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Well, despite having practiced first and feeling that the block inlays would be a super-easy job, I've gone and goofed up my fretboard a bit.

The problems:

- one mortise was too deep. I had to build it up a bit with some CA. Nobody else will likely ever know but me, but it still annoys me

- one mortise got accidentally enlarged too much. Not an insane amount, but it will need to have the gap filled in with black CA or with CA/sawdust

- the worst offender: a fairly large gouge. Lesson learned: be even more patient than you think you need to be. I had finished hogging out a mortise, turned off the power on the router, but didn't wait for the bit to completely stop spinning. As I lifted the tool out of the cavity, it slipped out of my hand a bit and dropped onto the fretboard, taking a small circular bit of wood with it. It will need to be filled, and it's large enough that it won't just "blend" with the grain.

- various small scratches from when I was scribing

The good side:

- I'm learning as I go and I'm getting there!

- The blocks haven't been glued down yet, so they're salvagable

The possible solutions:

- Keep going, fill it in, and treat the mistakes as character and as "scars" for my first ever project, wearing them as proudly as possible.

- Keep going, fill it in, sand down about a half millimetre to minimise the appearance of the scratches and flaws. This requires a radiused sanding block which I don't own and would have to order or make.

- Keep going, fill it in using black CA and dust, and then use fretboard dye to even out the appearance of the grain and make the tone of the fretboard more like the tone of the repaired areas, which will minimize the attention drawn to them. I'm worried that the dye will make the fretboard look like crap; but on the other hand, it may end up looking fine.

- Trashcan the fretboard (well, save it for scrap) and order a new one, possibly with Rosewood instead of ebony so that it won't be so damned difficult to work when I re-do it. The problem with this is that I don't have the money at the moment and it would put the whole project further on hold (not that I'm in a rush), PLUS the fact that I can't predict that the second effort will not become the victim of accidents, either.


As an aside, one thing I've learned is that whan you're "this close" to having your block fit into the mortise, you're better off using a true surface and some sandpaper to shape the inlay down a bit than you are trying to enlarge the mortise.


Now, opinions on whether to scrap it or not are welcome, but I'm also curious to find out which of the "keeper" options seems the best? Ie. even if everyone says to trash it, I might have to keep it, so as a backup plan I'd like information and perspectives on which of my "fix it" options would work.



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in my opinon, i would re do it, use a rosewood or maple FB and re do it, you can always keep the ebony one and practice inlaying the ebony (so when you go to RW or Maple, it will be alot easier)

Good luck


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I was just wondering if you are going to radius the board, because if you do you might get rid of some of the minor issues. I always read that you should do 2/3rds of the radiusing then the inlays, then finish up the radius. I think thats what I've read. But I haven't done any inlay work myself so I can't give advice, but this is just what I've read. I would want to buy the radius sanding block, the big one, and do it that way. As long as your inlays are thick enough.

I wouldn't ever throw it away, although I know some people would. If you can fix it, then it's just more practice and experience for the next one, and you might end up with a fretboard that looks fine, honestly it won't sound any worse with mistakes and it just means you are still learning. I've read a few of your posts in the past couple months and it seems like you did plenty of research and practice, so I wouldn't worry about your mistakes, it's probably just another part of the learning of doing inlays. Also I was wondering if you masked off the areas of the fretboard you weren't working on? I would do a thick layer of tape just so if I slipped or dropped anything there would be some protection, might not save it but I'm sure it would lessen the damage.

Anyways Greg get a pic up and some links, because I will be doing some block inlays soon and would like to see how you did it, I have a air powered dremel and will be getting a good amount of bits from my dentist next week, of all different shapes and sizes. I'm excited to do my inlays, but I will be very nervous because the fretboard I'm getting is so perfect. It isn't expensive or anything and there are some similar ones that I could buy but I really want to do the best I can. So good luck Greg and let us know how it goes and get pics if you can! Later. Jason

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Cheers for the feedback so far:

idch: I'm leaning that way. :D

Curtis: It's not a replica, but a tip of the hat to the Gibson Lucille. The fretboard needs to be dark, so maple's out of the question. Rosewood is an option if I can find a dark enough rosewood.

Jason: it's already pre-slotted and pre-radiused. However, it's still tall enough that I know for sure the mistakes would be reduced by sanding it down. Problem being, a radiused sanding block plus paper would cost more than a whole new fretboard, so I'd have to make one if it's a cost issue (which it partially is).

