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Sanding the back of my guitar neck


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#1 Dennoire

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 11:04 PM

So I finally have all the stuff to do it but I still have more questions...

Equipment I have:
00-0 Steel wool (Fine)
0000 Steel wool (Super fine)
China wood oil (Tung oil timber finish)
Staining & Polishing pad (terrycloth covered sponge)

Questions:
Do I need anything else?

Do I need safety stuff like gloves or a mask or anything?

How exactly do I apply the oil?

Apparently tung oil never 'cures' what does this mean?

Sorry for being pedantic but I want to be sure of what im doing before I do it. I did woodworking way back when in highschool but I dont remember anything.

#2 surfwhammy

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 05:02 AM

So I finally have all the stuff to do it but I still have more questions...

Equipment I have:
00-0 Steel wool (Fine)
0000 Steel wool (Super fine)
China wood oil (Tung oil timber finish)
Staining & Polishing pad (terrycloth covered sponge)


These are excellent for the final finishing work . . .

Do I need anything else?

If you have not sanded the back of the guitar neck, then you will need a fine-tooth metal file and some sandpaper . . .

(1) As dadfad explained, if there are raised bumps along the "skunk line", then you can file them lightly with a fine-tooth metal file, which has the advantage of only removing the raised bumps, which using an analogy is like having a tiny hill or mountain and removing it with a bulldozer and some trucks . . .

Another way is to use a piece of sandpaper wrapped around a small woodblock, where the general idea is that you want the sandpaper to be on a flat surface so that you can control what the sandpaper removes, which in this instance will be only the raised bumps, which can be a combination of wood and too much varnish, glue, or whatever . . .

(2) Once you have removed the raised bumps (if there were any), then you can lightly sand the back of the guitar neck, with 200-grit sandpaper and then switch to 250-grit or perhaps 300-grit sandpaper to smooth it even more . . .

(3) After the sandpaper work is done, switch to using the steel wool for a superfine finish, but it is important to understand that steel wool can leave tiny metal residue, so you will want to watch for this, and if it starts happening, then I probably would stop using steel wool, but it depends on how the steel wool works . . .

[NOTE: Steel wool is more for smoothing an already varnished surface, but for unfinished wood some of the steel wool can get stuck in tiny cracks and crevices . . . ]

(4) When done with the metal filing, sanding with sandpaper, and perhaps a bit of work with steel wool, you can wipe the guitar neck with a clean cloth and then apply the tung oil, which you should allow to set for a few hours and then perhaps reapply a bit more tung oil . . .

(5) Summarizing, if there are any raised bumps along the "skunk line" due to glue, excess wood, or too much varnish, then you can remove the raised bumps with a fine-tooth metal file or a bit of sandpaper wrapped around a small woodblock (which makes the sandpaper work like a metal file, where "small woodblock" is a key aspect of the strategy and maps to the width of the woodblock being about the same as the width of a fine-tooth metal file, which should be approximately 1/2 to 3/4 inches wide, at most) . . .

When everything is generally smooth in the sense of "no raised bumps" along the "skunk line", you can switch to very fine sandpaper for a while to remove some of the top layers of varnish, and then you can switch to steel wool for a bit of final smoothing, followed by wiping the neck with a clean lint-free cloth and then oiling it with tung oil . . .

The key bit of information regards "raised bumps", and if there are any "raised bumps", you need to file or sand them as a separate activity, because sandpaper and steel wool held in the palm of your hand will remove not only the "raised bumps" but also some of the adjacent flat wood, so in that case what happens is that instead of removing the "raised bumps", essentially you are sanding both the mountain and the adjoining flat desert, which overall tends to smooth the mountain by creating a valley in the desert, which ultimately makes the problem worse rather than better . . .

Do I need safety stuff like gloves or a mask or anything?


Sanding and using steel wool tends to create a bit of dust, and there can be tiny bits of steel dust from the steel wool, so you might want to wear a dust mask, especially if you have asthma or something similar . . .

I sand my custom-made drumsticks, and I do not wear a dust mask when doing the sanding, but it depends on how much dust there is, because inhaling wood dust is not a bright idea, really . . .

Really!

How exactly do I apply the oil?


Unless you have sensitive skin or allergies, you can put a few drops of tung oil on your hand and then rub the back of the guitar neck . .

