Les Paul 06

Jul 12 2004, 02:23 AM

Once the inlays had been sanded flush, and any imperfections filled, it was time to re-radius and level the board. I used my 12″ radius block, and clamp down two rails to avoid the block tipping and creating a tighter radius. I sanded the board up through the grits from 120 to 800, then buffed it with a vinyl block to get a nice shine.

Levelling board

The board needs to be fretted now. I do my fretting with the fretboard separate from the neck. I attach the board to a slab of counter top using doublesided tape, and fret it using the tools shown below; a DIY tang nipper, a needlefile and a stick.

Fretting tools

First I cut the fret to length and remove the ends of the tang with the nippers. I made the nippers myself using sheet metal nibblers, and they need to be followed up with a little file work to get the ends totally clean.

Trimmed fret

Then, I sit the maple stick on one end of the fret, and clout it with a hammer. The maple has a groove in the end caused by it’s contact with the fret, so it stays registered on the fret. If you use a softer wood than maple you may experience marking of the board when the groove gets too deep and the surrounding wood can contact the fretboard. One good solid tap snugs the fret end down:

One end down

Then the other end:

both ends down

Finally, I knock down the middle, then ‘walk’ along the length of the fret giving sharp taps until I’m satisfied the fret is fully seated. In this pick you can see what looks like a gap under the fret - this is actually a refection on my nice glossy board - the fret is prefectly bedded down.

Pressed fret

I find this method very controllable and quick, and the final result is very even, with hardly any levelling needed. As you may imagine, I don’t subscribe to the belief that expensive specialist tools are required to do a top notch fretjob.

soapbarstrat asked: DIY fret-tang notcher…. is there info on the net about how to make these ? I assume the “table” needs a groove shaped like half a fret-crown.

I make them the same way the original was made - grind a channel into the bearing surface of a sheet metal nibbler. This piece is case hardened, so you’ll need some serious firepower to grind it - you’ll take the teeth off a file before you mark it!

I used a diamond burr, easy for me since my Mum & Dad are both dentists. I know users on the MIMF have preformed the same op’, but I don’t recall what they used. I’ve heard mixed reviews on the effectiveness of the Stew Mac version - some say it performs like mine and needs some minor cleanup after clipping, others say it trims perfectly on it’s own. If you get one that does the latter it’s probably worth the extra cash - I only baulked at the price after UK shipping was included.

Jul 12 2004, 09:54 PM

Once all the frets were in, I wicked a spot of CA under the fret ends. I brought the fret ends down to within 0.5mm of the binding using the disk sander. This isn’t hard, and the direction of the wheel removes any chance of pulling at the fret, but you do have to be careful not to touch the binding against the wheel, that could really spoil your day.

Once the bulk had been removed, I tidy up the ends with a special file - it was a cheap B&Q file until I ground the edges smooth and chopped off the tang. I bevelled the ends with the file, then smoothed them to 800 grit, first using a hard block to maintain the shape, then a soft block to relieve the sharp edges until everything’s nice and smooth.

That’s the fretboard pretty much finished, barring the levelling and dressing once the guitar is assembled and finished.

Neck and body

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