I DO have the area masked off, but not heavily. I should have tripled-up on the tape, and exposed ONLY the part that's being worked on. That's a lesson to carry through as the project continues.

I'll throw a pic up later on. :D


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Your right that it would be more expensive to fix it, but that way you might not have as many problems with the next one. And you could buy a non radiused board and do that yourself if you wanted to and inlaying would be a little safer that way because you could radius most of the mistakes out. Either way I think it will turn out fine, even if it does have a few scars I'd be cool with that. Later. Jason

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they dont cost much anyway.

They do for a Canadian, or it'd be a non-issue. If it was just the cost of the fretboard, I'd buy a new one in a second. However, adding the cost of shipping (most suppliers have a minimum $15 charge, which is more than the cost of the fretboard) and then the duty, and you've almost tripled the cost.

Canada really needs its own StewMac or LMII location. :D

If I lived in the States, I would have already saved literally hundreds of dollars off the cost of this project. You guys don't know how lucky you have it.


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Due to our current pic rules, the following post will be a pain in the butt. :D Take my word for it, most of the photos aren't worth opening; however, since it was requested, here's some shots, plus explanations of the process I tried since the last block. Some of the photos look like crap because I had to gamma-correct the heck out of them to get certain things visible.

NOTE: UNDERLINED words/phrases are links to pics!

First, the errors:

1. Fret markers 1 and 3 On the left is the first inlay (between the nut and fret 1). Not horrible, but you can see a small gap on the 'right' side (closest to fret 1).

Next you see the 'fret 3' (I hate calling it that because it's not the fret that's inlayed) inlay mortise. It's white because some MOP dust settled on it while it was still tacky. Looks like complete crap, but it's not quite as bad as it seems.

Finally, you can see little gaps/gouges on the bottom left of BOTH those inlays.

2. Nasty Gouge To the right of the inlay mortise, and right in the fret area. Not sure how to 'fix' it without buggering up the stability of the fret. It's not quite as deep as it looks (gamma correction and shadows are playing tricks) so sanding the entire board down will almost eliminate it, but not quite.

3. Various scratches can be seen here and there on those 2 pics. Some of what seem like scratches are actually light pencil marks, though.

Next, the process in its current stage of refinement:

1. put tape on the fretboard where the inlay will go. Glue your inlay to this tape. Use an Xacto to scribe around the inlay. Do it a few times. Take off the inlay (leaving the surrounding tape attached still) and score some more. The existing lines should be enough to guide your blade without the inlay being there. For complex shapes, do NOT remove the inlay for additional scribing. Sorry, no pic of this stage. Setch had a good pic.

2. I set up a "channel" for my fretboard, upon which my router base will rest to ensure a flat and level bottom for my inlays despite having a pre-radiused fretboard:


3. Precautions In Place: I put masking tape around my already-scribed inlay area. Following a suggestion in this very thread, I threw some thin scrap material over the rest of the fretboard. The 70's called and want their fake wood panelling back!

4. Pre-Routing Dremel Work: Since my 1/8" router bit is NOT meant for plunging, I used the Dremel to quickly bore out a "starting point" to help preserve the life of my router bit. You could use a drill or whatever else. A Dremel was right at hand so I used it.

5. Used a Router to hog out the mortise, using the highly visible masking tape as a visual reference for how close I was to the scribed lines. As Setch explained to me, you want to get close to the scribed line, but not right up to it. You'll see why in a second. Here's the routed cavity.

6. The reason you don't want to go right to the scribed line is because it will serve as a guide for your chisel. Using just a router, you'll have to hope for a steady hand. But with the chisel, you can pop it into the scribed line, push down hard, and Voila! the remaining wood comes out fairly cleanly, straight, and at the exact right spot. If I had a larger chisel, I'd have given it a try, but I only had this wee one. Actually, I have others, but they're not sharp like this one.

7. No matter how hard I try, the cavity always seems to be just a bit too small. If you've already done a fairly clean job, why screw it up by trying to chisel at it? Nope, instead, use some sandpaper to bring your inlay down to size.

8. Go back and forth between the fretboard and your sandpaper until she fits! This one came out well, but after I popped the inlay in there, I realized that it wasn't perfectly centred. Still, this one went the most smoothly of them all which shows that practice helps.


