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The Fender 'clay' Dot


WezV
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been having a play with getting these right recently. they only appreared fro a few years in the early 60's and pretty much all look different anyway. but there is very little available to accurately reproduce them

so far i have tried:

allparts - too plastic and creamy

Wood fillers & dye mixes - odd feel, possibly too soft but easy to get the correct look

Plastic rod - warmoth seem to use a taupe plastic rod, too plasticy

Callahan - the closest available. still look quite grey.

Micarta (as used by custom shop) - cant find the right colour

if i could have hardened the wood filler mixes with epoxy or superglue i would have gone that way, epoxy made it rubbery, superglue just sat on the surface

here are my trails with wood filler - some of the centre ones are actually pretty close to acceptable colours, but the feel was wrong

P1000606.jpg

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then i found this quote on a fender forum

Fred Stuart, John Suhr and John English did a lot of research on this back in the early Custom Shop days. The best they could find out was that it was a material called "Harvite", that was a fine clay impregnated phenolic resin. It also used to be used in old poker chips and hotel key fobs. I guess it's no longer manufactured, but, go to the swap meets and look for old clay colored poker chips... you can make dots out of them! Really

apparently this material has other names like ivorine, ivorite - stuff like that. so lets see if it works!

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i got two boxes of chips, 1 made from harvite, 1 made from 'composition'

dots1.jpg

dots2.jpg

sanded a test chip of each flat:

dots3.jpg

and installed some dots - my 1/4" plug cutter was not cutting them well enough, i tried a different style but only had the larger size - but it cut much better so i will find that style in the right size. also, i obviously didnt pay attention to the size of drill i was using to put them in - hence the gaps

So we have a callaham (incorrect spelling on pics) and the two types of old poker chip

dots5.jpg

not much in it... all a bit pale

darkened with the natural rosewood oils

dots6.jpg

wiped with a bit of danish oil

dots7.jpg

notice the rosewood oils came off the callaham when wiped with danish oil - the poker chips stay dark

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this is what i was after - a material that took on the colour of the rosewood. this explains why the old dots can vary so much, darker boarded fenders from the period do seem to end up with darker dots. Obviously this can be explained with by playing wear, but it seems it could also be down to the natural oilyness of the wood too

both the chips feel smooth and pretty identical. i suspect the 'composition' chips are pretty much the same as the box actually marked harvite - just a finer blend of ceramic in the mix maybe

1 more test before i commit, i want to see how they look at the right size - obviously this will affect how grainy they look

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Have you tried the Warmoth dots? They are phenolic (bakelite.) I haven't used them in rosewood though, so I don't know if they darken like that.

I have had warmoth necks before with clay dots - even had one were i needed to swap them for pearl. it seemed to be ordinary plastic rod, not as brittle as bakelite. i could not be sure what they are made from but i wouldnt describe it as anything but relatively soft plastic. i see they advertise the phenolic dots - they also state they are cream

dean - i dont think fender ever referred to them as clay when they were using them originally, its more a descpritive term than anything else, now used for the re-issues though. There are lots of myths about asbestos floor tiles or the grey pickup bobbin material, and various other things that could have been used to make them

One of the workers at the time described it as a bright white toothpaste like filler. its accepted that they did start out pretty white as you can often see the colour when working on fretboards with old dots. thats why i wanted to see how they rosewood oils coloured this material. its also something that wears away a bit quicker than the wood will, which rules out fired clay.

chances are they used different things at different point so no-one really knows

what i was after was a material that looked and acted like the originals - and i think i may have found it. the extra providence from the custom shop guys helps. the callahams do also discolour, but not to the same degree but they are the closest thing commercially available that does the job

i suppose i have a supply for red and blue dots too :D

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I have had warmoth necks before with clay dots - even had one were i needed to swap them for pearl. it seemed to be ordinary plastic rod, not as brittle as bakelite. i could not be sure what they are made from but i wouldnt describe it as anything but relatively soft plastic. i see they advertise the phenolic dots - they also state they are cream

They do state that they are cream, but they are really just an off-white. Bakelite may not be the right term, but they are definitely some sort of phenolic. They look like they are spooged into little molds, and you can see the little sprue on one end. They're about 1/4" tall too. I insert them about 3/32", cut them flush with a fine saw, and have another dot left over.

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i know they claim its the same stuff used on their necks with 'clay' dots - if it is then its not good for me unless they have changed it

phenolic is definitely a good choice for the black dots, although most people don't worry about the authenticity of their black dots as much :D

anyway - new plug cutter is in and working much better or the poker chips. I think i can get 5 or 6 dots from each chip

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  • 3 weeks later...

well i went with the harvite in the end. still need to darken them with some rosewood oils - this is the raw harvite look, which is pretty close to where we started - but not shiny and a bit less creamy.

relic3.jpg

i also have the new logo in place, and slightly discoloured it a bit

relic2.jpg

next is damage and darkening scars - the bit that is so easy to overdo!

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