Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gluing the Fretboard

Before glue gets sticky, it's slippery.  That's the challenge in gluing the fretboard to the neck.  The 14th fret must stay right on the neck/body joint, and the centerline of the neck must be perfectly aligned with the centerline of the neck.

I put the fretboard on the neck in the correct position, using a straight-edge to align the centerlines, then use a couple of spring clamps to hold it in place.

Next I drill a hole in the first fret slot and two at the 11th fret slot through the fretboard and just slightly into the neck, all off center to avoid the truss rod.  These holes are small enough to be covered by the frets.  Then I hammer a small nail through each hole and into the neck, then nip off the head of each nail.

Now I can slip the fretboard off the neck and know that when I put it back on, it will be in exactly the same position.

I make a plywood caul that is just a smidge wider than the fretboard itself, and drill holes in the caul to allow the nails to come through.  Another plywood caul is used to protect the back of the neck, as well as a small caul that will fit inside the body between the neck block and the upper transverse brace.  This will allow me to fit a clamp into the soundhole and tightly clamp the part of the fretboard that will be glued to the body.

After a dry run to make sure it works as planned and to know how many clamps to use and their best positions, I slather the bottom of the fretboard with glue--except for the very center where the truss rod is--and clamp it all up.  I put some wax paper between the fretboard and the caul to make sure any glue that squeezes our of the nail holes doesn't stick to caul.

This stays clamped up overnight--after an hour or two I bring it inside so I can turn the garage heaters off.  I don't want the guitar subjected to cold temps.  Pam isn't thrilled to have this contraption sitting on the table in the den that she has so meticulously and beautifully decorated for Christmas, but she definitely is afraid of leaving the heaters on overnight, so there isn't even a discussion.

Besides, it's only one night.  The next day everything gets unclamped, and the guitar goes into a case stored out of the way until I get a chance to start shaping the neck.

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