This is How to Make an Acoustic Guitar – Part Twenty Six – Attaching the Fretboard. In this part of the series I’ll show you how to attach the fretboard to the neck, get it aligned properly, and clamp it down for drying. Enjoy.
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Attaching the Fretboard
Now that the fretboard is finished, and the neck is also ready, it’s time to bring the two of them together. This simply involves gluing the fretboard to the neck, and then allowing the part to cure for 24 hours.
There are a few more things involved in the process than simply gluing one part to the other. Since the neck is responsible for holding the strings, and the frets are responsible for providing the correct pitch, you need to get this part of the process correct.
The alignment of the fretboard on the neck is very important, and you definitely want to pay extra attention to your measurements of this part of the operation.
The better you measure and mark at this point, the more accurate and better sounding your guitar will be.
If you missed last week, check out How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Part Twenty Five
Inspect Your Pieces
The first thing that you need to do is inspect both pieces. Pick up the fretboard and place it on top of the neck where it will be glued into place. Check to make sure there isn’t any wobble or rock, and that the fretboard lays flat on the face of the neck.
It’s important to diagnose any fitting issues at this point. If you just steam ahead and go into gluing, you’re going to end up bending the fretboard to match the neck, and that will cause a lot of problems down the road.
The neck needs to be totally flat, and the fretboard will sit right on it. Take a look, and once your pieces are ready to be fitted together, then you can proceed to the next steps.
See Also: Acoustic Guitar Making For Beginners
Mark Center Lines on Both Pieces
The first thing to do is to find the center at the nut, and make a mark. Then, find the center at the heel, and make a mark on the face of the heel that you would be able to still see even with the fretboard laying on top.
Now, find the center of the fretboard where it passes over the heel, and make a center mark on the bottom of the fretboard. Then, find the center near the nut, and make another market that you can line up with the mark on the neck.
Line up these four marks very carefully, then use a couple clamps to hold the fretboard down. Stand back and visually inspect your alignment, and double check your measurements to make sure that it’s running perfectly straight down the neck.
Clamp and Mark Outside Lines
Now that you know your measurements are perfect, and your fretboard is aligned parallel to the neck, mark the outsides of the fretboard on the neck itself. These are your visual guidelines for gluing.
At this point the neck is bigger than the fretboard. So, use a pencil and make marks on the left and right sides of the fretboard where it sits on the neck. These lines will be easier to see later on when you start gluing.
These lines will also only be as accurate as your center lines that you drew earlier. If you’re not lined up correctly, all of the drawing at this point won’t mean anything. Again, before you use any glue, make sure that your alignment is perfect.
Add Carpet Tacks
Once everything is good, add a couple more clamps to prevent the fretboard from moving around. Then, it’s time to use an old luthier’s trick that’s one of my favorites, and makes realigning the fretboard super easy.
The funny part about this process is that you’re going to go through all of this hassle to measure, and then you have to take it all apart and put it all back together again when you add the glue. Thankfully, there is an easier way.
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Using carpet tacks, drive four tacks into position, two at the north end of the fretboard, and two near the heel. These four tacks will help align the fretboard, and position it back in the same place after you apply your glue.
Glue and Clamp
You need to apply a thin layer of glue to both sides of the joint, and then bring them together with clamps.
And additional layer of difficulty on the guitar is that you now need to pass your fretboard through those carpet tacks in order to get it back into position.
However, it’s a small price to pay for instantly realigning the board.
Once everything is aligned properly, start applying clamps carefully, and bring up the pressure.
It’s best to use clamps that are spaced fairly evenly, and also use even pressure. You don’t need an elephant worth of pressure to make this work.
Simply bring up the pressure on the clamps evenly, and then leave them overnight.
Fretboard Gluing Tips and Tricks
There are a lot of things that you can do to make this process easier, and here’s a short list to keep you on the right track.
- The alignment is everything, take you take the time to get that right.
- Make sure you mark everything, because you never know which lines will be covered in glue.
- Check your scale length, and make sure the right fret is right on top of the heel.
- You don’t need nearly as much glue as you think, just make it two wet layers.
- Make sure you clamp down the fretboard really well when you hammer in your carpet tacks.
- Allow this joint to dry for a full 24 hours before removing the clamps.
Coming Up Next Week
Next week, the how to make an acoustic guitar series rolls on with adding a peg head veneer. This is a decorative piece of thin wood that covers up all of the joints on the headstock of the acoustic guitar.
You have a lot of different choices in this part of the build, and you can go in several different directions. This is one of the fun parts, because you can pick out a very flashy piece of wood. The installation process is the same, so you might as well pick something beautiful.
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