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Thread: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

  1. #26
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    It's not about speed, it's about comfort and glide. I get a big thumb calluse from shifting positions on a finished neck.
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  3. #27
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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMatt View Post
    It's not about speed, it's about comfort and glide. I get a big thumb calluse from shifting positions on a finished neck.
    You know "speed neck" perhaps is an unfortunate but useful expression. The only one we have at this time. My mandolin in question here is a late 70's Nugget. And to pack it, insure it, ship it to Mike Kemnitzer, and worry that it doesn't get clobbered during shipping, not to mention the expense of everything, is another consideration I've been mulling over. And of course on top of what "may" happen to the value. I've owned it less than a year so sticky summer hasn't come into play yet. This is my dream mandolin retirement present to myself. 3M makes these synthetic steel wools which I might try and see if I can just dull the finish a little bit. Essentially that might accomplish a speed neck effect, still maintain the protective finish, and just give it that 40 year old vintage mojo.

  4. #28
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    It should be called fiddle neck, as all fiddles, except cheap ones, have oiled necks.
    As for reduction of value, that's absurd. It's the unseen part of a mando. I see it as saying that someone's gas pedal is the wrong color and it reduces the value of the car. Wonky
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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    I still say I've never had a problem moving my hand up and down the neck are even being aware of any drag from the finish. Maybe some necks need a cleaning LOL

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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    The 3M product is called scotch brite and different colors are different abrasives. White is less abrasive than green, either will do what you want with less mess than 0000 steel wool. It would take quite a while using these to make the neck a speed neck, but it will feel smoother, and dull the finish quickly.
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    Registered User Henry Eagle's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    This I'd like:Click image for larger version. 

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  9. #32
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    Honestly, when I decided to have Austin do the speed neck for me, it was mostly to make the back of the neck look good after he did the re-profiling, and after I had previously worn most of the finish off with normal playing... I wasn't having trouble with moving up and down the neck.

    And in the same way, I can't say that I play any faster or better with a speed neck. Yes, the speed neck does feel very good, but the finish felt ok before I had this work done too and I wasn't sticking -- the V-profile was giving me serious pain and I really wanted that changed asap. Really, after playing long neck instruments like banjo and bass, having a speed neck on a short neck mandolin doesn't seem to make that big of a difference.

    Would I have just a speed neck job done again? Probably not unless the original finish on the back of the neck was badly worn, or unless I was having other work done on the back of the neck.
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  11. #33

    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    The 3M product is called scotch brite and different colors are different abrasives. White is less abrasive than green, either will do what you want with less mess than 0000 steel wool. It would take quite a while using these to make the neck a speed neck, but it will feel smoother, and dull the finish quickly.
    Indeed it can take some considerable amount of time depending on the finish. I took a green Scotchbrite to the impenetrable neck of a The Loar LM-500 I used to own to reduce the stickiness and after 3 hours of solid scrubbing it was smoother, duller, and not anywhere near the actual wood. But it was much easier on the hand, though quite a bit crazed and ugly. I then spent another hour working it back to a 'polished matte' with progressively finer grades of micromesh (1500 to 6000 grit) which, because I had carefully taped, ended up being both attractive and playable. Still sold it for what it was worth when the time came, and no complaints from the buyer.

    I plan on having the neck of my Northfield done when the time and opportunity presents itself, but I'll be paying a pro for the privilege this time.

    Either way, even if you're not a fast player, a 'speed neck' can make quite the difference in feel and playability. I've owned an early 1990's Ibanez Jem electric since, well the early '90s, and while it comes with a lightly finished and already lightning fast Wizard neck, one of the guitar's few recommended 'upgrades' is to steel wool it down to bare wood. I've never lived up to the potential of the guitar but wow is it a joy to play. That experience is the reason I'm a big fan of speed necks to this day.

    Edit: spelling and punctuation.

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  12. #34

    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    The gray colored 3M scotchbrite pad is the least abrasive of their synthetic pads and will leave a very silky feeling finsih
    Quote Originally Posted by dorenac View Post
    3M makes these synthetic steel wools which I might try and see if I can just dull the finish a little bit. Essentially that might accomplish a speed neck effect, still maintain the protective finish, and just give it that 40 year old vintage mojo.

  13. #35
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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by Hudmister View Post
    Lenf12, those speed necks look to have some kind of finish on them. This is how I would want one, to protect the wood and keep dirt and grime from getting into the pores of the wood. A little finish is a good thing.
    Yes, I wouldn't recommend this without at least something to seal the wood, but you don't have to go overboard on it.

    Here's my Lebeda F5 after I stripped the neck. This is my preferred look, where the change to lacquer is curved and looks a little like natural wear, and how they do it on fiddles. But there are different thoughts about this:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    After sanding off the lacquer (which was tough as nails on this instrument), I added two coats of Tung Oil with a few drops of amber tint mixed in from stewmac.com, dried between coats in sunlight on a warm day. That was around 6 years ago, and I haven't had to re-coat the neck to keep dirt or finger grudge off it.

