Friday, October 28, 2011

Guitar Build Update: Applying Finish To The Envirocaster Part 4; The Neck

Like most guitarists, I am very picky about how the necks of my guitars feel in my fretting hand. I don't like glossy necks as my hand tends to stick when it gets sweaty. The feel I prefer is as if there was no finish at all. Unfortunately, if I were to leave the neck au natural, the wood eventually would suffer from the effects of exposure. 

At the same time, I want to bring out the beauty of the wood I used for both the neck and fretboard. The question is; How do I do this and protect the neck without harming the environment? The answer: tung oil.

Now there are those who might argue that tung oil is hardly eco-friendly since after all, it is an oil. But in truth, it is an oil that comes from pressing a nut from a tung tree. These trees are grown specifically for the purpose, so it's not like they are endangered. Furthermore, if you wipe on the oil rather than spray it on, you won't have to worry about filling the air with over spray.

Before you run out and buy yourself some tung oil, it's important to understand that there are two varieties; pure tung oil and polymerized tung oil. Most common and easiest to find is polymerized tung oil. It is basically pure tung oil with chemical additives that promote faster drying and different levels of sheen. I prefer pure tung oil as it seems to dry just as fast as the polymerized variety. However, if I want a glossy sheen, I'll wipe on a few thick coats of Formby's gloss after the pure tung oil has dried as day or two.

The method I used for the Envirocaster's neck was to wipe on three coats of pure tung oil a couple of hors apart. Then I let it dry over night. Next I wiped on two fairly heavy coats of Formby's gloss about 12 hours apart and let it dry for 12 more hours. Then, I wiped down the back of the neck with 0000 steel wool to get a luxuriously smooth and satiny feel.

In part 5, I will discuss polishing the Envirocaster's water-based lacquer topcoat. However, the body will need to sit and cure for about a week before the next steps can be taken. Until then, I have an idea for a binding jig I may build. Stay tuned!

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