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Fingerboard length

Total Topics: 6
Total Posts: 45
Morning All,
By way of a short introduction, my real name is Harry, but my I was called Ferp before I was "officially" named. I've been playing on and off for the last thirty five years (mostly off since I got married twenty years ago). Long story short though, like Bill, I have absolutely no woodworking experience and no shop per se. Anyway, i got a bug up my butt to build a guitar so i ordered a kit from lmi and got Cumpiano's book and I also picked up Roger Siminoff's. That way I figured I could learn the technology as well as the how to part.
The problem I'm having though is that I can't work with fingerboards for crap. I broke the ebony one they sent with the kit and now I just broke the cocobolo one I got to replace that one. The break is a clean one at the slot between the 17th and 18th frets. What I'd like to know (and can't find anywhere) is the relationship of the length of the soundboard to the transmission of the string vibration to the inside of the soundbox. In plain words, should I order another fingerboard or can I glue the piece back on the fingerboard so it reaches the soundhole? Any help I can get on this is greatly appreciated. I've been lurking in the shadows awhile and finally decided to write about this matter. OH and thanks Bill for an excellent site. Wish I had found it before I started this little labor of love. :-)

Jan 15, 08 | 1:15 am

Total Topics: 13
Total Posts: 132
I would certainly get another fingerboard. I would imagine that fretting the board would prove very difficult if not impossible to do where it broke..
I'm not quite sure what you are asking when you say:
"What I'd like to know (and can't find anywhere) is the relationship of the length of the soundboard to the transmission of the string vibration to the inside of the soundbox."

I do have a question for you though.. How are you breaking the fingerboards? What are you trying to do with them when they break?


Jan 15, 08 | 6:13 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Hi Ferp -- Welcome to the Forum!

I echo Chad's question about how they breaks are happening. It is possible you are putting too much or the wrong kind of pressure on them when fretting ... ?

Your question about fretboard length and sound transmission is sortof off the mark. The sound of the string is imparted to the guitar by the vibration of the string against the saddle, to the bridge, into the top, ten the whole body. The contribution of the fretboard, itself, is really negligible. In fact, if the fretboard vibrates at all separate rom the body, it's a problem. The neck and fretboard need to be a very solid unit, offering a stable platform for the string instead of imparting vibration in any way. Consider the cantilevered fretboard extensions such as on a McPherson guitar; purposefully removed from any vibration possibility.

Don't know for sure if that answers your question. But it sounds like the underlying question is, "Can I just put a fret there and glue it onto the top." The answer to that question is probably "yes," since the fretbaord extension would be glued to the top anyway. But, how will it look?

I go along with Chad: Get another fretboard.

Let us know how it's working out ...


Jan 15, 08 | 6:44 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
For the experience of doing it right, get another fingerboard, but gluing it in in two peices shouldn't be a problem if set up properly. There are many instances where repair people take a neck off, but pull the fret and cut the fingerboard at the neck join. Again, if done right, you should be able to set the fret in perfectly, maybe with a little glue, and not be able to see the joint (except maybe right on the sides of the fingerboard, but who's lookin there?). I think, at this point, its your call.

How are you getting the frets in? Pressing or hammering? You might want to switch methods. If you have access to a drill press, either stew mac or lmi sells a tool that goes into the drill press, and allows you to use the press as an arbor and push the frets in.

Also, did you choose a heavier fretwire than the standard? Did you cut your fret slots yourself? Who knows, it may be that your fret slots are not wide enough.

Jan 16, 08 | 12:42 am

Total Topics: 6
Total Posts: 44
Sorry guys. Lack of sleep and a head full of medicine doesn't help to express thoughts. I don't know why, but I thought that with the pressure used to press the string against the fretboard, it would cause a small almost imperceptable vibration to run the length of the fingerboard causing the top to help vibrate. With that in mind, I guess I was thinking that the length of the fingerboard helped (or hindered) the way the top vibrates to produce sound. Guess it does sound pretty dumb in the light of day. Sorry

Oh, and Goobie, I meant the "length of the fingerboard" and not the soundboard and the break was at the 18th fret slot.

Don't worry though folks, I'm sure I'll have a lot more stupid questions coming.

I broke the first ebony one by using a jigsaw to trim the edges. My caul I used to clamp the fingerboard down slipped off the radius and the movement of the saw blade made it vibrate like crazy before the saw stopped and the board broke at one of the fret slots.

On the cocobolo one, it was from (I think) using a leather mallet to hammer in the frets. I must have hit it too hard or something. Least that's all I can think of. Anyway, thanks again all.

Ken, I think if it's a just a matter of aesthetics, I can get away with gluing the board back together. Thanks.


Jan 16, 08 | 1:16 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Ferp --rather than a leather mallet, you can use a softer metal than the frets, or a hard plastic hammer face. You can tape onto a regular iron hammer a layer or two of plastic, and your hammer fce will be soft enough to not harm the frets.

Main thing you need to be sure of is that the fretboard is on an unyielding surface so that the fret will seat definitely with just five firm taps. I use the concrete floor of my workshop. Very sturdy.

Tapping should be done in this order:

Bass Side of Fretboard =1==4==3==5==2= Treble Side of fretboard

The two taps (1,2) at the ends will embed the end tangs, and the center will bow up slightly. This is what you want. Then, the center tap (3) will drive the center tangs down into the slot, and at the same time press the end tangs sideways in the endgrain, securing them better in the slot. The 4th and 5th taps will flatten the fret into the slot and further drive the end tangs sideways.

It's a very fast and easy way to do it and works well. You don't have to pound hard, just firmly. As always, practice first. Use one of your broken fretboards for practice.

Good luck -- Bill

Jan 16, 08 | 6:41 am

Total Topics: 2
Total Posts: 19
That's correct, vibrations move throughout the guitar and have an effect on the sound. How much is open to debate. I am one of those people who believe quite firmly that fingerboard material changes sound. How much difference length makes I don't know. I can tell you different classical guitar makers use quite different areas of contact between the soundboard and the part of the neck that protrudes into the soundbox.

So not a silly question.

Anyway, plenty of good help here from people much cleverer than me on your realy problem, getting that fretboard sorted.

Jan 16, 08 | 5:30 pm

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