I have been finishing fretboards with tru-oil. The instructions I have recommend using Birchwood Casey Gun Stock Sealer & Filler (2-3 coats) followed by several coats of Tru-Oil.
I apply both before installing the frets and fill the fret slots with Teflon “Dam” material cut to fit in order to keep the sealer and tru-oil from getting in the slots and interfering with the contact adhesive I use to hold the frets in (I found that not gluing the frets meant needing to glue many of them later).
The problem I have had comes invariably when filing the fret ends or leveling the frets. There always seem to be some scratches or worse marring the surface or sides of the fret board, even when I mask off the finished surface with low grip tape and use metal shields over the frets.
When I end up sanding the spaces between frets and re-applying the tru-Oil the result is never satisfactory.
Should I apply the frets and then apply the finish?
Thank you Seth. I have always fully completed my necks before applying Tru-Oil. I can see the virtues in doing it differently, but I have just never deviated from my process.
I recommend that you do everything you need to do with your tools and shaping the frets before you finish.
Then, when you do apply the finish, you don’t have to worry about damage or unsatisfactory repairs.
Also, you don’t need a lot of product on the fretboard. A couple thin coats will be fine.
The back of the neck is the same, because you don’t want it to become sticky when you play and sweat.
Please let me know if I can help further, and happy building.
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