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Mar 19, 2023 - 3:45:50 PM
5 posts since 12/26/2022

The more I play, the more I see the need for a speed neck. I find my hands tend to rub and stick to the finish on the neck and a speed neck would solve all these problems. Is it possible to convert a regular neck to a speed neck? If so is it a job for a luthier or is it a little sanding in the garage?

Thanks, Zeb Woody

Mar 19, 2023 - 4:41:21 PM
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201 posts since 8/31/2015

I regularly do this modification to guitars, banjos, and mandolins. I've found a cabinet scraper is the best tool for removing neck finish and/or re-profiling neck shapes. It's possible to get a smooth finish this way but I usually finish by sanding up to 400 grit then 0000 steel wool

It's not a complicated job, but it's easy to make it look unprofessional cosmetically, especially the transition areas from finish to bare wood.

After scraping, I generally follow the Ernie Ball/Music Man suggestion of using a small coat of tru-oil on the raw wood. Makes an excellent smooth fast playing surface that doesn't change when exposed to sweaty hands. Raw wood finished with steel wool feels good at first but after a little bit of play the grain rises and it begins to be very uncomfortable, needing another buff with the steel wool. Hope this info helps!


Mar 19, 2023 - 5:07:13 PM
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19 posts since 2/20/2021

Hey Zeb, I would recommend using 400 grit sandpaper with a foam or rubber sanding block. You only need to sand the gloss off the surface of the neck, as opposed to removing all the lacquer.

Mar 19, 2023 - 5:31:20 PM

59 posts since 11/28/2017

I had the finish on my banjo neck removed a few years ago, done by the luthier/repair person who has cared for our instruments for the past forty years. After removing the finish and sanding it smooth with fine sandpaper he applied some tung oil to the neck, rubbed it in, and then sanded again. The tung oil was completely absorbed into the wood, and the final sanding assured that the neck was a true speed neck. The tung oil application provided some protection from moisture with the newly bare wood. The neck has been completely stable since the definishing work.

When I first started playing the speed neck I was disappointed that there didn't seem to be much difference in how it played, but over the years I've slowly discovered that the speed neck does in fact make a big difference. Big moves up the neck are much smoother and faster than they had been, and the region above the 12th fret has become more accessible and more easily reached.

And now the neck of my banjo looks like the necks of all my friends' fiddles!

Mar 19, 2023 - 6:06:32 PM

70 posts since 3/10/2009

just used a scotch brite green pad. worked great.

Mar 20, 2023 - 4:59:19 AM

15324 posts since 6/29/2005

I have done a bunch of them using an orbital sander to get the finish off, followed by scotchbrite pads.

My favorite finish for the playing part of necks is Osmo hard wax satin.

If you wanted to alter the profile of the neck—make it asymmetrical or more "V", this would be the time to do it.

Mar 20, 2023 - 7:39:17 PM

5 posts since 12/26/2022

Thanks everyone!
Good information to know.

Mar 20, 2023 - 7:56:57 PM



500 posts since 4/19/2011

I was having trouble with my hands sticking to the finish of the neck when performing outdoors in hot & humid weather. As my hands perspired, it would get very difficult to move up & down the neck quickly. I kept a dry cloth in my case and constantly was wiping my hands. I tried talcum powder but that was very temporary.

So, many years ago, I sent the neck of my Hatfield to John Boulding to convert to a speed neck. I wish I could have watched how he did it, because it was the best speed neck job I have ever seen on any banjo ! The color didn't change in the transition parts, just the gloss. It was fantastic job. I've seen a lot of speed necks, but you had to look twice to notice it on my Hatfield because there's no drastic change in the transition areas.

Mar 20, 2023 - 9:58:39 PM



12157 posts since 2/7/2008

I have good luck with Tru Oil as a "non sticky" finish on necks.

Before you go to an non original looking speed neck, you could try putting a coat of tru oil over the original finish. I know it works on top of shellac or EM6000. If you wind up not liking it, you can remove the finish like you were going to.

Mar 21, 2023 - 5:15:55 AM

15324 posts since 6/29/2005

What we call a "speed neck" is the common finish on violins, cellos, & basses—the playing part is always left "bare", actually sealed with shellac or some oil sealer.

I never make the playing part of banjo or guitar necks glossy unless specifically requested. The high gloss lacquer tends to get sticky and if someone has sweaty hands, it's even worse. Generally, I make the peghead and heel glossy, and the playing part just plain,  sealed with Osmo hard wax or dewaxed shellac.  Depending on the wood,it can be hard to see—cherry and walnut won't have a color difference like stained maple, but the trick is to feather the transition so it's not abrupt.

Martin, as far as I know has always finished their necks satin. In order to make a lacquer satin, some kind of stearate has to be added to it, which serves to make it slipperier.

Mar 22, 2023 - 8:10:45 PM

293 posts since 8/30/2005

I set out to get the Oslo hard wax satin. The paint guy said tung oil or linseed oil would also seal like the hard wax but the oil soaks in. Actually, he said linseed seemed better than tung oil.

Now, I’m not sure, wax or oil? Tung or linseed??

Mar 23, 2023 - 5:02:49 AM

15324 posts since 6/29/2005

Originally posted by greenbriar

I set out to get the Oslo hard wax satin. The paint guy said tung oil or linseed oil would also seal like the hard wax but the oil soaks in. Actually, he said linseed seemed better than tung oil.

Now, I’m not sure, wax or oil? Tung or linseed??

The problem with tung and linseed oil is that they take a long time to dry on their own.  The many patent oil finishes that use them as ingrdients i.e. Tru-oil, Minwax, etc etc all have driers as part of the formula, so you are better off using one of those than the pure oil unless you make a "Sam Maloof" mix with some urethane or spar varnish that has driers in it.  Osmo already has driers as part of the formula like Tru-oil, so you don't need to add anything to it.

If my furniture finishing memory serves me, linseed oil finishes get darker than tung-oil ones,and Osmo doesn't darken which is good for blonde wood.

Not to add confusion, but I have been using walnut oil as part of French polish and it dries hard.  I also use it to rub into fingerboards.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 03/23/2023 05:03:38

Mar 23, 2023 - 9:25:18 AM

5179 posts since 11/20/2004

Is it called Oslo hard wax oil ? That is what came up in my search.

Mar 23, 2023 - 9:45:27 AM

78088 posts since 5/9/2007

I scrape with my StewMac cabinet scraper and finish with 600 grit emory paper.
I don't use any kind of oil or product after scraping/sanding.
So very smooth and comfortable.

I did this to my StewMac "Vintage" kit in the 80s after not liking the feel of the lacquer I had put on.

It's still the same as the day I did it and never put on any kind of sealer...just the bare wood.

Edited by - steve davis on 03/23/2023 09:50:32

Mar 23, 2023 - 10:09:52 AM
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Bart Veerman


5489 posts since 1/5/2005

This topic comes up regularly - don't instrument manufacturers get the picture that they need to change their finishing routine & materials???

Mar 23, 2023 - 10:12:57 AM



2220 posts since 8/9/2019

Originally posted by Bart Veerman

This topic comes up regularly - don't instrument manufacturers get the picture that they need to change their finishing routine & materials???


I got rid of my older (non Japanese) Gold Star because the finish on the neck just bugged me so much, became too grippy and noisy with any hand moisture

Mar 23, 2023 - 12:43:20 PM

78088 posts since 5/9/2007

It's so easy to remove the finish.

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