Semi-gloss nitro: how to finish this neck?

Benny Mack

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Hey folks! I’m nearly done on a neck refinish and am hoping some the experienced folks here can offer advice. This is my first attempt at anything like this—it’s a very amateur rattle-can job in my back yard and I don’t have fancy equipment. (This is also a one-off, so I’m not planning on investing). I’ve been following lots of helpful advice on this forum and the basic process outlined be @eallen here: https://www.tdpri.com/threads/step-...-finish-on-a-maple-neck.1080551/post-10891998. Specifically I’m wondering how to work with semi-gloss nitro when it comes to final finishing, and where to go from where I’m at right now to achieve a nice finish.

Context: This was originally a 2011 American Standard neck in a poly finish that the previous owner had tried to relic, disastrously. I wish I’d taken a before picture. I stripped off all the poly back to wood everywhere except the decal area, and have been building back the finish using Oxford “Aged Clear” and Gloss Clear nitro lacquer (side note: I can’t say enough good things about this company’s products and customer service!). 2 coats of clear, then 4 coats of aged clear for the tint, then 6 coats of gloss clear. I then put two coats of Mohawk “semi-gloss” clear as I thought semi-gloss would be closer to the final look I’m going for. It is going to be paired with a road-worn vintera body in a light relic lake placid blue nitro. My goal was to produce a similar-ish finish to the road worn vintera necks, though I’m not interested in doing fretboard wear or other relicing, except for maybe a bit of light sanding on the back of the neck. Just in the same ballpark--an aged amber colour and a finish that is flatter than mirror glossy to match well with the lightly aged body.

So far: My first time painting basically anything, so some trial and error, but it’s been enjoyable and I’m relatively happy with results to this point, though they are far from perfect! I got some orange peel in earlier tint coats—application error, I’m aware—but by the last couple clear coats I found my technique and have been able to lay down consistent wet/flat coats. I haven’t done any sanding yet. The last two wetter coats have tamed down the orange peel significantly but clearly it’s still there. Pictures here are a day after the last clear coat in semi-gloss.
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How to finish? My question is about the final steps when using semi-gloss and if I should treat them different than regular clear gloss. Most instructions I’ve read here and elsewhere assume a mirror finish and (with enough layers of clear) level sanding, working up through the grits, and buff/polish to glassy. I figure this defeats the purpose of using semi-gloss (?), and most advice I’ve found is that for satin or semi-gloss finishes to skip final wet sand/buff. But, I have this orange peel to work out. Should I:

1. Wait a few days and then flat sand everything with 800(?) wet, and then put on a nice, flat final coat of semi-gloss, and leave it at that.
2. Build up a few more layers of semi-gloss clear and then do final level and wet sanding, but stop somewhere in the process before glassy polishing (2000? a medium compound?)
3. Something else?

For reference the general look of the road worn necks below is around where I’d like to end up (minus the checking). I realize semi-gloss is a bit glossier than this, but close enough for me.

THANKS!

ps. If anyone has great tips for sanding on the fretboard between the high frets, I’m all ears.


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KokoTele

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That looks great so far! And you are right, sanding and buffing defeats the purpose of a semi-gloss finish.

I think the strategy I'd use now is to carefully level sand until the orange peel is gone, and then spray a final coat of clear to get the right luster. Don't sand or polish that final coat.

As for sanding between frets... small sanding blocks with sharp corners to get right up to the frets. Paint doesn't have grain, so you can sand across the wood grain between the frets. Use a light touch, be careful at the sharp corners, and start at maybe 1000 or 1200 grit. You don't have that much orange peel to get rid of.
 

stratisfied

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Use a green kitchen scotchbrite and lightly scuff the finish level and make it evenly satin in texture. It only takes a very light touch to do. Cut off a small square with scissors to use between the frets.

If you have a lot of orange peel and need to level the finish between frets, you could sand with 1000-1600 grit, I use these self-stick chair tips as a sanding block for between the frets. Stick to your sandpaper and trim with an exacto knife.

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Always sand in the direction of the grain including between the frets. Buff with a dry, soft cloth and you will be right back to semi-gloss. If you use compound, you'll go straight to gloss again.
 

Boreas

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Looks great!

One choice is to leave the orange peel (OP) on the fretboard until you do a refret. It certainly isn't bad. Otherwise a PITA to sand between frets.

Do you think you can confidently spray now without getting orange peel? If so, do your best to level it. But keep in mind, you don't want to sand into the TINTED lacquer you have already applied. So you will need to make sure you have plenty of clear on top to be able to level the OP, or you may end up with light spots where you went through the tint. Your only insurance against this is many light coats of clear before level sanding.