The reality is that oiling the back of the neck with tung oil is going to map to your palm touching a tung-oiled guitar neck sooner or later, so a few minutes of rubbing tung oil on the guitar neck is not a big deal, although you should wash your hands with soap after oiling the guitar neck . . .

For reference, pure tung oil is the oil of the pressed seeds of the nuts of the tung tree, so if you are allergic to tree nuts, then you do not want to use tung oil, but otherwise it is not so different from the amount of oil that gets on your fingers when you eat French Fries or Fish and Chips by hand . . .

Tung Oil (wikipedia)

Apparently tung oil never 'cures' what does this mean?


Basically, this maps to tung oil never crystalizing or drying to a hard finish, which will happen with other types of oil, where some of the various hydrocarbons evaporate, which either leaves hard wax or perhaps maps to a more elaborate chemical process that significantly changes the molecular structure of the remaining finish or whatever . . .

Whatever!


In other words, one of the reasons that tung oil is favored as a wood finish is its ability to continue to be tung oil rather than to change into something else, where "curing" refers to the chemical process that happens as something changes state, perhaps from a liquid like varnish when it is applied to a solid like varnish when it has dried and set ("cured", if you prefer) . . .

The wikipedia entry for "tung oil" (see above) suggests that tung oil "dries" in a way similar to linseed oil, but "drying" is different from "curing" . . .

Drying Oil (wikipedia)

Curing (wikipedia)

So, depending on the way one uses the terms "curing" and "drying", tung oil does "cure", but it "cures" by "drying" as contrasted to part of its liquid-state components evaporating or interacting chemically in ways other than autoxidation . . .

Autoxidation (wikipedia)

Overall, the best strategy is to do a little bit at a time in small steps . . .

By using fine and very-fine sandpaper, as well as a fine-tooth metal file and some steel wool, so long as you do not press too hard, you are not going to remove a lot of anything, so take your time and check how everything is going as you do a bit more filing, sanding, and so forth . . .

This should be a very easy project with nearly no possibility of doing something wrong, which is fabulous . . .

Fabulous! :)

Edited by surfwhammy, 23 November 2010 - 05:19 AM.

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#3 Dennoire

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 08:03 AM

Damn it. It was my understanding that the steel wool would remove the finish thats already on the back of the neck. So I just wanted to remove that then cover it with the oil. I didnt think the sand paper would be neseccary, guess I goto go back to the hardware store.

Re: the bump at the skunk stripe.

I cant be sure if the wood is actually sticking out or not, at the moment I think its just the glue inbetween the two pieces that is causing the bump, so once I remove the finish and the forementioned glue, I guess then I will know if i need to file down the skunk stripe.



I have been using these other sites for information:

http://www.premiergu...other_Feel.aspx

http://www.strat-tal...strat-neck.html

Cheers for the extra simple explanations :)

#4 surfwhammy

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 09:26 AM

Damn it. It was my understanding that the steel wool would remove the finish thats already on the back of the neck. So I just wanted to remove that then cover it with the oil. I didnt think the sand paper would be neseccary, guess I goto go back to the hardware store.

Re: the bump at the skunk stripe.

I cant be sure if the wood is actually sticking out or not, at the moment I think its just the glue inbetween the two pieces that is causing the bump, so once I remove the finish and the forementioned glue, I guess then I will know if i need to file down the skunk stripe.



I have been using these other sites for information:

http://www.premiergu...other_Feel.aspx

http://www.strat-tal...strat-neck.html

Cheers for the extra simple explanations :)


Those sites are somewhat OK, but there is a big mistake in one of them, where the writer appears to suggest running sandpaper across the grain like one is shining a pair of shoes, which is NOT what you want to do . . .

Instead, you always want to sand with the grain (parallel to the grain) rather than perpendicular (or "against") the grain . . .

And the reason for doing the metal filing first is to remove any obvious glue, varnish, or wood "bumps", where the entire purpose of using the metal file is precision in the sense of removing only the "bumps", as dadfad explained . . .

Once there are no "bumps", then you can switch to fine or very-fine sandpaper and light strokes with the grain, where the grain will run in the same direction as the neck, which is the strongest way for the grain to run and is the way wood for guitar necks specifically is selected . . .

