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Removing stubborn da Gamba fingerboard...


Nick Allen
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Hey folks

So I've been tasked to remove the FB on this viola da Gamba, and to my dismay, the fingerboard and neck both have the same split direction. I can only get the knife so far before the wood from either the neck or the fingerboard decides to take a ride with it's friend. 

Does anyone have any idea as to what could be done to cleanly separate the two?

Could I wedge the knife in and work boiling water into the gap, and slowly work my way down? 

Thanks. 

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5 minutes ago, martin swan said:

Why not try in the other direction? If that doesn’t work, you could use meths ... slow but safe

I've tried both directions. The problem is that the grain slants in the same direction for both the fingerboard and the neck. So if I attack it but side, the neck starts to split out, but if I attack it root side, the fingerboard gets lonely and joins in with the neck. 

What do you mean by "meths"?

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21 minutes ago, Nick Allen said:

I can't destroy either. This is a $1800 da Gamba. The repair is already approaching that. If I have to make another of either, then it's just not worth it. 

If it is like that, can’t you leave the fingerboard on, and think of a different way to repair it? I see that the neck is snapped off at the neck root, so it is objectively totalled anyway

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inlay a pearl dot to cover the bolt hole, cut a plug of maple of similar flame, put an ebony dot over the reinforcement.

1800 buck Gambas probably weren't put together with coming apart in mind!

You could always get a zero-kerf veneer saw and slowly saw the board off. I'd try a heat blanket first.

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37 minutes ago, duane88 said:

inlay a pearl dot to cover the bolt hole, cut a plug of maple of similar flame, put an ebony dot over the reinforcement.

1800 buck Gambas probably weren't put together with coming apart in mind!

You could always get a zero-kerf veneer saw and slowly saw the board off. I'd try a heat blanket first.

I second the heat blanket.  Joe Grubaugh lent me one for a very stubborn 'cello board once.  Worked very well.

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Thanks guys. So I'm at the point of no return, as some of the grain under the board is either torn up or bruised in a way that won't let me glue it back on without completely removing it. 

In retrospect, the dot inlay idea would have probably been the best. Drill 2 holes, dowel/screw them, and cap them with either MOP, ebony, or flamed maple. I have an oil heater in the corner of the room that I put some thin rib stock on, that I have the neck resting on to warm it up. 

This is turning into an adventure. 

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4 hours ago, martin swan said:

methylated spirits

Which we call "alcohol" in the US.  Removing a fingerboard is the one place where I think alcohol is safe to use to release hide glue.  I find it effective, and I don't have to worry about getting it on the varnish because neither the fingerboard nor (most of) the neck is varnished.

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I know you've completed the task, which looks very nice.

If you do not have a heating pad, a silicon pad from a cooking shop and a clothing iron can substitute in a pinch. I ended up buying a heating pad for a shattered cello neck repair and have used it a half a dozen times in the past ten years. The optional controller is nice because the pad heats up very fast and very hot the minute you plug it in. The controller helps manage the temps at a cost. It is also nice to get a cheap trigger controlled infrared temp sensor to look for hot spots.

A guitar guy attaches a large piece of metal to the heating pads to even out the temp. 

Also very thin and short painter's pallet knives fit into tighter spaces to drip in alcohol. 

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