THEN, you have two choices - finish with satin, or finish with gloss and knock off the shine. I feel the gloss-removed finish looks and wears more naturally. But that is subjective and a personal preference. One result tends to look "old" whereas the other tends to look contrived. Both look good - just personal preferences.
 
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Benny Mack

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thanks @KokoTele , @stratisfied , and @Boreas for these really helpful replies. I made the poor decision to post this thread right before hopping into the woods to go camping for the long weekend (first time with two toddlers -- an adventure to say the least!)

I've decided to go ahead pretty much as KokoTele and Boreas suggested with a quick level (which I've done) and spraying a final (hopefully close to perfect) coat to finish. Waiting on the weather for the latter -- hopefully tomorrow. I stopped into my local Mohawk store to pick up a can of Satin clear nitro and discovered these foam sanding pads:

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The picture isn't great, but it's about a 1/4inch foam pad with paper on one side and it comes in high finishing grits. Firm enough but flexible to hit the radius and easy to trim to size. I cut a few different strips for various sizes up the fretboard and found it really effective, especially for getting right up against the frets. 15 minutes with the P1200-1500 knocked off the orange peel and I avoided any sand-throughs into the tint.

I'm confident enough in my spraying technique to (hopefully) lay down a nice final finish. What I'm debating now is whether to try satin or stick with the semi gloss and knock off a bit of the shine as suggested above. I appreciate your input there on my options Boreas. I really enjoy the look of the finish on those road worn necks I posted in the OP, and am thinking satin might get me closer. I know the proper thing to do would be to play it all out on scrap first!

The community here is so helpful and I'm grateful for your input, folks.
 

Boreas

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thanks @KokoTele , @stratisfied , and @Boreas for these really helpful replies. I made the poor decision to post this thread right before hopping into the woods to go camping for the long weekend (first time with two toddlers -- an adventure to say the least!)

I've decided to go ahead pretty much as KokoTele and Boreas suggested with a quick level (which I've done) and spraying a final (hopefully close to perfect) coat to finish. Waiting on the weather for the latter -- hopefully tomorrow. I stopped into my local Mohawk store to pick up a can of Satin clear nitro and discovered these foam sanding pads:

View attachment 1000934

The picture isn't great, but it's about a 1/4inch foam pad with paper on one side and it comes in high finishing grits. Firm enough but flexible to hit the radius and easy to trim to size. I cut a few different strips for various sizes up the fretboard and found it really effective, especially for getting right up against the frets. 15 minutes with the P1200-1500 knocked off the orange peel and I avoided any sand-throughs into the tint.

I'm confident enough in my spraying technique to (hopefully) lay down a nice final finish. What I'm debating now is whether to try satin or stick with the semi gloss and knock off a bit of the shine as suggested above. I appreciate your input there on my options Boreas. I really enjoy the look of the finish on those road worn necks I posted in the OP, and am thinking satin might get me closer. I know the proper thing to do would be to play it all out on scrap first!

The community here is so helpful and I'm grateful for your input, folks.

Keep in mind gloss, semi-gloss, and satin all are separate products. By that I mean they all apply a little differently and spray differently. If you are confident with one product, i would continue with it - otherwise you may unexpected results if you switch properties.
 

KokoTele

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@Benny Mack, I really like those sanding pads for sanding compound curves, though I find that the grit usually wears out quickly.

Do yourself a favor and practice on some scrap before you do anything to your neck, even if you have to buy a length of maple board from the hardware store or lumber yard. Personally, I've never liked the look of "satinized" flat panels that were done by knocking down a glossy sheen with abrasives. I always see the scratches. It's fine on the back of a neck because the curve makes those scratches hard to see, but I wouldn't do it on the face of the headstock.
 

Benny Mack

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Keep in mind gloss, semi-gloss, and satin all are separate products. By that I mean they all apply a little differently and spray differently. If you are confident with one product, i would continue with it - otherwise you may unexpected results if you switch properties.
Excellent point (edit: @KokoTele too). I do have some scrap to test so if I like the satin I'll definitely spend some time on technique to see if I need to make adjustments.
 

old wrench

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For that chore of sanding between frets, I use a rubber eraser as a backing pad

I always have a few of them to pick from - there are the common small pink ones, and also tan and off-white types that come in larger sizes.

It's easy to wrap a piece of sand-paper around them and they are pretty comfortable to hang on to - they conform to the fret-boards radius - and they are firm enough to sand right into the corner next to a fret

I cut them down to fit in-between higher frets - you can make a nice clean and square cut with a sharp utility knife blade

.
 

Beebe

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I also use a rubber eraser between frets.

The amount of time and effort that goes into it got me wondering how Fender does it. I couldn't believe they spend that much time on production models.