In other words you want to sand in the same type of motion the palm of your hand makes when you play a note at the 1st fret and then slide the note along the string all the way to the end of the neck where it joins the guitar body . . .

And "lightly" is a key aspect, as is using fine or very-fine sandpaper, for sure . . .

For sure! :)

P. S. If there are "bumps", then if you do not remove the "bumps" first, when you start sanding what happens is that the sandpaper removes part of the "bumps" but the presence of the "bumps" causes the sandpaper to create "valleys" on the otherwise flat parts just outside of the bump, so you need to remove the "bumps" first as a separate activity . . .

And if you have not do this type of work in a while, get a few pieces of wood and practice filing, sanding, and oiling the pieces of wood . . .

If you have an old broom with a wooden handle, then practice on it, because it is a round piece of wood and probably has a few "bumps" on it . . .

This is not a difficult thing to do, and you can practice it on an old wood broom handle . . .

If the broom handles does not have any "bumps", then get some glue and make some "bumps" on it, which takes a few days for the glue to dry . . .

All the motions for filing, sanding, and so forth are "light pressure" motions, so it mostly is a matter of doing the work smoothly in a patient way without hurrying, a little bit at a time in steps or phases . . .

Regarding sanding, you want fine or very-fine sandpaper, which should work nicely if you know how to use it correctly . . .

The guitar neck should be maple, which is a hard wood, and the layer of varnish will not be very thick, so "lightly" is very important . . .

And if the hardware store has higher grit sandpaper then start with an even higher grit, like 300-grit or higher, perhaps 500-grit will be good as a starting grit . . .

If the higher grit sandpaper is working nicely, then continue to use it rather than a lower grit like 200-grit or whatever . . .

I use 200-grit on custom drumsticks mostly because it works and I am not so concerned about the tips and sides being as smooth as glass, and oak is a hard wood, so even with 200-grit it takes a bit of work to round a sharp edge . . .

On the other hand, if the grit of the sandpaper is too high, it will not appear to do anything, so you might get one sheet of several higher grits, if the store sells sandpaper by the sheet (which will be the size of typical sheet of typewriter paper) . . .

Some of the higher grit sandpaper will be black, and it generally is for metal rather than wood, so focus on sandpaper that is light color, since it is made with ground sand, flint, or lighter color rock . . .

The black sandpaper will work, but some of the black sand can get trapped in the wood of the neck, so it is better to use light color sandpaper . . .

BEST STRATEGY

(1) Get a range of sandpaper (200-grit, 300-grit, 400-grit, 500-grit, and perhaps higher), one or two sheets each . . .

(2) Practice on an old broom handle until you get a sense of how the sandpaper works for the various grits . . .

(3) Then, once you are comfortable with your skill in sanding and selecting the correct grit, work on your guitar neck . . .

And you can practice using a fine-tooth metal file on an old broom handle, as well . . .

Edited by surfwhammy, 23 November 2010 - 09:43 AM.

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#5 Dave C

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 09:45 AM

Damn it. It was my understanding that the steel wool would remove the finish thats already on the back of the neck. So I just wanted to remove that then cover it with the oil. I didnt think the sand paper would be neseccary, guess I goto go back to the hardware store.

I would think you will need something more aggresive, but you wont do any damage with steel wool, so just give it a go.

#6 Dennoire

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 08:06 PM

Back in my parents attic I have an old cheap strat copy that I got for free, and has not really been worth fixing up. I'll use it to practice on when I go home for christmas.

#7 billy16

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 10:47 PM

I've just gone with a fine grain sandpaper. I can't remember the grain I used, but I used a rougher grain first, then as I got closer to the wood I'd switch to a finer grain. But I was taking the gloss finish off a newer guitar. That stuff is thick. But worth the work, I hate gloss on the back of guitar necks. I've done this a lot before though, so knowing when to use the finer grain came easy. I'd practice on that beat up Strat copy you have. Hell, if you mess that up it won't matter. There have been times I've bought cheap beat to hell guitars for the sole purpose of experimenting on them. Better to tear up some Chinese thing than my $1000 + Strats. Like anything else, it takes a few practice runs. But look on the bright side, you've got some extra wool if you ever want to polish up your frets.

