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Replacing fingerboard dots question

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Tsal, Apr 27, 2004.

  1. Tsal


    Jan 28, 2000
    Finland, EU

    I'm in the middle of customizing a Jazz Bass, and would like to change the white fingerboard dots to abalone ones.

    I can get precut dots from a local store, so the problem remaining would be how to get the old glue-fastened dots out.

    I've been suggested that I could carve a tiny slot into each marker either with a dremel or a knife, and then twist the dot off with a small screwdriver. Should I follow this plan, or would anyone with expertise on the matter have different ideas how to do it?

    Also, I guess pretty much any glue will do for fastening the new ones, right?

    Thanks everybody.
  2. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    I'm not so sure this would work. I glue my dots in with CA glue, and the glue fills the gap surrounding the dot. So I don't think the dots would twist at all since the dot is bonded around its perimeter to the fingerboard. I think you'll end up mauling the old dots rather than twisting them out.

    Your best bet is to drill out the old ones, and you should probably use a larger dot so you can safely drill the old one out completely if you are off center with the bit by a few mil. Still, I do not recommend this mod since you will need a way to level the new dots and the glue you use to stick them in. The frets make this very difficult as you go up the neck.

    CA (super) glue is best for installing dots.
  3. JSPguitars


    Jan 12, 2004
    Grass Valley
    yeah........that sounds like a LOT of work for a little cosmetic problem. I'd rather just make another bass with the new specs I wanted.
  4. I've done exactly what you're doing there Tsal on my last completion. I did it like Matt's suggestion - drilled out the old ones with a ¼" forstner bit. It gets it all out and you have a nice clean cavity for a new one. Your method might be thwarted if the dots are hard to remove and leave bits and pieces in the holes.

    Goes back to what I always say about building and repairs - Sometimes the most success comes from how well you can recover from a process gone wrong. In this case, let's avoid the problems altogether.

    I drilled and then inlayed the abalone. 7mm dots averaging .05 - .065" thick into a flame maple neck. I put them in with CA and then leveled with files, wet sandpaper, and steel wool before coating with poly. The real problem came with the couple of dots that went in slightly askew and dried solid that way. They were fairly easy to smooth down but no matter how carefully they were chosen to match, the patterns changed with the leveling they got. For a fretted instrument whatever imperfections the process left, they aren't perceptible in play and are only visible if highlighted in the right way. I was satisfied with the results.