The longest build thread ever (probably)

TravisW

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Okay, I first came here looking for some Les Paul templates, because I had an idea about a guitar I wanted to build. It's not a Les Paul, certainly not a 59 clone by any stretch of the imagination...but it's going to be Les Paul shaped. I've been out of work for quite a while, so scraping together money has been a long job. That said, I was finally able to get started on the fingerboard.

Stewmac Fender scale compound radius Ebony fingerboard. Flame maple inlays cut and laid out on top (not straight, either)


LooseInlays by TravisWoyen, on Flickr

Inlays inlaid. This was a stupid pain in the ass, and I would never do flame maple inlays this way again. The inlays themselves were a bit under 1/8" thick before I shaved them down, then coated several times with thin CA glue. The idea was to build up enough CA so that I could sand down level. The issue is that if you sand through the CA layer, which is incredibly thin, you drag ebony straight into the grain of the maple, thus making a "dirty maple" look, which runs counter to the idea of sealing the maple with thin CA glue. If I were to do it again, I would flood a thin flame maple veneer with clear casting polyurethane, leaving enough thickness so that sand-through would not be an issue.

Oh yeah, I cut in the inlays with a razor blade and a cheap 1/4" chisel. I used some of my son's sidewalk chalk to mark the etching (it's apparently good for something other than drawing Thomas the Tank Engine all over the driveway).


inlaid2 by TravisWoyen, on Flickr


From there, I measured and cut the taper on my Eisenhower-era tablesaw (not pictured) using a sliding jig (also not pictured...it would break a camera) that looks like it was made by a drunk blind guy. Basically, it slides in the slot on the table, and the fingerboard was clamped to the top. From there, I glued on the binding (superglue for the most part, acetone to re-tack spots that pulled away. Scraping was accomplished with the aforementioned razor blade.


Bound1 by TravisWoyen, on Flickr
 

cain61

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Awesome work! I'm doing some flame maple inlays...if my fretboard ever gets here. How did you end up cleaning the maple?
 

Freddy G

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Cool!
as you found out...you can't sand ebony and maple together.... but if you scrape or plane it comes out clean.
 

TravisW

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As per Freddy G--once I sanded through the CA, I went after the maple with the aforementioned razor blade, scraping gently. Once I got it "clean" again, I covered the ebony around the inlay with Chap Stick (no lie) to keep the CA from wicking in, then went after the Maple inlays again with the glue. After that, scraped down with the razor.

Doing it again, I'd do the aforementioned idea of flooding veneer with some clear polyurethane casting stuff (jewelry hobbyists use it), then cut out my inlays with a full thickness of poly (depending on how thin it is). Then, inlay and scrape the poly down to flush before doing any sanding on the fingerboard. I was a bit paranoid about my setting method. Rather than the typical epoxy glue-in, which probably works better anyway, I mixed Titebond 1 with a tiny bit of black minwax stain and set the inlays with that. It had worked well enough on my test pieces, so I just went with what I knew. But, I also knew that the black would try to wick into the edges of the maple inlays, so I actually soaked them with the aforementioned thin CA a couple times beforehand, just to make sure that the edges were permeated well.
 

TravisW

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This afternoon has consisted of working with the fret wire. I'm using ultra-enormo-jumbo Jescar stainless steel wire (whatever their biggest size is). Undercutting the tangs wasn't too bad--a little time with a fingerboard scrap and mill file. Radiusing, however, is a massive pain with that stuff on a compound radius. You want it to be REALLY close before you start hammering away. Wound up recutting the first fret just to get the radius right. This evening will consist of getting the fret ends filed down.
 

Barnaby

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This thread has already been helpful to me (the ebony/maple thing) - looking forward to more and more! :thumb:
 

TravisW

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Good deal, Barn! The maple idea actually started as something of a cost-saving measure more than anything else, but once I got the color scheme sorted out, they pretty much became an essential element.
 

cain61

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Do other fretboard woods such as Rosewood have the same problem interacting with Maple?
 

TravisW

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Do other fretboard woods such as Rosewood have the same problem interacting with Maple?
Yes (did all my testing in rosewood). I think you could pretty accurately say that any dark wood sanded against a light wood will "dirty" the light wood.
 

TravisW

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Went out with my bandmates, drank a bunch of beer, had a good time. Came home, and filed away fret ends. If you're going to file away stainless steel fret ends, make sure you have enough beer, because it's boring work that takes a fair bit of time.


Fingerboard3 by TravisWoyen, on Flickr
 

TravisW

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BTW--I don't want anybody getting flippant about screwing around while building a fretboard. You can have the fretboard sticking out the upper horn of an electric guitar, and if the bridge is properly located, you'll have a functional instrument. My screwing around has been either with aesthetics or really mundane work. I would never drink while measuring or doing the essential cutting of a fretboard...not if I intended for it to turn out usable, anyway.
 

TravisW

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One of the benefits of build threads is getting the opportunity to learn from others' mistakes. Here's your chance to learn from mine.

I've built a few necks in the past, generally with fairly rudimentary tools, like a plain steel art-store ruler. I've used the same ruler for every neck I've done, and had pretty good results.

For this project, I picked up a digital Vernier calipers, and used that for all of my width measurements. I figured it'd be a whole lot more accurate than my old steel ruler, right? What I didn't know was that it sometimes likes to 'adjust' the measurement by exactly .2". So here I sit, with a relatively pretty fretboard that's about 3/16" too narrow at the 22nd fret, and therefore kind of useless to me.

So, a few posts earlier, when I mentioned the whole thing about "if I had it to do over again, I'd...."

I guess I have the opportunity.

F$&#!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

emoney

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At this point, after all that work, why not use it anyway? At least put it on temporarily
and set the bridge and see how the strings lie. You got nothing to loose.

Also, we've had someone already make theirs too narrow and just glue a piece on the
side, a little oversize, then cut it down to the right width. Couldn't even tell he'd done it.
 

jonny

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Also, we've had someone already make theirs too narrow and just glue a piece on the
side, a little oversize, then cut it down to the right width. Couldn't even tell he'd done it.
He's got the fret in though, so that wont work.:hmm:

If you dont mind a narrow neck you could use it, just make sure to slot the bridge saddles so it lines up right.
 

TravisW

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Yeah, that's kind of the problem. I hate narrow necks. Had a Kramer NightSwan that was a great sounding guitar, but couldn't stand to play it because the neck was so narrow. Since I'm going to be the guy playing this thing, I want it to be exactly how I think it should be. The original fretboard is going to hang on my basement wall as a reminder of why I shouldn't change my way of doing things unless I'm absolutely certain that the end result will be better.

Thumbs up for the steel ruler.

That said, this was a good learning piece, although a bit expensive for just a learning piece. I hadn't worked with stainless fret wire before, nor had I done wood-in-wood fretboard inlays. Actually, I hadn't ever worked in ebony before, either. Every other neck has been maple or rosewood.
 

emoney

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Frets won't fit anymore anyway, and if you add a piece at least the board isn't decoration.

Regardless, I think these things are like battle scars; necessary.
 

cain61

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I wish yours was the only mistake I'd made on my build!
 

TravisW

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I wish yours was the only mistake I'd made on my build!
Ha! Oh, I haven't even bought the rest of the wood yet. Or the replacement wood, for that matter. I'd imagine that there will be plenty of trials an tribulations in my future.
 

TravisW

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And so you know, I didn't give up. My budget hasn't gotten any better, but I've been picking away at other design essentials.


DSC00500 by TravisWoyen, on Flickr
 

TravisW

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Going to the hardwood supply store today. *whistles*
 


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