Steel wool on the maple fingerboard?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by SamBooka, Feb 4, 2012.

  1. SamBooka

    SamBooka Member

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    I have an early 80s fender neck (one piece maple)

    I have heard of people taking steel wool to give the back of the neck a satin finish. Anyone do it on the fingerboard?

    I find bending on the neck would be smoother with either a less tacky finish or larger frets...

    just wondering.
     
  2. GA20T

    GA20T Member

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    or 2000+ grit automotive paper, or:

    [​IMG]
     
  3. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    this is an early '80s USA neck?

    If so, don't wreck it with steel wool! Larger frets is the real answer.
     
  4. mc5nrg

    mc5nrg Supporting Member

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    Do it to all my maple board guitars.
     
  5. filtersweep

    filtersweep Member

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    How long have you owned the guitar? I had an early 80s Strat, and the neck finish wore off in just a few years-- mostly on the right edge. I sold it a few years ago- it looked reliced at the time. I guess my question is why you are digging into the fretboard so much when you are bending? I just don't see how anyone can get any decent vibrato on a bend if they are into the wood, but maybe that is just me....

    I don't recall the frets being that low on that guitar. I used fast fret on it at the time.
     
  6. Rockledge

    Rockledge Member

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    I do it to mine, I 0000 all of my guitars in order to keep the fingerboard clean and keep the frets from grooving, I do the whole thing frets and all.
    But I am not a collector and I am concerned about how they play and keeping them maintained for performance purposes, I have no concern about their future value.
    Their entire value to me is as tools.

    One thing... keep your fingernails trimmed. Fingernails ruin fretboards.
     
  7. Chris Scott

    Chris Scott Silver Supporting Member

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    Agree.

    Steel wool isn't the answer, elevating your fingertips is.

    Especially on the fingerboard.
     
  8. SamBooka

    SamBooka Member

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    Yeah.. it is an 81 neck.. (fender lead I.. )

    Fingerease just doesnt cut it.

    I can put new frets in ..but not right away ($$$)

    If I dont like the steel wool effect why cant I just buff it out?
     
  9. jefesq

    jefesq Gold Supporting Member

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    use bronze wool instead to avoid this ^
     
  10. Rockledge

    Rockledge Member

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    That is no problem. You just cover them up.
    I have been steel wooling fretboards for decades and not once have had it be a problem with pickups.
    Not a big deal to shove a shop cloth between the strings and pickups.
    It is worth it to me to have nice smooth frets all the time, and my frets never groove. I think that is mostly because the frets are so polished all the time that a groove never gets a good start.
     
  11. bluesjunior

    bluesjunior Member

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    Even better if you wrap a small magnet inside the cloth, ensures that any steel dust stays in the cloth until after it is removed.
     
  12. Rob Sharer

    Rob Sharer Muso-Luthier

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    Okay, I'll bite....

    How exactly does steel wool keep the frets from acquiring grooves?



    Rob
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2012
  13. m-m-m

    m-m-m Member

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    Keel?

    keel1    [keel]
    noun
    1.Nautical . a central fore-and-aft structural member in the bottom of a hull, extending from the stem to the sternpost and having the floors or frames attached to it, usually at right angles: sometimes projecting from the bottom of the hull to provide stability.
    2.Literary . a ship or boat.
    3.a part corresponding to a ship's keel in some other structure, as in a dirigible balloon.
    4.( initial capital letter ) Astronomy . the constellation Carina.
    5.Botany, Zoology . a longitudinal ridge, as on a leaf or bone; a carina.

    ohhh ... further down the page ....

    verb (used with object), verb (used without object)
    7.to turn or upset so as to bring the wrong side or part uppermost.

    Umm ... I guess that's what you mean .... I'm a product of Indiana public schools, so you'll have to keep the speach a bit more common, Shakespaere!
    :bonk

    I love the bonk :bonk :bonk

    I use steel wool from time to time on my frets - if I'm doing a maple board I tend to tape off the neck. The steel wool will polish them, and remove the gunk, tarnish and give 'em a nice shine. Sometimes after polishing some pitted frets it will appear that the frets are more even .... but it could just be an illusion. IOW, the tarnish could have been highlighting the valleys in the frets. I'd love to see somebody make a strong case, either way, about this. I've always wondered if it helps ...
     
  14. Rockledge

    Rockledge Member

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    I think it keeps them smoothe. Keeps them very polished and slick so the strings are less likely to dig in.
    Once you get the very small beginnings of a groove the string will gravitate to that groove. If you keep them polished even if you don't polish the groove out you knock the edges of it down and the string slides in and out of it rather than staying in it and grinding it down even more.
    At least I believe that is why it is. I know that I have little problems with grooves. I have an acoustic I have had since 1979 that was over 10 years old when I got it, and I haven't had to refret it yet.
    Granted I have a very light touch and always have had, but I play my guitars a great deal, I gig a lot and at times spend a lot of time in the studio.

    Also, even if polishing the frets didn't help with grooving I would still do it, because it keeps the fretboard nice and clean as well as keeping the frets from discoloring and keeps them feeling new.
    On laquored fretboards I don't bear down on the fretboard with the steel wool, but then again you don't really need to to clean them. Any accumulating gunk normally comes off of them far easier than on unfinished boards.


    Also, I like guitars that look and feel new. I try very hard to keep my instruments clean and upkept looking ( as opposed to the whole "roadworn" fad).
    Not that mine show no wear, as I say I gig a lot and they get their share of whacks in them. But I touch them up and do things like clean the bridges and tailpieces and all that when I do routine maintanance on them.
     
  15. Rob Sharer

    Rob Sharer Muso-Luthier

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    You have a touching faith in the powers of steel wool!

    Of course I use it constantly myself, but I really don't think it does a thing to prevent wear from occurring.



    Rob
     
  16. Chris Scott

    Chris Scott Silver Supporting Member

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    I have been known to use quite a lot of the stuff myself, but I'm also a total O.C. with my handy little shop vac, which is one of my most oft-used tools PERIOD.

    Good idea to be careful with the stuff whilst working on guitars, MANDATORY when you work on/build amps, on the same workbench.:omg
     
  17. SamBooka

    SamBooka Member

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    LOL! I am well aware of the evils of steel wool but thanks for the heads up... I wonder how many people here have played with 0000 steel wool and a 9V battery.. :munch
     
  18. Rob Sharer

    Rob Sharer Muso-Luthier

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    Ooh baby....."Shakespaere!"


    Guess we're even.... :mmm


    Rob
     
  19. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    "keel"?

    "shakespeare"?

    anyway, big +1 to throwing a magnet into the steel wool ball to keep the shreds from falling out onto the pickups (and the bench). those powerful neo-d magnets from stew-mac are perfect for this, just keep them away from the pickups, too. (the magnet also makes it convenient to store the steel wool ball by tossing it at the nearest metal protrusion over my bench.)

    for maple necks, i make little guards out of mylar plastic, like from old drum heads or flat sections of blister-pack packaging, with a slot cut out for the fret, to protect the area around the fret.

    stew-mac sells metal ones, but they seem awkward and the slots are often a bit too narrow.

    i also highly doubt polishing the frets with the stuff has any effect on groove-formation one way or the other.
     
  20. Rockledge

    Rockledge Member

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    Who knows? Could be some other reason I don't seem to wear frets down. As I say, I have a light touch and maintain my guitars well. Could be any number of things that I do. Steel wool is just the most logical one to me.
     

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