Hello everybody
Well, after lurking around here for the last year or so, I finally got round to registering today, as I've taken on a job where I'm unsure where to start.
A customer with an Ibanez Bass wants me to replace the Ebonol fingerboard with one made from ebony, as he doesn't like the white stripes where the frets are on a fretted version. So far so good: Once I get the old fingerboard off, it'll not be too difficult to make a new fretboard out of an ebony blank (I'll probably order it from StewMac, I can't find any supplier here in Germany that has blanks long enough to make a bass fretboard)
The thing that's causing me some concern is how to remove the old fretboard, or better said: Does anybody here know what glue is used for Ebonol? I'd guess they used Epoxy, and that brings me to my next question: Can you seperate epoxy joints with the repair blankets LMII sells (I have the bridge and fretboard tongue versions already)?
What other problems am I likely to run into?
Any help or thoughts on this would be appreciated
Grahame Myers (ex-pat Brit living in Germany)

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I DOUBT IT,IT SOUNDS LIKE A JOB FOR THE ROUTER LOL .I have never had good results opening epoxy joints forget it . hide glue supper glue and aliphatic resin all have a property that dose not do well under heat and will release after some prompting ,Epoxy dose Not have this Property so you out of Luck if it is Epoxy the only way I can see the finger board coming off is Routing it off after pulling the frets I would make a Jig and Route it off ?maby it is not epoxy heat it up and smell with you sniffer God gave you and you will have to know the difference ?good luck
Well, at least I won't have to pull the frets, as it's a fretless bass :-) Thanks for your thoughts, but I hope there's a quicker way.
I guess it'd be possible to get rid of the ebonol using the router, and then sand the epoxy off down to the neck surface, but I was rather hoping that the epoxy would let go if the temp. was high enough.
If I'm forced to go down that road: Any idea how ebonol reacts when you use a router? As far as I know, ebonol is layers of black paper sandwiched with epoxy resin. How do the bits look afterwards? And then I'll have to make some kind of jig I guess. At the price I quoted, it's gonna be more trouble than it's worth. Maybe I should've done the research before I quoted a price, you're never too old to make mistakes I guess :-)
Perhaps Frank Ford could chime in here, if he's read this? If anybody knows for sure what to do, I guess it's Frank.
Firstly, seeing as the board has to come off anyway, heat an end with your fretboard tongue heat blanket and see if it will let go (about 215 Fahrenheit is the target) - if not, it's glued with a specific glue such as epoxy or urethane or whatever. Doesn't really matter - it's got to come off and any method has to be used with care so as to not to damage the neck.

For hard to remove fingerboards we simply put the neck/fingerboard across the Jointer face if it is a removable/bolt on and machine the fingerboard off while at the same time flattening the neck surface for the new board. Initially slacken the truss rod and pay attention to the neck stability while doing this: as the fingerboard is machined off in successive passes the neck will change it's relief as a function of the tension being changed. A wood machine shop may do this but as ebonol blunts cutter knives quickly they may ask you to pay a premium price.

For set necks, either an overhead router or a jigged hand held router is the go. You cannot hand plane this material effectively as it blunts hand tools in a heartbeat. Ditto sanding - don't even think about it.

Good luck. R.
Thankyou sir for some excellent advice. If I have to go the way with the jointer I'll remember your point about adjusting the neck relief. Great call, I wouldn't have thought of that! I'm still hoping it'll work with heat, if not the repair blanket, then maybe with a heat gun? I have a heatgun that is adjustable from 100-500°C. Could work if I go carefully, and try to reach the temp. where the adhesive will let go, but without reducing the neck to a pile of burning embers :-)
Luckily, it's a bolt-on neck, which reduces the problems conciderably. The next problem could be with the Fingerboard Blank sold by Stewmac: the widest one is 3" wide, that's a little over 76mm, and I have a kind of gut feeling that the Ibanez is wider (it's a 5 string) I'll have to measure it, I'd rather trust my ruler as my talent for guessing measurements ain't worth a damn. I blame the trade that I learned: I'm an aircraft systems tech by trade,(although it's over 30 years since I last laid a wrench on an aircraft), and we were always taught not to guess, and always measure.
Luckily, today (Saturday), my wife is out of the house on a shopping trip, so I can put in some shoptime without catching any flak about working in the shop on weekends ;-)
I will certainly measure the neck precisely before I order a blank from StewMac. Having to order it in America just about doubles the price (3 day DHL+3.2% import duty+19% Sales Tax, welcome to Germany .-) ) I told the customer the blank would cost between €50-60, that's about $70-84, plus the work, but he still wants to do it!
Thanks everybody for all the good advice, great forum here!

