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marymac
12-18-2010, 10:19 PM
Hi Luthiers -

I have a nice uke that I would really like to add fret markers to. Or rather, I would like to have someone ELSE add them! Is this tough to do on a completed instrument or should any good luthier be able to do it? I'm just looking for some general feedback so that when I call around for quotes I know what the task will really take. The uke has a rosewood fretboard with no markings on the front, but it does have side dots.

My guess on how this would go:
Take off the strings, mark the locations, drill (route?) the holes in the fretboard, glue in fret markers, sand/flatten the markers to be level with the fretboard, oil the fretboard, put strings back on, tune, done.

Is that about accurate? What would you charge for doing work like that? How long does it take?

Thanks for your help! - Mary

Sven
12-18-2010, 11:36 PM
It's even easier to install side markers, if you think those would be enough of an improvement.

Sven

Edit: oops didn't read carefully. You already have side markers.

WS64
12-19-2010, 12:19 AM
One simple solution:
Take a yoghurt cup, use a puncher to create the markers, and just superglue them.
Better test it somewhere else before you do it on a uke!

erich@muttcrew.net
12-19-2010, 02:38 AM
I think your description of the process is fairly accurate and it certainly is something a good luthier would be able to do, but...... Why would you want fret markers if you already have side markers?

rickmorgan2003
12-19-2010, 03:33 AM
It's not an expensive upgrade, any local luthier should be able to do it. I would gues it would cost between 25 and 60 dollars depending on where you live and luthier. That said, anyone who knows their way around a drill could do it too. If you are careful, you can do it without taking off the strings. Lossen strings so they can be pulled out of the way. Masking tape the fret board where the inlays are going. Test drill a hole in another piece of wood to make sure you have the right sized drill bit. Once you are comfortable with the test holes, mark your locations. With something pointy- make a starting hole/dent where the inlay goes. This makes sure the drill starts were you want it to. Drill out the hole, go slow and test fit for depth. Make it just deep enough that the inlay is level or just above the fret board. If you are close but want it a little deeper- sand the back of the inlay rather that trying to micro adjust the depth of the hole. Once satisfied with the fit, drop of superglue and press the inlay in using a piece of wax paper between you and the inlay so you don't glue yourself to the board. If you have done this all carefully, you might not need to sand or re-oil.
Dots are available from Stewart Mcdonald online luthier supply.

chiefnoda
12-19-2010, 05:58 AM
Hi Mary

It depends on how fancy you want it to look like, but the job is fairly straight forward. Certainly you *can* try to do it yourself, but I would not use a drill. The tip of a drill bit is not flat and leaves a hole that's too depp (and concave). You should use a router (or a flat drill bit like a milling machine). Yup, sounds like a job better left for pros.

You can either go to a luthier or an inlay artist. The former is an expert in building but may not be too familir with inlaying. The latter may not know the intricasy of ukulele. Probably the best option is to talk to a ukulele (or guitar or violin) builder, and ask for reference to an inlay artist. There should be someone in your area whom you can meet and discuss designs.

You can ask for a simple round marker, or something like a snow flake, a slotted diamond or a cat's eye. See, for example,

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Inlay,_pearl.html

Or, you can design your own. Certainly you can spell out your name. Or inlay a motif of a dog!

The material can be plastic (boring), abalone (whitish), or mother of pearl (nice), or rhinestine! Again, almost anything (hard enough not to wear out).

This sounds a bit overboard but there are many options. If you go for simple round makers on 5, 7, 12 with abalone, it can cost from $50 - $100. Going for a snowflake etc won't add too much ($80 and up)

Google "guitar inlay position marker design", and "tree of life" for more ideas.

Enjoy!
Chief

Philstix
12-19-2010, 06:58 AM
Your description of what has to be done is accurate, but be aware that doing it on a fretboard with frets installed and attached to a uke seriously complicates things. I think chiefnada's numbers are realistic for where I live (Seattle area) but I would look for someone with a fair amount of experience.

marymac
12-19-2010, 06:58 AM
Thanks for all of the great info! I'm thinking that simple round dots are fine, but I do think I'll have a local pro do it. We have a shop here called The Fifth String that specializes in stringed instruments and they have a luthier so I'll see if they will do it.

Rick - thanks for the detailed instructions. I definitely have all the tools but I think that I would be asking for trouble trying to drill into the fretboard of an $800 uke. I'm always careful but somehow it's never careful enough. :p I liked your note about sanding off the bottom of the dot instead of sanding from the top if it was too deep. One of those "why didn't I think of that?" moments.

