Home > Lutherie > Telecaster – Prepping for Finish

Telecaster – Prepping for Finish

I think I might have turned another corner on my woodworker journey. There have been more than a couple skeletons in my closet and I like many other beginning woodworkers tend to dread finish prep and finishing stages of their project. I had worked a bit more on my neck and noticed that I had some pretty big scratches to address so I procrastinated. Sunday I decided it was time enough and went to work.

Finish prepping the neck.

I have made great use of my heavy Record metal vise by adding these lovely magnetic rubber chucks. I found that it holds my neck securely without any damage whatsoever. They look like this although mine are orange not green.

soft vise pads

Applying three basic concepts I was able work through the neck prep in a reasonable amount of time. These were 1) have a range of grits of high quality sand paper 2) start at the highest grit which is appropriate but not too high 3) use low angle lighting (raking light) to see scratches. Starting with too fine a grit will take forever to remove large scratches so don’t “mess” up a nice finish by starting too low but also don’t be afraid to step down if the grit isn’t effective. Even after I had moved to a finer grit I would pull out the coarser one to work a small area if it was needed. Being able to see the surface with the raking light and having high quality papers made this work go surprisingly smoothly.

It was on to body preparation. The body was mostly sanded but it did (unfortunately) have a fair amount of road rash. For the dings I pulled out my clothes iron and a wet rag. One of the punctures disappeared after this trick. Another one was much better and much harder to find. A third ding on the back still needed some work.


There were areas on the edge of the body that looked fine but I could feel imperfections with my finger tip so I put a fresh edge on a card scraper and went to work. A trick I remembered almost by accident is to wet edge grain before paring and this works especially well when using the scraper.

I have given great thought to how to finish this black limba body and basically I wanted to do as little as possible and let the natural figure shine. Limba is quite porous however so I did want to fill but without adding color. I was hoping for a clear filler and I was not disappointed with Aqua Clear. I learned about it from a Robbie O’Brien  Luthier Tips du Jour video and decided to give it a try.


Easy to apply, dries quickly and results in a stunning surface. I love the product thus far! I am not an expert but I have used Timbermate and this was a lot easier and less messy to apply.

The neck will be getting multiple coats of TruOil over the next week or so and I’ll be spraying General Finishes “High Performance Top Coat” water-borne finish on the body.

What do you think, will I ever finish this first guitar?

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