Fretboard inlay advice

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Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Wed Aug 01, 2018 11:22 am

Haven't even started building the neck on the current build, but thinking ahead (and wanting some time to do some practice before working on the FB), I'm trying to decide what type of inlay material to use.

Obviously, MOP is traditional (especially for a Lester shaped guitar), and I really like the gold MOP that is available from LMI. The guitar will have gold frets, pups and tuners, (sapele neck with a jatoba fretboard) and the gold MOP will continue that theme. LMI also offers pre-cut rectangular MOP fret markers (the FBM6 product). They would be much easier, eliminating the need to cut out the inlays, but I'm not super thrilled about that plain rectangular shape, and they're not gold. I could modify the rectangles, either cutting them into trapezoids, cutting them diagonally into two pieces so as to leave a diagonal slash across each marker, etc. I also believe that MOP can be dyed with alcohol-based dyes, so I'd need to experiment with that if I go that route.

I could also use contrasting wood, and LMI also has some interesting faux turquoise. If I go with the turquoise, I think I'd need to work in some kind of inlay on the body to tie the blue of the FB inlay to the body, as everything else is going to be warm colors (sapele/figured sapele, jatoba, cream bindings, gold hardware).

It seems that the difficult part is cutting the recess for the inlay, so my choice of inlay material is probably secondary, but again, not having worked with MOP before, I'm not looking for trouble and am wondering if I should KISS by either using the pre-cut inlays, or a contrasting wood for my first time to this rodeo.

As usual, any thoughts/advice appreciated.
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Freeman Keller » Wed Aug 01, 2018 8:22 pm

Steve, I use pearl of various kinds on my guitars and almost always buy it from Andy DePaule (and now his son).

http://www.luthiersupply.com/

It its in his catalog it will be in your mailbox in a couple of days. I tried cutting my own pearl, mainly for headstocks and I'm simply not interested going thru all that work Here are a couple of fretboards with DePaule markers

Gold MOP, rosewood f/b, flamed Spanish cedar head

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White MOP, ebony board and head

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Green MOP against cocobolo

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More gold against ebony. All the trim of this guitar was done in gold

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Last (and maybe least) I built a guitar for a guy who is probably one of the best custom motorcycle painters in the world. When I asked what he wanted for fret markers he said "can you do skulls?" White MOP over ebony, including pick guard and truss rod cover

Image

Image
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Freeman Keller » Wed Aug 01, 2018 8:32 pm

Edit to add, all of that is pre cut stuff from DePaule. The FK initials are from his alphabet series, I cut them and interlock them when I do the inlay. The skulls and all the f/b squares are his standard cutouts.

When I built a parlor for my daughter I wanted to inlay her spirit animal, the blue darner dragonfly

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Andy did a small run of custom order dragonflys for me based on her tat

Image
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Wed Aug 01, 2018 9:06 pm

Freeman - thanks. Wow, what a great resource. If I can't find what I need there....

BTW I've always admired your peghead logo.
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Barry Daniels » Wed Aug 01, 2018 9:10 pm

Inlay is a great skill to add to your quiver. Start simple and go from there.
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Freeman Keller » Wed Aug 01, 2018 9:44 pm

Steve Sawyer wrote:Freeman - thanks. Wow, what a great resource. If I can't find what I need there....

BTW I've always admired your peghead logo.


Thank you. On my very first guitar I put a simple K from Andy,

Image

That kind of morphed into the inter twined FK - pretty easy to do, yet it makes the guitars my own.

Also, the "Jazz Jac" inscription on the red guitar are just some more DePaule letters - I just picked thru them until I found what I wanted
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Brian Evans » Thu Aug 02, 2018 6:27 am

Thanks for the link - he ships internationally from Vietnam, so he can ship to Canada no problem.
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Freeman Keller » Thu Aug 02, 2018 11:17 am

Brian Evans wrote:Thanks for the link - he ships internationally from Vietnam, so he can ship to Canada no problem.


Not only that but he can furnish the paperwork so you can ship across borders too. I sent a guitar from the US to Austria and Andy supplied the CITES forms for the inlay.
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Freeman Keller » Thu Aug 02, 2018 11:45 am

Steve, I wasn't trying to show off my mediocre inlay skills but rather to give you some idea of different colors of pearl against different woods. Here are some random thoughts about fretboard inlay that I've learned from doing a few simple ones

- Dots are by far the easiest, just set a depth stop on a drill press and use a brad point bit. I think dots look "correct" on certain guitars - mostly vintage acoustics and a couple of models of Gibson, but I agree with you that big squares look right on a Lester

- When you excavate the area for the inlay the bottom needs to be flat. If you do it after your fretboard has been radiused your dremel base will follow the radius and the outside part of the hole will be deeper than the center. I have tried taping little pieces of flat stock to the edges of the f/b to create a flat surface, that works but is tricky. I've also tried excavating not quite to full depth and then chiseling the center down, that also is tricky. Your adhesive will partially fill the void but its best to start with a flat surface. In this case the outside edges of the blocks will be standing proud and have to be sanded down.

