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Refinishing a maple neck and fingerboard

aussie_owner

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,172
I'm working on a partcaster rebuild, and I'm in the process of refinishing the neck. (Allparts neck, maple fingerboard) The neck didn't look like much at first, rather dull, yellowish finish, not much woodgrain. Sanding the back and headstock and putting a couple coats of Tru Oil makes it look completely different - grain popping like crazy, beautiful piece of wood.

The problem now is that I want the fingerboard to look like that, too. How much of a PITA is it to remove the finish from between the frets? Sanding would be pretty time consuming. Fools errand? The frets are in good shape, so I'd be reluctant to refret the neck just to refinish it.

Fingerboard:



Back of neck:





Hard to see in photos, but in person it's obvious.

 

swinginguitar

Member
Messages
1,054
*sigh* this is part of dealing with maple necks

you will need to sand in between the frets - it is painstaking work. i used a piece of foam that has a narrow edge and wrap my paper around it. it lets me focus the sanding where i need it yet flexes a bit to the contour of the board.

caution: especially on the higher frets, your sanding action is largely across the grain. beware of cross grain scratches that can be hard to see but haunt you later. better is to not use as coarse of a paper in favor of a little more work with a higher grit to avoid deep scratches.

if you are wet sanding a finish the cross grain isn't as big of a deal....just watch out for bare wood cross grain...a real PITA

...i have noticed sometimes certain finishes really dull the grain like you mentioned...maybe those factory satin finishes?
 

aussie_owner

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,172
*sigh* this is part of dealing with maple necks

you will need to sand in between the frets - it is painstaking work. i used a piece of foam that has a narrow edge and wrap my paper around it. it lets me focus the sanding where i need it yet flexes a bit to the contour of the board.

caution: especially on the higher frets, your sanding action is largely across the grain. beware of cross grain scratches that can be hard to see but haunt you later. better is to not use as coarse of a paper in favor of a little more work with a higher grit to avoid deep scratches.

if you are wet sanding a finish the cross grain isn't as big of a deal....just watch out for bare wood cross grain...a real PITA

...i have noticed sometimes certain finishes really dull the grain like you mentioned...maybe those factory satin finishes?
Yeah, I was pretty much sure that was going to be the answer. Not looking forward to it, but after doing the neck there's no way I can leave the fingerboard like that. I've got a couple ideas for sanding blocks on the lower frets that I want to try. I also have micromesh sanding pads. I may try those on the higher frets. It will probably take a while, but micromesh pads might be able to get the job done with minimal scratching.
 

aussie_owner

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,172
take your time - do it right.

once you get rolling it'll be fine.
I was experimenting last night using a razor blade to scrape between the frets, which worked quite well. A light sanding with 600 grit sandpaper after scraping cleaned up things up quite nicely. I think I found my method.

First two frets after scraping and sanding. The third fret is original finish.

 
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