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Neck project...what should I do?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by dave120, Mar 20, 2006.


  1. dave120

    dave120

    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida
    Ok so after having my Jazz Bass Special for a little while I decided that I love the all black neck look.

    My other main bass is my SX which is heavily modded, and as much as I like the vintage colored finish, I like all black more. The neck thickness is more than my Fender front to back, but it's not a big issue for me as I kind of like it that way.

    I'm contemplating buying a new neck for this in order to finish it in black. I can't decide whether I want to wait for Rondo to get more SX J necks in stock and then buy one of those and work on it, or buy a Fender J neck.

    The upside to the SX neck is that they only cost $40, and there's a very good chance it will fit my SX bass's neck pocket. Also it'll be less of a loss if I manage to screw up the finishing process. The downside is that the fretwork and nuts on these usually isn't the best. It's fine onmy SX P/J bass but I hear the fretwork on the replacement necks usually needs some work, which I'm not very experienced in doing. I also might end up wanting to try reshaping this neck slightly around frets 1-3 to be a little more like my Fender but probably not.

    I can buy Fender Mighty Mite necks for like $100, and the quality of them is probably a little better. I'm worried about it not fitting in the neck pocket of my SX very well though, as even if it lines up with the holes, there will probably be gaps on the sides. I've read mixed opinions about whether or not this really matters though as long as it's flat on the bottom. Also if I screw up the finishing on it then I'm out a bit more money.

    What should I do in this situation? Is finishing a neck hard enough that there's a good chance I'll screw it up? I have experience painting metal automotive components and body panels and things. Is painting wood a lot different? and what's the general consensus on the neck pocket issue?

    Thanks for any help you can offer!
     
  2. dave120

    dave120

    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida
    Ok well I got no replies so far but I did some more researching on the subject. I'm acquiring an SX J neck from a fellow TBer so I decided I'm probably going to go the route of refinishing it.

    So the lacquer on SX necks is pretty thick. What would be the best product to use in stripping this down to wood again? I don't want anything so extreme that would melt through the fingerboard glue as I'm not sure what they use for it. The goal is to use the black and clear lacquers from Guitar Re-Ranch for this project, as they come in cans and, well, this is an SX bass so it's not the end of the world if it doesn't turn out perfect.

    I did a lot of reading on their site about the process and I think I can handle it fine as I have some experience in automotive finishing already. The instructions there are fairly straightforward.

    Any tips from you pros on stripping this heavily finished neck down? Do I need to use a grain filler on a maple neck? I'm assuming right now I need to get some kind of primer, and then the black and clear lacquers in the cans. I think I can handle this job with a couple nudges in the right direction.

    Thanks!
     
  3. nateo

    nateo Schubie Fan #1

    Mar 2, 2003
    Ottawa, Ontario
    I seem to recall someone claiming that SX uses nitrocellulose lacquer. If that's true then some ordinary lacquer thinner should be able to take the finish off the neck. If not, then I usually default to sanding. It's much easier to control than nasty chemicals and if that's a thick poly coat on the neck and you're finishing opaque then there's no reason to take it right to the wood. The poly will be all the grain filler you'll ever need.

    -Nate
     
  4. dave120

    dave120

    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida
    Thanks for the reply! I'm not sure what type of finish is on the SX necks, but most say it's lacquer. I recall reading an argument about those finishes vs those on Fenders a while ago.

    Since I am going with a solid black glossy finish on this neck, how much stripping do I really need to do on it? Should I just sand it down to be fairly smooth and thin down the current finish a bit and then just go at it with the color and clear coats? Or would I be better off taking it all the way down and starting over? It's not an expensive bass, but I do want it to still look reasonably good as this is my main stage bass right now. The final goal is a finish that feels like and is glossy and smooth like the SX finish but is black instead of the vintage color.

    If I go back to wood I'm planning on doing the following:

    1.Strip it down to wood, smooth it out by sanding.
    2.Apply sand and sealer (aerosol type from Guitar Re-ranch)
    3.Apply white lacquer based primer
    4.Apply color coats
    5.Apply clear coats

    And of course I will do all the wet sanding and everything required for/between those steps. For materials it's gonna cost me like $60. But if this works out nicely it's probably a process I'll repeat occasionally as I'm a sucker for body colored necks and headstocks and the Fender-esque type basses I tend to like rarely come with them.

    The one problem I might have is how to do the whole neck at once, headstock and all. I'm thinking I might just do the whole back of the neck first and then do the headstock afterards. Or maybe the other way around...
     
  5. jeffhigh

    jeffhigh

    May 16, 2005
    hang it up through a tuner hole to do all at once
     
  6. dave120

    dave120

    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida
    Yeah, I thought about that. It would probably be less likely to collect dust that way also since there'd be less flat surface area. I just need to be careful not to go heavy on the coats since it'll be more likely to run.

    Any ideas on what I should do as far as stripping it down? All the way or some intermediate level?

    Thanks!
     
  7. nateo

    nateo Schubie Fan #1

    Mar 2, 2003
    Ottawa, Ontario
    If it's nitrocellulose then you should be safe just giving the neck a quick sand and spraying your heart out. Nitro coats melt together so you shouldn't have any adhesion problems, and if it's a nice flat surface already then why do all the work over?

    If it's a poly finish I'd do pretty much the same thing keeping in mind that you need a mechanical bond from your top coat to the poly. This might mean a slightly coarser grade of sandpaper for the roughing in and maybe the use of a primer. Once you strip a poly coated surface down to bare wood you'll realise why it's the bane of many a refinisher. The stuff is pretty much bullet proof, so why not leave it under the new paint?

    -Nate
     
  8. dave120

    dave120

    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida
    Awesome, thanks! That simplifies the work load a lot, and the cost as well! Now I just need to find out what kind of finish is actually on that neck, though I'm 90% sure it's lacquer...

    I guess an e-mail to Rondo might be helpful in this case.
     
  9. dave120

    dave120

    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida
    Well I e-mailed Kurt at Rondo and he said it's a poly finish, so that means I'm probably not going to try stripping that down!

    I guess I'll just sand it rough and use a primer on it, and go from there per Guitar Re-Ranch instructions. Thanks for the help! I'll let you know how it goes after I attempt it in the next couple weeks.

    EDIT: The only part I'm not entirely sure how to approach is the part across the side marker dots (sides of fingerboard). If it's a poly finish on there what's the best way to go about re-doing it? Sand the finish off entirely there and lacquer it, or mask it off and just leave that part? I imagine there'd be an obvious seam by doing the latter.