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Finish before neck attachment?
Author
Post
PJ

Total Topics: 12
Total Posts: 90
Hi guys - on my previous three guitars I applied the finish after attaching the neck. This made for a lot of work to get a proper finish on the section where the neck joins the body. I know a lot of builders finish the body before attaching the neck but see obvious difficulties with this approach. Would appreciate a little guidance form those of you who have gone this route?

May 12, 10 | 11:43 pm
naccoachbob

Total Topics: 26
Total Posts: 257
PJ, I would think that if you finished the body with the neck attached that there would possibly be a build-up of finish right at that neck/body joint which could crack or distort somehow later on. Also, it seems easier to buff out the whole thing if the two were separated.
What are the difficulties you see with them separated?

May 13, 10 | 5:15 am
Herman

Total Topics: 38
Total Posts: 480
PJ,
The only drawback of spraying them seperately is that you can see imperfections of the joint better.

You could choose to fret the neck after gluing and leveling, as I do now. So when it already finished, you have to take care not to mess with that finish while working on the neck.

I did both ways succesfully imo. The times I spray a completed guitar I put about half the amount of laquer on the jointarea. And that worked fine for me.
(have to admit that the first time I put too much on it, it looked overfilled)

For the moment I do them separated, because it spays easier.

Herman

May 13, 10 | 7:44 am
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
I finished my mandolin and my classical with the neck attached (Spanish heel on the classical), everything else has been separate. Buffing around the neck heel is a real PITA and if/when you remove it for a reset you will have to break the finish.

I do a close neck set before finishing, mask off the mortise and tenon, fretboard, etc. and spray the body and neck separately. It is much easier to color sand and buff with them apart, and you can do the final setting just before you assemble them. On the Stella clone I didn't glue the fretboard extension down and after about a month I had to tweak the neck angle which was easy to do. On the tricone the f/b extension is bolted down (kind of like Taylor NT neck) - the neck can be removed at any time to correct angle (plus this is standard practice on resonators).

The only reason I can see to finish with the neck on is if you have some kind of joint that can't be removed like a Spanish heel.

ps - I fret and do most of the leveling before finish, but usually have to do some final clean up afterwards. Carefully mask the top, headstock, any other area that might get scratched while polishing frets, making a nut, doing the setup.

May 13, 10 | 8:28 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
PJ

What obvious difficulties do you foresee -- using the popular/factory system of finishing the neck and body seperately? We might be able to dispel your fears.

Ken Cierp

Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

May 13, 10 | 11:28 am
Ken C

Total Topics: 30
Total Posts: 554
PJ, I always finish separately. So much easier to handle the pieces that way. I use bolt on necks with bolt down f/b extensions allowing me to easily remove a neck. If I finished the guitar in one piece, I'd have to score that neck joint in order to remove the neck. With some care, you can get a really tight neck joint, and as you have found out, leveling the finish on the rim under the joint as well as the neck heel will be a whole lot easier if finished separately.

Ken

May 13, 10 | 1:06 pm
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
I also finish separately for the same reasons.

May 13, 10 | 2:26 pm
PJ

Total Topics: 12
Total Posts: 90
Guys - thanks for that. Like Herman, I battled a bit with the first, but on the last two I managed to spray less on the joint and it looks pretty good imo. However, Freeman hits it on the nail - its a real PITA to get done properly. I am definitely keen to do them separately. I assume the neck is attached temporarily, the f/b (not the extension) glued and when dry, the neck removed, f/b and mortise masked down and then spray the neck? If so, how does one compensate for the thickness of the finish at the joint? Another concern is the possibility that the f/b won't fit properly at the extension, i.e. gaps. These are the major ones. As I have no experience in this regard, I would greatly appreciate if somebody could lay out the best approach and possible pitfalls.

May 14, 10 | 12:56 am
blues creek guitars Authorized Martin Repair Ctr

Total Topics: 52
Total Posts: 1011
I agree separate is the way to go

John Hall
Blues Creek Guitars Inc.
Authorized CF Martin Repair Center

May 14, 10 | 3:13 am
Ken C

Total Topics: 30
Total Posts: 554
PJ, this is what I do. I make sure I have a really good neck fit and angle prior to finishing as I don't want to make big adjustments after finishing. I then take the neck off and insert a couple of 3" 1/4-20 bolts in the neck tenon so I have something to hang on to while finishing. I usually run some masking tape around the tenon so I can keep off overspray. I also mask the top of the fingerboard. I have found I don't really need to mask the neck heel cheeks or under the fingerboard extension if I am careful how I aim my gun. The neck is now ready to go. I grab the two bolts with my left hand and shoot the neck while holding it. I don't hang it. To dry, I just turn the neck upside and rest it on the fingerboard.

