Refinished My Precision Neck

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by bobbybass85, May 7, 2020.


  1. bobbybass85

    bobbybass85

    Dec 19, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    So in the midst of all my 2020 Quarantine projects I decided to take on one I'd be delaying for some time now. I've wanted to strip the original finish off my 98' American Precision, but decided to try it on an old Squier strat to start. The strat came out great so I kept the supplies out and pulled apart the precision. I documented the process from beginning to end and wanted to share the process I followed here.

    I'll post pics with steps in additional posts, but below is the before and after!

    The quick, 1 post summary would be: The neck plays much smoother now with an oil and wax finish inspired by my Lakland and my Stingray. The beefy neck is still a P neck without a doubt, but much more comfortable to play now. If I do it to other basses in the future, I'll get closer to the fingerboard with the taping, but otherwise I'm very happy.

    BEFORE:
    JhZT7H5dcqKOstGh15wVd_mYA9YrKQQNl04DaDX24KPZf_wxUWJG2xS171I_Sli_hzSVh-B0EPIgDys_euA=w695-h926-no.jpg

    AFTER:
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  2. bobbybass85

    bobbybass85

    Dec 19, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    So, my desire to do this came from a few things I didn't like. Mostly the feel of the neck bothered me. I live in Nashville, and play a lot throughout the country and found the southern areas around here (Atlanta, Florida, Alabama) had humid conditions that the stock finish didn't play well with. It was sticky and grabby, drove me nuts. Also, you'll see in the pictures that there was a finish nick that went all the way through to the bare wood. It was big and deep enough to feel when moving around the neck. I didn't mind having a place marker, but a reminder of the 6-1/2 fret location wasn't particularly useful.
    g0uUDv40QF7BExaNgxHAEVELWo3VQ_Oagca5yBnxaZWo95YUT6itnFhpukYM9yiI3ZRvXTLx5gfBEZChizg=w695-h926-no.jpg

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  3. bobbybass85

    bobbybass85

    Dec 19, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    So I detached the neck from the body and went to work taping off the fretboard, headstock and heel. The fit of the neck pocket was VERY good, very snug. I decided to leave the finish on at the neck joint to prevent that from changing at all. In hindsight, I could've taped off what sits inside the pocket and removed the rest, but alas...

    Taping takes patience, but isn't difficult. It also prepped the fretboard for me to clean the frets once everything was done. I traced the scarf of the neck/headstock area. It was overkill, but I wasn't worried if the finish had some transition area right around where the nut was.

    1xduvbJk62bz7elBj0AFYyyhrw7ZPsRFs1ltrdc1RdWkqRIR3q8UE7FJWS6af38oiYVtG7nksDHEsus0ncg=w695-h926-no.jpg

    yWYql-1z0CSsR_4PhBn1pEAkcJjn4g3angcNIeU8USLD5DBRf3xArORRCM_swNtdfkA3edTspuFAWqbA-Zg=w695-h926-no.jpg

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  4. bobbybass85

    bobbybass85

    Dec 19, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Once taped, outside we went for a good number of hours worth of sanding. Weather was nice, and the beer-fridge was full, so taking my time was easy to manage. I sanded the neck down going from 220 grit, to 400, to 800, and finished with 0000 steel wool.

    I also kept some water and paper towels handy. I would cut a small piece to sand with and used it to go over the entire neck evenly. Once spent, I'd toss the sandpaper and wipe down the neck with a damp paper towel, letting the neck air dry. In the early stages this mostly just cleared out the excess poly-dust, but as you get to the wood this produces a "whiskering" effect where the wood will produce whiskers that stand up and can easily be sanded down on the next pass.

    Slow and steady with multiple passes with each grit led from this...

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    to this ...

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    I just used my hands to judge when it was time to go up in grit. I used the 220 until the dust started turning more maple in color and you could smell the wood. Then moved on to the 400, and so on. It took me all the way to the bare wood to get that nick out of the neck!
     
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  5. bobbybass85

    bobbybass85

    Dec 19, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    From there, I let the neck air out overnight to see if any final whiskers popped up, gave it a pass with the 0000 steel wool and then prepped for oiling the neck.

    I used Birchwood Casey's Tru-Oil Gun Stock Oil and Gun Stock wax. Using a paper towel, I'd only apply about a quarter sized amount of oil on the towel and then wiped down the neck evenly. I only let the oil sit long enough to grab the next paper towel sitting next to me and wiped up the excess oil. I've heard this is key to ensuring the neck doesn't gum up with the oil as it dries. Worked great for me.

    Once oiled, I hung it to dry in my office/bass room to dry for 24 hrs. I did that for all 3 coats of oil and 1 coat of wax. Each morning after it had dried I would buff again with the steel wool and then apply the next coat.

    I applied the wax the same way. I wanted a more satin look, so I only used one pass with the wax, but it says on the bottle that you can do multiple coats to achieve the luster you're after.

