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Ebony


daveq
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Up until now, I have only used rosewood and maple fretboards. I decided to use an ebony fretboard for my latest project since I'm doing some inlay work on it.

Everything is fine so far but as I'm smoothing the side to meet with the maple neck, the ebony dust keeps making the maple look dirty. Every time a use sandpaper on it, the damn ebony dust fouls everything up. I can use a scraper for most of it, but I still need to do soem touch up with sandpaper.

Have any of you had this issue before? Any tricks to dealing with it?

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Dave,

I've run into this many times, the first trick is to cut your fretboard so that it's very close to fitting with no sanding, a jointer really helps for this, however you still need to blend the sides.

What I do, is first I sand it down flush with the maple, don't worry about making the maple dirty with the ebony dust, once it is flush, and you are happy with the feel, take it to no finer than 220 grit paper. Then wipe it as clean as you can with a damp cloth.

Next, take a single strip of masking tape and tape over the edge of the ebony, Leave about 1/64" of the ebony showing, this will allow the sand paper to ride on top of the tape, but still touch all of the maple. Sand the maple with a clean piece of 220 grit, it won't take much to get the maple clean, it's not like you've worked the ebony dust into it. Once it is totally clean, finish sand the maple to about 600 or whatever you prefer, remove the tape. Now retape, but the maple this time, only now I tape right up to the edge of the ebony, finish sand the edge of the ebony to 600 or whatever you want. Remove the tape, you should have a perfect clean seperation line that is nice and flush, if you still feel a very slight ridge, you can go back to 400 grit, and sand the 2 together, the trick here is to start at the nut with almost all of the sandpaper towards the back of the neck, and just do one single straight stroke all the way to the heel, but pulling the sandpaper towards the fretboard as you sand, in otherwords, bringing all the sanding dust into the ebony, not the other way around. Unless you were very aggresive with the tape on you should have a perfect fit with no ridge, repeat the 400 step with 600 grit, then you can use some 2000 just to polish it all with, by using your finger as a guide on the sandpaper you can keep the paper from overlapping the join seam and making it dirty again.

The Scraper works fine, but I find that if you've already slotted the board the scraper leaves funny marks whenever you go past a fret slot that require sanding anyway.

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Wow, thanks Jeremy - now I really don't feel so alone in this. I was thinking that maybe I got a particulary soft fretboard or something. That's a great detailed description - I'll give it a try tonight. I do know what you mean about the fret slots using the scraper - that's why I needed to do some touch up with sand paper - but I found myself in the endless loop of scraping and sanding, .... Ahhh :D !!!!

Thanks,

Dave

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I find that angling the scraper at 45 degrees to the fret slots elminates most of the problems LGM described. This means that it is less inclined to drop into the slots, and so it can evenly remove material from the whole board.

Not 100% effective, but it really helps avoid the dimples we all love to hate :D

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