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Inlay Design


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Hey all. Getting ready to start on my first fretboard inlay. Here is a picture of what I plan to do.


The fretboard is ebony. The inlay will be done from poplar as I have some small sheets just laying around. I figure if I mess it up, it would be cheaper than if I was using Abalam or other more expensive materials.

Anyways, looking for opinions on the design. I tried to keep it somewhat simple and put the leaves on the frets that would normally have a dot.

Thanks in advance.

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I like the layout, it flows nicely. It's similar to one I just finished (my first also) except I kept the "wavelength" on mine consistent, so the ends of the vine point to opposite sides of the fingerboard.

Like thegarehanman said, thin wood can be difficult to work with... easy to cut, but hard to keep in one piece when you're cutting such thin stock. Some kind of backing would help stabilize it.

The poplar won't have much character to it, just white wood on a black background. You could try dyeing the poplar and then use some abalone or MOP for the leaves.

Or use shell for the whole thing (I used mostly paua abalone). Two ounces of 1.5mm blanks is more than enough, plenty in case you need to recut a piece or two. I ended up re-cutting about a third of it in order to match up the flash angles on the abalone better. Glad I did.

Whether you use wood or shell, it will take a lot of careful cutting and fitting to make it look right, although you can get by with slightly larger gaps on ebony. If you haven't already, read (and reread) Craig Lavin's tutorial, and Larry Robinson's book, "The Art of Inlay". Good stuff.

You can do it, just take it really, really slow. :D

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Thank you for the input. I mostly planned on using the poplar to do some practice at first before I started using the expensive shell/pearl. I planned on cutting most of it out on my band saw.

I know the poplar doesn't have a lot of grain but I'm mostly going for the white on black look for the first one. I thought about dying but I'm not sure how that would work with radiusing the fretboard. Would it work if I dyed it after I raduised?

Anyways, my plan for the leaves was to use what grain was in the wood. Let me see if I can explain it. Take a board with a thickness equal to the length of the leaves. Route a curve on both edges of the board. Then bandsaw the rounded edge off to make half of the leaf. I could then bandsaw off the leaf halves to glue together. This way I could get the grain to run out in an angle from the center of the leaf. It might be a bit ambitious but I can always just cut the leaves out as a whole if I run into difficulties.

I hope I explained that well enough.

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That can be taken care of. I've inlaid maple into ebony. After you radius the board, you blow it off with a compressor and wipe the whole thing down with paint thinner. The maple wasn't totally clean, but it was pretty darn close. However, I didn't try to cut out pieces as large as what you want; so I didn't have to worry about breakage.

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Well I made some progress today. I got the frets cutout on the fretboard blank. I took some pics with the digital camera. I will try to post them tomorrow. I was pretty pleased with how the frets came out overall. Esepecially for my first time trying. All my measurements seem to be correct. The distance to the 12th fret is exactly half the scale length (25.5). I held the fretboard up to my Jackson which has the same scale length and the frets seemed to match up all the way down.

I made some minor errors on a couple of frets where I misaligned the saw for a tiny bit. Mostly at the outer edges of the frets which will be cutoff. The one mistake I made towards the center of the board should be covered by the fretwire once it's installed.

And I remembered to save as much of the dust as possible for later use. hehe.

Next step, cutting the poplar into the inlay shapes so I can lay them out on the fretboard.

BTW... Anyone have an idea as to what radius the Takeuchi Floyd roses are machined to? I don't have a radius gauge and it doesn't say on the box. it's the TRS-101 from Allparts. Hopefully it's close to 12" which is the only radius block I have atm.

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Any time you have a 2 inch or less radius difference, you should be fine. It's when you go beyond that range that you start to affect the action.

Most Floyds are 10" radius but the Schallers are 14". I think the speed loaders are 12". I don't know about all of the other licensed manufacturers.

Anyway, if your bridge is a 14" and your fretboard is 12", you shouldn't notice it during playing or setup unless you are extremely picky about it. I forget what the difference is in terms of action but I think it's just under 1/64". I think I can find that info for you if you need it.

Floyds can also be shimmed to alter the radius. I've done this many times (along with thousands of other guitarists/builders) with the 10" OFR's. I typically use a compound 10-16 fretboard so I do a lot of shimming when using the OFR's.

I like your design. Should be sweet. The one thing I was concerned with (someone else already mentioned) - the contamination of the poplar with ebony dust. That stuff really creates problems on lighter colored wood. I don't know if poplar has a more open grain than maple but maple can get pretty dirty with ebony dust. I guess as long as you are aware of it, you have a shot at dealing with it somehow. Good luck - post pics when you are done please!

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Agreed... you don't HAVE to match it exactly. I've got a compound radius neck (10" to 16") with a non-shimmed OFR. It is certainly playable... the action might be a bit high for shredders, but I like it a little on the high side. It plays fast enough... just a little more work.

If you've got some string and a nail you can plot the radius on paper and compare it to your trem bridge and nut. :D

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