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Finishing Reglued Fingerboard Joint


Brad Dorsey
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Whenever I reglue a removed fingerboard on an old instrument, the fingerboard/neck joint can always be felt as a small irregularity, even though I use Jacob's idiot-proof fingerboard regluing method.  So, to achieve the completely smooth joint that I aim for, I always do a little scraping and sanding along the joint to even it out.  This often exposes a lighter strip of neck wood along the joint.  To even out the neck color, I scrape, sand and French polish the entire playing surface of the neck that does not have colored varnish on it and the fingerboard edge.  This achieves the perfectly smooth fingerboard/neck joint that I want, but it takes extra time, and it removes a tiny bit of wood from the neck.

So I am wondering how other people out there finish the joint after regluing a fingerboard.  Is it normally possible to simply reglue the fingerboard and achieve a perfectly smooth joint without any extra treatment?  Should I be able to achieve microscopically perfect alignment when I reglue a fingerboard?  Am I such an idiot that even the idiot-proof method doesn't work for me?

In my defense, I have to note that the fingerboard and the neck expand and contract from humidity fluctuations at different rates, and it's not unusual to be able to feel a fingerboard/neck joint irregularity even if the fingerboard hasn't been removed.  And if the fingerboard is removed from the neck, their widths will probably change by slightly different amounts while they are separated.  And the stresses caused by differential shrinkage or swelling are the reason many fingerboards come loose and need regluing.

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2 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

So I am wondering how other people out there finish the joint after regluing a fingerboard.  Is it normally possible to simply reglue the fingerboard and achieve a perfectly smooth joint without any extra treatment? 

Sometimes, depending on how lucky or skilled one happens to be, and also depending on what one has to work with.

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I do my best, based on what's in front of me to replicate and the standard I want to meet (much lower on rentals!) If it doesn't work and I get a mess,  then I strip the whole neck back to white wood and impose one unified thing. But it doesn't take too long to try something I think might work, first, and once in a while it's fine. :-)

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On 11/1/2020 at 7:00 AM, Brad Dorsey said:

Whenever I reglue a removed fingerboard on an old instrument, the fingerboard/neck joint can always be felt as a small irregularity,  ( ... )

Thanks for bringing this up as it was mulled over about it at the bench for many years.

After the fact, there were mini hacks including sanding the ebony with the very fine paper and blending the particles into the maple with Micromesh. Quick and easy operation in the morning after the overnight gluing.

But if the neck was finished I nursed the FB placement on occasion with a heating pad until the glue started to gel to minimize the inevitable. Also some guys I worked with clamped surprisingly tight during the summer repair season and these school instrument FBs would pop off mid-winter. Some shops will also clean the neck making it lighter in color to better blend to the newly exposed area. Not making a judgement call on another shop's work as the neck might have needed a cleaning. I just assumed that this procedure would take some time aside from the time for any prep work and pre-moistening, heating. Sometimes the ol' boss would complain that I took too long with the alignments. So if I felt ok, it was one of the last things that was completed at the end of the day after most people went home. "Leave the glue pot on..."

Most players in my circles do not care so much about how it looks as it is generally a very thin line and it darkens overtime. 

The comment I wanted to add to the discussion was that some violin and viola players make contact with one side of the neck more than the other and it helps to know which side might require more precise alignment. Some times the alignment and feel on both sides - but that is mostly near the nut, the 1st and 1/2 position areas - need to be virtually the same. But in general, the finger's side of the FB requires the most work. Also the side that is most visible to the audience but they will not notice. The thumb side will be noticed more by players if visible. Near the body, people with larger hands are more likely to feel the slight irregularity as the joint nears the body. It only takes a fraction of a thousandth of an inch, it seems, for some players to notice.

My newest modern Italian violin arrived last year with a slightly visible FB overhang on the thumb side but it is dead on parallel with the maple from the nut to body, which seemed interesting. I have just left it there.

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