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Fretboard Removal Without Iron?


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I've been wondering something --someone actually asked this question in another topic, but it didn't get answered.

Is it possible to remove a fretboard without using an iron, as in the tutorial -- why can't one heat up the razor blade, putty knife etc. and use the hot edges of those to melt the glue?

Also I'm not sure of what the use of steam is for --is it the heat or the steam doing the work, or both?

I just had to separate a couple of (small) pieces of wood the other day --I used a soldering iron to heat up a razor blade (holding the iron to the blade as I slide it into the gap), and the glue just melted right away. It's a little awkward, but it would keep heat and steam away from the frets and fretboard.

I do indeed have a couple of beater necks to practice on --so I suppose I'll find out for myself. But maybe someone can stop me before I bother...

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You're steaming the wood a lot more than you're heating it. As a matter of fact DON'T heat the neck, you can burn the wood. Let as much steam flow from the iron and work slowly. It took me about 15 minutes to get the whole thing off when I did that.

No point in trying other techniques that might not work as well and scrap you neck in the process. As for heating a knife to melt the glue, don't forget the glue line is usually invisible on a fingerboard/neck joint. The steam from the iron softens it which is what gives you space to start pushing in a blade or scraper.

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I disagree - the heat does the work, and I never use steam when removing a fretboard. Steam is helpful when releasing hide glue, but how many of us are removing fretboards glued with hide?

Steaming a fretboard off will expose the outer surface of the wood to far greater amounts of moisture than the glueline, and that's the area you want to get at.

IMO steam is useful for areas where you can't get at the glue surfaces - such as neck joints, and is a great medium for transferring heat. However, if you're able to apply heat directly where you want it (such as in removing a fretboard) then bringing steam into the equation simply invites cupping and warping of the fretboard.

I've removed several fretboards, glued with titebond and epoxy, and always used a dry iron, sat on the frets. The frets conduct the heat down to where you want it, and I've *never* had any scorching of the fretboard.

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I disagree - the heat does the work, and I never use steam when removing a fretboard. Steam is helpful when releasing hide glue, but how many of us are removing fretboards glued with hide?

Steaming a fretboard off will expose the outer surface of the wood to far greater amounts of moisture than the glueline, and that's the area you want to get at.

IMO steam is useful for areas where you can't get at the glue surfaces - such as neck joints, and is a great medium for transferring heat. However, if you're able to apply heat directly where you want it (such as in removing a fretboard) then bringing steam into the equation simply invites cupping and warping of the fretboard.

I've removed several fretboards, glued with titebond and epoxy, and always used a dry iron, sat on the frets. The frets conduct the heat down to where you want it, and I've *never* had any scorching of the fretboard.

+1

It's about the heat. Heck, the water we use for bending guitar sides is just a way to get heat in there evenly and thoroughly; water has a much higher heat capacity than air. Some glues need a bit of moisture in addition to the heat to start letting go, but titebond and epoxy should just release with heat alone. And yeah, steam as a carrier for heat is the other use.

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I disagree - the heat does the work, and I never use steam when removing a fretboard. Steam is helpful when releasing hide glue, but how many of us are removing fretboards glued with hide?

Steaming a fretboard off will expose the outer surface of the wood to far greater amounts of moisture than the glueline, and that's the area you want to get at.

IMO steam is useful for areas where you can't get at the glue surfaces - such as neck joints, and is a great medium for transferring heat. However, if you're able to apply heat directly where you want it (such as in removing a fretboard) then bringing steam into the equation simply invites cupping and warping of the fretboard.

I've removed several fretboards, glued with titebond and epoxy, and always used a dry iron, sat on the frets. The frets conduct the heat down to where you want it, and I've *never* had any scorching of the fretboard.

Makes sense, in my application my neck was unfretted and I followed the main site's tutorial. There was indeed some cupping of the fretboard but nothing that couldn't be fixed by clamping it flat for a few days.

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Well, the way it worked out is I used a combination...mostly because I didn't figure out I had to hold the damn steam button down :D (hey, that's the wife's department, I do the cooking)

Anyway, the operation was a success ---I took off two fingerboards, one rosewood, one maple...

I have to say, the tutorial is great BUT it kind of scared me off from doing this -- he talks about having to have tons of patience and needing two hours to get the thing off.

But it really only took me a few minutes for each one. Maybe half an hour tops for each, but I was going slowly on purpose.

In fact, at one point, on the maple board, I left the iron on a little longer to see if that would help and ended up discoloring the wood and one of the fret markers a little bit. I found that leaving the iron on for only a couple of minutes was sufficient enough to get the razor blade in there.

I also left the putty knife in there while heating with the iron--so of course that got nice and hot, which allowed it to move through the glue that much easier.

Anyway, both boards came out really well, they both lie quite flat, no cupping. The rosewood board came off much more easily than the maple board --that makes sense though.

I wasn't trying to save the necks though, just need the maple fingerboard--although both necks came through pretty much undamaged.

This was a fun one -- and another reason to appreciate Project Guitar!

Oh yeah, since I won't be using the board for a bit --should I do anything to it, like clamp it between some flat pieces of wood or something? Or will it be okay as it is?

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Oh yeah, since I won't be using the board for a bit --should I do anything to it, like clamp it between some flat pieces of wood or something? Or will it be okay as it is?

I'd clamp it flat/weight it down. It's been heated, possibly steamed, so you don't know what it's going to do while it reaches equilibrium with the environment (temp, humidity). Thinner bits of wood are always best stickered and weighted down...

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Thanks, it's done.

I can say this though, now that I've taken off a couple of fretboards, a lot of the mystery about how to make the neck, especially fitting the truss rod has been pretty much cleared up...I'll be thicknessing my blanks this afternoon, then I'm pretty much good to go...

Funny thing though --both necks have shorter truss rods -- more like 16.5 inches, not the 18 inches that I thought was standard.

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  • 3 weeks later...

First of all, sorry for my poor english, but here i go

I`m doing some LED/fretboard work for many friends and now i`m doing it as a regular basis for other people

imagen_006_ml.jpg

My latest work is an Ernie Ball/Musicman StingRay 5 (no pics yet) and let me tell you that it was a mayor PAIN. Like already said this is not new for me, usually took me 20 minutes to take off a fretboard, but in this cas was 1-2 hours because (i didn`t knew) it has 4 BIG locating pins mi knife was so sharp that in fact i cleanly cut the first 2 of them but the last 2 was a nightmare.

So if you encounter some problems taking off your fretboard consider that it may have locating pins, but beside that i must say that with care, patience and tools in good shape you won`t have problems.

BTW. I use heat and veri little steam, because of the moisture, it tends to expand the wood.

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