"Kilometers are passing like kidney stones" – Bob Roll

Guitar Build – More Neck Finishing and Tuner Install

May 16th, 2011 Posted in Guitar

The neck has been sitting for a while, so it was time to do some finish sanding, treat the fingerboard and install the tuners.

The face and back of the headstock were wet sanded starting with 600 then followed by 1000, 1500 and 2000 grits. After that was done I applied some polishing compound as the final step. The back of the neck was wet sanded with 600 grit and then rubbed down with 0000 steel wool for a nice satin finish.

After living in the garage for a couple of weeks and being covered with masking tape, the fretboard was looking pretty dry. I perused the web for the best way to treat the rosewood. There were, of course, conflicting opionions and thoughts. Some people suggest lemon oil, olive oil, linseed oil while others suggest disaster will ensue unless you use the special fingerboard conditioner sold in music stores and the last thing you should use is lemon oil. From what information I could find, all of these things are basically mineral oil, lemon oil isn’t made of lemons (well maybe a teeny bit) and I’ll leave the olive oil in the kitchen. I hit the local Rona and picked up a can of Circa 1850 Lemon Oil and applied it sparingly to my fretboard. Looks good, smells lemony.

Next up, it’s time to install the tuners. I decided on the vintage Kluson type for the tuners, mainly for the vintage look. The tuners come with bushings that are pressed into the tuner holes from the front of the headstock. Then the tuners are attached to the back of the headstock with teeny-tiny screws.

I assembled my hi-tech tuner bushing installation tool kit and went to work.


The tuner holes needed to be reamed a bit as they had accumulated a few layers of laquer during the finishing process. That’s were the 1/4″ drill bit came in. Insert the drill bit into the hole, twist around a bit by hand and repeat five more times. Now the bushings could be started in the holes but needed a little extra persuasion than my thumb could provide. In comes the clamp and block of wood to be used as a press. Like a charm.


Time to mark out the pilot holes for the tuner mounting screws. I flip the neck over and drop the tuners in to the holes from the back of the headstock. To line them up properly I use another tip that I found on the mighty internet. I clamp a straight edge, in this case a piece of wood to the headstock alongside the tuners, making sure that they are nicely lined up. Then the screw locations are marked. With the tuners in place, I drilled one hole and then started to install the screw. Unfortunately I ran into a somewhat common problem when installing these screws. The screw broke, leaving half the screw embedded in the neck. Crap, crappity, crap, crap. Or something like that.

What to do? After taking a deep breath I drilled three holes around the screw, with the holes as close to the screw fragment as I could get. Once I did that I pried the screw fragment with a finishing nail until it started to move and then came out. I was left with an ugly, nasty hole in the back of the headstock.


What to do? After taking another deep breath, I clamped the neck to the drill press and bored out the ugly, nasty hole into a nice, clean 1/4″ diameter hole. I should mention that all these holes being drilled from the back of the headstock do not … and should not go through the front of the headstock, so for each hole drilled, I mark the depth on the drill bit using masking tape. What I now have is this:


Next, I need to ¬†fill that hole. The 1/4″ hardwood dowel that I have is slightly too small for my nice, clean 1/4″hole, so I put a piece of 5/16″ dowel into the chuck of the drill press and sand it down while it spins until I get to the correct diameter. I cut a short piece to act as a plug and glue it in place.


After letting the glue set, the area around the plug is masked and the plug is sanded flush. Again, like a charm.

Back to the tuner installation, I threw out the wimpy brass screws that came with the tuners and picked up some #4 x 1/2″ metal screws. I also made sure to mark the depth of the pilot holes deep enough. Once again I mark out the location of the screw holes and then head over to the drill press and drill the pilot holes with a 1/16″ bit. This time, before installing the screws, they get coated with wax from a candle and everything goes smoothly. With the tuners installed, the plug disappears and only you and I will know it’s there.


And from the front, the finished neck:


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