The Neck – Part 4
OK, here we are back to the same point as we were at with the first neck. Fretboard radiused and slotted and glued on, and headstock thickness reduced to the proper 9/16″ we want for this build.
You may have noticed in the on the first page of the neck section I cut the big slab of maple down into 2 blanks. The first one, as I explained, became a casualty of not paying close enough attention. So I started again with the other half of that same piece of maple.
Below is the new neck starting at where we left off with the first one. I actually like this piece of rosewood better anyway so theres that 🙂
OK, with the neck built to this point, the next thing we need to do is to inlay our mother-of-pearl dots. Im using 7mm dots which are slightly larger than the 6.35mm (1/4″) dots that adorn fender fretboards. I cover the board with tape and carefully mark out the centers for drilling. A line dead center down the middle of the board gives us one point on most frets, and then I simply measure the width of each fret that has a dot (3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 15, 17, 19, and 21) and divide by two and measure that distance from the slot on the center line and make a small indentation with a brad point drill bit. That point will be dead center in the fret. You can make out the indentation on the center line of the 9th fret in the upper right of the photo below.
This method works for all the frets (except for fret 12) You can see below how I located the spots for the two dots in fret 12.
Once marked I removed the tape and using a 7mm brad point drill bit I drilled the cavities. The small spike on the bottom of the brad point bit allows me to drill very precisely in the exact spat I want. Alignment is very important with these dots. If they are out of line with each other it’ll stick out like a sore thumb.
Who likes sore thumbs? Nobody.
Next I mark and drill the holes for the side dot markers. I use a 3/32 bit for this. Bits that small dont have a centering “brad” so you have to just go very slowly and carefully to insure your hole is very precisely located on the edge of the fretboard.
A drop of glue and I gently tap the dots in using my fret hammer.
I leave all the dots standing slightly proud of the surface on both the face and side of the fretboard, then I sand them down flush. This leaves no gaps or ridges so you cant see or feel any seams.
Once sanded down they are perfectly smooth both in appearance and to the touch.
Now that the dots are all in, we can put the frets into the board. I’m using 6105 Stainless steel which are a medium jumbo fret. The fretwire comes in long pieces that need to be cut to the right sizes
Before I cut it I have to bend the wire to the same (or close to the same) radius as the board. Trying to measure, cut, and press in frets that are not pre-radiused will result in less than spectacular results. I use this adjustable bending jig to handle this task.
Then I measure and cut each fret. Since the fretboard is tapered each fret is a different length. I keep them organized in my home made fret organizer. Scrap wood can be useful 🙂
Then because I prefer a clean fretboard edge instead of the slots and fret tang showing as they do on most Strats I use this jig to file off a little bit of the tang on each end of each fret. Its perfectly acceptable for the edge of the tang to show on the edge of the fretboard, indeed many guitars do. Its a personal preference. With the tang filed in a bit it leaves the fret slot edge showing. I then fill those slots with the dust from sanding scrap rosewood (from the same board as they have many color variations) and add a drop of super thin CA glue, which soaks into the rosewood dust and hardens. Once sanded flush and lacquered, theres no slot showing and you have the same look as that on the edge of a bound fretboard without having to use binding 🙂
Then each fret is pressed into their respective slot using this radiused fret press chucked into my drill press.
The fret ends get filed down flush with the edge of the board with a slight bevel leaning inward. This is usually about 30 degrees, but I prefer about 25 degrees on my fretboards. The more angle, the more you reduce the playing area of the fret. As long as the end is polished smooth with no sharp fret ends to annoy you, this angle can be whatever you prefer.
Next up, the carve 🙂