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Planing A Fb Down To Thinkness


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I am currently constructing a Jem style guitar, and am at the stage where I need to slot the FB before gluing to the neck blank. I ordered the boards from LMI (Pau Ferro), which are nice and square, only they are too thick!

I was hoping the FB would come already planed down to the 1/4in thickness listed, but it is instead around 3/16th too thick. This presents in interesting problem, as I do not have a planer. My current tools list are a bandsaw, bench saw, router table, plunge router and fixed base router, drill press, and misc hand tools. I do not have much hand planing experience, and I do not have any sort of power sander. I am considering the purchase of some sort of power sander, either hand held belt sander, or a table mounted sander.

My question is, what would be the easiest way to get the FB down to 1/4in, preferably avoiding the 2-3 hours of hand sanding?

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i had the some problem and i solved it by using the router, make up a base for the router to ride on, plunge to router until the bit touches the face of the fingerboard plus a little bit more and cut, then keep lowering the router little bits at a time until you reach the desired thickness.

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In similar situations I have used my belt sander to do this. I am talking about a benchtop belt sander, not a hand held belt sander. As a fret board is usually about

18"-20" you can run the blank back and forth on the belt, keeping it as flat and level as possible. This method is not as accurate as using a planer, but hey, we make do with what we have sometimes. I have found that since the surface area on my belt sander is about 14", I can thickness something like a fretboard pretty well without much risk getting it out of a true "flat". As always, your results may vary.

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Am I going to need a special bit on the router?

I also saw this Drill Press Planer on Stewmac. Its price is about half a cheap sander at HomeDepot, and a special router bit might be the same. Maybe I should just go with a sander of some sort, although if that Planer bit from Stewmac works, it might be a cheap solution for my planing duties.

Edited by guitman32
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The Saf-t-planer is a great little Popular Mechanics type tool that every woodworker should have just 'cause it looks so Mickey Mouse but works so well.

The guy I used to split my shop with had one and used it all the time for small difficult wood, like an Fb. I have a similar one that Craftsman used to make for radial arm saws. Hadn't used it in 25 years until I saw the Wagner that Bobby had working. You'll have to do almost no cleanup with it and it takes less time than a router jig.

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I would say, from looking at my nut blank sizes, that you would want about 1/16 over the normal 1/4in FB size to account for radiusing...but 3/16th looks like too much. I doubt I will take half that off with radiusing...but if I am in the wrong please correct me!

So Doc, would you say that a planer such as the one on Stewmac would suffice for most of my minor planing needs, or should I invest in something more substantial, or maybe a sander that could double as a makeshift planer?

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It's gonna be a bad day when you get it down to 1/4" and glue the fingerboard up, only to find it's not perfectly level so you end up having to radius block sand down even thinner. If it was me I'd do my sanding down after it was glued and neck was contoured, just in case you have problems you got some room for play. But that's just my opinion.

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But its too thick now...the way it is presently, my graphtech nut blank barely comes over the surface of the blank. I want to take about 2/16ths off, then that last 1/16th I will leave for radiusing.

This has me thinking, however. My main concern was that when I slot my FB, the slots will be too shallow with the increased thickness. I can either overcompensate the slot depth, then glue, thickness the board and radius...using this method seems like it is asking for trouble...or just saw them just a little deeper than usual, glue the FB, then take the thickness down and radius.

If I do glue it while its so thick, how will I get its thickness down while its on the neck?

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Devon, the router jig shouldn't make you even mildly nervous. It's a piece of cake.

Use doublesided tape to stick the fretboard blank to a flat surface. Stick down two strips of 1/2" MDF, one on each side of the blank. Support the router on the MDF, and run it over the blank, removing approx 1mm each pass. Much more, and you'll get tear out, much less and you create dust instead of chips, which gets messy. 30 seconds with 180 grit and sanding block will remove all machining marks, and leave you with a *dead flat* blank.

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