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Fretboard separating from neck; what to do?

Konga Man
February 19th, 2004, 12:38 AM
A recent acquisition has a problem whose severity wasn't initially apparent: the fretboard is separating from the neck. I had noticed this when I picked up the guitar, but I thought it may have been just the binding coming loose. Check this out:
http://www.squinkies.com/images/guitar/fretboard.jpg

The true nature of the problem became apparent as I attempted to set the relief. When I got the guitar, it had high (~.030) relief, and a small separation between the binding and the neck on the bass side. With a small turn of the truss rod nut, the separation became more visible and the cause more obvious. It is definitely not the binding coming off. It now looks as the high relief may be due, in large part, to the fact that the position of the fretboard does not accurately reflect the curvature of the neck.

The questions are these:
- How is this fixed? I think we're heading for a luthier on this one, but what is the "typical" remedy? Does the whole fretboard have to come off, or will a shot of glue and a clamp do the trick?
- What's a "normal" charge for this kind of work?
- Does this entail any other work as a matter of course (e.g. full dressing of the frets)?
- Any recommendations for an individual luthier or shop in the south San Francisco Bay area?

Thanks.

Rob DiStefano
February 19th, 2004, 07:08 AM
Slow set (30-45 min) epoxy slid in with a small spatula shaped piece of aluminum beer/soda can (just get a little of the goop in a bit on either side - no need to push it all the way in to the truss rod), protect the neck and fingerboard and clamp hard sith a big "C" clamp, wipe up the oozed epoxy with naphtha (lighter fluid) on a paper towel, allow to cure for at least 12 hours - 24 is best. The joint will be invisible and stronger than before.

When cured, assess the levelness of the fingerboard and frets. Most likely, if a small amount of glue is used (as it should be) neither will be compromised to any great degree.

If you don't have one, make a fingerboard/fret straightedge - buy a 24" drafting T-square that has a wooden center and plastic edges (typically, $9 @ Staples), unscrew the "T", cut the resulting straight edge length so that it's a tad longer than the full length of the fingerboard, lay one edge over the frets and parallel to the fingerboard, use a magic marker to put a small mark on the plastic edge wherever it meets a fret, use a rattail or triangular file to cut a small notch into the plastic edge at every mark (the notch needs to be about 1/8" to 3/16" wide - enuf to easily fit over a fret) - that side is your fingerboard straight edge, the other side is your fret straight edge. Neat, huh? I use these all the time. I like cheap and functional. I have one for just about every scale length and instrument type ... sure beats those $90 Stew-Mac straight edges. :twisted: Oh, yer concerned - is it REALLY THAT straight? Yep, I've tested at least a dozen "T-edges" against a Stew-Mac big-dollar straight edge - the "T-edge" is just as straight. Works for me.

IF, you'd eventually want to actually remove the fingerboard somewhere down the road, substitute hide or aliphatic resin glue for the epoxy. IMO, unless the neck is of "vintage value", it's expendable so do it right and use epoxy.

This is a relatively easy DIY project. Or perhaps a $30-$50 tech/luthier job.

My procedures and YMMV.

esquire_player52
February 19th, 2004, 10:37 AM
if it were me i would consider putting a new fingerboard on just to make sure it won't come up again (although it could) but then you gotta refret and all that other fun stuff. it just depends on if you're willing to spend the time and money doing that or if you'd rather glue it back down.

Rob DiStefano
February 19th, 2004, 10:55 AM
if it were me i would consider putting a new fingerboard on just to make sure it won't come up again ...

If the separated area has been cleaned out nicely, and you use slow set epoxy under pressure for at least 12 hours in a 70F environment, the neck would explode before the fingerboard separated. Trust me. Just alone in the last 3 weeks I've used slow set epoxy to bond back the headstock on a old 70's Guild F50 acoustic and an early 90's LP Studio - the glue bond is stronger than the wood. YMMV.

Teletwang
February 19th, 2004, 11:28 AM
Rob,West System ?

Rob DiStefano
February 19th, 2004, 12:15 PM
Rob,West System ?

U betcha! You know yer good goop!

Mr. Droopy-Drawers
February 19th, 2004, 07:15 PM
Stewart-MacDonald makes a fingerboard 'band clamp' (Item #3109) that works well, and helps you avoid big-ass C-Clamps and cauls that always manage to slip off of the neck. And even though their catalog is typically full of $50 tools you can normally get for $5 from Home Depot, Stew-Mac only wants $3.98 for the band clamp. You cannot argue with that price.

Rob DiStefano
February 19th, 2004, 07:38 PM
Stewart-MacDonald makes a fingerboard 'band clamp' (Item #3109) that works well, and helps you avoid big-ass C-Clamps and cauls that always manage to slip off of the neck. And even though their catalog is typically full of $50 tools you can normally get for $5 from Home Depot, Stew-Mac only wants $3.98 for the band clamp. You cannot argue with that price.

IMO, a simply cauled "C" clamp is *much* better than the band clamp, and I've used both. A 4" clamp give a more positive control of pressure, and you do want a goodly amount of pressure exerted for at least 12 hours. I'd use a 1/2" ply caul on the frets and the same for the neck back, only insulated with a thick piece of leather. The large cauls insure a better distribution of pressure. YMMV. Also, Stew-Mac has a $30 minimum order and then there's shipping ....

Konga Man
February 20th, 2004, 01:31 AM
In a fit of investigative curiosity, I decided to run a feeler gauge through the gap between the neck and the fretboard. It wouldn't go through. It hit something in the middle with a solid clunk; it sounds like metal, not glue or wood.

It's hard to say what it is, as I can't actually see anything. Is it likely that the truss rod itself might have arched up? In a way, that wouldn't seem to make sense, as the rod would have to bend in a very unnatural way. What kind of filler do they use in the truss rod channel?

How much does the fretboard do to keep the truss rod in its channel? Is it possible that the pressure of the truss rod against the top of the channel might be too much for a spotty glue job? As such, the pressure would a) push the channel filler up, and b) break the glue bond between the neck and the fretboard . Am I dreaming here?

If that is the case, am I looking at something much more elaborate than a simple glue and clamp? Or will the clamp smash everything back down into position? FWIW, even with the truss rod nut loose, I can't push the fretboard back down against the neck with hand pressure. It sure seems like something is blocking it.

If I hadn't wanted this exact guitar for the last 12 years, it would be in the kindling pile (or on eBay :)) by now.

Rob DiStefano
February 20th, 2004, 06:26 AM
Konga Man, yer stressin' too much - just slip in some epoxy on either side of the rift, clamp it, and the next day yer ready to rock.

Teletwang
February 20th, 2004, 09:30 AM
[quote="Konga Man"]

How much does the fretboard do to keep the truss rod in its channel? Is it possible that the pressure of the truss rod against the top of the channel might be too much for a spotty glue job? As such, the pressure would a) push the channel filler up, and b) break the glue bond between the neck and the fretboard . Am I dreaming here?

quote]

Well, yes. Trust Rob.You'll find his posts about repair
are concise & detailed.Don't sweat it.