lacquered maple fretboard: Whats the secret?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Skyjerk, Oct 6, 2017.

  1. Skyjerk

    Skyjerk Meatbomb Silver Supporter

    Messages:
    5,092
    Likes Received:
    5,615
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2014
    Ive made two guitars at this point with maple fretboards. Guitars finished with nitro lacquer

    I have yet to discover the secret to making these look really smooth. My results this far have been "OK at best"

    Sanding between frets is difficult particularly right along the edge of the frets. Getting a uniform finish from the widest to the narrowest frets.

    Also love to know the secret of using flattener to get a matte/satin finish

    Any tips or techniques?

    I'm planning another Strat build, but want a maple fretboard this time and I'm hoping 3rd time is the charm :)
     
    mux164 likes this.
  2. WhiteEpiLP

    WhiteEpiLP Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,058
    Likes Received:
    697
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2012
    I could totally be wrong cause what do i know but i would think laquering the neck before fretti g in would be how to get the flatest finished.
    Maybe Freddy or LT Dave will chime in since both those guys make fantastic F style necks.
     
    Bill Hicklin likes this.
  3. Skyjerk

    Skyjerk Meatbomb Silver Supporter

    Messages:
    5,092
    Likes Received:
    5,615
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2014
    I think I asked that question once and the response seemed to be having the fret on top of lacquer was less than ideal....
     
  4. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,702
    Likes Received:
    18,481
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    It's a tough call. It's so difficult to achieve a flat, smooth, uniform finish after the frets are installed.
    Flattening paste is a saviour for that because you don't have to sand and polish it, and also it naturally hides imperfections.

    I never liked the idea of installing frets over finish, I want to fret bead seated tight on the wood. But I have finished fretboards before fretting. I used a piece of ground off fretwire (with the tang thinned enough to make it slide easily in the fret slot) and scraped the finish off by dragging it through the slot at such an angle that the ground off face of the bead bites in. A pain in the donkey but it looks best in the end.
     
  5. Skyjerk

    Skyjerk Meatbomb Silver Supporter

    Messages:
    5,092
    Likes Received:
    5,615
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2014
    Freddy, is that your go-to approach to a maple board? Do you do the scraping with the fret wire when the lacquer is still wet/soft or after it's hard?

    Is flattening paste the same as flattener which is added to the lacquer to reduce the gloss level?
     
  6. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,702
    Likes Received:
    18,481
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    Not my go-to approach. I'd say it's 70-30.
    Scrape after it hardens. If you scrape while it's soft it will be a mess.
    Or more precisely, scrape after buffing and polishing.

    This is what I use for flattening nitro:
    http://www.wurthwoodgroup.com/Flattening-Compound-for-Nitrocellulose-Lacquer-P59696.aspx

    add 10% for semi-gloss
    15-18% for satin
     
    Skyjerk likes this.
  7. Skyjerk

    Skyjerk Meatbomb Silver Supporter

    Messages:
    5,092
    Likes Received:
    5,615
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2014
    So if I'm understanding, if you wanted a satin finish you would add 15-18% flattener. You'd shoot the board (3 coats total?) let harden, scrape the fret area, sand and buff, then install the frets?

    Do you thin that lacquer in addition to the flattener?

    Do you actually buff or just sand to a specific grit?

    Sorry to bombard you with questions, I've just had less than desirable results with my approach, which leads me directly to the conclusion that my approach has been seriously flawed :)
     
  8. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,702
    Likes Received:
    18,481
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    Yes to everything except sanding and buffing. You sand between coats to create a flat substrate, but after the final coat that's it! No sanding or buffing.

    Nope. see above.....no sanding or buffing after the last coat. Buffing flattened lacquer would actually bring up the gloss, defeating the purpose of flattening in the first place.

    If you need to sure....but the 15-18% is added to lacquer before thinning.
     
    Skyjerk likes this.
  9. Skyjerk

    Skyjerk Meatbomb Silver Supporter

    Messages:
    5,092
    Likes Received:
    5,615
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2014
    Thanks Freddy!
     
  10. Leña_Costoso

    Leña_Costoso Senior Member

    Messages:
    352
    Likes Received:
    251
    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2017
    I just sand mine with 400g wornout... Before polish. They look great.
     
  11. JoeBguitar

    JoeBguitar Senior Member

    Messages:
    433
    Likes Received:
    217
    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2015
    The lacquered Fenders I've owned came with nitro still covering the frets. You don't need to buff between the frets carefully. The nitro on the frets will protect them from being sanded. Just cut the lacquer off of the frets after you're done polishing.
     
  12. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,702
    Likes Received:
    18,481
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    Sure, that's how it's done. But that wasn't the question. It was about achieving that uniform plane unbroken by having to sand in between frets before buffing.
     
  13. The Ballzz

    The Ballzz Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,213
    Likes Received:
    795
    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2013
    If you've got a great gun, along with great technique, like Mr. G, no sanding is needed! :cool: On the other hand, I've decided that for my own prefernces, I kinda dislike finished maple for a fretboard. Ebony=Mo Betta!
    Gene
     
  14. Leña_Costoso

    Leña_Costoso Senior Member

    Messages:
    352
    Likes Received:
    251
    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2017
    In Leo's day, the factory used a large headed nail, with a groove cut into it, and scraped off the gummy lacquer before it set up fully. That kept the layer on the frets to a minimum. Dunno today. My mid 90s 52 RI Tele came with clean frets
     
  15. pwhite

    pwhite Senior Member

    Messages:
    853
    Likes Received:
    330
    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2010
    I just did this partscaster a couple of months ago and somehow I nailed the the fretboard on the first try. I did 4 thin coats with trans tint vintage amber. The fretboard is one of the best I have touched where I failed is I should have done a couple more coats on the back of the neck, it is to thin and I can feel the skunk stripe.

    IMG_0461.JPG

    IMG_0464.JPG
     
    D Rhinehart and fatdaddypreacher like this.
  16. D Rhinehart

    D Rhinehart Senior Member

    Messages:
    262
    Likes Received:
    125
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2011
    Just thought I would chime in for what its worth , I nitro my fret boards before fretting and have never had a problem ! about 4 thin coats , I even level and buff em to a glass gloss. After installing the frets and polishing those , I have a buffing wheel I use to to polish to whole thing when done ! works great for me
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2017
    mux164 and LP Traditional like this.
  17. Lowcaster

    Lowcaster Member

    Messages:
    63
    Likes Received:
    70
    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2014
    @D Rinehart: That's neat.
     
    D Rhinehart likes this.
  18. The Ballzz

    The Ballzz Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,213
    Likes Received:
    795
    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2013
    Nice stuff! :cheers: What's with those black strings?
    Just Curious?
    Gene
     
    D Rhinehart likes this.
  19. D Rhinehart

    D Rhinehart Senior Member

    Messages:
    262
    Likes Received:
    125
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2011
    Those were my clients idea , not mine ! And by the way they didn't hold up long
     
  20. Skyjerk

    Skyjerk Meatbomb Silver Supporter

    Messages:
    5,092
    Likes Received:
    5,615
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2014
    Were those DR's? I had a set of black DR's once. They didnt last long either.
     
    D Rhinehart likes this.

Share This Page