In this video around 2:20 you can see the maple fretboard getting a rubdown with steel wool.

This jives with the thick finishes that covers the frets that you find on Fender production models.

I haven't tried it myself yet. Abrasive foam pads should work similarly. I plan to try it with Liberon 0000 steel wool (finer than hardware store 0000).

As Fender does... Use the steel wool with the neck off the body and in a different room than the electronics. Clean up with a strong magnet wrapped in a paper towel.

 

Beebe

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... oh yeah. I also wanted to mention "flash coat" as a final finishing option.

Get the surface flat and partially polished. Then mist on a diluted coat of regular clear nitro, then do not polish. This final coat will dissolve small scratches and swirl, and look kind of satin.

Its how repair shops often finish over a repair. And I believe it's how Fender does closet classic finishes. At least a Fender rep in a marketing video mentioned "flash coat" along with "closet classic."

I've only done it with shellac, but I've seen several repair videos where they do it with Nitro. I dilute the 1.5# cut shellac I normally spray by about %50 (or I guess to a 0.75# cut).

It looked something like this on my last project:

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jrblue

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I guess it's too late to say "practice first." That's OK -- I just jump into stuff, too. For the fretboard, a material I totally despise -- steel wool -- may well do the job making the orange peel less visible. My trick for dealing with orange peel is the same one I use for drips. I don't cause them to begin with. I find dealing with underspraying and too-thin coats to be easy, while knocking down organe peel and drips is the enemy of thin finishing. Congrats on taking this on and for doing the rattle-can thing (I do it all the time and great results are possible) and just going for it thoughtfully and carefully.
 

telepraise

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To the OP, what a great first effort! Thanks to Boreas's good advice, it sounds like you got what you were aiming for.

re: satin finish, it's become popular for necks because it doesn't get as sticky and makes the neck feel faster. Hand wear will always buff it out to a semi-gloss luster eventually, not matter the finish, even the harder poly's. I think I'd stick with semi-gloss since you're getting such a good flow now with it.
 

Benny Mack

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Hey folks, I've been offline for a couple days. Thx @telepraise and @jrblue and also @old wrench for the eraser tip (noted for next time, if there ever is one!) and @Beebe for the flash coat info (that finish looks amazing--again, something I might play with if there's ever another project). I did put some final coats on a few days ago so am washing my hands of this neck now, but all of this info is, as always, great. School is in, here!

I used one of those foam sanding pads (p1200-1500) to knock back the orange peel, then decided to finish with a couple coats of Mohawk satin clear. I did a test on some scrap and liked the finish, and it seemed to flow out pretty similarly to the semi-gloss. The Satin still has more of a sheen than I'd expected, actually. Maybe the sheen number varies by brand. But I'm happy enough!

Pics here after 3 days of drying. I did 2 final coats of Satin, and was pleased as punch about how they went on. Wet coats that flowed out nice, looked mirror-glossy after a minute of flattening, and no dust/lint! As it's dried over a couple of days I've noticed that it's now developed a very subtle texture. It's like orange peel, but I'm not sure it is(?), because the bumps are MUCH much smaller than the orange peel I'd created earlier from novice spraying, and also very uniform. I'm wondering if this is the effect of the additive in the nitro that creates the satin sheen. That, or it's tiny orange peel. Either way, I'm calling this the best I can do with rattle cans and my limited experience and without any wet sanding, so leaving it be. I'd be curious to know if this is actually what dried/drying satin nitro is actually supposed to look like, though -- close up on image 3 for example?


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In any event, I'm happy, it looks good enough for me, and feels great. From the derelict poly that was on there before it has new life, and I think it'll look great with my road worn nitro LPB body. Hard to get the tint to show properly in photos. The back of the neck has less finish on it as I'll be giving it a bit more light road-worn-esque sanding. Definitely some trial and error along the way, but hope any other beginners out there who see this know it's possible to get a decent enough (re)finish with a couple spray cans of nitro and almost no sanding.

Level and crown next and then, unfortunately, I've realized the screw holes aren't perfectly placed, so I'm going to dowel and redrill. The same previous owner who mangle-relic'd this neck filled & redrilled a couple of holes to fit an aftermarket body. I'm considering threaded inserts, but that's another story/thread lol.

THANKS ALL
 

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Boreas

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Looks great!

Yeah, those finer bumps are essentially par for the course - at least with rattle-cans. They are what people level/wet sand away (only after numerous coats have been applied) to achieve that special lacquer gloss and shine. But with satin, you are more or less done. You can still level/wet sand those fine bumps away and just not do a final buff, but I wouldn't bother. You could try it on the heel or something to see what happens. I usually just use s light grey (0) scratchy pad lightly over them to knock off the high spots. Anything finer and you will likely get shine you don't want.
 

telepraise

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Very nice outcome! Your final finish looks exactly as satin should. You could get it a little smoother by level sanding and recoating, but honestly, once you get hardware on there no one would ever notice the light bit of texture in your finish.

