Neck finish (back side with rosewood board) - coat to edge or not

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by chinjazz, Mar 30, 2018.

  1. Hey Folks,

    I'm curious what you're differing preferences are for neck finishing.

    Specifically with maple necks that have rosewood boards - no binding.

    A - Are you coating the edge of the rosewood up to the top (and why)?​

    B - Or are you taping over the rosewood edge before coating and blend sanding later?​

    I would think gloss and semi gloss finishes might look better with A


    Thanks and Happy Friday!
  2. I tape off and just condition all the rosewood top and sides, so I guess that's B. Some rosewood is too oily for an oil based finish to dry on (not sure if you're using oil based finish or not), but I like having all the rosewood the same color/finish.
  3. I do "A" myself. I also grain fill the edge of the boards. It just looks better to my eye, and it's easier to blend the finish line on the corner of the fretboard so you don't feel it.
  4. Thanks @Jisch and @TundraMan.

    Now that I'm into the finishing stage of my first full build I was thinking which way to go on it.

    I'm grain filling my body with West Systems 105/206, and thought of doing the neck as well.
    I've also got a quart of MinWax water based (Oil modified) Poly that will go on as the top coat(s).

    I usually condition my rosewood boards with Howard Feed-N-Wax (side note).

    The fretboard was rounded over with Bruce's combi-flap wheel technique.

    Anyway, just planning that stage to start in a day or so :)
  5. Manton Customs

    Manton Customs UK Luthier

    Jan 31, 2014
    Shropshire, UK
    Luthier, Manton Customs
    I've done both, but prefer A. B is a bit fiddly to get the ridge at the edge of the board smooth without burning through into colour coats (if present). That's if you're using a film finish like lacquer etc.

    You can overcome the adhesion issue @Jisch mentions by using a very light coat (and cut) of Shellac beforehand. But if you're using the epoxy for grain filling that should serve the same purpose.

    When doing A I like to mask a little bit over the top of the fretboard and scrape any excess off after. Its a bit more forgiving that way!
    chinjazz likes this.
  6. Thanks Manton!

    I am tending toward A. Will definitely mask the FB top. I’m kinda particular about that. Whenever I tape up a board for fretting, when removing that tape, I don’t like how it dries up the board. I’ve been liking cutting a thin plastic sheet the size of the fb and taping that to the board.
  7. Teacher


    May 3, 2012
    B so far.
  8. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    I do sort of halfway in between on my necks. I coat the faces and sides of the (usually ebony) fingerboard with Stew-Mac's Fingerboard Oil. I mask off the fingerboard to a line about 3/32" above the glue line. Then I put a second layer of masking tape over that, down right at the glue line.

    I spray all the base coats and color coats. Then I pull off the outer layer of masking tape and spray the clear top coats. This allows the clear to go out onto the side of the fingerboard a little ways, tapering down in thickness. After it's all cured, I pull off the masking and wet sand the paint to feather out that lip of clear. The net result is that the color stops at the glue line, but the overall finish feathers to nothing on the side of the fingerboard. I don't want any edge of the finish that you can feel. The clear water-base poly that I use seems to bond fine to the Stew-Mac Fingerboard oil, as long as it's cured.
    chinjazz likes this.
  9. This method sounds right up my alley. I’ll give it a go over the weekend. Thanks Bruce!
  10. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois


    I first mask off right on the join line for the initial coats, including any color or tint.

    When done, I remove the tape and carefully sand to make,sure there's no hard edge in the paint. It has to feel absolutelyvsmooth to the touch.

    Then I mask just a bit above the join line and spray the top coat. Final finishing is a very careful blending to make the transition look and feel as seamless as possible.
    chinjazz likes this.
  11. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I'm not a fan of breaking a hard coat finish on flat surfaces. It's always difficult to make the transition feel nice without sanding away the sharpness of the taped line. I prefer to finish up to the edge of the fingerboard while taping off the face. I'm already going to slightly round the edge of the fingerboard and the finish edge gets taken care of during that process.

    I also never have and possibly never will paint a guitar or bass neck. If I were then I would probably stop the paint at the glue line of the fingerboard instead.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2018
    chinjazz likes this.
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