Level sanding a maple fingerboard


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This is how I level sand a maple fingerboard before the final rubout on a polishing arbor.  I would love to hear from anyone who has a more effective way to do this since it is very labor intensive.

I made a little sanding block out of two pieces of paint stir stick taped together with a small sanding sponge and then I wrap that with 600 wet/dry paper.


I use mineral oil as a lubricant since water would soak under the frets and swell the grain.  I use the corner edge of the sanding block to get right up along the fret and this seems to work the best.


The fingerboard at the first two frets is level and ready to go to the polishing arbor. You can see the difference of sheen at the third fret, now I only have 20 more to go.  The further up the neck the harder it gets because of the narrow spacing.  

I'm surprised no one got back to this post - I think this is one of the more tougher areas to finish.

The first thing I make sure I do is to get enough lacquer on the neck. Using ReRanch, each coat consists of one pass that takes about 2 seconds to spray the length of the neck from 4 different angles, 90 degrees apart. The key area to build up a coat is at the edges, so every other coat is spraying over the edges of the fretboard/face of the head and then on the back hitting mostly the sides of the neck and edges of the back of the head. Then the next coat, again, would be 4 - 2 sec. passes - covering the face of the head/straight on with the fretboard and back then directly at the sides.

What I have found is that a final 3 coats is the bare minimum with the nitro cans from ReRanch - the best I can do with 3 final coats (following either sealing coats or sealing coats + final dye coat) is to get it barely shinny before sanding/polishing into the dye/seal coat. So, I recommend 6-8 coats of lacquer for final coats to be able to get a gloss finish.   

Assuming the above, What I do to sand  is I take a bamboo skewer - like the ones to BBQ kabobs - and use the pointy end for sanding right up next to the frets and the flat end to sand the middle. I roll the wet wet/dry paper onto the skewer winding it up the skewer on the pointy side and rolling it into a roll on the flat side. Then I just cut off the ends of the paper when they need new paper. I sand with the grain of the wood - though I don't think it matters - as long as you don't go 2 different directions with 400-800 paper.

The other thing I highly recommend when finish sanding the fretboard is to start with 600 paper and not 400 paper. The tricky angles with 400 paper take too much finish off IMO. With 600 paper you can recover from a few mistakes before getting into the dye/wood.