View Full Version : Maple Fretboard

12-29-2008, 04:47 AM
I'm building a spruce top, myrtle wood B/S, maple necked Uke with a hard maple fretboard. Does anyone have advice on how to finish the maple fretboard?

The two methods I've found are. Use Tru-Oil and apply after the frets are on. Use light coats 4-6. Clean the frets with steel wool and a fret board guard (see pic) between coast.

There is a variation that says do it with the frets off.

The other method is to use Nitro Lacquer and apply after the frets are on. Use 4-6 coats. Clean the frets with steel wool and a fret board guard (see pic) between coats.

There is a variation that says do it with the frets off.

It seem like that you could muck up the fret slots with the frets off and with the frets on, end up with a buildup at the fret/fretboard juncture.

Which finish is harder and would last longer?

Any expereinces you can share and advice with doing this would be appreciated.

12-29-2008, 05:38 AM
If it helps, I have a Fender Precision Bass which has a Lacquered Maple neck. I have had it for 27 years and the lacquer has worn through in places so the wood has got a bit grubby where there is no protection. All adds to the "Mojo" though, so they tell me, and I certainly won't be trying to do anything about it.

E-Lo Roberts
12-29-2008, 06:29 AM
Ukeblues, the nitro will be harder. the tru-oil will be easier to touch up once you wear through the finish. I don't think I would do it though with the frets off. You might want to google some blogs about how Fender re-finishings their maple strat/tele necks. I personally don't like the feel of a finished maple fret board. It feels like plastic to me....e.lo

12-29-2008, 02:37 PM
I have made an ukulele with a black maple fretboard before.
I usually use regualr baby oil ( 2 coats ) on my fretboards after they are attached on the neck, and have the frets on, leveled and dressed.
I find that you still have the wood look and it doesn't give ( as e-lo says ) that plastic look, which I don't like either.
But it is really up to you.
There is such a thing at fingerboard oil as well that you may want to look into.
Good luck, and keep us posted.

12-29-2008, 09:34 PM
Laquer will definitely be eaten away after a couple months of hard playing. If you don't play often, maybe a year or so. A hand rubbed oil finish will also degrade, but the difference is less noticeable, and it's easier to touch up.

As for doing it with or without the frets, it's more a matter of preference. Applying laquer or a Tru-oil type finish will be easier to apply without the frets, but then you have to worry about clogging the fret slots. There's a little trick you can do to work around it, though. If you can find some cheap nylon strings slightly larger than the slot width, you can cut them into lengths a little longer than the width of your fret board. Pound them in with a small hammer and you don't have to worry about clogging the slots. Just be sure to leave a little bit sticking out, so you can pull them later. This works better with oil finishes, since laquer may chip off the edges if you aren't careful when removing them. If you do use laquer and the above method, you can score the joints with an exacto or razor blade before pulling the strings out and chipping shouldn't be a problem.

Doing it with the frets in has the obvious advantage of not clogging the slots, but you have to be careful of the frets, or tape them off individually. Oil finishes are a little more time consuming to wipe off, since they are more gummy. Laquer will scrape off with a sharp razor or scraper, but be sure to score around the frets, where they meet the fret board.