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Jig Question On Radiused Fretboards

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I have just got a neck custom made for me and I'm planning on doing an inlay on it. It was already radiused and the fret slots were already cut. I was wondering if anyone can tell me how to make a jig to keep the router straight.

I also wanted to know if I had gotten this idea down. Here's my understanding as to the steps of doing an inlay:

1. Cut out your inlay.

2. Trace the inlay pattern onto the fretboard. (I'm not sure if this would work on radiused boards either)

3. Route the pattern into the fretboard.

4. Glue in your inlay.

5. Use a file(or radius block, your preference) to get the inlay level with the fretboard.

6. Clean up the area with progressively finer grades of sandpaper.

If I missed anything, or if there's anything that could be done better, please let me know.


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You don't need a jig, and your list is fine.

Any depth deeper than the inlay material will fill in with glue. It's a NON-isue.

The only issue is having enough pearl to sit deep enough in the pocket at all, at least hopefully .03" or more when it's leveled.

If your pearl pieces stick up too high off the radius then you need to re-design your pattern to best suit the fretboard, or use thicker materials. If I feel uneasy about it, I look at my art, and make the necessary changes. Then take a piece of wax paper, lay it over the fretboard, and glue up the inlay against the curve. If your cuts are in the proper places everyting should stay tight, and follow along the curve. All the areas of the pearl will be flat relative to their positions.

If your trying to make on big piece of abalam or solid pearl fit across a large radius then it's just not going to happen unless the material can be bent (plastics w/heat)

your pattern edited, or you have thick enough materials to handle the radius.

Best of luck.

Craig L

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Thanks Clavin, but if you don't need a jig to keep your router straight, than how do you drill the route for the inlay right? If you just follow the radius, won't the sidewalls be curved a bit.

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Cut your outline with a knife, x-acto or otherwise.

Route out the majority of the cavity with power.

Clean off the last 1/16" or so with a chisel. I like to leave a 1/8"

This leaves the walls perpendicular and allows you better control on the depth.

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" If you just follow the radius, won't the sidewalls be curved a bit.":

I have never had a problem with just using a router bit down to 1/32. I have done this in Maple, and many other woods.

I never use a chisel either.

Just a router, for every inlay I have ever done. I don't "underscore" the edges either. Some people do things I have never heard of. It doesn't mean it won't work, just that I haven't found it ever necessary.

C. Lavin


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What kind of router fo you use? I use a Bosch laminate trimmer and If I try to do it all with power I invariably wind up screwing something up.

I'm the first to admit that I'm not even close to being in the same class as you are.

I just find tht I am more succesful by doing about 95% of what I do with power tools and doing the final fit and finish stuff with the old reliable hand tools.

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I'm using a Foredom router with the foot pedal to control the actual speed. However, I rarely find myself slowing down. I keep it full blast for even the thinnest of routing areas. I find the faster it goes the cleaner it works. I use the Stew Mac spiral downcut bits, 1/8 through 1/32.

With most materials in the .06" and under thickness range, the actual amount of "angle" behind a radiused route is negligable. There is always going to be some type of small route gap anyway. Too tight and your inlays can pop out with expanding and contracting woods/glues.

I would think for myself chipping away with a chisel is too risky, but that's me. There's always more than one way to perform any of these techniques.


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I've just never done enough small scale work to justify a Foredom, but boy are they nice. The guy I used to share a space with had one

I agree that wide open is the way to run any of that stuff. Less chance of grabbing.

I actually use a turn of the last century (1905) Stanley router plane to do some of the cutouts. I do a fair amount of large scale carving, ball and claw feet and such, so chisels are second nature for me.

If I really get hooked on this corner of woodworking I will probably opt for one of the modified dental drills. They're air powered and you can get bits that cut a line almost too small to see. Great for inlaying metal lines. Really light weight.

I love being a tool junkie.

Oh, you can get some really smal 1/4" shank bits. Down to 1/16", but they burn really easily. The high speed stell ones actually work better tahn the carbide becouse of brittleness.

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