Thanks again - Mary

marymac
12-19-2010, 07:01 AM
I do use the side markers but when my eyes fall on the face of the fretboard and don't find dots my brain stutters. Stuttering brain does NOT contribute to the smoothness of my playing! I'm still learning this instrument so the dots do help me find my place when I'm jumping a bunch a frets during a song.

Kekani
12-19-2010, 07:56 AM
Brad point drill bit.

The problem with doing it now is the levelling issue - from a microscopic point of view, you'll have a scalloped fretboard when you're done.






Just kidding (not really) - your issue now is cost. Why would you buy a midrange instrument that doesn't have something simple that you want? The cost to put it in during building is about $1, if that. Now, you're going to spend upwards of $75 an hour to do it after the fact.

Find a hobby supply store and get a strip of solid styrene rod (less than $5) in the size or sizes you want (then you can put two smaller ones at the octave). Then, get a cheap ass brad point bit at your local woodcraft (less than $5).

Tip: most readily available brad points don't come in really small sizes.
Tip: you don't really need a brad point for this.

Of course, since you have the tools, you probably have CA and a chisel. Do I need to continue, or have you figured out where I'm going with this?

Lori
12-19-2010, 08:18 AM
It all sounds pretty expensive and scary. Maybe try these instead
http://www.inlaystickers.com/servlet/the-Ukulele/Categories
I have seen some of these on headstocks, and they are really convincing. They are removable, so you can even change to a different style later. They are made specifically for this use, so I think it is a good, inexpensive option, and no risk to your uke.

–Lori

marymac
12-19-2010, 08:25 AM
It all sounds pretty expensive and scary. Maybe try these instead
http://www.inlaystickers.com/servlet/the-Ukulele/Categories
I have seen some of these on headstocks, and they are really convincing. They are removable, so you can even change to a different style later. They are made specifically for this use, so I think it is a good, inexpensive option, and no risk to your uke.

–Lori

Hmm - maybe this would be a good solution for now. These would be removable in the event that I no longer need them and costs very little. Thanks for the link!

<eM>Burr
12-19-2010, 08:26 AM
You could also try painting them on with a stencil and some kind of appropriate paint (sorry I don't have a recommended paint but...). This way like the sticker option Lori suggested you won't do major harm to your uke.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-19-2010, 08:34 AM
Find a hobby supply store and get a strip of solid styrene rod (less than $5) in the size or sizes you want (then you can put two smaller ones at the octave). Then, get a cheap ass brad point bit at your local woodcraft (less than $5).

Probably the best advice yet IMO. If using styrene rods you could likely trim them flush with a single edge razor blade, eliminating the need to sand flush.
The problem with sanding the pearl dots in between frets is that the surrounding fret board wood will sand much more readily than the pearl will. Obviously you would want to sand in the direction of the grain (not across the grain which would be much simpler) using a small hard backing block. Once the areas are leveled you will want to use progressively finer sanding papers until you get to the level of sheen that matches the rest of the fret board. I don't think there's any doubt that you will lose some wood in the process. The frets would all have to be masked off first; even then you'll more than likely have to go back and touch a few of them up. Doing the job right isn't as easy as it might seem.

marymac
12-19-2010, 08:50 AM
Probably the best advice yet IMO. If using styrene rods you could likely trim them flush with a single edge razor blade, eliminating the need to sand flush.
The problem with sanding the pearl dots in between frets is that the surrounding fret board wood will sand much more readily than the pearl will. Obviously you would want to sand in the direction of the grain (not across the grain which would be much simpler) using a small hard backing block. Once the areas are leveled you will want to use progressively finer sanding papers until you get to the level of sheen that matches the rest of the fret board. I don't think there's any doubt that you will lose some wood in the process. The frets would all have to be masked off first; even then you'll more than likely have to go back and touch a few of them up. Doing the job right isn't as easy as it might seem.

I can see how the fretboard could end up scalloped, as someone mentioned earlier! At this point I think that the stickers are going to be my solution, then if I decided I need them permanently down the road I can have the dots inset. I probably just need to get into the habit of looking at the side dots when playing this uke instead of the fretboard markers. I'll be sure to check for markers next time I buy though!

Pukulele Pete
12-23-2010, 10:09 AM
I put stickers on my beater uke. They've been on my uke for over a year and still look like new. They look like inlays.

1872118722

marymac
12-23-2010, 05:13 PM
[QUOTE=Pukulele Pete;559607]I put stickers on my beater uke. They've been on my uke for over a year and still look like new. They look like inlays.

Cool! Yeah I think I'm going to get some to put on the Makala Dolphin I keep in the trunk too. I played it on Sunday and noticed that the finish had chipped in a couple places. I think stickers will cover up the damage nicely.