New Fingerboard leveling - tool selection

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by donnyb, Dec 7, 2016.

  1. donnyb

    donnyb Member

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    Hi again, and thank you for reading.

    I am in the process of my current build at the stage of ready to radius the newly slotted blackwood fingerboard .

    I have in the workshop, Stew Mac radiused fret levelling 200mm timber blocks in good condition, one with the 12" radius I need.

    Do I really need to buy a 540mm long aluminium 12" radiused beam to do a good job ? I would be using a jig with 2 parallel guides to do the sanding in either case.

    My rationale is...if the 200mm timber block is not distorted along its length in any way, then as long as I maintain equal pressure on the 200mm/12" long block for the down and back strokes, there should be very little difference to using a 550mmx 12" aluminium beam in the same manner.

    And I can check so in the initial stages with a radius gauge.

    There's also the cost of almost $200.00 to buy and get an aluminium Stew Mac one to Australia. Happy to pay that if there will really be a noticeable difference to the end result.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2016
  2. sargebaker

    sargebaker ISLAND Instruments Gold Supporting Member

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    You don't need the giant Stewmac alu. one. I actually prefer one that'S around 8-9" long.
     
  3. XSSIVE

    XSSIVE D'Avanzo Guitars Vendor

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    That's the key right there. As long as the radius block and board stay aligned the length of the radius block won't matter much as long as you sand evenly the full length of the board and don't sit in one tiny area essentially digging a hole.
     
  4. RayBarbeeMusic

    RayBarbeeMusic Member

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    I know a lot of folks who think otherwise, and I used to be one of them, but after using those long aluminum beams for the last 18 months or so.........the results just whip the living sh*t out of any other method I've seen. I can now guarantee better-than-plek fretwork every single time. NFW that would be possible with the shorter wood blocks.

    Absolute requirement there no matter what you're using. Every time I see a "video" of someone leveling a board or frets without that, I shake my head.
     
  5. donnyb

    donnyb Member

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    Unanimity on the use of guides, but different views on short vs long !

    Ray, you have made a pretty strong statements for the long aluminium radius tool. I don't want to start a tit for tat thing , and I'm not trying to be cute, just interested what assessment criteria you applied ?
     
  6. Trebor Renkluaf

    Trebor Renkluaf I was hit by a parked car, what's your excuse? Silver Supporting Member

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    FYI - You can buy the aluminum radius block on eBay for a lot less than StewMac sells them for.
     
  7. Guitarpentry

    Guitarpentry Member

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    There's also the dude selling them on Reverb that makes parts for Island instruments? Can't remember his name but I saw the aluminium block on reverb for $40-$50 if memory serves. I think he mentioned he'd do custom lengths/radius too
     
  8. donnyb

    donnyb Member

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    Thanks for the cheaper alternative tips guys ! Ive seen them on ebay , Philadelphia Luthier Supplies for $79 or so. That's US$ = $106 AU plus shipping, which I think was over $40 AU. Still a lot for what it is.
    Will chase the reverb tip now too.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2016
  9. Malinoski

    Malinoski everything wrong possible

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    It's a lot of process, but I made my own because I wanted a longer 30" beam, and because somebody with a CNC (Doug) promised one and forgot it in the back of his truck (Doug). I ran out of time and found this way, it works great for any radius and stack up those segments for any length you want:

    http://www.mylespaul.com/forums/showthread.php?t=80744

    Also, use it this way and you have much more control:

    [​IMG]
     
    sargebaker likes this.
  10. donnyb

    donnyb Member

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    Clever man ! I read the lespaul forum link. Thank you.
    I was getting half interested in the method there by Mountainwhimsy, quote :

    Though I just bought a pre-radiused and slotted fretboard, put sticky paper on it, then ran a hardwood blank back and forth over the top of the fretboard until it had the pre-radiused profile. The cost was a little more for the pre-radiused fretboard, but I needed it anyway. About 5 minutes of total work. end of quote.


    But then I thought, that fretboard would need to be dead straight and true in all respects or you are making faulty clones. But provided it was true, its a simple way of doing it and also having a fretboard for his next build. Cost wise, in Australia, it would still be cheaper than an radiused aluminium beam . but I am dubious about it.

    I am going to contact the Reverb tip, but has anyone got a used 12" radius x 18" or so ally beam for sale !

    If not, its the router / multi block method of Malinoski , or the SM 8" wooden radius block I have (checked it last night with a straight edge and radius gauge - 99% true).
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2016
  11. VaughnC

    VaughnC Supporting Member

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    While I've had excellent results with the 8" radius wood blocks, you have to be very careful to keep your sanding strokes even. The aluminium radiused beams are better in that regard as you're hitting the full length of the neck simultaneously...but they are a lot more expensive. So, it probably boils down to how many guitars you're going to be doing in the future. For a few guitars of your own it probably wouldn't be worth buying the aluminium radius beam...but, if I had a guitar repair shop and did lots of guitars, it would be the only way to go.
     
  12. donnyb

    donnyb Member

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    Makes sense Vaughn. Thanks.

    I probably have the skill and touch to use the 8" wooden block. The reason I asked RayBarbeeMusic, further back in this thread his reasons for so strongly favouring the 18" aluminium beam is to try to get a handle on how much measured difference in the end result is there?

    I'm curious still, even if just for curiosity's sake.
    If the careful use of the 18 "ally beam gives (say) a 95% efficient result to the trueness of the fret board (as it at least should do when used properly), then its reasonable to ask : what does the careful use of an 8" wooden block give?? And in what particular way or ways is end result less efficient in comparison ?

    Maybe I'm a bit naïve, but its the sort of learning experiment I would have thought a Lutherie School/Course somewhere in the world would do when teaching fretboard levelling etc.

    If a comparison outcome was just a couple of %, and given we are dealing with a fretboard made of organic material that moves with the weather and time , it would be hard for most people to justify the purchase , unless time to do the job was the main deciding factor in my opinion, as I think you also are alluding to ?
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2016
  13. sargebaker

    sargebaker ISLAND Instruments Gold Supporting Member

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    Slighty off topic to the original post, but this is a premium block that smokes the Stewmac (or anything you'll find on Ebay) ones. BTY is a gentleman, ultra reliable a member here to boot. He does custom. Shipping to Oz will always bite though :(
     
  14. BTY Guitar

    BTY Guitar Member

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    Hey there Nic. Thanks for the kind words :) I'm glad you guys are liking the sanding beams.
    Don has contacted me through reverb and we're working to get him a custom sanding beam. You are correct that the shipping to Australia from the US is brutal. The shipping may be as expensive as the beam. If anyone has international shipping advise, I'm all ears.

    Erik
    BTY Guitar
     

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