Ideal finish on light maple fingerboard.

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by cyclecamper, Mar 1, 2015.

  1. cyclecamper

    cyclecamper Member

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    My Gibson L6S reissue came with surprisingly nice setup. But the light maple fingerboard had what appeared to be thick polyurethane finish. With light play, it started to groove and scrape and wear and bubble and chip at the lower frets where I stretched strings a lot. So at first I just leveled the edges of the chips. But the finish is really too soft and thick. So I sanded and scraped it, and did a really nice job removing the finish mchanically. I also broke the sheen on the back of the neck. This was a little troubling for me to do to a beautiful new finish, but now it works better and that matters more...I'm keeping this one to play.

    But now, some of the fingerboard seems like the grain is really well-sealed, other parts less so (lighter color). I don't want to have to wash my hands first every time I want to pick it up and play, but I guess I should. So if I spray on a thin hard finish, will it adhere well to any existing remaining poly that's sealing the grain? What is the preferred finish to use?

    Remember Clapton's guitar on the Layla jacket? I'm not into 'relic' treatments, but if it looks used that's OK. But the thick poly wasn't going to work IMHO. I want something much harder than the wood.

    Should I spray some kind of lacquer? Then I'm assuming I'd have to lightly sand it off the frets with some super-fine wet or dry? Or should I just leave it raw?
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2015
  2. cardinal

    cardinal Member

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    I've heard that when spraying a fretted maple board, you can wax the frets and then just knock off the finish easily afterward without taking it off the board. Curious if that's true, and if so, when you should wipe off the frets (soon after spraying or after the finish has set up for a bit, etc).
     
  3. joejazzguitar

    joejazzguitar Silver Supporting Member

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    If you've successfully removed all of the old finish, then you might try spraying on a couple of coats of shellac; Spray-on shellac is a super thin finish that will both let the neck breathe a bit and give you the full height of your frets to play on...

    But if your neck still has a lot of spots that have the old thick finish, trying to chip off the old finish and smoothing the rough edges with either an abrasive or with C/A is a lose-lose proposition - it will take forever, look like **** and STILL be soft and heavy in spots.

    If that's the case, better to bite the bullet, yank the frets, sand off the remaining finish (and true-up the neck), lay on a couple of coats of shellac and refret it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2015
  4. cyclecamper

    cyclecamper Member

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    I sharpened a quality small Henkels kitchen chef's knife and used it like a small curved draw knife, and I scraped off all the thick awful poly from the fingerboard between the frets, cleaned it off the sides of the frets, then I polished the frets with some 800 wet or dry and then scraped the maple again and then sanded the wood fingerboard lightly with some 400 sandpaper. You can tell from the color when you're thru the poly, all the yellow is gone and it looks very light. The wood is very dense compared to the poly, and it also seems to be very sealed, probably from some of the poly soaking in.

    The frets were obviously in place before the poly was applied.

    I'd like something to seal it that's so thin I might wipe it on and wipe it off.

    I hear that just oiling it accumulates gunk like a magnet. I considered waxing it then rubbing almost all of it back off. But any oil or wax might limit any future options, as nothing will ever adhere as well again.

    I might just leave it as-is; it's really not bad. But I'd like to have it ready by the time my new fret files and strings arrive.
     
  5. mellecaster

    mellecaster Member

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    Do some research on Birchwood-Casey Tru-Oil.
     
  6. 9fingers

    9fingers Supporting Member

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    How is Tru Oil, built up in several thin coats, for durability on a maple board? I love it for necks but have not used it on a fingerboard.
     
  7. mellecaster

    mellecaster Member

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    I would say on Par w/ Lacquer.
     

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