guitar neck finish

Do You Have To Finish A Guitar Neck?

If you are putting together a guitar build, you may be wondering about finishing your new guitar neck.  Assuming it came to you unfinished.

Do you have to finish a guitar neck?

Yes, you should always finish a guitar neck because that is what keeps it from being susceptible to warping.  The finish applied to the neck will help protect it from moisture and humidity issues like warping, cracking, etc.

This is much different to how you would finish guitar bodies.

What Can I Use For Guitar Neck Finish

Learning how to properly apply finishes to a guitar neck depends on the type of finish that you want to use.


A satin finish is really smooth and is what you will typically see on a set neck, bolt on neck, or even Les Paul style guitars.  A satin finish is an oil based finish that will not leave any residue when the guitar is finished.

With Oil

I love the feel of a properly oiled guitar neck like a guitar neck with tung oil or boiled linseed oil.  You can still feel the wood but you don’t get any of the stickiness that you can sometimes get with other finishes.  The main thing you want to concentrate on with oil based finishes is getting the finish into the pores of the wood.  This will allow the finish to be completely absorbed and will prevent any issues like peeling, etc.

If you’re looking for a great finish that is oil based and simple to apply check out Tru-Oil Guitar Finish.

Nitrocellulose Lacquer

Nitrocellulose lacquer finish is easy to apply and will allow the wood grain to show through.  It’s not as perfect looking as some of the other finishes, but it can be buffed back to look like new in no time.  The main thing with nitrocellulose lacquer is getting the finish into the pores of the wood.


Polyurethane is one of the few finishes that will not allow the wood grain to show through.  It’s also known as hard shell lacquer.  It will have a smooth, almost sticky feel. If you are looking to protect against moisture damage, you want to go with polyurethane.

The one thing that is important when using polyurethane is getting it into the pores of the wood.  Without this, your finish will not be properly applied and your guitar could potentially fail in the future.

This can be difficult because there are many different types of woods used when building a guitar neck.

How Do You Finish A Guitar Neck?

In order to finish a guitar neck, you first have to sand the neck using a fine grit, then apply your finish.  I think that for the best results, you should watch someone do it.  Here are a number of videos showing different guitar neck finish options and how to apply it.


With Oil

Nitrocellulose Lacquer



Make sure to look at our article on dealing with a common guitar neck wood problem.

Learning how to properly apply finishes to a guitar neck is important in ensuring your guitar stays looking nice for years to come.  The finish will also protect the neck from moisture which can cause warping, cracking, etc.  There are many different types of finishes available, so choose the one that best suits your needs.