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  6. bobbybass85

    bobbybass85

    Dec 19, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Once the final coat of wax had cured, I flipped the neck over to clean up the frets. From the looks of it, they hadn't been cleaned since long before I had the bass, maybe not since '98. I took a razor boxcutter and carefully cut away the tape at each side of each fret and peeled away the tape to expose the frets.

    I cleaned them by gently sanding with the 400 grit, then the 800, then the 0000 steel wool. Not really rubbing hard, just letting the paper do the work. These frets are about in need of a new crowning, but they still cleaned up great!

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  7. staurosjohn

    staurosjohn Supporting Member

    Jun 15, 2010
    Nottingham, MD
    It’s helpful to see the process... thx for chronicling!! :thumbsup:
     
    Vinny_G likes this.
  8. bobbybass85

    bobbybass85

    Dec 19, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Last steps were simple. Pulling the tape off did leave some residue (it had been on there for close to a week, not surprised). Once the tape was off, I used the 800 grit and steel wool to massage the transition spots where the original finish and new finish meet.

    Then reassembled the beaut, and gave her a run. Like I mentioned, I loved the way this turned out and I'm glad to have been able to do it myself!

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    Here you can see the transition up the scarf. Not bad, you can see it, but you cannot feel it with the final little sanding.

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    Same here at the body joint.

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    Now here, you can see where I would've taken a little finish of the end of the neck above the joint to keep the look the same, but that's just a peeve I'll live with for now.
    sTR724CNKyQNWqJQgnV5SPj-sieSkpHwIwIyXlO0axfRMO8UbbGjbgmsVHZYseRWofkO7-CN1764EAU46RQ=w695-h926-no.jpg

    Same here where I was a little overly cautious with the taping at the fretboard. In a couple spots, I did sand over part of the fret marker, and it had no negative impacts. I should've just taped closer to the rosewood, but that's ok.
    h9RaGkoIJpoJ2s4HG3WTOpmdyFma7pg45m7CETsB6dl2SCaabIhCEYpGXOy7XuYY-BzlGa6_5JqcJ-pP8WA=w695-h926-no.jpg
     
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  9. bobbybass85

    bobbybass85

    Dec 19, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Now she's back up with the family. The only neck with a traditional Fender finish is the Jazz. It's got an allparts neck, a "Signature" brand body, and the only way to adjust the truss rod is to take the neck off... so I'm not messing with it... yet.

    Feel free to launch off questions, I'll answer what I can!

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  10. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Kentucky
    You must be a bass player, cause your timing is impeccable. I'm currently 3 coats into the 5 [or so] of Tru Oil I'll be applying to the back of this neck. Love the feel so far.
    IMG_2420.jpg
     
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  11. bobbybass85

    bobbybass85

    Dec 19, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Looks awesome! I dig the depth you've gone to get that almost barn-wood look!
     
    2saddleslab likes this.
  12. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Kentucky
    Thank you, sir!:thumbsup: I love both a worn in neck and DIY projects, at least the ones I can handle.

    Here's what I've done w/ my current neck swap:
    Neck Swap in Progress

    Good on ya' for taking this project on and making your bass even more yours.:bassist:
     
  13. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    For those who are considering doing this to their bass neck, consider what Warmoth says about neck finishes:

    " The warranty will be void if the neck does not get a hard shell finish in 30 days of delivery. We do not consider oil finishes or poorly applied wipe-on finishes adequate protection."

    I tend to agree with Warmoth when it comes to an appropriate finish for bass and guitar necks. It has to do with the propensity for some neck woods to react to changes in relative humidity, and when they do it can cause distortion of the wood (warpage). Maple is one of the more reactive ones. So if you are planning on removing the finish from your neck, be advised concerning the risk if you decide to leave it unfinished or apply an oil.
     
  14. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Kentucky
    Noted and appreciate the input. It will be interesting to see how stable mine will be after this treatment.
     
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  15. bobbybass85

    bobbybass85

    Dec 19, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Also noted, and thanks. This is certainly at your own risk modification.

    I know a number of players around here in Nashville who have this treatment done and tour with it. They’ve reported little to no changes in stability, but it’s certainly a risk. Also this is why I added the wax, if you dare search tdpri I found a number of people who say the hardening agent in the oil is sufficient, but I felt that was optimistic at best.
     
  16. RSBBass

    RSBBass

    Jun 11, 2011
    NYC
    Violin family instruments frequently have bare wood or lightly finished wood finishes on the back of the neck without issues. They have been built that way for a few hundred years. Why do you feel maple is particularly unstable with humidity changes.
     
  17. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    I have worked with maple for over 50 years. And of all the woods in the shop I have had over that time more maple boards warped than any other.

    Thankfully violins have a short neck that has a lot less tension than a bass guitar. And a double bass has a much stouter neck than a bass guitar. Even so, both are subject to warping and twisting
    - I’ve worked on plenty.
    Given the cross section of a bass guitar neck, as compared to any member of the violin family, there is more chance of distortion. So with the reactivity of maple along with the demands of the bass guitar, I feel it is important to reduce risk with a hard finish.
     
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  18. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
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