For the body, I have a stick about 8" long that is the width of the mortise. I inserted a 1/4"-20 screw bolt (the kind that has a bolt on one end and screw on the other) into one end of the stick. I then simply bolt this onto the body through the neck mortise. This gives me a handle to hold the guitar while spraying. The only part of the guitar I mask is the bridge. I bolt down my f/b extensions, so no need to mask there, and I found I don't get much over spray in the mortise, so I don't worry about it. I wad up newspapers and stuff them in the soundhole (some folks use a balloon). Again, I grab the stick in my left hand and spray the body while holding it. I find I can control the spray pattern much better if I hold the body rather than hang it while spraying. The stick bolted onto the body has a hole drilled through it so I can hang the guitar up to dry after being sprayed.

After spraying, and leveling but before buffing, I test fit the neck. I find I usually I have to floss the neck cheeks with some fine sandpaper to remove whatever lacquer overspray I got on. I'll also check the neck angle again while I am at it and make sure the plane over the bridge looks good. If so, I'll take the neck off and proceed with buffing, gluing on the bridge, and finally reattaching the neck.

Others may have a different approach, but this works very well for me. Easy to finish around the neck joint area, and I still have a nice tight fitting neck joint.

Ken

May 14, 10 | 5:18 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
I usually tape the cheeks of the neck on the non-finished area. When I remove it, I get a nice sharp finished edge that goes against the shoulders of the guitar. Makes it a little easier to floss too when necessary....don't have to get through the finish.

May 14, 10 | 12:54 pm
naccoachbob

Total Topics: 26
Total Posts: 257
Ken Hundley hit it on the head I think with what you asked. You can floss the neck against the body with some sandpaper. Just put paper between the neck and body and hold the neck against it firmly, and slide the sandpaper out.
That should help with mating the two also.

May 14, 10 | 2:50 pm
blues creek guitars Authorized Martin Repair Ctr

Total Topics: 52
Total Posts: 1011
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=blues+creek+guitars+dovetail&aq=f
Here is a video link to setting the neck. Now as for finishing you need to have a very good prep. Ken C has a good hang method , there are many ways to do this but you need to control it as it hands. The secret to any good finish is prep. If you don't do this right you won't have the best result.
First never sand the wood beyond 220. If you get the wood too smooth you can have adhesion problems. The first thing you do is stain. You need to seal after staining and do the filling. I use pore O paq , I like the control you get with mineral spirit based fillers. Use natural filler and you can mix a small batch with your stain as the color agent , Get the filler colored and then mix it well. You may have to add some mineral spirits to help but usually the stain will thin this. I mix only a few table spoons at a time. To this I will add 1 drop of naphtha to aid in flashing.
You apply the filler and allow the material to "flash off". Once the surface of the filler looses the wet look you can start to rub it into the wood. Do this at least 3 times and then go out in the sun and see if you have the pores filled. Once you think it looks good , do it 2 more times.
Let this cure over night and then here is the secret. If you are using a Nitro finish use the vinyl sealer, and shoot a coat of sealer. When the sealer is still tacky shoot a coat of finish on it. This lets the lacquer weld into the vinyl and helps avoid adhesion problems. Let this sit over night then apply 6 to 8 coats of lacquer , 1 coat per hour.
Let this set at least 2 to 3 weeks. Then you level this off. The curing time is important . If you don't the lacquer will shrink and show the pores. Be patient.
Once it is cured dry sand starting with 320 and work this about 1/2 way through the orange peel , then 400 to get about just to the bottom ,then 600 as you just touch the bottom of the orange peel ,. Now you want to use 800 wet and get your finish level and look for any sand through. Use a sanding block as much as possible and be careful of the corners.
Once you have a good level apply 3 coats of finish , this is the show finish. this I let sit 2 weeks and them 800 wet 1000 wet 1500 wet 2000 wet buff and polish
If you are using spray cans you will need about 6 to 8 finish and 2 sealers. Satin finish is less work and more forgiving. I do use satin on my necks. Finishing is as much technique and process as it is material. You can't rush it , so take your time.
Sherwin Williams has good lacquer but you have to get that through an industrial supplier.