- If you excavate your channels before you radius it the routing is much easier. (I buy pre radiused f/b's so that isn't an option). Set the pearl to its full depth and sand the radius into the pearl and f/b together

- Pearl sands OK but it is much harder than the wood. It will pick up sanding scratches from aggressive paper, I find that scraping with a box cutter blade removes most of that

- Sand a bit of the parent wood to get a powder and mix that with some slow set epoxy, use that to set your pearl. The epoxy will fill the small gaps and can be sanded and scraped flush with the pearl. This works pretty well with dark wood like ebony or rosewood, with lighter wood the epoxy ends up dark.

- I would recommend against multiple piece inlays (like the parallelograms with the slash across them) . You will have a hard enough time lining up edges and getting that center line looking just right.

- I hold the inlay against the wood and scribe around it with an Xacto knife. I then rub pencil on the outside of the scribe line and carefully route up to the line. I've got a light right behind my router and my best reading glasses on.

Image

- You've heard my rant about deciding on a theme and staying with it. I try to keep the fretboard, head stock, any purfling or rosette on an acoustic, any other little bits all the same. I like the idea of gold MOP with your gold hardware.
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Christ Kacoyannakis » Thu Aug 02, 2018 3:19 pm

If you can't find what you need at DePaul Supply, he can also make it for you, for a small fee. I have sent them drawings, and they digitize them, and turn them into inlays. Very good work, for a reasonable price. They are very good to deal with.
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Thu Aug 02, 2018 4:26 pm

Freeman - to your point re the FB radius, my plan was to inlay first, then radius. However, my usual method of radiusing is with a router in a jig. How does MOP react to a high-speed router bit? I use a dish-cutting bit like this.

OR should I radius the FB after cutting the recesses, but before installing the inlays, and try to sand the inlays flush with the radiused FB?
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Freeman Keller » Thu Aug 02, 2018 8:20 pm

I can't answer your question since, as I said, I only work with pre radiused f/b's. Pearl sands but is much harder than wood - I would think that inlaying a flat board then sanding with a long radiused block would be OK. I can't say about the router but that would scare me.

The last couple of times I taped thin pieces of wood to the edges of the f/b so my dremel base had something flat to sit on. That let me set the depth of cut in the center of the board and as I moved to the edges the cavity stayed flat. It worked and I'll do that in the future. Sorry, no pictures
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Thu Aug 02, 2018 10:19 pm

I have done a fair amount of inlay also, and I buy from Luthier Supply. As Brian noted, they ship to Canada.
I rout the channel before I radius the fret board.
I am also like Freeman, in that I'm a bit afraid to use a router on the MOP. I have the feeling it would break into pieces.
I have a couple of extra pieces and I really should try it.


Like Barry said, keep it simple for your first time around. Big squares are the easiest other than dots.
Remember to rout in a few passes to get to depth. Those small bits don't like taking too big a bite.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Fri Aug 03, 2018 9:57 am

Oh yeah!

I rout, then radius the board. Then I glue the inlay in place.
That leaves just a tiny edge of the inlay to deal with.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Fri Aug 03, 2018 7:14 pm

Gordon Bellerose wrote:I rout, then radius the board. Then I glue the inlay in place.
That leaves just a tiny edge of the inlay to deal with.

And am I correct in assuming that you deal with that tiny edge using a radius block?
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Freeman Keller » Fri Aug 03, 2018 9:55 pm

Steve Sawyer wrote:And am I correct in assuming that you deal with that tiny edge using a radius block?


It won't be just a tiny edge - if the pearl is flush at the center it will be standing proud on the outside edges. But yes, you just start with fairly coarse (maybe 120 or 150) grit in the appropriate radius block and start sanding it down.

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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Sat Aug 04, 2018 8:56 am

Ok. Thanks, Freeman.
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Barry Daniels » Sat Aug 04, 2018 12:44 pm

I have used a router bit like that to radius ebony fretboards that already have block MOP inlays installed. Never had a problem with the router bit damaging the MOP. Just don't take a very big bite.
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Sat Aug 04, 2018 9:27 pm

Barry Daniels wrote:I have used a router bit like that to radius ebony fretboards that already have block MOP inlays installed. Never had a problem with the router bit damaging the MOP. Just don't take a very big bite.


Thanks, Barry. Not sure what I'll do yet, but it's encouraging that that IS an option.
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Re: Fretboard inlay advice

Postby Brian Evans » Sun Aug 05, 2018 8:02 am

I was googling around the other day and found this: http://www.precisionbits.com/guitar-fre ... 13005.html for radiusing fretboards. Kind of cool, for $25.
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