Finish before or after fret install??

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by goostardmd, Jun 3, 2020.

  1. goostardmd

    goostardmd TDPRI Member

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    Long time lurker, first time poster!
    Working on my first neck for my latest build and it happens to be a tele.
    The birdseye maple fingerboard has been radiused and the fret slots are cut. I was preparing to glue it to the maple neck and thinking of tints/colors and came across a video of Mr Erlewine at StewMac where he said he likes to do the finish before he installs the frets.
    Seems like a no-brainer (although it never occurred to me). But I wonder what the pros say about that approach.
    Any tips or things to definitely avoid??
    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Asmith

    Asmith Friend of Leo's

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    How are you installing the frets and are you planning to level and crown them?
     
  3. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Done it both ways on refrets. Fender does maple boards after. Or at least some of them. If completely new, I wouldn't final finish before due to possibly filling the fret slots too much. maybe a light coat or two before? Of course you could always clean up the fret slots with a fret saw.
     
  4. goostardmd

    goostardmd TDPRI Member

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    I THINK i'm using some type of radiused caul to press them to place.
    And yes I plan on leveling and crowning.
     
  5. Asmith

    Asmith Friend of Leo's

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    I would say that over the frets would be possible for you then but with my very limited experience I would still prefer to finish over the frets and deal with scraping the lacquer off the frets afterwards.

    Reason being if I scuff the neck during fret dressing I would rather it be wood as it would disappear with minimal work.
     
  6. goostardmd

    goostardmd TDPRI Member

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    good point and i've done that on a maple bass neck that was fretted
    so.... tint >> fret >> finish???
     
  7. eallen

    eallen Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I have done them both ways & learned best, for me to finish after fret install. Less touch up and drop fills on fret ends and chance for messing up a finish. I press all mine it.

    Eric
     
  8. old wrench

    old wrench Tele-Afflicted

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    On the necks I finish with TruOil, I finish before fretting, then do the touch up along the fret board edges. It's just so much easier to get get a nice flat looking finish on the fret board with TruOil when done in that fashion :).

    I'll post some pictures in my BB thread doing a neck that way. At this point, the neck has been finished and is ready for frets, which I'll be doing some time later this week if you care to see the results.


    .
     
  9. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Friend of Leo's

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    Frets under the finish, and use stainless so they [probably] never need to be replaced.

    I don't like hammering frets into a finished board, myself. It requires much more care and precision with the hammer or press, and doesn't seat the frets all the way to the wood.

    FWIW, Fender slid frets in from the bass side of the neck, then finished over them, then leveled and dressed.
     
  10. goostardmd

    goostardmd TDPRI Member

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    Ah HA!
    That's why I asked you guys!
    Thanks
     
  11. RogerC

    RogerC Poster Extraordinaire

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    As though Dan Erlewine isn't a pro :lol:

    I've started finishing the board prior to installing frets. I finish the board with CA glue, install frets, level and crown, then tape off the board and spray the rest of the neck with lacquer.
     
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  12. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    This is something to seriously think about. I just finished refretting a lacquered maple fretboard and I swore I will never do another. It simply doubled the amount of time and effort that it took and while the owner is overjoyed with the results, frankly I am not. I did a thread on it

    https://www.tdpri.com/threads/refretting-a-lacquered-fretboard.1025026/

    My comments and observations -

    - finishing over frets and then scraping them back is tedious and a hassle, but can be done. If so I would want to perfectly level the frets before any finish goes on

    - fretting over finish would be nearly impossible to keep the finish nice while installing the frets and leveling them. As careful as I was with the bass I did scratch the old finish in several places. I would end up doing touch up which would defeat the whole purpose

    - I use CA to seat my frets and it will make a mess if there is already finish on the board

    - think ahead to when it will need a refret. Think about the poor tech (me) who has to do it.

    - use a finish that can be recoated or touched up. I tested the finish on the bass neck in my thread to make sure it was lacquer, had it been some sort of fancy poly something I wouldn't have touched it

    So I guess bottom line, if I HAD to do a lacquered fretboard I would fret it first and only use lacquer. Then hope I'm dead when it needs refretting.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2020
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