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My Nitrocelulose neck feels sticky, can I sand it?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Eilif, Jun 21, 2005.

  1. Eilif

    Eilif Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    I have a 62 jazz reissue neck on my fender. It is a nitro finish, but it feels very sticky. Here is my question :

    Will a light sanding cure this stickyness or will it destroy the finish?

    I don't want to sand it all the way down and tung oil it, because I don't want to risk neck warpage.

    A second question will a light sanding make a polyurethane neck less sticky? I have a MIM Pbass that is a tiny bit sticky (but not nearly as bad as the jazz)
    Thanks in advance,
  2. xshawnxearthx


    Aug 23, 2004
    new jersey
    not sure about the nitro one, but the poly one could just be cleaned and polished and the stickiness should go away.
  3. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    No, don't sand it. It's not that kind of finish...

    There's some stuff I quite like, named "Dr. Duck's Axe Wax". It's a silcone-based cleaner/lubricant that's safe & effective for all guitar finishes. A very light wipedown every so often will probably suffice. Either that, or just keep your instruments polished - that'll keep the surfaces suitably slippery for ya...

  4. If the surface is sticky, then the top layer of the lacquer has softened. You should remove this but I agree that sandpaper (as you know it) is probably a little rough. I would take a pad of 0000 steel wool to the neck. Only use the 0000 as this is the finest you can get and will only remove a very little bit. You probably can't take off too much with this pad. Rub it up and down a few times until you can feel it having removed the gunk, then do the axe wax OR you can just use Minwax finishing wax for furniture. This is a natural color paste wax designed for finished woods that makes things slicker than greased owl manure. I use it on all things shiny like my CA fretboards and even bodies after buffing. It will really help with the feel.
  5. Eilif

    Eilif Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    Thanks guys,
    One more thing. If I sand my poly neck, will it get a more satin smooth surface (as opposed to the gloss, slightly sticky surface it is now)
  6. I would make sure the surface is totally clean before making a decision one way or the other. Get a nice clean surface with cream polish, extra-fine or fine scotchbrite and test it out under sweaty conditions. If you don't like the feel of a properly maintained gloss finish, go to an automotive paint shop and get a few sheets of high grade sandpaper, starting at about 2000 (finer) and going down to about 1200 (less fine). Gently apply the 2000 to your neck until you have achieved a fine satin finish. Give it an honest road test, all night, under sweaty real-world conditions. If you are not happy with the results, go down to the next grade (maybe 1500) and do it again. Test the feel. If you are still not happy, try 1200. If you do it right, you will get a beautiful, functional satin finish without permanently altering the bass, as the neck can be rubbed back up to a high gloss by someone who knows what they are doing.

    None of this is a substitute for keeping the bass clean. It only takes a second to wipe the neck and fingerboard down after using it. Good finishes rarely fail, it is almost always crud on the surface.
  7. xshawnxearthx


    Aug 23, 2004
    new jersey
    i sanded my poly neck and you know what i got when i was done? a non finished neck

    bad idea.
  8. The trick is to sand gently, and to use the appropriate grit, especially on nitro. It's much easier to sand through nitro than to sand through modern finishes, like polys and catalyzed urethanes. Using a soft touch and 1500 or finer grit, wet, all you're trying to do is take the gloss off the finish. This can give you the smooth feel of a satin finish where you want it, while the headstock retains the original gloss appearance and the wood is consistently sealed for max consistency. You can get the organic, natural feel of bare wood with none of the disadvantages once you get the hang of it. I took one customer's poly neck from gloss to satin back to gloss back to satin in several different stages with no sand throughs. This is not too difficult, but you always want to practice on beaters if you possibly can. When guys come to me and say they adsolutely can feel the difference between a satin finish and bare wood, and will I sand their neck through to the bare wood, I believe they can feel the difference. But I don't think the difference in feel between a proper satin finish and bare wood is worth the potential disadvantages. If I can't talk them out of it, I show them how to do it and tell them to do it themselves!
  9. Good advice Tombrien. My only small disagreement is with the wet sanding. I've found that wet tends to bite a little more and the paper doesn't load up - this is what wet sanding is supposed to do - so it's a little more aggressive per the grit than dry sanding is at that grit. But if you've perfected the technique, I can't argue it. I would just caution the newbie if they hadn't tried wetsanding before.

    Your advice about cleanliness is spot-on too especially with nitro finishes. This is a natural finish and it will absorb human gunk at an incredible rate if left alone. The poly's aren't as susceptable to having the gunk get into the finish - it more sits on top. But the nitro can be softened - sometimes to the point that you can scrape it off with your fingernail. This is when you've got to be extra careful with any sort of cleaning like you said.
  10. For a job this small, it's not necessary to use a lubricant for "wet sanding," and it might be more trouble than it is worth.

    I like to use some grocery store orange or lemon oil on the paper to speed things up, but mostly to prevent "kernels," little clumps of finish dust that clump together and can add some major scratches to the nice smooth finish you're trying to achieve. The downside is that you have to clean the lube/dust mud off the neck before you can evaluate if you have achieved the right feel, and the job takes a little longer.

    On a job like this one, where you are only making a few light passes over the "thumb contact" surface of the back of the neck, wet sanding isn't something you need to do. If you have any kind of a similar surface to practice on, you will quickly see how little elbow grease is necessary. A light pass with even pressure, carefully avoiding the areas that you do not want to disturb, then clean the dust off the neck and off the paper. Check the results. One pass, clean, check it. One pass, clean, check it. It only takes a few strokes to get the even satin surface that 2000 or 1500 provides. Cleaning the paper regularly prevents clogging and kernels, and helps the paper last longer while doing a consistent job. I use the curved surface where the neck flares into the headstock and where the neck turns into the neck heel as my stop sign. No need to go past this, and if you take your time and GO EASY, you will get a nice professional looking transition. Progress to more coarse (lower numbered) grits only if you feel you need to. At about 1200-1000 you start removing the finish fairly fast, so don't go past that unless you are prepared for a non-reversible modification, and convinced that you need to.

    I think the "practice on scrap" admonition is extremely apt here. Even though your scrap usually won't have the same finish that your bass does, you will get a much better idea of how this process works and what the results feel like. An old piece of furniture, a yard sale beater instrument, try anything until you get confident. Your first attempt should not be on your minty fresh boutique bass!

    I've never found any magic trick for dealing with those soft, gummy surfaces. The temptation for me is to scotchbrite them down to the hard foundation, and that's the best I've ever come up with. Once body oils and beer, humidity and filth start penetrating a porous finish, you are in trouble. As Hambone said, the poly finishes are more resistant to getting funkified, but if you let the crud get a toe hold, it doesn't want to let go!