I love my Epiphone Les Paul Tribute Plus. It is an amazing sounding guitar, with great playability, sustain and looks. There is however one thing that bothers me about it, which is the clear lacquer finish on the back of the neck. To be more specific, the high-gloss polyurethane lacquer on the back of the neck regularly causes the neck to become sticky (especially in combination with sweat).
This is commonly referred to as sticky-neck syndrome. The sticky neck makes it harder to accurately play the guitar, because the fretting hand ‘catches’ on the smooth gloss surface. It makes it more difficult to precisely position the fretting hand. Unfinished guitar necks do not have this problem.
To mitigate this I decided to lightly sand the lacquer finish on the back of the neck, in order to make the surface more coarse. When the fretting hand slides over the coarse surface finish (as opposed to a smooth one) it drags over less surface area and there is less suction between the fretting hand and the surface, resulting in smoother motion.
For the sanding process I decided to use Micro-Mesh Sanding Sheets. These are sanding sheets that are ideal for this purpose. The silicone carbide grit is glued to a flexible cloth fabric which makes it perfect to fold around a rounded guitar neck. Regular sandpaper is too stiff to do this. Some people use steel wool (0000-grade) to sand the neck, but personally I would not use that in this situation. The steel strands that fall from the steel wool are a total pain in the ass if they end up on or around the pick-up magnets.
The entire process is reversible, as long as not too much of the lacquer is sanded off. The remaining lacquer can be sanded back to a smooth finish with finer grits and buffing compound until it has a glossy polished look again. The downside of re-polishing the lacquer is that the neck will get more sticky again.
Some people remove all of the lacquer finish by sanding all the way down to the wood of the neck, but I chose not to do that.
To help you sand your sticky guitar neck, I have described below how to do this, as well as the materials and tools that are required for the project.
Note that my guitar has a polyurethane lacquer finish, but the sanding process should also work for other finishes such as nitrocellulose lacquers.
In order to revert the lacquer finish back to the original gloss state, it can be polished by using the finer Micro-Mesh sheets (up to 12000-grit). If necessary it can be finished off with a polishing/buffing compound.
After sanding the neck, the guitar plays a lot faster and the neck is not sticky anymore. It has been over a year since sanding it (I am quite lazy with typing up and posting this stuff), and it still plays as well as right after I sanded it.
The sanded neck in action:
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Last update on 2019-11-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Affiliate Disclosure