You can always glue ebony "binding" to the sides of the FB to widen it. Its pretty invisible, and you could undercut the tangs this way as well. Mix in some lamp black or dye to color the glue in case you have a little sliver of a gap or something.
Hi Grahame, Just thought I'd mention there are lots of excellent suppliers of exotic timbers for luthiers here in UK who I think would be able to supply what you need in the sizes required considerably cheaper than ordering from the USA. I'm an Aussie expat living in London. One day I'm going to build a guitar entirely out of a Murray River Gum tree. Should sound dreadful!
Man, I'm really learning some good stuff here with you guys, I shoud've joined a long time ago, instead of lurking around for over a year! I wonder if you could recommend any good suppliers in england? I've surfed around a lot trying to find good suppliers myself, without a lot of success until now. Using a supplier in england would save heap of money as it's in the EC, no duty and no extra sales tax :-)
The customer will be bringing the bass to the shop on Tuesday, and then I can measure the fretboard exactly so I'll know how much wood I need.
A note to Russell: I don't need to worry about the frets as it's a fretless bass :-) The reason for the whole job is that the owner wants a proper fretless bass fingerboard, and not one like the Ibanez has: A fretted fretboard with the fretslots filled with some kind of white plastic. Yamaha do something similar with their fretless basses, using a material that looks like wood filler, looks pretty dreadful in my opinion, I can understand a fretless bass player wanting to have it properly done and get rid of the stripes on the fingerboard.
Your point about destroying the fretboard is a good one, I can't imagine the owner having any interest in the old fretboard, and what could I use it for, in the event of being able to remove it in one piece? As far as I know, ebonol is black paper sandwiched with epoxy resin, not exactly a quality material for building guitars :-)
Oh & I think Russel should build one out of Mulga!
Hi Guys, well that's interesting - two posts two hits - I'm an Aussie and I'm also an qualified Aircraft Fitter (Instrument/Elec) which was my original apprenticeship in 1970....before moving on.

Three inches is generally not wide enough for a five string bass neck so you will need to fish around for a wider board (Allied Lutherie - Todd Taggart will likely be able to help there) or stick on some matching binding - a good idea - it also covers the fret ends if you are proficient in undercutting the fret ends - lotsa steel-string makers do that to tidy up the look and it'll give you the extra 3-4 mm which you need.

Gotta say that when I am not interested in saving the board I'll bring out the heat gun and fry the board to break up the glue bond - don't set the neck on fire tho. for note: a lot of the cheaper guitars/basses coming out of Asia these days do not use Alipathics like Titebond which separate easily with heat. Some of the boards I've attacked have been virtually impossible to separate - no idea what they are stuck with but , boy, are they stuck.

We use River Red Gum for fine furniture making - it's the same density as lead! One of my colleagues is a kiln guy who specializes in figured Red Gum - it's spectacular and tough but not for guitars. I note that Jarrah is also being sold overseas as a tonewood - I'm a bit dubious of this as Jarrah (which we use by the ton in furniture industry and was used to make railway sleepers) is extremely dense and heavy. Mulga can be used for fingerboards and detail work but the timber of choice for makers who use Australian Timbers is Gidgee which is extremely dense and tight grained - neither are a commercial timber and are only found in short sections. See Ya, R.
If this is how the board is made ,out of pressed glued paper that is what formica, counter top material is made and router bits wont be hurt.

I still use my wife's old iron for cloths to heat the fingerboard . Keep trying at the end to lift it and move up the neck.

Update on this job!
Managed to remove the fretboard today after a bit of a struggle. I started off with a repair blanket from LMI. The Ebonol just laughed and gave me an evil smile. Nothing! Didn't even get really hot with the blankets, hopeless.
So then I broke out the big guns: A heatgun with 2000W, max. temp 500°C. I started out at 200°C, and kept on upping the temp. till it started to let go. At the end the heatgun was set at 400°C, although the temp measured on the surface of the Ebonol was much less, about 200°C., Don't know how to explain that one, either the heatgun is inefficient, or the Ebonol has an amazing thermal loss rate.
The fretboard ended up in 6 pieces, I found it easier to get under the edge without so much overhang, so I kept on sawing off the end after 4 frets or so. I used a seam seperation knife, and lots of patience. Took me over 2 hours, including cleaning up the neck afterwards. Btw: If you pick the pieces up when they're still hot, they stick to your fingers. Don't ask me how I know that :-)
And the rest of the job went well too: No damage to the neck finish, it looks completly unblemished.
I'll have to re-cover the trussrod with plastic tape, as it's routed directly under the fretboard, without a wood filet between it and the fretboard,and of course, the tape melted from the heat.
Now all I need is a good piece of African ebony, and my Titebond bottle, plus some 2mm white plastic rod to do the sidedots in the new fretboard.
I'm sure I wouldn't have managed so well without getting some great advice here from you all. Will keep you posted how the job progresses, I also have pics (I photograph all my jobs). If anybodies interested in seeing some pics, just holler :-)
Best G.
We are ALWAYS interested in pictures. Particularly of a process that is uncommon.



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