Sunday, April 15, 2018

Using Aniline Dye and Tru Oil to Liven Up an Uninteresting Cheap Neck

This is an older project I never got around to posting.

About a year ago I got a great eBay deal on a cheap telecaster with a flamed maple top, ash body and a maple fretboard. It is a budget guitar from kit quality parts and at the time I thought it would be a great project base. Unfortunately while the body is finished nicely, the neck and the actual fitting of the neck to the body were a disaster. The frets were way off the edge of the guitar, the neck needed some serious shimming and the finish was so thin on the neck and fingerboard that after a few minutes of playing, oil from the strings had stained the wood.
The frets needed a full leveling, beveling and crowning. They were like a mountain range out of the box. Given the wood needed to be refinished anyway one of the nice things was that I could go right at the frets with the tools without doing anything to actually protect the fretboard.
Then after sanding the fretboard until it was back to plain white maple, I took a bit of of the brown, yellow and black dye powders from a Keda five dye kit and applied it. The first coat wasn't very impressive.
But I sanded and repeated three more times. After a few coats what was a very uninteresting bright white maple neck actually started to show some figuring. Especially on the fretboard itself.
After 4 rounds, I started to carefully apply Tru Oil which really made the dyed figure of the maple fretboard pop out from the field of the wood.
This whole process only took a handful of time per day for about a week and a half to go from one of those $20 range cheap telecaster necks to something that is both playable and actually looks quite fancy.
Two things didn't go perfectly. First, I sanded enough material off between the frets that in a few places, especially given the frets weren't seated well to begin with, you can definitely see a little gap between the crown, exposing the tang when you look at an angle. Also it's very difficult to apply Tru Oil to a board with frets on it without making a mess. I'd go slower if I were doing this again and consider thinning it out more as I left some white lines near the frets themselves that are visible only when looking closely.

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