT lighting it, so he ended up burning the place down.
  7. kohntarkosz

    kohntarkosz Banned

    Oct 29, 2013
    Edinburgh - Scotland
    But at least the bar top had no bubbles in the epoxy right?

    Are bubbles even that bad? Aesthetically yes, but unless they pop, and crater out the surface near the end of the curing stage, surely they are a visual menace more than anything?
  8. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    This is incorrect information. You have to light the torch, as it is the heat that brings the bubbles up to the surface. The epoxy is in no way flammable, so if he burned the place down it was because he had used the torch around some type of solvent, or other fuel source.
  9. This sounds like a great idea, would you recommend any product in particular, or would something like rattle-can lacquer/poly do the trick?

    For brushing epoxy in thin layers, how many coats would be necessary? I would assume at least two, as the the first coat would soak into the wood a bit and fill grain lines (the fingerboard is a fairly open-grained rosewood).

    As far as bubbles, if they appear I have a heat gun that will get up to about 500 degrees F with a flat nozzle that should work well. Hotter than a hairdryer but without the risk of an open flame.
  10. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Pouring in one thick coat will allow you to radius the epoxy with no witness lines. Since it is self leveling this is a necessary since the finish will level out and will be thicker on the edges. Personally, I have used epoxy a few times and it is always a mess. I would rather avoid it if possible. I would much rather spray a urethane on the fretboard, or even a CA glue finish than epoxy.
  11. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    :eyebrow: What was he smoking when he did it? Crack?

    I use a torch every time I use epoxy either filling Buckeye or doing a fretless FB

    Yes it is messy. Getting the sides of the Fb taped up so the epoxy doesn't drool all over he neck is a bitch good luck man!
  12. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    I use the pouring method because it avoids witness lines that result because epoxy doesn't "burn-in" like a nitrocellulose lacquer will. A lit propane torch takes care of the issue of bubbles, but I'd you mix the epoxy gently you normally don't get many that require more than one quick pass of the torch to bring to the surface and pop.
  13. I had a feeling that there would be more than one thread about pouring on epoxy. I seemed to have missed this one while searching around.

    Thanks for the link, this is answering a lot of questions that I had - mostly what I can expect to see at the transitions between pouring and sanding. Nice clear pictures of everything help out so much. If I end up doing this I will try my best to document everything as well post the process.
  14. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    The guy I use is using the pour method and puts it on pretty thick for durability reasons (he shaves down the original wood a bit first before applying the epoxy to compensate for the thickness). He uses a custom jig he built that holds the epoxy in place until it dries (this means no epoxy gets anywhere other than on the fingerboard). Then, he sands it down to the correct radius and keeps sanding with finer and finer grit until he can polish it to a mirror shine. I can see my face in the fingerboard with the end result he gets (like a high gloss show car finish).
  15. pics?
  16. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Here's one showing the first step... He's not done with it yet. The sanding and polishing is happening now, but the epoxy has been poured as you can see in the picture. It's like glass when finished. He did another one for me a few years ago, but it was stolen. This Jazz Bass will be entirely black and chrome in honor of the stolen one.

    Attached Files: