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Fretted Maple Neck Finishing Clarification

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by jucas, Apr 21, 2009.

  1. jucas


    Dec 14, 2003
    So, I'm an idiot. I needed a tele-bass style neck, and picked up an allparts neck. Fretted, maple, and need to finish the fretboard too. I didn't realize it was going to come unfinished though (I'd looked at a few finished ones and assumed...)

    Now I need to do something about this and after reading threads for most of the morning, I have some questions.

    1) Tru-oil appeals to me, and seems doable, but there's some posts questioning the durability on the fretboard. Is that actually an issue, and so do peopl with tru-oil necks finish the fretboard in something else? Are musicman basses entirey oil finished or do they do something different to the board?

    2) If I can't do oil, I'm under the impression that there's nitro or poly finishes in wipe on or spray. Some posts suggested tha spraying well without professional gear was tough, and others that a wipe on was a bad idea with frets in. Any clarification?

    3) Am I better off just selling the neck before I touch it and giving up (I don't like this plan)? Or should I pay to have a pro finish it (also not a fan of this plan)?

    4) I had thought about doing a simple logo on the headstock in paint... or something like that. Can I just read a thread about waterslide decals and spraying laquer (i think thats it) overtop and use that style process?

    Its going on a beaten up body, and I'm just using it as a bass to mess around with the electronics and pickups and all that. Sort of a comfortable beater that I've worked on.

    So, I don't really care if it doesn't look totally perfect. But, I also don't want it to be cringe-worthy, or an example of why you shouldn't DIY a bass... some "character" marks/imperfections/darker patches aren't going to bug me though.

    If anyone reads this or has suggestions thanks a bunch, I'm pretty open to experimenting with it and don't mind taking time to do things well.
  2. vbasscustom


    Sep 8, 2008
    is the board rosewood? if so, it doesnt need a finish. the maple can be done in tru oil, just tape off the FB and wipe on, wipe off, let dry. its about the easiest finish to do, and works great on necks.
  3. I did an unfinished Allparts neck recently. To bring out the grain, I used a light honey stain, but that is optional depending on the look you want. Use a pre-stain conditioner if you do decide to stain the neck. Also, don't go to crazy sanding the neck at this point. If you get it too smooth, the stain doesn't take evenly and you will end up doing twice the work. Yep, personal experience!
    Then I applied about 12 coats of a wipe-on polyurethane/oil blend from General Finishes called Arm-R-Seal. You apply it with a piece of old t-shirt. Very nice product to work with. It is a rather thin product, so take you time and build up quite a few coats before you sand. It is easy to go through to the wood if you don't have enough on there. I will probably do twice as many coats next time.
    When the finish was good and hard, I used a 3M polishing compound and a lamb's wool buffing wheel on a drill motor to get her nice and glossy. Worked better than I ever imagined!!!
    The decal was easy. Made my own waterslide decal with a kit, then applied it to the finished headstock. About three more coats just on the headstock to cover the decal, and you can hardly tell where the edges are! Here are the results I got. Good luck!!!! You can do it!!!
  4. jucas


    Dec 14, 2003
    A couple general things for the thread, its a maple fretboard as well... and I'm pretty neutral about tint, but probably not looking for super glossy. I imagine there's tons of threads about specifics like that so I'll poke around when I fnalize my finish material.

    Awesome! That looks really nice. I guess a wipe on finish will work on a fretted bass... thanks for the input, it turns out I didn't just waste a bunch of money! So that wasn't sanded between coats then, just once you had it built up enough? Oh yeah, did you do anyting with the frets, or did the finish just not stick and come off with playing?

    As a sid note, do you have a picture of the whole bass or some info on it? Did you do the body yourself, what woods and pickups/electronics? I'm intrigued... I've been dreaming of that style tele bass for years and finally have started to see a few pop up on here.

    So, to everyone that might be reading this, do people actually finish the fretboard and front of the headstock like this for durability and gun oil the back for feel? Or is that just crazy talk? And, which would you do first, and would the transition just be sanded untilits smooth?
  5. There is no question that you can get a beautiful finish from oil. However most Maple fretboards are finished in a super hard polyurathane. Even this will wear and peal in time and hard use. The thicker your finish, the more susceptable it will be to wear, especially with round wound strings. I would use the oil finish on the back of the neck and headstock but do the fretboard in "Real Polyurathane" not the stuff in areosol cans. Lacquers sprayed on fretboards are not durable. Maple fretboards cannot be left unfinished, they will become dark and stained very quickly. For an unfinished board you need something like Rosewood. My advise is, send the neck back and try to exchange it for a professionally finished one.
  6. jucas


    Dec 14, 2003
    I'm thinking that the combo (poly fretboard and oil neck)sounds pretty appealing.

    You're probably right about sending it back being the best way to get a good finish, but I really need that square heel the tele neck has and couldn't find one other than the allparts neck. The rest of the bass just isn't worth enough to bother with anything pricier than the allparts neck (actaully, that was probably too much), so I probably will go the less sensible route and try this myself. Thanks for the input though, I appreciate the honest assesment... but I won't be crushed if or when it fails miserably and I enjoy DIYing things.
  7. I did sand between every three coats, but as I said, this finish is quite thin. I'd go 9 or 12 before I touched it with paper next time. Then I would start with 1200 or 1500 grit.
    I was really careful at first to wipe all of the finish off the frets, but as I went along, I decided to just go right over them. Then when I buffed it out, the finish came off the frets like a dream. Glossy frets and a glossy board. Awesome!
    I have practiced and gigged with my bass for a few months, and the finish is holding up very well.
    The body is cherry and rock maple. My friend actually found it in the trash, so I didn't glue this one up. He thought I would maybe make a clock out of it, but after sanding it down, I decided to do something wothwhile with it. One man's junk is another man's treasure, right??!!
    I used a set of pickups out of a Squire Jazz, and the wiring harness is from Hoagland Brothers. It really sounds good!!!
    If you wanted a satin finish on the back of the neck, just take a piece of fine Scotch Brite and work it until you are happy with the feel. I almost did mine that way. Slick!!!
    Here are a couple pics of the finished bass.
  8. jucas


    Dec 14, 2003
    Thanks, that is a really nice looking bass. Its kinda funny, the bass I'm working on is one that a friend of mine found beside the road. The original neck was pretty terible, so I defretted it years ago. Decided it'd be a fun project to try and get it playable again.
  9. BassShifter, you really did some nice work on this bass. It is also very unique and has great features. Congratulations
  10. I thank you, sir!
  11. jucas


    Dec 14, 2003
    Allright... I've got the neck drilled, and fitted, I've got some stain, minwax poly, and tru-oil in the mail.

    How exactly do I want to get this worked out with the staining? I think that the tru-oil will darken the neck, but I'm guessing the minwax poly finish (clear gloss) won't change the color as much.

    I have a decent stain color, but I'm not sure if I should stain the whole neck and tru oil (the back) and poly (the front) overtop... or if I should tru-oil the whole neck (fretboard included) and just poly the fretboard? Or maybe tru-oil the back, and stain the front before I put on the poly fnish?

    I'm at a loss here, and will try a test section on the neck heel before I start, but any further advice before hand would be appreciated.

    Any thoughts, or am I going to end up with a rediculous color change no matter how I do it?
  12. jucas


    Dec 14, 2003
    So, I'm pretty much done with the neck. Tru-oil-ed the whole thing. Minwax wipe-on poly for the fretboard. THe wheat is a water based stain of a logo I "borowed" from the journal of cereal chemistry (yeah... there's a journal for that).

    I had some better pictures, but lost them with a computer issue. It has no electronics, but I've got some piezo ribbon for under the bridge and am going to build a preamp for it (and get/build an scpb pickup).

    So, excuse the terrible photos and the not yet done pickupcovers/pickguard.... but here's a few pictures.




    It turned out not bad for a roadside find and a kid that's never built anything in his life. Poly is a little amatuerish (because I am an amatuer), but not in a way that should really affect playability. I think I'd probably not bother again on a fretted neck, as it was good until I had to put poly on there.

    Fine tune the nut (or get a string tree on the A... its kinda unstable) maybe a shim in the neck pocket, and a setup and its should be more than playable! Probably going to give the back a wax semi regularly because I'm paranoid I took off too much of the oil finish. I'm pretty happy with it, the lightly sanded oil finish feels amazing!

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