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Opinion poll: fret before attaching fingerboard?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by abarson, Sep 15, 2008.

  1. abarson


    Nov 6, 2003
    Santa Cruz
    I'm using a preshaped ebanol fingerboard, and would like to know if I'm better off inserting the frets before gluing it down to the neck. Opinions?
  2. ehque


    Jan 8, 2006
    inserting frets into a fretboard creates quite a bit of force on the fretboard due to the fret tangs. i'd glue it down first.

    why would you want to install the frets first anyway?
  3. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    You know, I used to worry about that, but when building an acoustic one time, I got that video from Stew-Mac where Dan Erlewine walks you through some of the steps, and IIRC, he fretted before gluing.

    That having been said, I glue first, then fret... but that isn't to say that you *can't*, fre forst, or that it will cause you trouble down the line.
  4. Triad

    Triad Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 4, 2006
    Luthier - Prometeus Guitars
    If you're using a "nervous" wood you could have bad surprise if you put frets in before gluing.
    Example: you put frets, you glue the board on and BANG! The little bastard, for the contact with water contained in Titebond, moves, warps, spits frets out and creates humps etc.
    I'd glue it first, even if these things don't always happen. Yes, the backbow that fret installation could create is another reason.
  5. These days I always fret first, then attach with epoxy. Fretting first allows you to work out the back-bow in the board before gluing so that you're not stressing the neck (just flex it by hand to bite the tang barbs in). And using epoxy avoids the little bit of swelling of the wood you get when you use Titebond.

    The downside is that you need a good clamping caul to rest the neck in when you clamp up, so that you get very even clamping pressure and avoid humps in the glue joint.
  6. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    I glue first then flatten the board with a 3' sanding block sand through 800 then fret..........Yes contrary to what some people think I do fretted basses too. ;)

    Now if I could just get somebody to make me a 4" wide 3' long 16 radius sanding block I would be in business
  7. XylemBassGuitar

    XylemBassGuitar Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 14, 2008
    Durango, CO
    Owner and Operator, Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars
    I've always glued the fretboard down first, then fretted.


    If you want to fret first, you should go for it abarson.

    One of the very cool things about building stringed instruments is that there aren't any absolutely "right" ways to do anything, just different ways. If you're going to fret first, just make sure you think the whole procedure through and are preapred with the proper tools and accessories.

    Having said that, if you're going to fret first, make sure that you have a caul that won't smash the frets when you clamp the board down, but will still give very even pressure across the board, like erik says. One advantage you have using the ebanol board is that it is probably more stable than most wood and doesn't react to water in the same way.

    If you decide to fret first, you should let us know how it goes.
  8. FWIW when using Titebond, typically the wood swells more on the neck-side of the glue joint, since most neck woods take up moisture more readily than most fretboard woods (maple notwithstanding). So the ebanol board would behave pretty much the same.

    I would not use Titebond on ebanol. Epoxy.

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