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Thread: How hard is it to replace inlay dots?

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Default How hard is it to replace inlay dots?

    First of all, let me say I'm not a luthier or anything close to it, but I fairly good with my hands.

    I'm curious how difficult it is to replace the inlay dots on a ukulele? I have a Kala and a Kamaka that I'd like to have abalone dots on, as opposed to the plain white plastic ones they currently have (the ones on the kamaka are cracked and crazed and look bad). The Kamaka measures 3-3.5mm (ugh!), and the Kala measures 3mm. I'd be happy to up the size to 4mm if it makes it easier.

    Is this something I could realistically do on my own? I don't want to screw it up, but I'm assuming it would cost far more to have a luthier do it than it's worth.

  2. #2
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    I'm no lutheir either, but have done this. All I did was simply drill/route new reccesses right over the old dots, then install the new with epoxy. But I also replaced the frets, so removing all the frets, then replacing the dots, sanding smooth and level, then re-installing new frets wasn't too bad. Not sure if I would do it with the frets in place. Reason being, how would you be able to sand smooth and flush with the frets in place without damaging them, and the board? Maybe this is where the pros should chime in.
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  3. #3
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    Easy to do when they are plastic. Mark centre with sharp brad all. Use brad point drill to size appropriate for your needs. Drill to required depth. Insert new dots with drop of CA in each hole. After dry very carefully level dot with fret board with fine flat jewellers file or similar. Watch the fret board mind you. If I was to quote the job to a customer it would be approximately 1 hour. If it takes you 3 or more so what.

  4. #4
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    Default

    Thanks for the info. The only part I'm hesitant about is filing the fret board. It's not such a big deal on the Kamaka (which actually needs some sanding anyway, as the grain has raised up on it in a couple spots), but the Kala is a bit more of a gamble. I suppose if I use the right files it shouldn't be an issue, but are there any tricks to do it correctly?

    Maybe I should have a luthier look at it anyway. At some point it had a fret leveling job on it, and the frets look like someone worked them over with a power sander.

  5. #5
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    If your new dots are bigger than your recesses, you can use a drop of CA to glue it to the chuck end of a drill bit that is the right size, chuck the pointy end of the bit into a drill press and let it spin while you use a file to size the dot down to a perfect circle.

    To release the abalone dot, heat the drill bit and the CA will give way.

    Use an all to break out the old dots and put in the new ones. Leveling is as Allen suggested.
    Mainland Mango Concert and Red Cedar Soprano, Kala KA-ASKS Soprano, KoAloha Concert, Boat Paddle Tenor, Moore Bettah Tenor, Boat Paddle Mseries Baritone

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by olgoat52 View Post
    Use an all to break out the old dots and put in the new ones.
    This kind of awl?


  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noobie View Post
    This kind of awl?

    Sure. That would be fine. Just don't use an expensive one. especially if the original dots are pearl. It will dull the pointy tip of the awl.
    Mainland Mango Concert and Red Cedar Soprano, Kala KA-ASKS Soprano, KoAloha Concert, Boat Paddle Tenor, Moore Bettah Tenor, Boat Paddle Mseries Baritone

  8. #8
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    You should be able to pick up a set of inexpensive (usually around $10 in Oz) jewellers files at your local box hardware store. There will be a couple in the set that are flat on at least one surface and very fine teeth. It would be hard to stuff up your fret board by using them to level the pearl dot. But then again anything is possible. If you drill the hole to the correct depth there shouldn't be all that much work to get them level. Once level you can touch things up with a bit of fine sandpaper if you like. Then dress the fret board with your favourite conditioner.

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