John Hall
Blues Creek Guitars Inc.
Authorized CF Martin Repair Center

May 15, 10 | 3:42 am
PJ

Total Topics: 12
Total Posts: 90
Guys - thats a lot of food for thought. Thanks to all who contributed, especially the detailed replies Ken C and John. Any thoughts on the advantages/disadvantages of fretting the f/b before or after attaching it to the neck?

May 16, 10 | 11:55 pm
blues creek guitars Authorized Martin Repair Ctr

Total Topics: 52
Total Posts: 1011
I do my fretting before I place the board. That way when I glue the neck and board together I don't have any surprises on spring back and warp. Fretting on the neck can be difficult , especially the extension

John Hall
Blues Creek Guitars Inc.
Authorized CF Martin Repair Center

May 17, 10 | 3:54 am
PJ

Total Topics: 12
Total Posts: 90
Thanks John, was hoping you'd say that. Certainly was leaning in that direction.

May 18, 10 | 4:08 am
~frank

Total Topics: 2
Total Posts: 25
Noob here, coming out of lurk mode. There is a lot of helpful information in this thread.

~frank

May 18, 10 | 5:27 am
Ken C

Total Topics: 30
Total Posts: 554
PJ, I used to fret before gluing the f/b on the neck, but I have since switched to gluing on the f/b first. Guitars get refretted all the time and those f/b's are already glued to the neck. I find I get a more level f/b by fretting after. I glue on the f/b, bolt the neck on the body, then relevel the f/b prior to fretting. With the neck off the guitar, I press the frets in with my drill press, placing a support block under the area of the neck being fretted. I have had no issues with the f/b extension as I place a block under the f/b extension to support it while I press in the frets.

You'll also find folks that prefer to hammer versus press frets. I started out hammering, but much prefer pressing. If you are hammerer, fretting first is certainly easier, that is why I fretted first orginally. Once I switched to pressing, I could just as easily fret after as before gluing on the f/b. I am thinking of going even further and fretting after finishing. Masking the f/b will be easier as will clean up after spraying.

Ken

May 18, 10 | 9:33 am
PJ

Total Topics: 12
Total Posts: 90
Thanks Ken - I am still at the hammering stage, so am going to try the fretting first option at this junction. What problem did you experience going this route?

May 21, 10 | 12:51 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
In addition to this procedure:

http://www.kennethmichaelguitars.com/fret.html

Bill Cory had mentioned rubber banding or gluing a piece of coffee can lid to the hammer to help prevent dents -- great idea.

I even have an arbor press set up, but still find the hammer method to be the fastest and best method for me --- solid work surface -- single stroke and no recoil hammering and you will do just fine. Also a bigger hammer rather then one of the tiny mallets with the plastic ends is a quantum improment. $.02

Ken

Kenneth Michalel Guitars est. 1978

May 21, 10 | 8:26 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
I started using a fret press on the last build I did. I love it.

May 21, 10 | 2:01 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Yep -- Plastic coffee can lid ...

Bill

May 21, 10 | 2:22 pm
Ken C

Total Topics: 30
Total Posts: 554
PJ, the only thing I had to watch out for when hammering was to make sure the fret was aligned well in the slot. With my first guitar, I had an ebony f/b and had a fret or two roll when I tapped it and popped pieces of the ebony out. I eventually got the hang of it. I had read somewhere that some put a small bead of titebond in the slot, which both softened the wood and helped hold the frets in firmly. I never tried that, though.

Ken

May 21, 10 | 6:18 pm
PJ

Total Topics: 12
Total Posts: 90
Ken Cierp - thanks for the link - I will check it out. Must upgrade my hammer, mine is the small mallet with the plastic cup on one end...

May 23, 10 | 11:41 pm
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 981
I have a medium sized head plastic and rubber mallet from HF. I use the plastic end of the head, and it works really well. Just a few taps, and the fret is in, and I've never marked a one. I have an arbor press and have thought about pressing them in, but hey, the mallet is quick and slick.
On my current build I glued the fretboard to the neck first, and fretted after. I think this went better....but I guess fretting is for another thread!

Kevin

May 24, 10 | 5:41 am



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