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Removing the fingerboard: Ill advised?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Mike Goodbar, May 8, 2003.

  1. I'm planning to refinish my Engelhardt this summer and I was considering removing the fingerboard to better facilitate refinishing the top.

    I would then glue it back on using hide glue and several cable-tie type clamps.

    Having no luthier-type experience, am I outta my league on this one?
  2. Getting the fingerboard off without damaging it or the neck and then replacing it is not a job for a novice. Leave it on and work around it.
  3. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    As a bass-playin', woodworkin' guy who is an amateur dilettante of a luthier, I have done that job a couple of times. I would have to say that, unless you can look at that board and know exactly how you're gonna take it off without damaging the neck, don't go there.

    Then there's the little matter of getting it back on, straight, with the board/neck joint finished nice. If you've got any doubts about pulling it off, you probably shouldn't try it on your own.

    Since I was tiny tiny I've loved taking stuff apart, so I likely have an innate craziness about the risk of it not coming back together. Seems not to faze me properly. That's cost me over the years, but I've gained more.

    (BTW, the basses I did boards on were both Crapatinos, and in both cases the boards couldn't wait to give up their purchase on the neck. They weren't exactly challenges in that respect. I was ready for everything but epoxy, though I think you can even heat that stuff up, too.)
  4. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    Bob's right on this one--even a master luthier could have trouble getting one of those boards off in one piece. You run the risk of splitting the maple neck. Engelhardt uses very strong, permanent glue. If you insist on removing the fingerboard, do it slowly with gouges and planes, then buy a new board from Engelhardt for cheap, and install that. Or, put a good fingerboard on it.
  5. That's what I was afraid of. I'll leave it alone.

    There is, however, a little bit of daylight showing between the neck and the fingerboard, indicating perhaps that the neck is starting to bow. Can this be fixed without fingerboard removal? (I've detuned the strings to relieve some of the tension while the thing is in storage.)
  6. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    just to add what AES said...
    I use a power hand planer to remove thin ebony boards, or maple/hardwood ones that aren't worth saving. Cut the board's overhang off with a pull saw, then plane down the rest to a few mm. It is more "dangerous" than gouges and planes, but much faster. I haven't had any problems with it. FWIW

    If you want to save the board, that's a whole different story. Where are the gaps in the glue joint?
  7. One gap, right at 1st position (from about A to B on the G string).

    I think I'll wait until the entire rehab is done to mess with the fingerboard. If it looks and sounds good enough, I might go ahead and replace it with a new rosewood or maybe even ebony if I feel it warrants it.

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