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Oct 20, 2019 - 11:32:18 AM
941 posts since 4/13/2017

Ok...so I was sawing out a few pieces of walnut to use as fingerboard blanks. My intentions was to make them 3/16" boards. The board I was using was mostly sapwood, but I wanted to squeeze every bit of heartwood out of it, so I cut my blanks. I set my table saw fence to what I thought was 3/16", measuring the gap between the right side of the blade and the left side of the fence, which was what I presumed to be 3/16", and it sure looked like 3/16" on my ruler. So I went ahead and cut two blanks out of the walnut, and they weren't 3/16"...they were 1/8". Is that a problem, considering I use medium gauge fretwire? Can I still use medium gauge fretwire on these 1/8" boards? I really don't want to waste the walnut, because it's the last of my supply (as meager as it was before...i started with a 7 foot long walnut 1x5, and i got 5 fretboards out of it...one is junk, because it's glued to a junk first neck that will never be finished, second is on my current build, and i have one blank at 1/4" and two at 1/8"). Is 1/8" ok for medium fret wire?

Oct 20, 2019 - 1:35:48 PM

roydsjr

USA

604 posts since 5/17/2007

If you can get the truss rod out of the junk Neck, I've cut off many fingerboards off broken Necks and reused them on new necks. I've seen fingerboards on imports that was made in plies, with the top being ebony or rosewood. My fingerboard thickness is what I go by for the side binding. It can be done different ways. I have a binding adapter that I can use on my dremel tool. for depth or thickness of the binding.

Oct 20, 2019 - 1:39:08 PM

941 posts since 4/13/2017

quote:
Originally posted by roydsjr

If you can get the truss rod out of the junk Neck, I've cut off many fingerboards off broken Necks and reused them on new necks. I've seen fingerboards on imports that was made in plies, with the top being ebony or rosewood. My fingerboard thickness is what I go by for the side binding. It can be done different ways. I have a binding adapter that I can use on my dremel tool. for depth or thickness of the binding.


The junk neck was made out of red oak, and the whole top profile was cut too small, so in theory, the whole things isn't any good but for admiring my mistakes lol...on a side note, where'd you get your dremel adapter?

Edited by - Blue20Boy17 on 10/20/2019 13:41:37

Oct 20, 2019 - 1:57:34 PM

roydsjr

USA

604 posts since 5/17/2007

I've had it so long that I'm not sure now, Ste-mac has one and there are some on ebay. They have changed the way they function now and cost more. Mine actually screwed on the tool when you remove the collar off the tool. It is 2 sided for 2 thickness sizes. I used it one time when I made a resonator out of solid wood, (that was a job) no veneer was used. Here is one on ebay , item # 392272723684 . It's $47.50 . Looks to be adjustable for different depths.

Oct 20, 2019 - 2:27:48 PM

2709 posts since 5/29/2011

Old Gibsons used 1/8" fingerboards. Watch the depth of your fret slots as you cut them and you should be OK. Fret wire is usually sized by width so medium should work fine.

Oct 20, 2019 - 2:36:58 PM
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Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14557 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by roydsjr

I've had it so long that I'm not sure now, Ste-mac has one and there are some on ebay. They have changed the way they function now and cost more. Mine actually screwed on the tool when you remove the collar off the tool. It is 2 sided for 2 thickness sizes. I used it one time when I made a resonator out of solid wood, (that was a job) no veneer was used. Here is one on ebay , item # 392272723684 . It's $47.50 . Looks to be adjustable for different depths.


I have one of those old style binding guides.  I do not recommend their use, it's too easy to end up with a wonky binding channel.  It was purchased via StewMac and the new type is BY FAR superior in operation.

For cutting binding channels I ended up making a base out of a small piece of old white cutting board and adding a side finger to guide it against the side of the work.  It works far better than any of the stuff you can normally buy.

Oct 20, 2019 - 2:41:03 PM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14557 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Blue20Boy17

Ok...so I was sawing out a few pieces of walnut to use as fingerboard blanks. My intentions was to make them 3/16" boards. The board I was using was mostly sapwood, but I wanted to squeeze every bit of heartwood out of it, so I cut my blanks. I set my table saw fence to what I thought was 3/16", measuring the gap between the right side of the blade and the left side of the fence, which was what I presumed to be 3/16", and it sure looked like 3/16" on my ruler. So I went ahead and cut two blanks out of the walnut, and they weren't 3/16"...they were 1/8". Is that a problem, considering I use medium gauge fretwire? Can I still use medium gauge fretwire on these 1/8" boards? I really don't want to waste the walnut, because it's the last of my supply (as meager as it was before...i started with a 7 foot long walnut 1x5, and i got 5 fretboards out of it...one is junk, because it's glued to a junk first neck that will never be finished, second is on my current build, and i have one blank at 1/4" and two at 1/8"). Is 1/8" ok for medium fret wire?


Assuming you started with a trued and planed flat surface to place against the fence the short answer is no.  When you cut with a table saw you'll need to re-plane the top surface before going any further, so if it's 1/8" you are already less than what you need to end up with a 1/8" board.  A full 1/8" thickness will work fine, you just have to factor in the thickness when shaping your neck profile to end up with the total thickness you need.

