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Creating a Very Rich, Dark Fretboard

 
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Joeglow
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 26, 2011 10:20 am    Post subject: Creating a Very Rich, Dark Fretboard Reply with quote

Creating a Very Rich, Dark Fretboard

I recommend dying rosewood fretboards for a much darker and much classier look. I'm using dark brown leather dye and let me say that this stuff should be treated like plutonium! It is an extremely aggressive dye and will immediately soak into whatever you're working with, which makes this perhaps the most difficult part of aging a neck. Here are some simple steps for how I do this job.

1. On a highly sanded (up to 2000) fretboard with no frets or dot markers, I'll apply tape to the maple side of the neck all the way around. Take this step seriously as even a little errant flick of your dye applicator will send horribly indelible ink flying out onto possibly unprotected surfaces.

2. Take the dauber included with your leather dye and dip into the container making sure to squeegee some of the excess before applying to your neck. You want a fairly loaded dauber, but again this stuff is no joke so be careful.

3. Now brush along the entire surface of the board only, not the sides. Some dye may get into the fret slots, and some may even wick from the fret slots onto the side of the board which is fine, but be careful about applying a wet dauber to the board edges, stick to the middle until you get a sense of how much dye will be spread by the thing.

4. Get a good solid coat of dye here because you're going to be doing some sanding to this fretboard in the near future, not to mention rolling of the fretboard edges and you want this stuff to penetrate deeply enough to allow for that.

5. Let this coat dry a while, maybe 30 minutes. Get a sandwich or something, but wash those hands. Who knows what kind of cancer causing awfullness is in this dye.

6. Steel wool your fretboard with 0000, but be very careful on this stage as loose fibers that fly off while you're sanding will be carrying the dye and will let it soak in to whatever, so prepare your work area with that hazard in mind.

7. Sometimes I'll apply another coat, but lately I haven't found it necessary. You might want to for good measure, and it's no sweat to do.

8. Now we'll tackle the sides. The sides are tricky, and this is where you will likely encounter bleeding or running as you're applying your finish, so prep work is very important here.

9. I use a black permanent marker to draw a line a little bit above the transition from maple to rosewood. Go slowly here, make sure you're drawing your line carefully and remember to stay above your tape line. get close, but don't run along it yet. The marker itself will bleed and the maple is far thirstier for ink than the rosewood so it will soak in more deeply with greater speed, which will cause you to curse more loudly while you're sanding that out.

10. After the permanent marker has had a chance to dry a bit, I grab an ordinary black marker, something you might draw with. You'll know it's not as potent because it won't smell like it's getting you high. Now use this weaker marker to follow along the tape line. Be quick here! Don't linger with the marker. The tape should create enough of a ledge to "hang" the marker tip on as you draw around the neck. If you missed a spot wait a while before you go back. You don't want to build up a pool of ink on the surface and have it soak into the maple.

11. After the weaker marker has dried a bit, steel wool with 0000 along that taped edge. You can dig into the permanent marker but the weaker stuff may tend to come off and might possibly need a touch up along the way. Like I said, this process is tough and quite unforgiving.

12. Remove your tape and steel wool again, lightly at first to make sure you aren't dragging errant marker stuff onto the maple of your neck.

13. When you go to finish with lacquer or whatever, treat this transitional area with caution. Runs with this stuff are very hard to avoid and it really requires a bomb-maker's patience to avoid.

14. Enjoy your awesome, super dark fretboard and kudos if you got through it without any drips, runs, or holes in the wall!

Contributed by Josh
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