Burnishing Raw Necks

Cagey

Senior member
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24,425
Tonar mentioned the other day about sitting down with a movie and some 2000 grit and making a maple neck shine. So, I decided to try that, only with an Aframosia neck. There was an appropriately campy movie on (Eight-Legged Freaks) that didn't require a great deal of attention, I had lotsa cold beer (as usual), a generous mittenful of various grades of abrasive... sounds like a party!

Yeah, I'm easily amused sometimes...

Anyway, I started off with some 600 grit. That made such an improvement in the feel of the neck that I almost stopped there. Seriously. If you've just been using your raw necks as delivered, you're missing out. Hard to believe, but they can feel dramatically better!

Movie starts off with a spider collector/research guy showing off his collection for one of the inevitable trailer trash kids. Unfortunately for the spider research guy, he gets bit by one of his little subjects and in the process of thrashing around his lab, knocks over most of the habitats and lets a lotta spiders run free. They kill his dumb ass (had to happen), and manage to escape the lab and find some toxic waste to frolic in (also had to happen).

From there, I went to some 1200 grit. Worked that for a while. Started to notice a bit of nice glow to the neck in the right light. Hmm... we may be onto something here...

The toxic waste makes the spiders grow huge (surprise!) and they start terrorizing the countryside eating cats, dogs, ostriches (!) and what-have-you (naturally). People start to notice things just ain't right.

Finished up with some 2000 grit, and the shine came on. Check this out...

IMG_1775_Sm.JPG
IMG_1778_Sm.JPG

IMG_1772_Sm.JPG
IMG_1777_Sm.JPG

IMG_1773_Sm.JPG
IMG_1776_Sm.JPG

That's with no buffing, no polish, no oil, no nothing. Still just raw Afra. I thought my Ebony over Pau Ferro neck was the best neck I'd ever felt. Not anymore. This thing is the whip! It's almost magical. It's not sticky like a gloss finish - it just feels like the highest quality satin you've ever felt. Time very well spent.

Oh, and one of the crafty kids manages to lure all the spiders into an abandoned mine where he manages to find a methane leak, which works out well when it comes time to blow all the spiders to that great big web in the sky. The end.

I'm not going to tear apart any guitars just to do this, but as it gets to be time to change strings on a guitar with a raw neck, it's going to get this treatment. I've got raw Canary, Ziricote, Pau Ferro, Bubinga, Wenge, Rosewood and Bloodwood necks to try this on.

Edit: I've since revised the sequence slightly to include some intermediate grits of paper. While adding steps sounds like it might increase the time it takes to do this, it actually improves it because you gradually remove the scratches left from the previous grit, rather than trying to get deeper scratches out with too fine a paper, which takes a long time. So, something like a 600-800-1000-1200-1500-2000 progression works better.
 

Cagey

Senior member
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24,425
Lotsa grins, just didn't notate them.

Incidentally, the thing doesn't shine like that looking at it straight on the way a gloss-finished neck would. It just looks like raw wood, albeit very smooth.
 

Updown

Senior member
Messages
2,606
Ah ha .... Just what I mentioned I did to my Raw necks, after finding out that they are factory finished to 220.

I only went to 800 on Wenge, Bocote, Concalo Alves, Rosewood and a Indian Rosewood.
Didn't touch any of my Pau-Ferro.

The Bocote when it came felt furry / fluffy in a way, that was the 1st one I did and WOW.  :eek:

:sign13:  I tested this 1st by doing behind the head stock and the heel ONLY.
Then slid my fingers the full length of the neck, could feel it slide easily on heel & headstock,
But would grab slightly on the back.

You want smooth, then try it, you will crap yourself  :laughing7:

Al thou be very careful when you go to grab it out of the stand. Need to get a good grip.
Or it'll slip outta your hands  :doh:

BTW Cagey  .... whats with all the Gold hardware I'm seeing  :icon_scratch:
 

Cagey

Senior member
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24,425
I'm really pleased with the way this has turned out. I never thought raw wood could polish up so nice without any kind of finish on it. And it feels fantastic!

As for the gold, I like gold. I like black. I also like nickel and chrome, but it's so common. I'm putting together custom guitars, I don't want pedestrian parts. I do have two instruments with chrome hardware, but they're off-the-shelf fiddles, so no surprise.

I'm gonna do an old VIP this summer and that'll probably end up with chrome, as I'm strongly leaning toward a blue finish and chrome works well with that.
 

anorakDan

Senior member
Messages
709
Thanks, Cagey for being the vanguard of a possibly entirely new trend; hand-polished raw exotic wood necks! I can hear it now, "I dunno, my out of the box bubinga neck is a little woodier sounding than my polished pao ferro." or "I swear I get more sustain now that I've sanded my neck."

Silliness aside, thanks for going to the effort and sharing your findings with us.

It seems to me Ive read that some exotic sawdust can be somewhat harmful on skin contact or breathed in. Padouk in particular. Any thoughts on which woods where maybe this isn't such a great idea?
 

Johnfv

Senior member
Messages
187
Interesting. I've buffed with 0000 steel wool but will try the sandpaper "polish".  :eek:ccasion14:
 

Cagey

Senior member
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24,425
anorakDan said:
Thanks, Cagey for being the vanguard of a possibly entirely new trend; hand-polished raw exotic wood necks! I can hear it now, "I dunno, my out of the box bubinga neck is a little woodier sounding than my polished pao ferro." or "I swear I get more sustain now that I've sanded my neck." 

Hehe! Well, I didn't come up with the idea. I gotta give credit to Tonar and Updown. They're the ones who did it first and inspired me.

