Showing posts with label 4. Preparations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 4. Preparations. Show all posts

Unfinished Neck

The unfinished hard Maple neck has a long way to go. The nut needed to be hand shaped to fit properly. The neck was a perfect blend of a vintage look and modern features (12" raidus and jumbo frets). The fret ends were very harsh, so laid a couple of layers of tape and each side of the neck and the finished the frets by hand filing them, and then using a soft rubber block with varying grads of sandpaper to really round and polish the fret ends.

Personal Choices

I don't like the hard edge on the rosewood, just before the nut, where the angle sloping from the head meets the flat deck of the fingerboard. I gently sand this area to round it off and make it less noticeable. This works for me because, unlike Fender, I do not lacquer the rosewood as it meets the head nor on the sides of the neck.

Initial Nut Fitting

You typically need to do a fair amount of fine tuning to the dimensions of the nut (I use Tusq) to get it to fit, but also to have it look nice and play right. I usually sand a little off the bottom to lower it just a bit (I will have more to say about the bottom of the nut, in another posting). I also find that I have sand the sides just a bit to get it to fit in the groove and I always have to take a bit off the sides, and the round all the edges gently. I am using a caliper to measure the width to match the neck width, but it is not necessary, as you can just check it for fit between sanding a little material off each end until if fits.


I find that the frets on the lower cost (around $100) Allparts necks need some TLC. I use a sanding pad (like a firm sponge) and graduated grads of sandpaper (working my way down to very fine, such as 800). I sand at varying angles, in the vicinity of 45 degrees, running up and down the neck at length. The pad helps to round the edges of each fret by partially conforming to the bump that is created as each fret protrudes, yet keep the sanding on the wood to a minimum. I do this until I find the edge of the neck no longer unpleasant for playing.

Final Nut Fitting

The underside of the nut needs to mate with the bottom of the groove for the nut. Please note that some neck have this groove cut flat, and some have the bottom of the groove cut to match the radius of the neck. Most nuts come with a little tab that needs to be left on if the groove is cut flat, otherwise, remove the groove and shape the bottom of the nut to match the radius of the neck. I use a Dremel tool for this with a round sanding drum in the bit.

Nut Installed

Here is the finished vintage style Stratocaster neck, which I did in a rush (don't ask why, but it illustrates how forgiving nitrocellulose lacquer can be), so I dried the lacquer between coats with a hair dryer (it was below 40 degrees F, way to cold for lacquer), that way I could complete this project in about 24 hours (most of which was further finish cure time before rubbing and polishing).

Freshly Stained

Just stained, the new and unfinished AllParts neck looks just that... new. It will take a few more steps to achieve a vintage look.

Waterslide Decals

The waterslide decals are carefully cut out by hand. The curves are smooth and stay pretty close to the text.

Vintage Gold

Everyone must come to their own conclusions on how to take a fresh Maple neck and obtain a vintage looking finsh. I start with some oil stains. Once I start to apply clear lacquer, I mist the neck with an amber/walnut lacquer to move the color from a bright golden to a slightly more subdued hue, looking older and more authentic.

Vintage Decals

I was able to procure vintage (early 60's) waterslide decals. These are getting increasingly hard to find by the way (trademark issue with Fender). This neck is an AllParts neck, licensed by Fender, and if I was ever to sell it, I would definitely declare that this is an AllParts neck with decal applied (basic ethics, not to mention a legal issue - trademark enfringement).

Once the waterslide decals are applied, I then mist with several light coats of clear lacquer before applying some wet coats and then wet sanding smooth. Then end result is very authentic looking.

Installed Tuning Machines

These vintage Kluson Deluxe double row (two rows of stamped name and model) tuning machines fit perfectly.

Tuner Bushings

The Kluson vintage tuning machines use a bushing, which is designed for 11/22" holes. There are 3/8" bushings available if you want to adapt a neck that was drilled for other tuners. These bushings are a tight fit, and are a little tricky to successfully press into place. Avoid the temptation to tap them in with a hammer. I use a drill press and drill bit that just barely fits inside the bushing so that it holds it straight.

More Exotic Custom Strat Necks

This is a Warmoth neck consisting of a high grade Birdseye Maple and a Rosewood fret board. I lightly stained the maple with an amber oil finish using vigorously rubbing and multiple applications. Going with a Warmoth neck is not necessarily inexpensive. This neck cost $345 after nut and fret installation, shipping and taxes. On the other hand, I got exactly what I wanted in every regard.

The Rosewood was very carefully masked using blue painters masking tape along the sides and both ends. This was left in place for the staining and lacquering (satin nitro) process and even the wet sanding (more on that in my next posting). The tuning machines are Kluson Deluxe DR (SD9105MN DR).

Subtle Choices on your Custom Strat Neck

I am presenting two Strat necks. The top image is from a Fender Deluxe Strat and the second is a Warmoth Custom Strat neck. I have always thought it was odd that Fender applied a gloss finish over the Rosewood where it meets the Maple on the face of the head. Esthetically, this seems like a convenient shortcut rather than the best solution.

When I stained and finished this Warmoth custom Strat neck, I painstakingly masked the Rosewood on the sides of the neck and both ends, paying special attention to where it meets the maple on the face of the head. It is my opinion that this looks more finely executed, but the point is not whether my opinion is right, rather. that you get to make these sort of decisions for yourself when you finish your neck.

Once I was done applying the multiple nitro lacquer coats and performing the wet-sanding, I removed the masking tape and wet-sanded the edges where the nitro lacquer on the Maple meets the Rosewood fretboard so there would be no edge that would distract you when you play.

String Tree

A vintage style string tree is installed for the E and B strings. There many different types of trees/guides used a different times, sometimes just one, and other times two. There were times and models that used staggered pole heights on the tuning machines in an effort to maintain acceptable string breakover angles at the bridge.

Preliminary Body Prep

This is a little unconventional, in fact, I have never found anyone else to do it. I fill all of the screw holes with wood filler. I push it in with my finger, so that there is a very visible depression at each hole (that way I can find them later). I do this so that no water gets into the holes during the wet sanding sessions. I found that there is a slight raising that occurs when water gets into these holes and then make it harder to get a smooth, flat finish. You will see, in later steps, how easy it is to remove this filler.

Ready for Painting

Using fine sandpaper (i.e., 600 or higher), I sand the original finish, trying to get alot of the old paint off, but not going through the surface. This helps to keep the final finish fairly thin, and provides a surface that the new paint with bind with readily. I also using some sort of wax and grease remover to ensure that the surface is very clean and will not result in any fisheye imperfections.

Under Coat

I tend to use a vintage white, warmer than olympic, as an undercoat. This provide a consitent color as a base for your new color and help to inhibit and bleeding through of the original color, which is more of an issue when using lacquer because the new coats dissolve down through to the lower layers (both good and bad).

Color Coats

I use a coat hanger to suspend the guitar body so that it hangs vertically. I use this method for the numerous color coats, periodically interrupted by wet sanding. I seem to be able to get a great finish from just a little less than one aresol can from Guitar Reranch (a great source for vintage colors in nitrocellulose lacquer).

Final Clear Coats

Although I do most of the painting with the body hanging vertically, I do the final clear coats with the body horizontal so that I can spray a wet coat that is very glossy. This sort of coat would run if I had the body vertical, also, the wet coat actually dissolves some of the prior coats and further helps to leave a smooth finish for the final wet sanding and polishing.