Fretboard is off. Should I refret it now? Opinions please...

 The 1927 Stromberg/Voisinet MOTS fretboard is off the guitar, reinforcement is about to be added to the neck, and fretboard reinstalled . 

 The MOTS came off with about a 1/2 hours work, with a few sizes of rounded off edge spatulas. There was absolutely no cracking either! 

 I contacted John Hennagan, who plays a few of these and asked what he thought of me possibility of radiusing the board, and installing some form of Jim Dunlop wide fretwire. These boards are dead flat, and have banjo fretwire originally. I will be interested in his informed response as he is one of the only big performers using  S/V guitars. 

 I am wondering what you all think about doing what the header asks?

 Also what glue should I be using to put the MOTS back on? 

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Hi Kerry - Lots of builders fret the board off the neck and then install.  Regardless I think that fretting should be after the board is on the neck and the neck is on the guitar.

The benefits of fretting after the board is on the guitar include complete control over the board's shape.  For example that dreaded body hump that some builders get can be milled away when you can level the board on the guitar.  Also fall-away can be induced and with a little creative manipulation of the neck while leveling you can also create more or less relief where you want it also providing the opportunity to minimize relief on the treble side and have more relief on the bass side.

For us it's shape and level the board on the instrument dealing what what ever needs to be dealt with and then fret.  We also find that since we are shaping things to our liking prior to ever installing any frets when we do fret only a very minimal amount of fret material has to be milled away for the final level, crowing, etc.

Also - often when a neck angle is marginal for a reset and say the client does not have the budget for a reset a neck angle can be somewhat corrected in the refretting process simply by how and where one mills the board prior to fretting.

This, fretting the board off the instrument or on debate has been going on for a while and I've personally engaged a lot of builders regarding why they prefer to fret the board off the neck, marry the board to the neck, and then either deal with what ever results (or not....) and interestingly one of the most popular reasons why folks, mostly new builders in my experience..., fret the board off the neck is a fear of working over a newly finished instrument.

Go figure.... we all have to learn to not damage what we work on at some point so this argument does not resonate with me at all...

Lastly I don't like Dunlap wire and instead of listing the numerous reasons if you get a chance to try Jescar you will completely understand.

Hope this helps.

I'm with Hesh on his general comments about fretting and repair.  

For this job, I'm wondering about exactly what you have going.  The fretboard is celluloid laminated on maple,  yes?  And,I presume the celluloid has shrunk so things aren't nice and flat, etc.  I'm also expecting that you don't want to mess with the celluloid too much, so pulling frets and leveling the board would be problematic once it's glued back on the guitar.  Compression fretting is out, as are lots of other kinds of techniques we'd like to use, yes?   

Is there enough thickness of MOTS to level or radius?  Is it more logical to put on a new board, a piece together all the pieces of celluloid, gluing in new frets, etc.?

So many questions. . .

 Frank, the fretboard had to come off to do a few Carbon Fibrer inserts in the neck. The MOTS is already off, and the fretboard is ready to be reinstalled. I may be radiusing the board, I have not decided yet. As soon as board is ready, I will glue the MOTS back on, then refret. 

I might be missing something but won't  the MOTS be to small to cover the board after it is radiused?   I'm guessing that it is to thin to radius the MOTS.

 Steve,  the MOTS should cover almost all of it, and I seriously doubt that any but the most picky will see anything there. And you can't sand the  MOTS. Not only is the MOTS wayyyy too thin to sand, but if you even begin to touch it with sandpaper, all accumulated colour and patina disappear . The only way to deal with this type of board is to take it off pice by piece, do the actual work to the wood, and glue it back on. 

I was looking at the mandocello you just posted. I'm sure this will look just as good when done.

Looking forward to seeing some pictures. Have you decided what kind of glue to use on the MOTS ?

In 1927 they didn't have all the adhesive options we have today. My guess (and just a guess) is that hhg is what held the MOTS on for all these years. I'm not sure what other kinds of glue they had.

Personally I like to keep an instrument as original as possible, so I wouldn't radius the neck.

I like to do the fretting with the fretboard glued to the neck, seem to work better for me. I also prefer to refret with neck off the guitar, like during a neck reset. If I'm not removing the neck then it's refretted with it on the instrument, it's a little more difficult refretting on the guitar top.

For glue I'd use hot hide, I'm sure that is what they used originally as that was mainly the only glue available then. 


 JB, I took your advice and did not radius the neck. It is almost ready to be glued back on. I will  glue on the MOTS today. That should be an interesting thing to do to, as the positioning of each individual piece has to be dead accurate. I am thinking I will temporarily glue on binding that is a bit higher than the edge of board, and use spark plug feeler gauges in fret slots  for each piece. I will get back later and let you folks know how it went. 

This is all good practice, as I have a second Stromberg/Voisinet waiting to have exact same job done. 

See my comment on the recent binding question ("Weld-on glue vs. Titebond).  LMI binding glue would probably be great for this job.


 The MOTS glueing up job was pretty difficult. I was only able to do 3 pieces at a time, then had to vera carefully clamp them down to set the glue. Then the refret job went sideways a bit ( never underestimate my stupidity) . I did end up refretting with fretboard off the guitar too. The fretboard is being glued to the neck right now, and quite possibly, I will have this axe up and running within

two days... 


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