Oct 20, 2019 - 5:19:58 PM

941 posts since 4/13/2017

quote:
Originally posted by rudy
quote:
Originally posted by Blue20Boy17

Ok...so I was sawing out a few pieces of walnut to use as fingerboard blanks. My intentions was to make them 3/16" boards. The board I was using was mostly sapwood, but I wanted to squeeze every bit of heartwood out of it, so I cut my blanks. I set my table saw fence to what I thought was 3/16", measuring the gap between the right side of the blade and the left side of the fence, which was what I presumed to be 3/16", and it sure looked like 3/16" on my ruler. So I went ahead and cut two blanks out of the walnut, and they weren't 3/16"...they were 1/8". Is that a problem, considering I use medium gauge fretwire? Can I still use medium gauge fretwire on these 1/8" boards? I really don't want to waste the walnut, because it's the last of my supply (as meager as it was before...i started with a 7 foot long walnut 1x5, and i got 5 fretboards out of it...one is junk, because it's glued to a junk first neck that will never be finished, second is on my current build, and i have one blank at 1/4" and two at 1/8"). Is 1/8" ok for medium fret wire?


Assuming you started with a trued and planed flat surface to place against the fence the short answer is no.  When you cut with a table saw you'll need to re-plane the top surface before going any further, so if it's 1/8" you are already less than what you need to end up with a 1/8" board.  A full 1/8" thickness will work fine, you just have to factor in the thickness when shaping your neck profile to end up with the total thickness you need.


The two blanks are practically planed. A little hand-sanding will finish them off. So 1/8" will be ok?

Oct 20, 2019 - 6:00:39 PM

rcc56

USA

2303 posts since 2/20/2016

If you have any doubts, you can always add a thin veneer to the back of the fingerboard. This was often done intentionally by manufacturers such as Vega and Stewart. Sometimes they used two or three veneers of contrasting colors to produce a decorative effect.

Take a look at some of the fancier banjos made from 1890 to 1915. It may even give you some interesting ideas. billsbanjos.com has many pictures of those old banjos.

Oct 20, 2019 - 6:52:19 PM
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7418 posts since 1/7/2005

I think you were trying too hard to be frugal. If the fretboards were snakewood, or Brazilian rosewood, or pink ivory wood, or even ebony, it might make sense to scrimp on dimensions. But walnut? Walnut is suitable for banjo necks, but to force it into fretboard duty kind of defeats the purpose of a fretboard--which is to add wear resistance to the fretting surface, and to help add stiffness to the neck. Walnut would be a mediocre choice for either purpose. Why would one bother with a fretboard at all?
DD

Oct 21, 2019 - 6:24:13 AM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14557 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Blue20Boy17
quote:
Originally posted by rudy
quote:
Originally posted by Blue20Boy17

Ok...so I was sawing out a few pieces of walnut to use as fingerboard blanks. My intentions was to make them 3/16" boards. The board I was using was mostly sapwood, but I wanted to squeeze every bit of heartwood out of it, so I cut my blanks. I set my table saw fence to what I thought was 3/16", measuring the gap between the right side of the blade and the left side of the fence, which was what I presumed to be 3/16", and it sure looked like 3/16" on my ruler. So I went ahead and cut two blanks out of the walnut, and they weren't 3/16"...they were 1/8". Is that a problem, considering I use medium gauge fretwire? Can I still use medium gauge fretwire on these 1/8" boards? I really don't want to waste the walnut, because it's the last of my supply (as meager as it was before...i started with a 7 foot long walnut 1x5, and i got 5 fretboards out of it...one is junk, because it's glued to a junk first neck that will never be finished, second is on my current build, and i have one blank at 1/4" and two at 1/8"). Is 1/8" ok for medium fret wire?


Assuming you started with a trued and planed flat surface to place against the fence the short answer is no.  When you cut with a table saw you'll need to re-plane the top surface before going any further, so if it's 1/8" you are already less than what you need to end up with a 1/8" board.  A full 1/8" thickness will work fine, you just have to factor in the thickness when shaping your neck profile to end up with the total thickness you need.


The two blanks are practically planed. A little hand-sanding will finish them off. So 1/8" will be ok?


An 1/8" will work, but one person's "practically planed"  is another's "needs a lot of work".

Both surfaces need to be perfectly flat to mate with the neck blank surface and to serve as the top fretted surface of the fret board.  An exception to that might be if you were radiusing the top surface, but that would require more thickness to start with so the sides don't end up too thin.

Be very careful if you are sanding the surfaces, as it's VERY easy to lower or round over the outer portions of the flat gluing surface.  Once you've done that you will not be able to get a good glue line at the sides of the neck.

I'm not trying to be overly critical, but I've made all of those mistakes myself and it's much easier to simply avoid those errors before you end up with an instrument that displays sub-standard workmanship that you may not be pleased with.

I've made fret boards from walnut on a few banjos and they have been fine, although I coated them with the clear material that soaks into the wood and hardens it.  It's made for repairing "pithy" wood, but works well in this application.  I forget the exact name of the product, but it's easy to find.

Edited by - rudy on 10/21/2019 06:32:06

Oct 21, 2019 - 9:57 AM

22 posts since 5/27/2019

If you're in doubt, maybe you could glue your two 1/8th blanks together and then plane down to 3/16th?

Oct 22, 2019 - 7:14:47 PM

Fathand

Canada

11502 posts since 2/7/2008

Prewar Gibson boards are1/8" thick. Medium and narrow fret wire normally use the same size tang.

You can glue a piece of veneer to the bottom of the fretboard if you are worried about it. If it is a contrasting colour it will be decorative.

Walnut is on the soft end of the spectrum for fingerboards, softer than maple. It is often used on ukuleles but those have nylon strings.

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