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Starting Over --do I Need To Sand?

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Pulled the botched fretboard off the neck today. I'm steeling myself for having another go at it.

The other fretboard I have is closer to the correct thickness, so I can leave it as is. It's also a pre-radiused board.

My question: does a pre-radiused board still need to be sanded? It looks and feels pretty smooth (it's ebony). As smooth as the boards on any of my other guitars. Even smoother, actually.

I'm thinking I should be able to get away with only sanding at higher (i.e., less risky) grits. Like in the 1000-2000 range. I have some of those micromesh finishing pads from Stewmac that I'd thought I'd try out.

I realize I might have to sand the dot markers level, but I can always mask off the wood around those to keep myself from screwing up too badly.

If I can do this without sanding, then I should be able to install the frets --and once those are installed, I'll be able to carve the neck. I'm looking forward to that part!

But then I think I'll pay someone to dress them properly. I get the feeling that that part's going to be beyond me too. Dunno why :D

The next question though, is, if I do decide to hire someone to do this, there shouldn't any problem with presenting him with the neck already carved, right? Does it make sense to mount the neck too (it's going to be a set neck) and let him go from fret dressing all the way to final setup?

Wonder how much all that would cost...

I'm asking because I have this weird thing...even if I do manage to do a decent job of all that, I'll never be completely confident about the guitar (I'm going through that issue with my last build too). Just don't trust myself, I guess.

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My first (pre-radiused) board on my first "guitar" (the disaster of an instrument that I created before I found books or all this cool stuff on the internet like PG) I didn't sand the pre-radiused board. It worked. It just didn't feel comfortable. Most of the pre-radiused boards I've seen still have tooling marks.

But yeah, you don't need to jump in at 60 grit or anything. I think I started at 400 on my last one? I like to sand ebony boards until they shine. (There's a pic somewhere on the main site in one of Brian's tutorials where you can see the reflection of his house in the fretboard - like that) It won't stay shiney forever, but the thing just plays so much better (for me) when it's that smooth.

And about the necks - man, if *I* can make a playable neck from start to finish, fretting and fretwork and all, you certainly can.

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The gluing process leaves the fingerboard a little uneven no matter how careful you are. Thus, you really should level the fingerbord along its length. Start with 320 on the radius block, prep your fret slots, then tidy up with progressively finer grits until it shines. Ebony is easy. Fretting an already perfect fingerboard makes the frets end up looking much better and requires very little dressing.


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-Make some cork covered claws that spread the weight evenly across the board. Make sure your gluing surface on the neck is level and has no twist to it.

-Dont be afraid to remove the fretboard if things are going wrong. Much easier to remove on when the glue is wet then it is when its dry.

-Do a dry fit, use some double stick tape and tape the board down. Get a level and make sure the board is flat, and if it isnt make sure there is enough room to remove the un leavel areas when it has been glued on.

Just my 2 cents.


Edited by guitarchump
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Well, the clamping pressure thing might have been an issue-- I used the radius block for part of it, but it's only 8 inches long, so only part of the neck was clamped that way. For the rest the clamps were directly in contact.

Maybe I should plunk down for an 18" block in that case.

I test fitted it with light clamping pressue to make sure there were no gaps along the edges --I didn't want to use double-sided tape.

But I think the real problem came with my sanding technique --I believe I was too aggressive and not consistent with my stroke (specifically, I'm sure I was pushing off hard at the ends and not noticing that I was lightening up in the middle). A longer radius block should allow me to overcome that, I'd think.

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whenever im clamping anything w/ a radius or frets (+radius)

i use thick cork underneath and it forms enogh to give even direct pressure; also does a good job in not damaging frets if theyre finished!

You mean you sandwich the cork between the radius block and the fretboard? Or you clamp the cork directly?

The good news is that I just found out that the ex-husband of the sister of the father of my wife's brother's wife is a luthier in the area!

His ex is going to put me in touch with him, but there shouldn't be any problem with him doing the job for me. Or better yet, he'll probably be willing to work WITH me on it, show me how to get it done properly so I can do it myself.

AND he'll be building a hollowbody with his son this summer, I might be allowed to come by and watch them work on that.

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Mickguard, I didn't catch the original issue but it sounds like you have a concern about sanding evenly. Here is a jig I made to help me handle fretboards. I use it for sanding, radiusing if not pre-radiused, and as a shooting board if I need to plane the fretboard edges flat.

It is basically a piece of 3/4" mdf with two other pieces of 3/4" mdf screwed on top. I used the factory edges of the mdf for the two pieces on top to ensure they were straight. They are placed the same distance apart as my radius sanding block, just so the block fits snugly but moves along the length without binding. I double stick tape the fretboard on a center line drawn on the board, and then place the sanding block on top and begin. It helps me maintain even pressure and not "roll off" the edges. I'll also sand from one side, then move myself over and sand from the other side to avoid pressure differences. It works ok.

This pic is of a pre-radiused board from LMI. I asked them to what grit equivalent their boards are prepared to, but they really couldn't answer since they machine the boards. For this board, because of all the inlay, I started with 400 and went from there.

Hope this is of some use.


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ex-husband of the sister of the father of my wife's brother's wife

Hmmm ... reminds me of a song ... "I'm My Own Grandpa." :D

Yeah, catchy, inn'it?

Johnsilver --thanks for the jig idea. I'd been thinking of something similar, but couldn't figure out how it should work.

I just bought an 18" block from guitarguy, should be here soon enough. I'll feel safer with the longer block.

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