Hi, I will be re fretting one of my guitars shortly but also wish to remove the varnish that is covering the fretboard. I plan on oiling the rosewood and prefer the feel of timber under my fingers.I don't believe my fingers slide/glide well over the varnished fretboard

With the frets removed what will be the best way to remove the varnish?



Views: 1369

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Do you have any pictures? Any other info about the guitar? Do you know the type of "varnish" thats in the fretboard? Varnish is a general term and often doesnt give much specific information about the nature of the coating.

The guitar is an old Ibanez Archtop. The finish on the fretboard looks rather thick so I'm not sure if this is from the factory or not. The body of the guitar also has a thick coat of "varnish" or whatever. It looks as though to me that a previous owner may have applied the finish.

Im not sure what type of wood that is, but it doesnt appear to be rosewood (I could be wrong). Being a bit lighter, you may find the fingerboard gets stained by the oils, dirt etc from your fingers when playing it. Obviously from here I cant speculate on the hardness of the board, but wear might also be a factor. These will largely be personal preferences. My concern would be that thats a stained maple board or something like that which might get sanded through - doesnt necessarily look like its stained to me, its just a possibility to be aware of.

The frets look alright, but if you are going to refret it of course you'll be pulling the frets and as Frank said, you may need to level the fingerboard anyway, so theres a decent chance youll be removing the finish in the process anyway - Im mainly posing hypotheticals, and it could well be just fine to leave the fingerboard bare/oiled. Or you could seal it with a drying oil for a bit of protection, or give the existing finish a rub down with extra fine steel wool for a satin look/feel, which will allow your fingers to glide more smoothly than a gloss finish. Note that you would have to repeat this every so often as it gets polished through playing.

Most of my re-fretting involves surface prep, along with leveling the board, usually sanding the entire length lightly.   With that in mind, I'd simply sand off the finish. . .

If you don't mind me asking... Why are you going to re-fret the guitar? The frets you show in the pictures look good to me.

The zero fret and frets 1 to 3 are reasonably worn. There are several frets that are lifting from the ends and there are a few frets that are loose. When you look closely many of these frets in question are not pressed in/glued square against the fretboard. I do not know the history of this guitar but it has hard a hard life. My plan is to attempt a neck reset (my first), replace the saddle, tidy up a few cracks that have been repaired and replace the frets. 

That should keep me busy in the shed for quite a few hours.


My first resets were on archtop instruments and I'm glad that they were because I was able to compensate for not getting the angle just right with the adjustable bridge. It still needs to be close but I don't think it's as critical as a fixed bridge instrument needs to be. 

BTW, I'm still not all that good at resets and they can take me a LOT of time but then I haven't done all that many of them. (Does it count as only one reset if you think you got it but have to pull the neck again and start over to make it work?)

The concern I have is that I believe the neck joint may be a dowel joint and not a dovetail. I have researched neck resets but they have all been dovetail joints.

Do you have any info re dowel neck joints


If it is a dowelled neck joint you might be in for some real 'fun'. How much do you like this guitar?

Not attached to this instrument as yet. Action is high so its not my first choice when playing.

I'm prepared to gamble on ripping the neck off. Bolting the neck back on may be an option but that may be difficult considering its and Archtop. May have to remove  the back off as well.

Well I would make certain its doweled before any of that, but if it is youll probably need a thin kerf, flexible saw to do the job tidily. I was thinking bolt on conversion as well, but removing the back doesnt make sense to me - the bolts will need to be snugged up from time to time. Do you play much electric? Adding a neck pickup should give you a large enough cavity to get to the neck block for this... But check out the location of the struts first.

You could also conceivably convert a dowelled joint to a dovetail if youre sneaky like that. Depends on the dimensions of the neck and neck block. Basically you'd be building the dovetail on/in to the heel and cutting the mortise for it.

Thanks for your advice. I'II definitely take your recommendations on board. I was considering cutting the fretboard at the body and removing the section of fretboard above the 14th fret. I should then be able to determine how the neck is joined to the body. On closer inspection It looks as though this section of fretboard has been removed before. There is a distinct line from the top of the fretboard through to  the bottom of the "wedge packer" at the 14th fret (See pic).

Is this the simplest way of determining whether the neck joint is dovetail or doweled.




© 2024   Created by Frank Ford.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service