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Cool procees you got going! I don't think the problems are bad at all, with a little sanding like you said it will be almost gone. Also I think you mentioned this but you could add some dust from the board with the ca and it would make the inlay gaps at the top almost invisable. I'm sorry because you probably have this stated somewhere, but is it going to be a bolt on, set neck, or neck through?

If it is bolt on I would finish this neck as is and if you end up not liking the finish result build another one, but at least you have a finished neck with inlays under your belt. Also I think you did a very good job on the inlay you did in the process you posted. It looked like it was perfect, nice stuff. Well good luck with whatever you do, I would finish it but thats just me, I always broke so I try to not make mistakes, but when I do I try to fix them whever possible. Again if it's just a bolt on, finish it. You'll probably end up building countless more necks, why not have that one to show how you started. Thanks for posting the pics and good luck! Post a pic of the finished neck if you decide to do it! Later. Jason

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If it is bolt on I would finish this neck as is and if you end up not liking the finish result build another one, but at least you have a finished neck with inlays under your belt.

I can't believe that never even occurred to me. <laff> Yes, it's a bolt-on. OK, that pretty much sells me, then. I'll finish it up which will be at least good practice. Cheers for reminding me that it's really that simple. :D

Also I think you did a very good job on the inlay you did in the process you posted.  It looked like it was perfect, nice stuff.

The photos don't do justice to the mess. The most recent one was fine, but the others... well, not so good. Also, I haven't glued the MOP yet or sanded it to the fingerboard's radius, so that'll be another potential area for mistakes.

Well good luck with whatever you do, I would finish it but  thats just me, I always broke so I try to not make mistakes, but when I do I try to fix them whever possible.

Yeah, I'm quite skint right now, too. I'll definitely post pics as I go and everyone will see the whole finished project, whether it's actually WOD-class crap or not. :D


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Let me guess, you have a tongue ring. Wow, that was difficult(note sarcasm).

This project will make you better at covering up your mistakes. Not that you should have any mistakes to cover up in years to come, but when you do, don't you want them to disappear forever? I've become quite adept at it. I don't know if it's a good idea to fess up to it though.

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Pretend it was done on purpose and do it some more and then you can start the famous and expensive relic-ing process... tie your guitar with a rope to some motorized vehicle and drive around for an hour or so, making sure the body and neck bump really hard against all sort of stones.

It it was me, I would have ordered more than one fretboard right away anyway because I know that if I tried it I would mess it up... :-)

Anyway, you should try to fix it and first see what it looks like and decide afterwards, not to mention the learning effect...

@Miro, depends on the type of pickup.

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FWIW, my mentor in the mechanicin' business (a man of infinite sagacity and rather incisive wit) used to say, "Everybody makes mistakes - pros learn how to cover 'em up!" . It simply doesn't look that bad to me, and since it's not being built for sale or anything, I would think it's a rare opportunity to "...make lemonade...", so to speak. The pressure's off now, use it as an experiment in corrective surgery, and learn as much as you can about how to fix your mistakes. Besides, years from now, it'll be fun to pull it out and marvel at how far you've come. If despite your best efforts it still turns out really bad (which I somehow doubt will be the final result), just don't show it to anybody! :D I've got a closet full of failed projects that'll never see the light of day (at least not while I'm living), but it's fun (and humbling) to browse through them when nobody's around. :D

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mark: I tip jar for services rendered? Wouldn't make much. :D

lovekraft: I guess I'll make lemonade. Maybe some day when you're less bashful, we'll see a shot of that closet o' badness!

idch: not a bad idea with the fix job for the fretboard. I can't see myself routing it square, but I might be able to sandpaper a few pieces to fit in there. Got me thinking, at any rate. :D

As for the inlay gap, I couldn't imagine coming up with a sliver thin enough to fill it in. The problem with the gap is that the inlay is still a pretty tight fit. It's the angle of the cut that makes the gap large. I used the chisel improperly is what it comes down to. The other ones are rather more well done, so I wouldn't want to ruin them just to get a consistent "border".

Now that I've decided to keep it for sure, the next questions would be:

- clear or black CA for gluing in the inlays? I have both. I prefer knowing that the edges of the MOP won't be seen if I use black, but it WILL make gaps more obvious.

- to fretboard dye or not? I know manufacturers do it, so it can't be THAT horrible of an idea. I just don't want it to look 'plasticky' because of a consistent black. Will some of the grain pattern still be barely detectible, giving it a more realistic look?


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