Satin finish has tiny micro particles in it that break up the reflection of light. This helps to make small imperfections that would be glaring in gloss much less noticeable. For your first finishing experience, you came out really well on this one.
 

Silverface

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but by the last couple clear coats I found my technique and have been able to lay down consistent wet/flat coats.
I'm real late to the party - sorry.

That iw NOT how lacquer is applied!

It's NOTHING like paint, and I was a professional in the business (from tech support to applicator training).

Lacquer is not SUPPOSED to be applied smoothly n one coat. it should not begin to cover or flow smoothly until the THIRD coat at the earliest.

You really need to go back to square one are read, read, read - THEN do practice applications on prepared scrap until you have it right.

What you likely have is a nice looking system that will either blister, bubble, discolor, feel sticky/soft - or all the preceding. This application - i.e. full, smooth flow in one coat - results in trapped solvents under a dry top skin. They can't evaporate - and the kicker is that lacquer dries ONLY by evaporation.

Lacquer does NOT cure. EVER. Unless it is made specifically with plural components that undergo a chemical reaction.

NO conventional lacquers do that.

Again - lacquer is NOT "paint" and it applied at about 15-20% the thickness of a coat of paint. If applied like paint it will not dry.

Ever.
 

eallen

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Lacquer is not SUPPOSED to be applied smoothly n one coat. it should not begin to cover or flow smoothly until the THIRD coat at the earliest.

...

What you likely have is a nice looking system that will either blister, bubble, discolor, feel sticky/soft - or all the preceding. This application - i.e. full, smooth flow in one coat - results in trapped solvents under a dry top skin. They can't evaporate - and the kicker is that lacquer dries ONLY by evaporation.
I'm equally late to te game!

Jim, I could be reading Benny's post wrong but I took him to mean only his 2 final coats, not passes, of his process were flow coats rather than all of the coats or passes.

Eric
 

Benny Mack

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Jim, I could be reading Benny's post wrong but I took him to mean only his 2 final coats, not passes, of his process were flow coats rather than all of the coats or passes.
Yes that's right. I built up using pretty light coats of tint and clear, 3 passes in fairly quick succession, not wet coats. I applied a wetter coat for my final 2 coats of semi-gloss. Waited a week+ while while seeking advice about the orange peel here before deciding on a satin finish and sanding smooth with 1500. Then 2 final coats of satin, only the last of which I'd consider fully wet as I attempted to finish with a smoothed out flow.

I'm real late to the party - sorry.
Always grateful to keep learning -- better late than never! Thanks.
You really need to go back to square one are read, read, read - THEN do practice applications on prepared scrap until you have it right.

Your feedback here is appreciated, as are your other posts in this forum sharing knowledge in the many threads I've found very helpful during my reading and preparing for this project. I should note that I do understand that lacquer is not paint (being an amateur, clearly I used the wrong word!), and while I don't think I mentioned curing here I also understand the lacquer drying process and how it differs. As I wrote I've been applying on scrap along the way to test technique and results. It's only been a week since the final coat but so far no issues with the drying and it's hard to the point I'm unable to leave a mark with significant fingernail force. We'll see how it goes! While I'm quite happy with the nice looking and feeling result I achieved I'll nevertheless know to expect it to all go sideways given all I've done wrong.
 

Boreas

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Yes that's right. I built up using pretty light coats of tint and clear, 3 passes in fairly quick succession, not wet coats. I applied a wetter coat for my final 2 coats of semi-gloss. Waited a week+ while while seeking advice about the orange peel here before deciding on a satin finish and sanding smooth with 1500. Then 2 final coats of satin, only the last of which I'd consider fully wet as I attempted to finish with a smoothed out flow.


Always grateful to keep learning -- better late than never! Thanks.


Your feedback here is appreciated, as are your other posts in this forum sharing knowledge in the many threads I've found very helpful during my reading and preparing for this project. I should note that I do understand that lacquer is not paint (being an amateur, clearly I used the wrong word!), and while I don't think I mentioned curing here I also understand the lacquer drying process and how it differs. As I wrote I've been applying on scrap along the way to test technique and results. It's only been a week since the final coat but so far no issues with the drying and it's hard to the point I'm unable to leave a mark with significant fingernail force. We'll see how it goes! While I'm quite happy with the nice looking and feeling result I achieved I'll nevertheless know to expect it to all go sideways given all I've done wrong.
I am sure it will be fine. Any pix of the finished neck?
 




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