    This is what it looks like today, and I don't do anything special to preserve the finish except for a light wipe with a microfiber cloth when cleaning the rest of the mandolin. No need to worry about dirt build-up if there is even a minimal finish coat like this.

  14. #36

    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by Hudmister View Post
    Lenf12, those speed necks look to have some kind of finish on them. This is how I would want one, to protect the wood and keep dirt and grime from getting into the pores of the wood. A little finish is a good thing.
    Hi Hudmister,

    They are the same mandolin (1956 Gibson F-12). The picture on the left was taken soon after I removed that awful sticky black paint. The picture on the right is from several years of playing the unfinished "speed neck". I never did put a finish on it but instead relied on whatever my left hand deposited there over time (about 15 years by now). It feels great and I do love the look of it.

    Len B.
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  16. #37
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    Actually, Jim, long before electric guitars (or ANY guitars, for that matter) were invented, all violins had "speed necks" with no varnish on the back part of the neck. And they still don't have varnish on them, to this day. If I am not mistaken, the violin is what inspired the concept of a "speed neck" on the modern mandolin. The violin design also inspired mandolins with carved backs and tops (Orville Gibson and others), with f-holes and a raised fingerboard (Lloyd Loar), and even with a scroll (F4 and F5 designs).
    Of course, and I am sure that Antonio Stradivari advertised that all his violins featured "speed necks."

    It seems though that while some makers might have used no finish at all, most used some kind of finish and many contemporary violin makers French polish their necks. Minimal finish in any case.

    Cafe thread on the subject.

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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Of course, and I am sure that Antonio Stradivari advertised that all his violins featured "speed necks."

    It seems though that while some makers might have used no finish at all, most used some kind of finish and many contemporary violin makers French polish their necks. Minimal finish in any case.

    Cafe thread on the subject.

    Maestronet forum

    violinist.com question
    If you read all those threads carefully, I think you'll find that NO VARNISH is applied to the backs of violin necks, by long-standing tradition, just as I wrote. This tradition goes back well before Stradivari, to Amati and others. (It is possible that some of the cheapest beginner violins today come with finished necks, but we are talking about serious instruments). This is the original "speed neck," if you will.

    A great many violin makers today simply polish the bare wood, and a few will also very lightly oil this wood after polishing to seal it -- the same treatment applies, incidentally, to modern "speed necks" on mandolins, which sometimes get coated with a very thin film of Tung oil or linseed oil, and possible a bit of added color, as well. The application of oil to the back of the violin neck can be done with a very small amount of "French polishing", which is a phrase that refers to a technique for its application, and not to some substance that's applied! The back of the violin neck is not varnished, and any "finish" is minimal.


    Note: The term "wiping varnish" is sometimes applied, rather confusingly, to substances like Tung oil or linseed oil. But these oils are not lacquer- or shellac-based resins. When we write that the back of a violin neck is "unfinished", we mean that it does not have the same finish that's applied to the rest of the body. Instead, it is bare, polished wood, or possibly polished and lightly oiled.

  18. #39
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    If you read all those threads carefully, I think you'll find that NO VARNISH is applied to the backs of violin necks, by long-standing tradition, just as I wrote. This tradition goes back well before Stradivari, to Amati and others. (It is possible that some of the cheapest beginner violins today come with finished necks, but we are talking about serious instruments). This is the original "speed neck," if you will.

    A great many violin makers today simply polish the bare wood, and a few will also very lightly oil this wood after polishing to seal it -- the same treatment applies, incidentally, to modern "speed necks" on mandolins, which sometimes get coated with a very thin film of Tung oil or linseed oil, and possible a bit of added color, as well. The application of oil to the back of the violin neck can be done with a very small amount of "French polishing", which is a phrase that refers to a technique for its application, and not to some substance that's applied! The back of the violin neck is not varnished, and any "finish" is minimal.


    Note: The term "wiping varnish" is sometimes applied, rather confusingly, to substances like Tung oil or linseed oil. But these oils are not lacquer- or shellac-based resins. When we write that the back of a violin neck is "unfinished", we mean that it does not have the same finish that's applied to the rest of the body. Instead, it is bare, polished wood, or possibly polished and lightly oiled.
    And if you read my post carefully, you will see that I did not say that anyone used varnish. French polish is not varnish. And I said "minimal finish in any case."
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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    Does anybody ever put a speed neck on a guitar? Is this a just fiddle thing that carries over to mandolin? I don't get it.
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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    And if you read my post carefully, you will see that I did not say that anyone used varnish. French polish is not varnish. And I said "minimal finish in any case."
    I did, but it was a tad confusing, since the shellac-based varnish is also applied to the violin using a French polish. But there's no varnish applied to the back of the neck. The French polishing technique -- again, there is no such finish that's called "French polish"! -- can also be used to apply a thin coat of oil (like Tung or linseed) to the polished wood surface on the back of the neck. Or not.

    I suspect we're in agreement. Yes, French polish is not varnish. In fact, French polish is not any kind of finish at all. It's a method of applying a finish, including either a varnish or an oil.