#8 Dennoire

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 04:10 AM

Yeah I got the guitar for free, with the plans to experiment on it, just havent got around to it. This should give me some good experience points. Once I get confident on that i'll probly do it to all my others too.

#9 surfwhammy

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 07:05 PM

Yeah I got the guitar for free, with the plans to experiment on it, just havent got around to it. This should give me some good experience points. Once I get confident on that i'll probly do it to all my others too.


Experimenting with various luthiering and woodworking techniques is an excellent strategy, and the reality is that it takes a few times to develop a reasonably good level of skill . . .

And while my current thinking is that doing anything to your Gibson SG and acoustic guitar other than applying an occasional bit of guitar polish will be a huge mistake, it is useful to know that over the years I pretty much destroyed a pristine 1950s era Fender Precision Bass and an equally pristine 1960s era Fender Jazzmaster Guitar in a series of fascinating luthiering experiments, which ultimately made it possible for me to do the fantastic custom modifications to a 1999 Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster, thereby creating The Fabulous Fifty Million Dollar Trinaural Stratocaster®, which is fabulous . . .

Fabulous!

This is the guitar body for the customized Fender Jazzmaster, which as you will observe has a quite intricate custom plexiglass pick guard that was done entirely by hand with a Dremel tool, which if you know much about working with plexiglass is a bit mind-boggling . . .

[NOTE: This is a current photograph that I took about an hour ago after doing a bit of dusting and polishing, and I think this can be a very nice guitar with a new pick guard, updated hardware, Seymour Duncan pickups, Rothstein "mid-scoop" TONE controls, and a True Temperament neck, although I might do a different type of finish for the guitar body . . . ]

Posted Image
Custom-Modded Fender Jazzmaster Guitar Body ~ Early Prototype Digital Guitar

Mind-boggling!

I have most of the parts somewhere, although I modified the neck by running a separate wire to each metal fret, since this was part of one of my strange guitar projects in the mid-1970s to explore the concept of a digital guitar, where the general idea was to be able to identify notes based on which strings and frets were activated, which involved a set of integrated "microprocessor" chips and a lot of other Computer Science stuff, really . . .

Really!

For some reason, my general attitude regarding Fender guitars is that they are excellent for doing custom modifications, so while I have no problems doing custom modifications on Fender guitars, I am quite reluctant to do anything to a Gibson Les Paul or Gibson SG, although doing Seymour Duncan pickup and Rothstein "mid-scoop" TONE control upgrades is sufficiently non-invasive to be a bit of FUN . . .

At some point, I might get whatever hardware is necessary for the Fender Jazzmaster, along with a new neck, to get it working, since it has the potential to be a very nice guitar, although more along the lines of the custom modifications done for The Fabulous Fifty Million Dollar Trinaural Stratocaster than as a digital guitar, but I might leave it like it is, since it is an interesting bit of history, which is fabulous . . .

Fabulous! :)

Edited by surfwhammy, 24 November 2010 - 07:09 PM.

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#10 Dennoire

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 09:31 PM

That looks like it would be a killer guitar if it had some pups and a neck.

I have worked with plexiglass. Atleast I think thats what it was. I remember it was a bastard cause it gets hot from friction when you saw it, and it can warp.

Im a long way off doing anything to the SG, but if I like the feel of the strat copy and then the deluxe I might consider the SG. I think it will be more complicated though as the back of the neck is red like the body, and I dont know how that will work out with the sanding and the buffing.

I didnt realise how much I liked sanded back necks untill I played the Rory Gallagher tribute strat.

#11 billy16

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 12:51 AM

The red paint is underneath the finish. You'll just have to be real careful when you sand that finish off, else you'll take some of that paint. What type of finish is on that SG anyway?

#12 Dennoire

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 09:19 AM

Im not sure, I think just glossy? Its a Gibson SG Standard from '97 if that helps. Theres lots of friction when I slide my hand along it. It hadnt really bothered me untill I played a sanded neck and realised the difference.


Ages ago I saw a signature series les paul with a unfinished neck, I think I understand why now.

#13 billy16

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 11:27 AM

I've only owned one SG ever and I had it a long time ago. It had a gloss finish I think, but I can't remember. I personally don't like the gloss finish, it does add too much friction. I prefer satin or tung oil. You don't get that feeling your thumb is dragging.



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