G'day All,

Just wondering if there is a preferred type of varnish to use on a bare neck, i.e no fret board. Something that wont peel off or wear to quickly. I notice the neck of the cbg I built late last year is getting grubby. Not that my fingers are dirty as such, but just general use staining. You can actually see the clean lines where the strings are! (It looks much worse in real life.)

I have an electric guitar with a varnished neck (no fret board) & I would like to do this to future cbgs.

Any advice would be muchly appreciated !

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These days there is no end to good quality products to finish wood with.

Poly is the preferred finish for many. It is easy to apply and very hard once cured.

Oil finishes such as linseed oil provide a good, natural finish and is easy to apply.

An often overlooked finish product that is my favorite is Shellac. It is usually applied with a cotton ball wrapped in a piece of old cotton tee shirt. It dries almost instantly and there is no chance of a run. If you want to do some grain filling, then you can sprinkle a bit of #0000 pumice on your rubber.with a drop of shellac, The pumice will fill the grain and give you a glass smooth neck finish.

Take a trip to your local builder's supply and you will see a lot of good options.

G'day Tom, thanks for the info mate! I've not heard of Poly, is that a product or a brand name? I'm after something durable so it could be the way to go. I was even thinking about some kind of floor varnish maybe - surely that would have to be pretty tough! I have heard of Shellac, might need to look into that one a bit more too. 

Sorry for the incomplete description. Poly was referring to polyurethane varnish. It is indeed used for floor finishing as well as some types of furniture. There are several brands including one from Rustoleum.

Google "French Polish Finish" and you will find some good videos on using shellac for wood finishing.

Thanks Tom, just what I needed to know!

Some luthiers use tung oil for raw naked necks like yours. I have used Tung-O-Var with good results. Its a mix of tung oil and polyurethane, I just can't get pure tung oil here.  

Tung oil leaves a nice smooth feel when playing and keeps the wood natural looking for months. 

Hi, for durability I would suggest that Shellac is not really a best choice. Although it is easily repaired it is aso easily damaged, and its resistance to wear and finger crap may not as good as other finishes. Linseed oil I find stays oily and gets dirty. 

Some guys on here recommend super (ca) glue.  I like that idea.


Shellac has been used to French Polish acoustic guitars for decades. While not as tough as some other finishes, our guitars (or any guitars for that matter) are intended to be subjected to regular banging around.

That being said, the biggest advantage to shellac is how easily a damaged section is repaired. A little shellac, a little alcohol and a nice rubbing pad and damage is completely repaired in minutes.

I've completed about 40 guitars with shellac and love the stuff.

Lots of good info there fellas, thanks! I'll probably go with the polyurethane varnish for my currant build, but I will check out shellac & tung oil just for my own curiosity - they might be useful for boxes & head stocks on future builds!  Cheers!

(P.S, you serious about the super glue Taffy?)

Good choice Mitch, a couple of coats & done, EZ peasy. French polish is a little more labor intensive than most people want it to be? Don’t cut yourself off though, it’s good to keep yourself open to learning new things, we all evolve in our own time? Cheers

Hi, the question was "wont wear too quickly", I feel that a French Polished finish would be so thin [ it dries/flashes off as soon as its applied, pretty much] and would take such a long time to get a build/thickness by a padding French polish method, and easier done before fretting

If using shellac it might be best to brush it on using a heavier cut/mix. There is a product I've used by U Beaut called Hard Shellac. I don't use it for French polishing though.

Super glue is often used as a finish on small repairs and for grain filling. 


I wouldn't go with french polish either, but it can be a nice topping over a few layers of varnish.

I recommend polyurethane too. Its like a sheet of hard plastic wrapped around the guitar and has a gleaming sheen.  From my experiences, fast drying polyurethane leaves lumps when brushed on because... well, its fast drying.  You'll want it to lay flat.  If I've sanded it down to the wood, I take a cotton t-shirt and soak that up in some Harris Exterior Polyurethane with gloves and rub it into the wood as a first layer.  Be sure not to squeeze out the polyurethane from the t-shirt thinking you'll save the excess, this will only create myriads of bubbles and you'll have to do it all over again. So dip and rub.  3 layers oughta do. I like piling on 9 so I can sand it with finer grits like 2000 and 3000 and give it a full auto wax shine as the topping. But thats me. ;)

Yep, I recon polyurethane sounds like the way to go for me - with a few test runs first! I'll make up a small "test neck" too, one half with fret slots, & one half without, to see weather it's better to re-cut the slots to clean them out, or cut them in afterwards. I'll post my results if anyone's interested. Thanks fellas!  


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