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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    I did, but it was a tad confusing, since the shellac-based varnish is also applied to the violin using a French polish. But there's no varnish applied to the back of the neck. The French polishing technique -- again, there is no such finish that's called "French polish"! -- can also be used to apply a thin coat of oil (like Tung or linseed) to the polished wood surface on the back of the neck. Or not.

    I suspect we're in agreement. Yes, French polish is not varnish. In fact, French polish is not any kind of finish at all. It's a method of applying a finish, including either a varnish or an oil.
    Thank you for clarifying. No point in arguing when we actually agree. And thanks for pointing out the specifics of violin necks, much of which I knew and some not. I do picture Hilary Hahn and Joshua Bell talking over beers about the speed necks on their violins.

    BTW some of the better vintage Italian bowlback mandolins have minimal finish on their soundboards likley to maximize the soundboard's tone potential.
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  23. #43
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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Ostrander View Post
    Does anybody ever put a speed neck on a guitar? Is this a just fiddle thing that carries over to mandolin? I don't get it.
    It's not common but I've seen it done. I have a mid-1930's metal body roundneck Dobro where some previous owner sanded the neck almost down to bare wood, leaving just some brown stain. Kinda ugly, but the rest of the guitar is ugly too (in a lovable way), so it fits.

    It's a good question though. I like the stripped neck on my mandolin. I also have an octave mandolin and a couple of guitars with lacquered necks, and I don't feel a strong urge to strip them down. I did scrub one of the guitar's necks with Scotchbrite because the factory lacquer was a little sticky and never really hardened up, but it still looks like a finished neck. The real question is that Weber octave mandolin... why don't I strip the neck, if I like it so much on my Lebeda mandolin?

    And I don't have a good answer for that. Except that it would be a lot of work.

    Edit to add: On further reflection, maybe one reason you don't see it very often on guitars is the typical choice of neck woods like mahogany or rosewood. They don't look especially good, or different with a matte finish. Maple necks with some flame and curl, like you see on violins and the other orchestra instruments look prettier. I once had a Guild acoustic guitar with maple body and neck that I bet would have looked great with a stripped neck.

    So I'm not strongly motivated to strip my two acoustic guitars with mahogany necks, but I might strip the Weber OM someday. I'll bet the maple neck would look nice, based on what I can see of the flamey maple under the dark lacquer.
    Last edited by foldedpath; Mar-05-2018 at 7:01pm.

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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    Of course, a recommended way of removing the finish from the back of the neck is to use a scraper, not Scotchbrite or some other abrasive (sandpaper, steel wool, etc.). A good, sharp scraper will make quick work of the finish and leave a silky-smooth result. You can then leave this as is, or apply a thin film of oil (tung oil is popular). Or possibly a bit of amber dye, as well, if you don't like the whiter shade of naked, smooth wood. Many of the pros produce speed necks this way.

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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    I have found that after a while, the speed neck gets sticky from hand oils and is a pain to clean and get back to being speedy, even if you've oiled it. I much prefer to use some scotch-brite to knock the gloss off of the finish a bit, but not go to the bare wood. Then as it shines up from use, I'll scotch-brite it again.

  26. #46

    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    I think a polished neck with flame is one of the prettiest part of a nice mandolin. I just donít like the so-called speed neck, but can live with one where the gloss has been lightly removed with steel wool. But, itís not my mandolin.

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  28. #47
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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by dorenac View Post
    My mandolin in question here is a late 70's Nugget.
    Stripping the finish off the neck of a Nugget may very well devalue the instrument significantly. If the finish really bothers you, dulling it down with a little super-fine wool or micro-mesh sandpaper seems like the best alternative. If you ever do decide to sell the instrument at a later date, the gloss can be polished back into it.

  29. #48
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Stripping the finish off the neck of a Nugget may very well devalue the instrument significantly. If the finish really bothers you, dulling it down with a little super-fine wool or micro-mesh sandpaper seems like the best alternative. If you ever do decide to sell the instrument at a later date, the gloss can be polished back into it.
    What makes you think it would devalue the mando to change the neck finish? Both my mandolins were made custom, as is with speed neck, there was no reduction in price from Bruce Weber or Audey Ratiff.
    2007 Weber Custom Elite "old wood"
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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    Altered finishes have a long history of significant devaluation on the market value of collectable instruments.
    I'm not just making this up for fun. I'm trying to give a friendly heads-up to the owner of the mandolin.

    If you have any doubts at all about the accuracy of my comments, you can ask George Gruhn, Frank Ford, Walter Carter, John Bernunzio, Fred Oster, or anyone else who regularly sells instruments in that price range.

  31. #50
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    Default Re: Speed Neck on "vintage" instrument

    My Gibson came with a custom feature of a cool burst finish on the back of the neck. Looked great. My hand stuck to it though in our humid environment. After much trepidation, I had my Gibson "speed necked" and I am still glad I did. This made a big improvement in playability to me. I will always opt for this feature now as the finish here is a problem for me. Then again, if you don't notice a problem with yours, why do it?
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