View Full Version : Gluing fretboard on onto neck and onto top, proper sequence?

08-08-2018, 06:35 AM
Finally I have frets in fretboard ready to go. I have a neck that I believe is flat and want to marry the two. This is a bolt-on neck. The top is glued to the sides, the back has yet to be glued on. I have not bound around the top. Wasn't sure if that should be done without the back in place? I suppose I could glue the fretboard to the neck and leave the three or so inches hanging out. But at some point the frets need to be leveled and etcetera. Once again, cluttering up the Forum with newbie stuff.

Thank you, all!

08-08-2018, 05:13 PM
We are getting down to the nitty gritty now of uke building Chuck. One way to do it... Glue the fretboard to the neck. Then level your frets once attached to the neck. Note that the overhand (tongue) will sometimes curl up slightly. Take the neck/fretboard and lightly sand the frets on a 600 sandpaper to see where the high spots/low spots are. Use magic marker on the frets to see who is high and who is low. This is a very important step as you want those frets even now and don't want to go back later to adjust.

If you have put in your frets pretty evenly, there should not be much to take off the high ones. What I do, instead of filing down the high frets is take a block of wood and lightly pound them down. Check with a scraper edge used as a level until they seat just right. Rocking a scraper on each three frets shows the high one. Once I get those high ones down, I go gently on 600 paper until every fret is absolutely level taking off as little as possible. Then... you can start dressing your frets and frets ends knowing everything is flat and level. Dressing fret ends is a real art. Also extremely monotonous. My concept of hell is doing this for eternity.

You are bound and determined to bind this uke so yes, put on the back to true up your sides and have at it. Good luck.

Ken Franklin
08-08-2018, 09:45 PM
Glue the fretboard to the neck. Glue the back on. Do any binding you're going to do. Sand the body. Fit the neck. Finish the neck and body separately. Install the neck. (With a dovetail neck joint I would install the neck before finishing usually) Then level the frets.

For good playability all the frets need to be on the same plane and not just a fix on a high fret here or there between two other frets. That's wild goose chase. Since you have glued your frets, hammering them in now will only weaken joint. You need a dead flat level beam with sandpaper attached that is a little longer than your fretboard to level the frets. You can mark the tops of your frets with a Sharpie but in the right light with good magnification you can see the scratches from sanding. Every fret should be touched but do as little leveling as possible. If you leveled the board well before installing the frets this will be easy. A little fall away after the twelfth fret will lower the action. Maybe .003".

Then you have to recrown the frets. Tape in between all of the frets. Stew-Mac sells some nice pricey diamond recrowning files that don't chatter but I mostly use a little concave block I made to use with sandpaper for recrowning. It shouldn't touch your fretboard. 220, 320, 400, 600 carborundum paper followed by Liberon steel wool for polishing. Do this evenly with a very thin line of fine scratches along the whole length of each fret before you polish.

Bob's your uncle. My 2 cents. There are whole chapters in books on this stuff, some with questionable advice.

08-09-2018, 05:09 PM
All great advice. The thing about building a great instrument isn't all about sawing wood and routing bindings and putting in pretty inlays. It is more about the boring mundane work like getting the fretboard right. All the great woodworking in the world is not going to make an instrument a pleasure to play. This is where the player spends his time and attention. It has to feel right... And then there is set-up. Not so easy. So, so important. If an instrument looks great but plays like a dog, the thing was ultimately an exercise in futility. Don't make pretty furniture.

Well I feel better getting that out of my system... Below is a must have tool for frets in my opinion and the best $14 dollars I ever spent. For really dressing those pesky fret ends. From SMD.


08-09-2018, 06:47 PM
All good perspective and I am listening. :-)

Thanks for the tool tip. I will order one soon. I'd like to bundle that with something else to take advantage of shipping. Looks like I'll need a tool to bevel the ends of frets. Seem you can make one and seems there are opinions about that bevel angle. I've seen 30 and the StewMac took is set at 35. I also saw some complaints regarding their files not taking enough material off quickly enough. Also looks like you polish frets after leveling, dressing ends and crowning. What do I need for that?

MAN, I'll be glad to have this behind me!