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Old 05-15-2013, 09:20 PM   #1
jacobpoirier
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Rosewood/Maple Neck Maintenance?

Hi all, just wondering about polishing when it comes to the guitar's neck. Is the general rule to just use guitar polish on finished (polyurethane-coated) necks while using different materials, such as linseed oil and extra-fine steel wool, on rosewood necks? Am I wrong in assuming that maple is generally finished while rosewood is often left raw? Thanks in advance for any help.
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Old 05-16-2013, 08:26 AM   #2
MrFlibble
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Rosewood is almost always left with a simple sealer and nothing else. Maple is always given a hard finish, without exception. Even maple necks that can feel like they are unfinished will actually have either a matte or oil finish. Actually unfinished maple will get permanently stained very easily and warp.

To clean maple, you need to know if it using a poly finish, nitro finish or oil finish.

Oil finishes can't really be cleaned, best you can do is wipe them down with a clean, dry microfibre cloth (costs next to nothing and you can buy them at various hobby stores, photographic specialists and opticians; don't buy expensive cloths sold as being for cleaning guitars, because they're just microfibre cloths with a logo printed on). After heavy use you may even need to reapply the oil finish. Oil finishes are very rare, though, with Charvel being the only company that uses them in mass production at low cost.

With nitro and poly finishes you need to use specific cleaners. Dunlop make a really good one for poly and Gibson make a really good one for nitro. PRS make one which they say is good for both, but considering how different nitro and poly are, I find it hard to believe; PRS' products are also more expensive than the other two. The vast majority of guitars these days have a poly finish. As with oil finishes, you would know when buying the guitar whether it has a nitro finish or not. Shops and manufacturers alway points out when a guitar has a nitro finish, so if you weren't specifically told your guitar has a nitro finish, assume it is a poly finish. If you want to be double-sure, smell it; nitro finishes have a sweet smell to them while poly finishs have no odour.
Once you've worked out what sort of finish you are dealing with, pick up the correct products—again, Dunlop and Gibson are what I have found to be the best at the most reasonable price as one bottle of each will last several years—and some microfibre cloths (seriously, buy these in bulk) and get to work. The general procedure is to squirt/drop a small amount of the product onto a cloth and then swirl it on over the finish in soft circular motions, applying no pressure (extra important with nitro finishes). Remember that less is more; you can always go over the guitar a second or third time, but you can't swamp the guitar in cleaning products once then scrape it all off.

For rosewood, you need to make the distinction between cleaning and conditioning.
If your rosewood board has turned a lighter colour or turned grey, it may need conditioning. This is usually required about once every 18 months or so. As with cleaning, there are lots of conditioning products on the market. Lemon oil is the most commonly-known one. Dunlop, again, make a fantastic deep conditioner. Apply a little of whatever product you choose to a clean microfibre cloth and work it in softly. Again, less is more, don't use much pressure, etc. The important thing to note with conditioners is that they won't remove gunk, just sort of move it around a bit and if the board isn't clean first then you'll just end up working the dirt further into the wood and under the frets, which can cause major problems.
If there's actual visible dirt on your fretboard then use a cleaner. Again, Dunlop are my brand of choice. Their fretboard cleaner eats through anything but it does dry out the wood, so it's recommended you follow it up with deep conditioner. With cleaners (and assuming you do condition the board directly afterwards) you don't need to be quite so careful, as long as you don't swamp the wood in it then you should be okay. In fact some cleaning products will also help polish up the frets, too.

I know at this point I am sounding like an advert, but Dunlop sell kits of all their products at a discounted price and one kit (one bottle of each plus a couple of cloths and some fret polishing pads) will last you years (er, if you buy a few more cloths).
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Old 05-16-2013, 10:11 AM   #3
Mephaphil
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I have the AVRI 56 which has a nitro neck and body and I just kinda give it a wipe down when I change the strings. I don't use anything specific I just give it a dry wipe to get rid of any obvious dirt and dust.

I kinda want the nitro to wear anyway so it looks authentic. I'm not actively trying to relic it but I don't cry when it gets a knock.
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Old 05-16-2013, 02:22 PM   #4
dspellman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jacobpoirier
Hi all, just wondering about polishing when it comes to the guitar's neck. Is the general rule to just use guitar polish on finished (polyurethane-coated) necks while using different materials, such as linseed oil and extra-fine steel wool, on rosewood necks? Am I wrong in assuming that maple is generally finished while rosewood is often left raw? Thanks in advance for any help.


MrMcFlibble's advice is generally on point, with one exception -- you don't need to "deep condition" rosewood (or ebony). It's just fine even if it's looking a bit dry. Mineral oil (or the lemon oil polish used for furniture, which is mostly mineral oil) is all you need to use. Wipe it on, leave it sit for no more than a few minutes, and wipe it off.

Do not use linseed oil or steel wool on your fretboard. Steel wool isn't necessary for cleaning (those microfiber cloths are perfect) and shouldn't be your first choice for polishing your frets, either. They'll just leave shards of steel wool stuck to your pickups, where they can corrode (rust) and actually damage exposed pickup coil wire. Linseed oil (flaxseed oil) is actually a finish (especially "boiled" linseed oil), but it can leave your fretboard a sticky mess for weeks if it takes a mind to. You want to avoid using tung oil or walnut oil as well.

Don't use pure lemon oil on your fretboard -- it's for cooking. Don't use rosewood oil on your fretboard -- it's for aroma therapy and perfumes.

Don't buy Fret Doctor unless you need to spend a ten-spot for some reason (tax dodge?). It does absolutely nothing beneficial or scientifically necessary for your fretboard. What it is beneficial for is putting money in the pocket of the guy who owns the website. Mineral oil will cost you $11/gallon (if you look for it). Buying Fret Doctor an ounce at a time nets the guy who makes it about $1000/gallon.

Last edited by dspellman : 05-16-2013 at 02:34 PM.
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Old 05-16-2013, 02:32 PM   #5
dspellman
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Originally Posted by Mephaphil
I kinda want the nitro to wear anyway so it looks authentic. I'm not actively trying to relic it but I don't cry when it gets a knock.


Just be aware that those old guitars with the nitro *really* worn off the fretboard absorb sweat and other kinds of moisture. Several of Clapton's old guitars are unplayable now because moisture has so damaged the raw maple that the necks are figuratively like rubber; they simply won't hold tune through an entire song. Never leave a maple neck unfinished.

In this case, if you want that look, it's almost better to have the relic job done and have the fake wear spots coated with a matte lacquer. Gibson does that with its reliced guitars; they have one that's supposed to duplicate some collector's '59. There are forearm wear spots on the original, for example, that go through to the bare wood. On the Gibson, those areas have several coats of matte lacquer, while the areas that are supposed to be "worn but still retaining the original paint" have a semi-gloss.

The same is true for nearly every guitar that simulates a "bare wood" look and feel. Carvin uses a tung oil finish on some necks, a matte poly on others. Same with virtually all other manufacturers.
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