Wipe-on poly for a maple fingerboard?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Micklos, Feb 27, 2015.

  1. Micklos

    Micklos Member

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    I find that acrylic lacquer flakes off over time, so I'd like to try a wipe-on poly finish. Is it better to do this with the frets off? (I'm refretting anyway) Or, if I do it with the frets on, can't I use a paintbrush instead of a cloth? Is it better to apply a layer of shellac underneath as some people do? Or is that merely for colour?
     
  2. Cal Webway

    Cal Webway Member

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    I'd be interested 2

    .
     
  3. rdluft

    rdluft Member

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  4. Boris Bubbanov

    Boris Bubbanov Member

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    I've used shellac and shellac with toners in it under a "wipe on" finish such as Minwax Tung Oil Finish (which btw has almost no Tung Oil but is totally different/better than Minwax's other wipe ons).

    I've also used toned Grain Filler under the Minwax Tung Oil Finish.

    I hesitate to mention using a paint brush to put any of these things on because you need to be ruthless in driving the substances down into voids and into the wood. This is not like putting a coat of finish on the bathroom cabinets. You're going to remove a substantial part of what you have applied, and the "coat" will be the very thinnest layer. Thinner than you think. You "build" by doing many multiples of applications and wipe-offs. I prefer to quit applying (on the topcoats) and play 'em with fairly little thickness - I just want 10000% infiltration of any pore, any void. I spend way more time filling, even on a closed grain wood like maple.
     
  5. Micklos

    Micklos Member

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    But what about the wipe-on Polyurethane stuff? Is it better to do it while the frets are out? I'd imagine it would be better if the frets were sitting on wood, rather than a thin layer of something
     
  6. GuitslingerTim

    GuitslingerTim Member

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    Wipe on poly needs to be applied with the frets out, but you want to avoid letting the poly run into the fret slots. The trick is to use thin coats and invert the fingerboard after applying a coat. Two or three coats of wipe on poly should seal the wood.
     
  7. Micklos

    Micklos Member

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    Thanks. Any suggestions on what to apply it with? I was thinking about using kitchen roll or paper towels. The only cloths I have lying around would leave tiny fibers behind. I have a few of those soft cloths for cleaning lenses. I suppose I could sacrifice one of those.
     
  8. GuitslingerTim

    GuitslingerTim Member

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    Lowes sells 'bags of rags' that consist of a smooth fabric that has no loose threads.
     
  9. MaxTwang

    MaxTwang Member

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    Have you considered True Oil? It is a gun stock finish that works really well for necks. There are plenty of threads on applying True Oil on various guitar sites.

    Applying with a coffee filter couldn't be easier - just a drop or two and rub in with the filter. The coffee filter shouldn't get saturated as you want the True Oil coats to be thin as possible (if you put it on thick it won't cure properly). Wipe it on then wipe it off - really thin coats. Can be applied before or after frets.
     
  10. Micklos

    Micklos Member

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    How about baking parchment? I use coffee filters for getting old thermal paste off processors, so I should have a few. I've heard good things about both the tru-oil and the min-wax wipe-on poly. I guess if either can have an extra coat slapped on any time the strings are off, then both are great. I'll never understand acrylic lacquer on the fretboard.
    ACTUALLY...What about the rest of the neck? Taking the lacquer off the fingerboard when I re-radius is going to leave an "edge" in the lacquer from where it could flake off. I'd rather do the whole neck. I assume that neither product is greasy? What are the relative curing times of the two? As long as both can be re-applied at any time, then the deciding factor would probably be the cure time.
     
  11. MaxTwang

    MaxTwang Member

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    If applied thin (wipe on, wipe off with no pooling or drips) then you can apply 2 - 3 coats of Tru Oil per day. Then wait a few days before final buffing. If you apply a thick coat you could be waiting weeks, if ever, for it to cure.

    If you are only doing the fingerboard of a gloss neck the poly would be best, True Oil can get to a gloss finish but is better for thinner semi-gloss or satin finishing.
     
  12. Micklos

    Micklos Member

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    I think satin is better. I find a gloss finish sticks to my skin a bit. It kind of squeaks like sneakers on a hardwood floor and my thumb drags as I move up the neck. I guess the perfectly smooth finish allows my fingerprints to create lots of little vacuums the way they were designed to, so high gloss finishes are definitely out.
     
  13. Structo

    Structo Member

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    I wouldn't put any of those Poly finishes on a bird house.

    Takes forever to dry hard, flakes off, stays soft.

    Tru Oil is what you want.
     

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