Thursday, 6 November 2008

Fernandes 'V' ebony fingerboard

This week I've had a lot of work on - a Hagstrom in need of re-wiring, a telecaster neck pickup to re-wind, A Les Paul to set up as well as the more run of the mill stuff. But the main job has been to replace the fingerboard on a Fernandes 'Flying V'.

The board was rosewood and the customer wanted it changed for ebony. So of course it needed to be re-fretted as well. As this is no doubt very much a ROCK guitar I recomended we fitted high fret wire. I'm very fond of the high narrow wire for this style of instrument. We also decided not to put any marker dots in the face of the board (mainly for looks) as most players don't look at them anyway. Side dots are usually enough. I got a pre made ebony board from an American supplier which had the advantage of already having the fret slots cut in it and a radius. This saves so much time that its worth it. The radius was a little too small for this style of guitar so I had to flatten it a little.

Removing a fingerboard requires a great deal of patience. Boards are always attached with a heat-reversable glue which means that if you warm them up the glue bond will soften an its then possible to coax the board off. The first thing is to plan how the new one will go on in the correct position. To ensure this I remove 12th fret and drill a couple of holes through the fret slot and into the maple of the neck. In these I push two panel pins. I made identical holes through 12th fret on the new board as well. So when the new one goes on I know its located correctly. Now its time to remove the rosewood board.
Firstly I scrape the finish off the sides of the board using a blade. This ensures it won't crack and splinter when I'm taking the board off. I carefully use a heat gun to warm it up. The dots on this one are mother of pearl so they're ok to get hot. If they were plastic I'd mask them so they don't melt. When it feels warm enough (from experience) I ease an oldbutter knife under the board. This is where the patience comes in. You can feel when it wants to come off, push too hard and the wood can split. The warming and pushing can take some time but rushing it here can mean a lot of time spent later cleaning up your mess.

When you're half way through its so tempting to push a little harder and hurry up the job.
When its finally off any glue residue can be cleaned up ready for the new one to go on.

I use alaphatic resin glue and clamp the neck to a slightly curved caul block to build in a bit of relief to the neck. I find rubber straps give a good even clamping pressure. Any glue that oozes out of the sides when it's clamped I clean off imediately with a damp rag. Its easier to do it when its wet that wait and do it later. The neck is left in this clamping jig for 24 hours. The next stage is shaping the board, re-fretting and putting the side dots in. I'll write about that another time.

Here's the finished job


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