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Inlays On A Fretted Neck


imanoob
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I have a neck for my project, which has no inlays, and i was thinkng of having some done.

However, my neck is already fretted, is it worth getting it un-fretted, and having them put back in. Or to get a different neck.

Ive not actually decided what i want inlayed yet, but would this be possible, if my inlay designs were small anyway.

thanks for any advice

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I have a neck for my project, which has no inlays, and i was thinkng of having some done.

However, my neck is already fretted, is it worth getting it un-fretted, and having them put back in. Or to get a different neck.

Ive not actually decided what i want inlayed yet, but would this be possible, if my inlay designs were small anyway.

thanks for any advice

I was thinking about this the other day. I reasoned that the frets are nice and level with each other, and smoothly curved, so it should be possible to sit a small router base on the fret tops, and lower the router bit to take the required depth of cut, and so, small individual inlays between frets should be easy enough. A large inlay that covers more than one fret would be difficult however.

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I just did my first inlay, Gibson style trapeziods. I did it with a sharp razor knife to score the outline, and a shap chisel to cut out of meat of the material. Took a while, but my daugher was sleeping and I couldn't use the router. Using this method, it wouldn't have mattered if they were fretted or not. It took 4 hours to inlay the trapezoids and level them. There were 11 of them. I'm guessing I could shave an hour off next time for lessons learned.

My point is, if it's fretted, think of a different method of attacking the problem. How about a sled on some plywood that you can keep the router level to the neck without resting on it.. That would give you flat recesses.

My .02.

-J

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If you check out Shark inlay I believe Cliff even has a picture in the fretboard inlay section where he did the inlay with frets in place and the inlay was one that spanned across the frets, which is obviously tough. As Bluesy said there should be no problems using the fret tops as a surface, I've tested my dremel router base across fret tops and it was perfectly stable enough to work with. The only part you must think over is whether you can route with the radius or whether you need to have a flat route. For large single piece inlays like blocks and the like, I'd prefer having the flat route so I can accurately measure the depth as I go. However for smaller inlays like dots, stars, etc. you can just use the fret tops as your plane, the radius makes no difference with smaller inlays really. Also if you did require a flat route, just set up your neck so it sat flat, using a neck caul or something of the like, then place a couple blocks on either side of the neck that the router will sit on.

I agree 10000% with what John mentioned about outlining the inlay with a razor knife. I had tiny inlays that were very difficult little shapes and without doing this step I know the routing job would not have turned out well at all. Personally I don't like using a chisel for inlays because its easy with certain woods to chip from the inlay route to the fret slot/fret, especially with the grain orientation of most fretboards. It definitely works and plenty of people have done this, but I find the dremel with router base or something similar to be less risky. Although if you don't outline the route with the razorknife a dremel can be risky as well, doing a nice deep cut around the outline of the inlay helps when routing because when you get close to the edge of the route it actually chips away at that razor cut so you don't even need to route all the way to the edge which is very helpful especially on more intricate shapes. One more idea that helped me a ton is to practice, just grab a small piece of scrap, take your inlay, outline it on your scrap, cut the outline with the razor knife, then route and see how the inlay fits, this will let you perfect your technique before getting to your actual fingerboard. Anyhow, best of luck to you, as John mentioned it can take some time, even with the dremel router it took me a long time to inlay, its important to take your time, outline, cut the outline, route slowly and cautiously, test fit and CA or epoxy in.

Once you have the inlays in, try using a nice single cut file to take down the inlay even with the wood. The file takes pearl down well, but does not do much of anything to wood, so long as your careful its a very useful way to even things up. Best of luck. J

Edited by jmrentis
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Hi, Cliff from Shark Inlay here. Just thought I'd chime in with my 2 cents for whatever that's worth.

My personal rule is that I want to refret the guitar if the inlay go below the 12th fret (13-22). The reason why is different than others listed here. For me it about getting the inlay flat and the radius correct without any chance for damaging the frets. Once the frets get too close together it becomes hard to do. You end up with a "U" effect on the fretboard as if the guitar is slightly scalopped.

This wouldn't be too much of a problem if you where doing dots (as mentioned eariler). The dots are small and well away from the frets. Plus, if you use the correct depth in the first place, you probably wouldn't have much leveling to do anyway.

I have done many complex inlays that span frets with the frets in place, but only above the 12th. This too takes a lot of caution, but nowhere near as much at below the 12th.

Therefore, my question would be, what are you planning on inlaying?

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I didn't think about how to level them, just how to inlay them.. Duh..

I made some home made 12 inch radious sanding blocks to level fretboards. It wouldn't take a second to lop off a few sections that were the width of distance between the frets where you needed to level the inlays. Since the curve matches, you can run it side to side on the neck (You normally run it up and down the neck) and carefully level the inlay until you hit wood. If you put some thin tape on the area to the outside of the inlay, it would protect the wood a little until you got down level with the wood.

Just a thought. It would at least give you a consistant radious and smooth inlay.

-John

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