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How do I lift a fingerboard?

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OK, so it's time for me to refret my 62 custom shop strat reissue. I don't want to put on a replacement neck (permanantly.)

The first time I re-fretted was right after I got the guitar 17 years ago. (I needed to flatten out the 9.5 inch radius to accomodate my string bending.) I managed to get it done, but I took off so much of the rosewood that now the board is too thin to take another re-planing.

How do I remove the old fretboard without destroying the neck? I'd rather just lift it off and not plane it down (although I suppose I could do that.) I know that I need to heat the board to loosen the glue and get a knife under it. What's the best way to do that without scortching the neck? Heat gun? Heat lamps? and what do I use to protect the headstock and sides? Way back when I went to guitar repair school they used chunks of asbestos, but you can't get them anymore. would removing the frets first be advisable?

Any advice would be appreciated.


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Standard practice in a refret is to level the fretboard before replacing the frets. You can do this with a plane, but most folks use a dead flat sanding block.

To the original poster - unless you want to change your radius again you should be able to level the fretboard using a long, flat block without removing siginificant amounts of wood. You don't need to level divots between frets unless you want to, they won't affect the seating of the new frets. Try it - worst case you have to pull the board, which you are planning to do anyway...

If you have to remove it:

Heat it with a domestic clothing iron. I leave the frets in, since they conduct heat down further than placing an iron on the unfretted board. Concentrate the heat on the heel end until you can squeeze a razor blade in between the neck and the fretboard, then gradually work down the neck, going very slow to minimise finish chipping etc.

You should expect to do some finish touch up, if you're not comfortable with that I'd delegate to a pro.

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Are you actually taking off the fretboard to do the re-fret? Are you replacing the fretboard or are you just replacing the frets? You could just try removing the frets first but maybe you've got another reason for needing to pull the board off?

I've used that tutorial before and it is very good. Like Setch mentioned, concentrate on the heel first. It takes a while to get it started but it gets easier from there. I've cut my hand a couple of times doing this. I use a knife (fairly thin and wide blade) and when it gets to the end of the fretboard, it will release quickly as it cuts through the last of the glue. You'd think that I would learn from the first time - but noooo - I had to do it twice. So, watch out when you get close to the end.

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Many many many MANY thanks!

What I meant to say was that when I originally got the guitar it had a vintage fender radius (9.5 I think.) I re-radiused it to 12, but being inexperienced I took off too much wood.

As someone suggested, I'm going to pull the frets and look at the condition of the board before I proceed. I may just live with the divots, or fill them with rosewood dust and glue. (Damn, why didn't I think of that before. . . ? In fact. . . hell that's what I will do! forget lifting the fingerboard!)

Man, this forum is great! It's making me think of things I forgot years ago! (I took a guitar repair course and promptly forgot it all. . .)

Thanks all!


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