How to Scallop a guitar neck (my version of the Richie Blackmore style)

by Brian Calvert

Lets take a moment to talk about scallop depth, I have heard some people tell me they want their scallop depth 1/8" (.125") down into the board.

Well that is fine and pretty flashy but not very practical. Think about it, the average setup on a guitar is 4/64"(.0625") from the bottom of the string to the top of the fret and on guitars set up with low action 3/64" (.046875"). Anyone that plays on a regular basis will tell you they can feel that difference.

Now add the fact your fret already extends on average 2/64"-3/64" (.03125"-.04875") up from the finger board your talking about a combined average without the scallop of 6/64" (.09375").

So do you really need an extra travel of 1/8" (.125") to miss the finger board which is 1-1/3 times more the amount of travel your already use to?

If you do your the meanest power gripping player I've ever had the pleasure to meet.

When performing this modification your goal will be to have your scallop deeper on the High E side and Higher on the Low E side so keep that in mind when you get going. One more pre-start note, those nice little side dot markers you have are actually about 1/4" long going into your fret board so if you go to deep your going to have a new top markers :)

So lets get started!

First of all this is not a hard modification to do with plenty of patience and also plenty of time on your hands. Plan on spending a complete day the first time you do this and just take your time.

I'm going to make several comments during this tutorial which will relate to the different ways you can scallop a neck and also to doing this same thing to a Maple finger board on page 2.

Your first step will be to tape over each fret with good old standard masking tape, this will help protect the frets during this process and believe me you will be sick and tired of masking tape by the end of this tutorial :) Pinch the masking tape down along the frets on each side with your finger nail.
Take a brand new exacto blade and score a line down each side of the masking tape creating a "V" where it overhang's on the end of the finger board.
Now peal the tape back quickly and you should see a nice evenly covered set of frets :)
Fold the tabs on the ends and repeat this process the full length of the finger board twice! Yes I said twice, you want two layers of masking tape good and tight because were about to get radical on this board!
Before I get to far ahead of myself let me point out the beveled edge of the finger board that was created when the frets were first dressed down on the side.
Here is another picture of the same area where the light is striking the bevel so you can see it better. This will be your depth guide line for both side's of the finger board.

Now it is time to figure out the style of scallop you want on your finger board. What you are about to see only applies to a Richie Blackmore style board and this can be skipped if you would rather do a full scallop on each fret. Apply a piece of masking tape covering the top half of frets1-14 and fold over the excess. This will be your guide and help protect the other half of the fret as you work.

The difference between a Blackmore style scallop and a standard scallop is the ability to still cord easily without killing your fingers with the added advantage of being able to do killer bends because your fingers shouldn't hit the board simply because it is scalloped right up against the fret.

If you have followed the original tutorial on how to scallop frets 21-24 this should look familiar to you.
Take your trusty old 14" file and run a groove down the center of each fret going deep enough that the groove is about 1/8" across. This will help you keep on track since were about to do some major motorized carnage :)
Whip out your trusty magnifying hood, if you don't have one you had better have excellent eye site from here on out and be used to working in a very dusty environment.
Let me introduce you to your next best friend the Dremel contour sander with the 4 main attachments you will be using. The 1/8"(3.2mm), 1/4(6.4mm)",1/2"(12mm) and 5/8"(15.9mm) quick change out and accompany 80 grit and 220 grit sandpaper which you can purchase at the same place you picked up the sander. It is variable speed too :)
OK lets get started using the 1/8" attachment first. If you notice the angle I use it to scoop along from the middle to the outside (high E side) all the way down till I need to change sizes, but before I do that I flip the guitar around and do the other half of the frets from middle to top (low E side) using the 80 grit size sand paper
This will eat both the board and also the end of the sand paper quickly but the beauty about these sanders is you can always rotate the sand paper on the attachment and your good to go. See the worn area at the tip to the right? Rotate it and continue all the way up the board changing attachment widths and paper as needed.
You can sand the edge right up to the fret by cutting at an angle to the right. Then angle to the left. Be sure to pay close attention to how deep you are going. At this point you don't need to go all the way down to the edge of the bevel as described before at the beginning of this tutorial.
After you have switched heads and continued all the way up the board it is time to inspect your masking tape on each fret. If it looks close to busting through or you see a nice shiny metallic looking object poking through replace it. Yeah your going to end up doing this on several frets, several times through out this process (trust me on that one).
Now switch back to the original attachment and repeat the process you just did but using the 220 grit sized sand paper all the way up the board.
Told you it was a dusty job :) I personally use an air compressor to blow off the dust and also help clear the sand paper when the wood builds up on it so I don't have to rotate the roll as much.
Take your time and check to see how your ends are taking shape as you go along from time to time so that they come out shaped correctly and deep enough, using the 220 grit you should be able to shape the ends and also go down to the depth you need to for your scallop.

Now on to finishing this board, yes you have another page to read just click here!


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