View Full Version : Fingerboard height

08-08-2010, 10:47 AM
Hi guys,

For a future soprano/concert uke I'm planning, I got a nice piece of wood that has a height of about 9mm (0.35''), this will be glued to another one (neck) ~22mm (0.87'').

Quick question: what's the normal height for a fingerboard (note: not the action)?
Basically, I'm worried that those 9mm will be too much.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
08-08-2010, 11:09 AM
Nine mm is about twice what you want. For flat fret boards I like them to be no more 4 mm thick, or about twice as tall as the fret tang. Keep in mind that the fret board height will affect the neck set and bridge height and the resulting action and string height above the sound board. I also like to keep my bridges pretty low in profile. I see many beginners make the mistake of making very thick fret boards. Look at some vintage ukes, most of them tend to be quite thin.

08-08-2010, 11:38 AM
On Sopranos I aim for 2.9 mm ..but I have managed to get some down to 2mm but I had to fit the frets on the neck.

08-08-2010, 10:14 PM
Hi guys,

Thanks for you answers, I was expecting that I will need something around 3, maybe 4mm.

What tools should I use to trim down the height? I would rather use some hand tools and maybe I could saddle the whole thing down.
What if I'll go to a professional carpenter and ask him to cut it in half, could I then use the same piece of wood for 2 ukuleles, or it will be too thin?

BTW, I've got the fingerboard (in fact, the whole neck) from a (broken) guitar kit.

08-08-2010, 11:24 PM
I have sawn 9mm thick ebony boards into two halves with a fine bandsaw blade ..and then sanded them down to approx: 3mm with no trouble...in fact I can get 4 soprano boards from 1 classical guitar board.

08-09-2010, 12:35 AM
Allright, thanks!

I will give it a try with a ultra-thin japanese saw (they said the blade is 0.2mm), apparently made to mark the frets.
The wood is indian rosewood, total length is about 50cm. Because I'm a total beginner (with shaky hands), I don't think I can do 4 pieces, but I'll give it a try later today.

08-09-2010, 02:30 AM
A late replay but perhaps helpful nonetheless.

Just to add another voice to the choir: Our fretboards (concert and soprano) are about 4.5 mm. We've made a couple instruments with thin fretboards (about 2.5 mm) but I really don't think they were any better at all, so I must still be a total noob if Timbuck and Chuck Moore are saying less is more.

As far as resawing the piece you have, yes you can do it with hand saws and it doesn't have to be an ultra-thin blade - a normal japanese duet will do fine: dozuki for kerfing the corners and edges, kataba for cutting through the middle. A universal kataba is great, but for this job a long-cut kataba is just that much faster.

All things considered, I would expect to lose about 4 mm all together - maybe even closer to 5 mm, depending on your form that day.... Remember, when you finish sawing you have two rough-cut halves that need to be planed absolutely flat and scraped (or sanded) perfectly smooth. You end up turning half of what you have into sawdust and shavings - that's the way it goes.

Good luck.

08-09-2010, 02:56 AM
I don't like thick fretboards, because when I strum my finger tends to hit the side of the fretboard and it kind of hurts.

I posted a video link some time ago of people doing resawing by hand. If you are going to do it that way, the secret seems to be to do each corner first to get a good slot going to guide the saw blade the rest of the way, and a saw whose teeth are ground evenly so it doesn't try to drift as it cuts. People recommended a Japanese pull saw, and you can get a pretty thin bladed one at Home Depot.

Here is a link to the technique.


08-09-2010, 02:57 AM
Really helpful erich, thanks!

edit: SweetWaterBlue: much appreciated! A search (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/search.php?searchid=766501) on the forum reveled more informations about the process.

08-09-2010, 11:33 AM
I've followed that resawing technique, and like you I'm a shaky-handed amateur. After a dozen goes, I'm now fairly confident that I can cut a 9mm board into two 3mm pieces. But, these are for back/sides, and will plane or sand down to 2 mm once the saw cuts have been taken out.

I'd say you have little chance of cutting your 9mm board into two 4mm pieces, unless you practice a lot and stop those hands shaking. In your situation I'd thin the 9mm board to 4mm - thinner probably means you'll cut through it when sawing the fret slots, unless you've done this before or (like Timbuck) make a machine or jig to produce perfect 2mm slots. Timbuck's version is probably powered by a toy steam engine (hint!).

When thinning by hand I stick the board to a flat surface using double-sided tape, and then glue cardboard strips either side to the desired height. Once I start to plane or sand into the cardboard I'm at the right height.

I'd use a hand plane (or even hand-held belt sander if you have a fine grit belt and go very slowly and cautiously) until close, then sand the last 0.5mm.

08-09-2010, 10:39 PM
Probably you're right, and I'm perfectly aware that my chances to get a perfect split with hand tools at 4mm are limited.

Didn't start to work on it yet -I'm waiting to buy / build some basic tools first. For example a clamp :)

Anyway, my plan is to cut those 50cm in half, so I can practice hand re-sawing on one piece. If I'll fail (and most likely I will) I'll still have the other half.
I know it's probably a waste, but in the end I just want 1 decent fingerboard.

08-10-2010, 01:34 AM
I think I would practice with some cheap wood, like a board from the local lumber yard or trash pile first. Then, once you have the technique down attack the actual fretboard.

08-10-2010, 03:33 AM
As it happens..this afternoon..I made some Ebony boards for my next batch of ukes so I got the camera out and made a slide show..I started off with a rough blank of Gaboon Ebony approx 10 mm thick and ended up with 4 boards...It took less than an hour to make them (just click on the image to view)
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/timbuck%20tips/th_PICT7570.jpg (http://s219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/?action=view&current=24eeb12a.pbw)

08-10-2010, 03:44 AM
Timbuck: that looks impressive. I won't exclude the option to ask a professional carpenter for some help, there's no way I'll buy such a bandsaw in the near future :)
SweetWaterBlue: yeah, I'll do that first.

08-23-2010, 12:28 PM
Probably you all wonder what happened with my fingerboard(s) :p

First, I've cut a slice of about 20 cm from that guitar board.
The wood had a small defect on one side, but since it was wider than my needs I didn't worry too much. Cut that out and ended up with a 20cm x 5cm x 9-10mm piece ready for resawing.

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4076/4921408608_f760ec44ea.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/aurelian/4921408608/)

I didn't had the camera around while sawing, but here's how it looks like at the end:

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4101/4920811367_b6ba59b886.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/aurelian/4920811367/)

Not too bad for a first try. However, due to my lack of experience and proper saw, I introduced a defect on a side :|

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4095/4920812151_97a1046fc7.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/aurelian/4920812151/)

But, in the end I think both pieces are usable.