I bought an '98 Fender American Strat that I like quite a bit. But it has one thing that bugs me. Being 20+ years old, the maple has gotten quite a nice bit of tan. The previous owner had the frets redone and the fretboard refinished because it was flaking a bit, as he claimed many of that era do. The guy that did it did not bother to stain the board to a similar colour as the headstock so it is now quite a bit lighter. Don't know what he used for the refin, just that the owner said it was "much better" than it originally had.

I'd like to even the colour out a bit, so I put the neck in a window sill for a couple of months. I can't really tell if it did anything. The Netherlands is not a particularly sunny place, so the next 8 months or so I can't expect much of that.

Do different finishes discolor differently? Is there anything I can do to speed up the process? Any way to stain an already finished neck? Or just reattach it and put it back in the window next May or so?

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You can give it a coat of tinted lacquer.

Don't know what is on there. Probably poly. AFAIK the original is and it doesn't look as if it's reacting wrongly.

Yes, I can see what you mean.  The newly finished fingerboard is paler that the rest.  But I don’t think of that as a problem.  This is the way this guitar looks as a result of it’s 20 years experience in the world.  I bet you have a few scars and blemishes also (and I know I do).  

If you want to fix this problem (which I think is a non-problem) you will need to try blend in a tint.  This could be a tinted lacquer over-layer, or you could try to remove the clear finish and blend in a tint on the bare wood, before refinishing with clear.  All of that is very risky - and solving a problem which is not really too serious to begin with.  It looks like a lovely strat.  

If the original finish has no tint in it, the wood Yellowing came from light and aging, finishes will yellow over time as well. In time, the Blond wood will yellow again and probably blend better than if you apply a tinted finish, which could possibly end up darker than what you are trying to match. I have sent a few projects out the door much like yours, new Blond against aged finish, knowing that over time, it will blend. Set the guitar on a stand with the finger board in direct sunlight, that will speed the process up a bit.

I had it in the window for a couple of months... Don't feel like having it sitting there for a year or two. ;D As I wrote, not much sun in The Netherlands most of the year...

I'm not going to strip it. That really isn't worth it. 

I was wondering if anyone knew something like "put a layer of wet coffe grounds on it and it'l be tanned in no time" kinda thing.

I guess, back in the window it'll go. Next May. 

You can try potassium permanganate. It oxides the finish, will give bare maple wood and cellulose lacquer that orange hue. Will probably not affect a plastic finish.

Hey, good thought Roger.  PP is well known as an “ageing treatment”, but I didn’t think it would work on finished timber.  But I have never tried and it would be worth doing an experiment on the heel section that is normally hidden in the pocket.  This StewMac video has some tips (use of PP starts at about 3:40).

Regarding use of coffee, here is a suggestion.  Between now and May, every night, make a pot of strong black coffee.  Drink some coffee while it is hot and then, after it cools, dip your fingers in the coffee and play the guitar.  Keep applying coffee to your fingers as you play.  Make sure you play all over the fingerboard, doing scales and jazz chords.  Get your right hand involved by doing lots of Eddie van Halen style fast tapping solos.  Do this for at least 2 hours per day.  By the end of the Dutch winter your fingerboard will be stained (and you might need some new strings) - and you will be a totally awesome guitarist.  Then enter “Netherlands has Talent” (I am sure you have that show, right?)


Sarcasm radar is bleeping like crazy here. :)

I guess you're right. it's not really a "problem" as more a nagging niggle. }-D

Thanks for the reality check. I may cash it in later.

Hi Gert,

Done a lot of these, it looks like poly to me and if its water-white which it looks like its not going to change noticeably.   Go back to Palle's advice to give it a couple of shader coats of nitro and work out if you can do this.  Poly doesn't stick to cured poly very well but nitro will stick to a keyed poly surface.    Please note that many of the big boutique makers use nitro over poly base/sizing coats without any significant problems so please ignore the internet "experts" who haven't come to grips with this finish schedule.  Do not under any circumstances attempt to strip the finish and apply stain direct to the maple fingerboard surface - it'll blotch and stain and look very amateurish especially with the original finish adjacent to it.

Now, before you go buy some Stew Mac "vintage amber" and blast away you need to consider the following:

SM Vintage Amber is as yellow as a canary over maple and will make your neck look like its got jaundice.   Your neck, as it shows on my computer, has got the brown/red fade colour, so take a half a litre ++ of nitro (thinned 50/50) put in a couple of drops of V Amber, a half a drop of medium brown and a touch less of red mahogany.   Spray this onto a white/creme  sheet of cardboard and check its colour tone after a couple of coats.  Bear in mind that the neck is already slightly brown red so the tint will need to be a little lighter.   The trick is to spray light thin coats and watch the build level slowly come into match.

Once the tint is close finish it with a couple of satin coats of clear (or clear with a bit of the shader lacquer mixed in).    Blend the lacquer finish into the side/back finish with some 000 steel wool and then shoot a final satin coat lightly rolling the finish around the fretboard edge just to cover this area of high use a bit more.  Clean the lacquer off the fret tops as you go and that'll just about do it.

The complexity and expense of doing this is why it's an unpopular process for one-at-a-time projects.  But, I have not found a way of doing this properly apart from the above process. 

Regards, Rusty.

Thanks a million! 

Wow. That's way more info than I expected, including a mixing recipe! Really appreciate this!

It'll take me some investing if I want to do this. I might reconsider. I haven't sprayed that much yet. At least not on instruments. Maybe more trouble than it's worth.

You're saying putting it in the window won't change noticably? Isn't the original finish poly? That tanned all right. 

If its commercial "water-white" poly with UV protection etc and is sprayed "thick as" - no it won't change much. R.    Fender necks go off even if not exposed to sunlight. R. 


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