Finishing before freting?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by count_funkula, Oct 13, 2004.

  1. Has anyone here finished a neck before installing the frets? What are the pros and cons of this approach?

    Seems like you could do a better job with the finish this way. Not sure if pressing the frets would cause damage to the finish this way.
  2. Scott French

    Scott French Dude Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    I've finished a neck before fretting but only on a bound fingerboard. I dont think it would be a very good idea at all to put a hard/sprayed finish on a unbound fingerboard egde before fretting it but that's just me. I like to fret before finishing whenever possible... oiled, lacquered, bound, unbound, etc.
  3. What about taking the finish off of the frets after spraying? I've seen this done with a dremel and one of the guards from stew mac, are there other techniques?

    I find a slight tone difference with "cleaned" frets as opposed to those on maple necks that have been sprayed and not cleaned.
  4. Scott French

    Scott French Dude Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    I personally don't deal with maple fingerboards or finished fingerboards at all (my entire fingerboard is taped off before spraying anything) but the way I've seen it done in the past by other people is taping off the entire fingerboard area other than the frets and buffing the finish off the fretwire.
  5. I've sprayed polyurethane over frets and then used a razor blade to shave the film off. Worked great.

    NOT taking the film off is a major mistake. You're right Blip, the difference in tone is most noticeable and when some of the frets wear through while others don't, well...
  6. I left the finish on one neck that has about 3 -4 hours of play time on it. I noticed this weekend as I was working on it that the finish was flaking off the first and second positions due to string wear. So I hunkered down and cleaned all the frets.

    I ended up using a polishing wheel on the dremel, after double taping the neck with blue painters tape. I did learn (the hard way) that you have to move rapidly back and forth over the fret otherwise you will scorch the poly and then have to scrape it off. I finished them off with 1000 grit paper to get any left over.

    Tone-wise there was a significant clarity that came as a result of taking the film off. I think really normal play will just wear the finish off eventually but it seems kind of shoddy to have bits of poly flaking off the board for the first 6 months of so, plus the space between the frets may or may not wear off at the same time.