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Fretboard/Inlay Finishing


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Hi guys,

I've seen some of the tutorials on here about finishing a fretboard and adding inlays, but they didn't answer all my specific questions so I thought I'd check here on the forum and get some advice from people with more experience than I obviously have.

I have pearloid (yes plastic) trapezoid inlays that I will be adding to a rosewood fretboard. The inlays are very thick (damn near as thick as the board) so I have a lot of sanding to do.

I plan to set them fairly deep into the board, but after that, I don't know the proper materials and steps to finish it off properly.

So, if anyone out there has experience inlays plastic inlays and wouldn't mind spending some time helping me by giving me advice and hopefully even product names, grits, and steps for sanding and polishing, I would be quite grateful!

Thanks in advance,


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Get the inlays thinner or you will only be making things harder on yourself. Since they are plastic they should sand down easily enough from the top with 80 grit paper. After they are at around maybe .10 thick, make sure the shape is what you want ( file them if you need to) inset them, and use Stew Mac #10 CA glue to fill in the routes. Let it dry overnight. Make sure any low glue areas are filled in with fresh glue to level it up before sanding it, or you will just need to do it again after sanding the board down.

Starting with 80 grit, work your way back and forth over the full length of the board. Then as the inlay sands away and you get closer to the remaining glue move down to 120, then when the glue is still there, but almost gone, switch to 220, then as the glue and inlay seem to be almost done, switch to 400 grit and polish. Since it's plastic be sure to switch grits before it gets to shallow, or you may not be able to get out the deeper grit scratches. After it looks done, touch up any bubbles in the glue, etc.. with new glue, and sand it away after it dries with 220, and repeate the process from there. You can pick out bubbles with a #11 exacto blade. After the touch up is complete, keep going with 600 grit, and higher to acheive the level of polish you want. Don't sand in any one area too long, or you will put a dip in the board, and ruin it completely. Sanding plastics goes relatively quick, so pace yourself and go slower than you need to. Look at the blue shark inlay to get a better idea of the sanding process. That had plastics in it.

Best of luck.

C lavin

Pics of my newest inlay soon.

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Just taking the cut out shapes and working them (carefully) flat on some 80 grit paper will work. The higher the grit the faster it will go down. Working with very thick materials during an inlay is going to lead to mistakes later down the line. Try to keep them all relatively the same thickness. Just make sure you sand from the top of the material down, so the bottom stays even in the rout. You can also carefully press it against a sanding belt, but that's risky to say the least. If it's really thick, and there is room for some play then go for it.

I use a Preac mini ship builders thickness drum sander to get all my materials to .o6" thickness (for the most part) before using them. Sometimes I may just wing it, but is better to have everyting nice and equally thicknessed out.


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