Adding Fretboard Side Dots

besley

Active member
Joined
Aug 26, 2016
Messages
754
Points
28
I just received a new Duke 10 Tenor banjo uke the other day, and initially was not very impressed. The setup was poor, with sharp fret ends and rough edges everywhere. There were also no side dots on the fretboard, which might not be so bad except that the fret markers on the front of the fretboard were all but invisible from the side. So I put it up for sale, but when no one showed any interest I went ahead and did a full setup. With the result that it's now a keeper. But it still lacked good fret markers.

I've tried using those rub on fret dots before, but they always wear off after a few weeks for me. So I figured I would do it up right and install regular side dot fret markers. There are lots of videos showing how it's done available.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRabVq4LjCQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnNOfXGBKAs

All you really need is some one of the white side dot rods that Stew Mac sells. That, and the nerve to drill into the side of your ukulele. For this uke I used the 1/16" size rod.

http://www.stewmac.com/Materials_an...Trim/Side_Dots/Plastic_Side_Dot_Material.html

Then just get a 1/16" drill bit, and preferably a hand drill so things don't get away from you. You mark off the proper positions, drill the holes about 1/4" deep, add glue with a toothpick, and stick in the rod material. You cut it off proud of the neck, let the glue dry, then cut it close as possible with a razor blade, and finally sand flush. The rod only cost me $1.27, while a local repair shop gave me a quote of between $30 to $50 for the job.

Anyway, if you have a uke lacking side dots, installing proper side dots really isn't that hard to do.


The result was pretty satisfying, and definitely beats adding the side dots with a paint pen like I used to do.
 

Attachments

  • Duke Side Dots.jpg
    Duke Side Dots.jpg
    102.7 KB · Views: 83
  • Uke Drill.jpg
    Uke Drill.jpg
    97.3 KB · Views: 64
  • Duke Side.jpg
    Duke Side.jpg
    107 KB · Views: 58
Last edited:

hollisdwyer

UU VIP
UU VIP
Joined
Jan 29, 2014
Messages
1,663
Points
48
Well done! I don't bother with fret board markers anymore. For my last two customs I asked for slightly larger than normal side markers.
 

Strumdaddy

Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2011
Messages
401
Points
18
I need them to be bigger now because of failing eyesight. Ahhh the joys of maturing
 

besley

Active member
Joined
Aug 26, 2016
Messages
754
Points
28
Well done! I don't bother with fret board markers anymore. For my last two customs I asked for slightly larger than normal side markers.

Neither my carbon fiber Emerald X7 guitar or my Ekoa Blackbird Farallon uke have fretboard markers, and I rather like the way they look.
 

UkeStuff

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 15, 2016
Messages
2,581
Points
48
Steve,

Any particular glue? Also...let me know if you want me to bring that X1 on Friday.

Chris
 

Ukecaster

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 7, 2009
Messages
4,394
Points
83
Mine were little like those ones, tough for me to see. Got sticker dots on ebay. If/when they degrade, I've got a bunch more.

Before
20170809_151528-1_resized.jpg

After
20170809_153044_resized.jpg
 

besley

Active member
Joined
Aug 26, 2016
Messages
754
Points
28
Steve,

Any particular glue? Also...let me know if you want me to bring that X1 on Friday.

Chris

The videos show using either Titebond or CA (superglue), but I chose Titebond to give me more open time to get the rods down in the holes. And yeah, if no one is using the X1, please bring it along.
 

Recovering Bassist

New member
Joined
Jan 2, 2017
Messages
1,035
Points
0
I didn't mind how mine came set up, and it def pumps out a lot of usable sound, but I too missed the side dots a lot on this particular instrument. Ed of Duke uke offered 25 dollars towards getting them put on, so I took him up on that. It cost me 45 dollars to get it done, so I was 20 bucks out of pocket on it, but I don't mind, it's a lot easier to play now. Having fun with mine for sure. I am the least handy person in the world, so I could never do a job like this myself, it's not an option for me. The ones I got put on are abalone.

20171209_173840.jpg
 

TopDog

Active member
Joined
Feb 12, 2016
Messages
468
Points
28
A couple of my 'cheap and cheerful' ukes had no side
dots,and for cheapies I was not about to go to the trouble
of fitting 'proper' ones; so I used a silver Sharpie and just
drew them on.They last well,and can easily be topped up
if they grow faint!
 

Tootler

Active member
Joined
Aug 26, 2011
Messages
5,960
Points
38
A couple of my 'cheap and cheerful' ukes had no side
dots,and for cheapies I was not about to go to the trouble
of fitting 'proper' ones; so I used a silver Sharpie and just
drew them on.They last well,and can easily be topped up
if they grow faint!

I just used a black felt marker. Quick, easy & cheap but does the job and easy to refresh when needed.
 

Booli

Active member
Joined
Apr 20, 2013
Messages
6,501
Points
38
Besley - LOOKS GREAT! Nice job.

For anyone looking to replicate such an effort without power tools (dremel, etc), another name for that type of hand-drill, such that one might find on Amazon or Harbor Freight is called a 'pin vise' and you'll see lots of cheap ones like ~$15 mostly made of plastic by the brand FISKARS. They are not heavy duty for industrial use and mostly meant for crafts, but should be fine for a small job such as this, and as far as tool prices go, as our UK friends like to say, they are 'cheap as chips' :)
 

Graham Greenbag

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 15, 2017
Messages
1,671
Points
63
Besley - LOOKS GREAT! Nice job.

For anyone looking to replicate such an effort without power tools (dremel, etc), another name for that type of hand-drill, such that one might find on Amazon or Harbor Freight is called a 'pin vise' and you'll see lots of cheap ones like ~$15 mostly made of plastic by the brand FISKARS. They are not heavy duty for industrial use and mostly meant for crafts, but should be fine for a small job such as this, and as far as tool prices go, as our UK friends like to say, they are 'cheap as chips' :)

:agree:

I often use hand powered drills in preference to mains powered ones. They’re light, compact, very controllable and never have flat batteries; good quality ones are capable of using drills up to 1/4” in wood and, with some care, in some metals too. They do work well on the ‘shop floor’ too, if only for a limited range of things, and certainly can be the best / better tool for the job.

With regard to filling in the holes I wonder what easy and at hand alternatives there are. White/light coloured paint and liquid paper come to mind as possibilities, but maybe some wax or glue might be made to work too (candle wax is white and arildite is light coloured) ?
 
Last edited:

UkeStuff

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 15, 2016
Messages
2,581
Points
48
I tried this with fingernail polish on two of my Ukuleles—and it turned out okay, but I made the holes too big! 1/16 is the next project. I blogged about it and someone recommended drywall spackle—which makes sense to me as it can wash off and can be “sanded” with a wet sponge (which is how to finish it perfectly). I may try this with our school ukuleles—which I am putting strap buttons on (when they arrive from China). I’ll eventually report back in about how it went.