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Tinting and lacquering your neck

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 26, 2011 10:25 am    Post subject: Tinting and lacquering your neck Reply with quote

Tinting and Lacquering Your Neck

These are the steps I recommend for achieving a convincingly vintage neck finish both in terms of look and feel.

1. Once the neck shaping, if any, is complete you'll sand the whole neck up to 320-400, something pretty fine.

2. Whisker the wood by wiping the whole neck down with a damp rag. This will introduce moisture to the loose fibers that have been pressed flat by the sanding process and will cause them to rise so they may be sanded.

3. After the neck has been whiskered, allow it to dry and then sand the peach fuzz that appears.

4. You may want to repeat the whiskering step to be sure no loose fibers remain.

5. I like to use some 0000 steel wool over the whole neck at this point to increase how smooth the neck feels.

6. Next we'll begin tinting the neck. I use one of two methods for tinting: staining with a blend of oil based minwax colors that I've mixed up or staining with a mix of water based fabric dye colors that I've mixed up. Oddly I've found the water based stuff to be more penetrating and that's what I use typically.

7. With a rag apply your stain fairly liberally, making sure there are no drips or runs. If using oil, wipe off the excess. There's a learned feel for how much to apply at a time.

8. Let your stain coat dry and reapply until you've got a color that you like. Be mindful that lacquer will change this color in a couple of ways, it will become slightly darker and the depth of penetration will be revealed.

9. Once you've gotten your color how you like it, lightly sand the neck with 0000 steel wool once more, but bare in mind that the steel wool will likely remove some of your color. To combat this I sometimes over saturate my hue and sand back to something a little lighter. This has the benefit of increasing smoothness and arriving at the desired color.

10. Tape off your fretboard if you're dealing with a rosewood neck.

11. Now we're ready to apply our lacquer finish. If you tinted with oil you've basically sealed the neck already and will require very little lacquer, if you've tinted with water based stain then you'll need a bit more lacquer but not much. I go over the whole neck with a few light passes building to a careful coat. I always like to tread lightly when first spraying to let the first bits of lacquer stake out a position for the other lacquer to adhere to.

12. After that initial coat I'll focus a bit more heavily on the headstock face, headstock rear, and the sides of the heel, leaving the back of the neck with less lacquer. If I'm going for slightly more glassy finish then I'll spray those aforementioned areas with a wet coat of lacquer while the neck is resting horizontally, if I'm going for a very thin and wooden finish then I'll leave the neck hanging. The right amount of lacquer to spray is also a matter of feel and I'm constantly checking my progress by seeing how light is reflecting or not reflecting off the surface.

13. For especially woody necks I'll spray less than a wet coat of lacquer over the whole neck while intentionally spraying less on the back of the neck. I'll spray in light passes moving around the neck, judging my progress and making sure no area is getting too heavily sprayed.

14. I'll leave the neck to dry for a few hours to a day or so, and I will actually buff it out at that point. I know this flies in the face of Reranch 101 convention, but I like sunken grain and it happens to be easier to achieve if you basically rush the process well faster than the recommended time, not to mention that at this point very little lacquer has been sprayed; so we're not talking about rushing a glassy finish. I use 0000 steel wool to buff out the neck, and I go at the back of the neck aggressively while I will level the finish on the flatter surfaces with a softer touch, sanding in small swirling motions for those areas. The result is a fairly uniformly satin look for the flat areas and a very smooth wooden finish for the playing area. Depending on how my lacquer went down, I may or may not do a bit of light wet sanding with 600-800 grit paper wrapped around an artist's eraser.

15. To heighten the look of this extremely thin film, I'll use graphite on a rag and rub that into the playing area of the neck which will reveal where the lacquer has been broken through and generally create an old appearance. If you use too much, steel wool it back. Graphite won't soak into the surface of the wood so you can't really mess this part up. It will dirty up the neck in a way that you can't simply wipe off by playing, but it could be reversed with a little elbow grease.

16. Enjoy your very smooth, fast neck!

Contributed by Josh
Nothing on earth can stop somebody with the right mental attitude. Nothing on earth can help somebody with the wrong mental attitude.
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