As for the toxicity thing, I think that's true of most exotic woods, just to varying degrees. My understanding is that the trees that grow in climates where they enjoy non-stop growth environments such as you find in the tropics or close to the equator have developed natural insect repellents, which we're more likely to get sensitized to. There's a chart here that lists out a large number of species and how we may react to them.

With the work I did on this neck, I barely generated any dust at all. You're really not removing much with such fine-grained papers, and since I was doing it by hand, I doubt much of the little that was created made its way airborne.

The other thing is not everybody reacts to the stuff. For instance, according to the chart at the link, I should have had a reaction to the Afra. But, I didn't. Maybe if I did it every day, I'd develop a sensitivity, but that's unlikely to happen.
 

Cagey

Senior member
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24,425
Johnfv said:
Interesting. I've buffed with 0000 steel wool but will try the sandpaper "polish".  :eek:ccasion14:

I've done the steel wool thing in the past and got good results, but I stopped using steel wool in general a couple/few years ago. Stuff's just too messy. Plus, while it improves the surface of the wood, it's nothing like what this process does.

VinceBuyingDope.jpg


That's the neck using steel wool. Make no mistake, it's the bomb. I'll put that neck up against anybody's sh!t.
But, this... this is the madman. When you play this neck, you will know where your money went.
 

line6man

Senior member
Messages
6,443
anorakDan said:
It seems to me Ive read that some exotic sawdust can be somewhat harmful on skin contact or breathed in. Padouk in particular. Any thoughts on which woods where maybe this isn't such a great idea?

That's subjective. I've been covered in the sawdust of over fifty species of wood, and never once had any issues, other than a couple of them being mildly irritating to breathe. (I hate Canary and Kingwood.) Others will break into rashes and severe respiratory issues after exposure to just about any wood. If you're prone to allergies, you might consider a mask and perhaps some gloves or something, if they don't affect your ability to sand. Note, however, that you really won't be exposed to a whole lot of dust by fine sanding a neck. I would be more concerned with getting the wood oils on your hands than breathing it. Make sure you wash your hands well after you do it. Even if you think your hands are clean, whatever color of wood you work with is what you'll see in the sink when you wash up.
 

Tonar8352

Senior member
Messages
2,195
don't you still need to finish Maple to seal it off?

I do finish the fret board and headstock with lacquer but the back surface only gets hand rubbed with boiled linseed oil after I finish sanding it with 2000 grit; then I polish it on a polishing arbor. I lose the Warmoth Warranty but have never had one go bad. 

I would never put any other kind of finish on a neck unless I'm re-finishing a vintage guitar or replicating a vintage finish for someone. All my Warmoth necks are done this way going back to 1996.
Here are a few.
IMG_7325.jpg


 

Cagey

Senior member
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24,425
Interesting. In looking around, I'm finding out that what's happening is the wood is getting burnished. This has the effect of closing up cells and sort of sealing off the wood, in which case it won't even take stain. I'm thinking if it's that tight, it may be why your necks aren't suffering as a result of being unfinished and sucking up moisture. On the wood turning and carving forums, they generally seem to regard it as an undesirable effect, and warn you to guard against it as it prevents you from finishing the piece.
 

Tonar8352

Senior member
Messages
2,195
On the wood turning and carving forums, they generally seem to regard it as an undesirable effect, and warn you to guard against it as it prevents you from finishing the piece.
Yes you would never want to sand a piece of wood that fine and then try to hard finish it. Essentially it would be like trying to get paint to adhere to a piece of glass, there is nothing for the paint to bite into.

I believe the protection for my necks comes for the boiled oil soaking into the wood. I had an old time paint guy teach me that trick for gun stocks back in the 70's. He said they did that during World War 2 to preserve the walnut stocks on their guns.

Wow; I sound like a geezer.  :laughing7:

I must say I did love learning from those old guys and now I are one.
 

stubhead

Senior member
Messages
4,669
Something like 40% of all luthiers have to quit because of wood dust, and 1 out of 5 workers in industrial wood processing go on disability eventually. It's the ultra fine dust you can't even see that lodges in your lungs, causing the same kinds of cancers as asbestos. "cleaning off" your machines with a compressed air hose is putting it right up in the air. The only kinds of dust-collectors that are remotely safer are ones where the dust is vented outside, where it get absorbed by humidity. A very very real subject.

http://ohioline.osu.edu/aex-fact/0595_1.html
 

Mad Hatter

Active member
Messages
54
Cagey said:
Interesting. In looking around, I'm finding out that what's happening is the wood is getting burnished. This has the effect of closing up cells and sort of sealing off the wood, in which case it won't even take stain. I'm thinking if it's that tight, it may be why your necks aren't suffering as a result of being unfinished and sucking up moisture. On the wood turning and carving forums, they generally seem to regard it as an undesirable effect, and warn you to guard against it as it prevents you from finishing the piece.

I think you're probably on to something there.  I've got a Peavey Mantis that I rescued from ebay a couple years ago for sentimental reasons (had one of those when I was 16). And after I had the neck stripped of hardware and the frets pulled out, I did a progressive sanding on the whole thing ending with 1600 ("but this one goes to 2000"), and it feels amazing.  In between sandings, I also hit it with a damp paper towel, which raised any grains that might have gotten bent over rather than sanded off.  Then sanded it again.  Evenutally it got to the point where no more grain was being raised with the damp rag, and I did a final sand and called it good.  The only thing I've ever put on it is lemon oil, and it seems to repel dirt and moisture like a champ.  These weren't high end guitars in their day, so I'm guessing it's not the best piece of maple on the neck, but I pretty much torture this thing, and the neck has held true the whole time.  :laughing11: wow, that got long winded.  But I think you're right Cagey, once you get the grain so tight and even from sanding out all the tiny imperfections, it's pretty hard for moisture to get in.  Never really thought about "why", just liked the way it felt (insert joke here).
 
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