Guitar fretboard - maple, what finish?

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Jacob

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Just restoring a grandchild's cheapo Fender Strat copy. Maple neck is clean but the fingerboard is a right mess. Looks like it's been played by an unwashed coal heaver.
What would be best finish after a clean up? It says "Nitro Cellulose" lacquer in various places. Matt, glossy, aerosol, or what?
 
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I'd probably just scrape the fretboard back to raw wood and oil it, the value of the guitar is not very high so probably not worth spending too much time on it, maybe a brushed on lacquer could be good, or even some kind of wiping varnish loads of layers but fairly thin.
 
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Nitro lacquer is what Fender has always used, same gloss as the body. But note that lacquer wants a month or so to cure before playing, or fretting will wear it rapidly.
 
Nitro lacquer is what Fender has always used, same gloss as the body. But note that lacquer wants a month or so to cure before playing, or fretting will wear it rapidly.
Thanks for that. PU also takes 30+ days apparently.
It's only a cheapo guitar so maybe I'll do it with Osmo oil as I have some left in a tin. I know it's tough stuff as I've used it a lot on floors.
 
If it helps, Fender finishes over the tops of the frets, and then levels and crowns them. So if you just scrape or sand the finish off the fret tops and then round over slightly (a couple of sandpaper swipes), it'll look authentic :)
 
If it helps, Fender finishes over the tops of the frets, and then levels and crowns them. So if you just scrape or sand the finish off the fret tops and then round over slightly (a couple of sandpaper swipes), it'll look authentic :)
Yes makes sense - as per the Paul Balmer Haynes Manual.
Just pulled out the frets and about to clean up the fret board, and modify a gent's saw for the frets as some of them will need deepening a touch if I remove the slight bend.
 
It's only a cheapo guitar so maybe I'll do it with Osmo oil as I have some left in a tin
The ward wax floor oils should be great.... i wonder if it'll buff up well so his hand slides easily? 🤔
 
Bad idea. Fretboards wear through playing and that is part of the look. Clean it and leave it. Makes no real odds as it is a cheap copy, but for real deal instruments refinishing a strat maple fretboard would be sacrilege.
 
Bad idea. Fretboards wear through playing and that is part of the look. Clean it and leave it. Makes no real odds as it is a cheap copy, but for real deal instruments refinishing a strat maple fretboard would be sacrilege.
Well yes but Strats use Nitrocellulose on their maple finger boards. Says so in the Haynes manual, which is very detailed and written by an expert, Paul Balmer.
Ditto my Deering banjo with maple and applied surface polish of some variety.
I guess it will wear through eventually but delays it, and dirt - which maple picks up very easily.
Rosewood or ebony would be better of course and just need cleaning and oiling.
I've had to plane off a fair amount to straighten the finger board and now have to radius it back from flat (in freshly planed parts) to 9 1/2" radius curve. Then deepen the fret cuts and nut slot etc.
I should have taken some photos - it was a right mess!
I've also bought "Rock School grade 1 plus CD" so I can keep up with the grandsons. Power chords!
I'm quite enjoying it as a project.
 
Yes makes sense - as per the Paul Balmer Haynes Manual.
Just pulled out the frets and about to clean up the fret board, and modify a gent's saw for the frets as some of them will need deepening a touch if I remove the slight bend.
Don't remove the bend!

That fretboard has a tight radius, 12 inches I think, to make barre chords and bending easier. It won't play well with a flat fretboard.

If anything, work out a way to slightly overbend the frets - they go in better if you seat the ends first and then tap down the centre.

A smear of wood glue along the tang helps frets slide in easier, and helps fill gaps by swelling the compressed wood of the slot.
 
Don't remove the bend!

That fretboard has a tight radius, 12 inches I think, to make barre chords and bending easier. It won't play well with a flat fretboard.

If anything, work out a way to slightly overbend the frets - they go in better if you seat the ends first and then tap down the centre.

A smear of wood glue along the tang helps frets slide in easier, and helps fill gaps by swelling the compressed wood of the slot.
usually 7.25 inches on vintage and 9.5 on modern Fenders, 12 inch radius is usually found on Gibsons. If it's a cheap copy try a poly finish. Fish glue for fret slots, or water thin CA applied at the fret ends after trimming but be careful it's a pain to use.
 
Don't remove the bend!
I've straightened it end to end and now putting back the radius
That fretboard has a tight radius, 12 inches I think, to make barre chords and bending easier. It won't play well with a flat fretboard.
Fender says 7.5" on vintage and 9.5 on later. Other makes and opinions vary. I'll go for 9.5 " perhaps
If anything, work out a way to slightly overbend the frets - they go in better if you seat the ends first and then tap down the centre.

A smear of wood glue along the tang helps frets slide in easier, and helps fill gaps by swelling the compressed wood of the slot.
Thanks for that.

PS The truss rod nut seems to hit the end of the thread on the rod without actually tightening onto the neck so perhaps I need to pack it back a bit with some washers. Should have done that first!
I see this as a learning experience!
 
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Fender use all common coatings i.e. cellulose and 2k and/or polyester. Both gloss and satin. Same goes for bodies; back in the 50s it was all nitro. Then later some type of sealer and often a mix of 1k and celly on the same body, for colour & clear.
But copies are almost certainly 2k or polyester, both are catalysed. Makes for far quicker production. Catalysed finishes are ready next day after cooking at a decent heat. They slowly get harder over time but next day or two are ideal for flat & polish, after that it gets quite a bit harder work to buff.

Nitro will go over the top of whatever it is with scuffing beforehand, but will struggle to build up level where thick bits of original catalysed coat have flaked off. It shrinks back for ages, what looks level today won't in a couple of days.
Every repairer doing a maple board refret will encounter finish coming off, and use celly to recoat - the cat'd finishes flake off easily, sometimes big chunks pull off with tape... in which case you strip the whole board and blow celly onto it. Factories don't really do prep stages so the cat'd finishes aren't stuck down as well as they could be.
 
with taking wood off the fretboard you may find that when put back together the action is too high even at the lowest setting, you might end up having to raise the neck pocket height or have a shim to raise it up.
 
with taking wood off the fretboard you may find that when put back together the action is too high even at the lowest setting, you might end up having to raise the neck pocket height or have a shim to raise it up.
Yep got my eyes on the shim issue. May be unavoidable as the truss rod is inoperable - hits the end of the thread when tightened - impossible to remove when loosened so no packing with washers possible.
There's a lot of room for adjustment with the Fender adjustable bridge system. It's brilliantly designed but this guitar a low quality copy.
The Haynes Fender Manual is brilliant.
 

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