Holding down fretboards for gluing

We just had a great thread about the (not) use of Gorilla Glue (not going there) which lead to how to secure a fretboard and some methods to keep the fretboard from shifting while gluing. Here are some suggestions/techniques that I gleaned from the others:

1) Use some sort of pins - One common method was to use some sort of pin that is embedded in the glue side of the neck which will grab into the fretboard and prevent slippage. Methods are to insert a small nail, straight pin, staple, anything that is thin, strong, and can be cut off ~1/16" when inserted. The fretboard will grab into the pin and not slip

2) Sand or some other grit - One guy posted that 'following advice from 'the nation' have used the pin idea successfully and also a few grains of coarse sand sprinkled in the glue (just 10 or so) before clamping helps to stop the sliding around.' I wonder of salt would suffice for that?

One thing I do is to apply a thin coat of glue to the neck and fretboard, lay the neck on its side on parchment paper on a flat surface. Apply the fretboard to that and clamp. Wait a few so the glue will set to a good tack and readjust the clamps for a better fit.

I also apply the glue in a wavy line, then smooth it out to a thin coat evenly on the neck and fretboard. That way there are no air gaps and no side gaps (as much as possible). This also makes a more even and tight fit. Glue sets quicker also.

More to come I'm sure.


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  • Granted, I'm on my first builds, but this is what I did.  

    I used a forstner bit in my drill press to make recesses in the fretboard for some 1/4" round fret markers.  I then clamped the fretboard to the neck and took a small drill bit and used the center punch hole made by the forstner bit and drilled into the neck at the 3, 9, and 15 spots.  I then inserted some small pick guard screws.  I then sanded everything the way I wanted it, installed the frets, etc, and then I removed the fretboard for finishing... I was doing an ebony stain on the fretboard and a natural finsih on the neck.  

    After I got it stained and finished with tung oil, I applied glue to the face of the neck and then the back of the fretboard and then screwed the fretboard back on to the neck... perfect realignment.  

    After the glue dried, I removed the screws and installed the fret markers.  

    • Love it - I've been drilling pinholes where the fret dots would go and into the neck, then using this to ensure alignment when I glued. But I also use a different stain for neck and fretboard and worry about bleeding even with masking - this method using screws provides maximum flexibility - and better quality - thanks for sharing
    • You are going to be a great builder... You've come up with an intuitively elegant way of handling a task that could be so frustrating...


      the best,


      Wichita Sam

    • Thanks, Wes... that means a lot.  

  • I cut my fret board a little over sized (width) then glue it up with titebond. I then clamp it with spring clamps. I clean the sides up with a pattern bit in my trim router.
  • One solution i read to this problem of the soundboard shifting after glueing was to sprinkle a little very fine sand on the glued surfaces before jointing. Usually I just "nurse" the job along, slightly pressing with my fingers for several minutes until the glue bites, then carefully place the neck in my "glueing jig", twp wooden battens placed in a workmate bench - it works perfectly, no issues really,  even a scarf joint held with clamps glued accurately. (-:
  • Great point! oily woods do tend to be an issue with glues. That set of videos on glues (Youtube) mentioned that.


    Josh Gayou (SmokehouseGuitars) said:
    Also I should mention that for more dense woods (rosewood, ebony, etc), you want to score the joining surface of the fretboard so that the glue has something to key to. This is especially important for oilier woods like rosewood.
  • Also I should mention that for more dense woods (rosewood, ebony, etc), you want to score the joining surface of the fretboard so that the glue has something to key to. This is especially important for oilier woods like rosewood.
  • I'm not a big fan of putting pins in things. It just seems like using a double jack to drive a nail to me.

    Sand will work but is mess, plus you have to keep a supply of sand handy.

    The method I eventually settled on is as follows (talking about a tapered neck here):

    I always start with a fingerboard that has been cut to size. I don't mean rough cut either. I cut the thing down to exact size using a trim plane and ensure that the edges are perfectly straight. I have the center line marked on the top and bottom edges, which I use as a datum to line up to a center line that I've marked on the neck.

    I then use three cauls to clamp up the neck. The longest one is about 4 to 6 inches shorter than the length of the fingerboard. The other two are just small little 2 or 3 inch blocks.

    Using one clamp, I'll get the fingerboard in position by clamping at the nut position, ensuring that center lines match. I then lay the long caul in the middle of the fingerboard and start running clamps all up and down it (as normal). I keep an eye on the bottom of the fingerboard (opposite the nut) and make sure that my center lines are matched up down there as well. If you clamp from the nut down to the base of the neck, you can correct minor errors as you go.

    Once you have the center caul clamped up in place, remove the clamp at the nut that you started with, place to two smaller blocks at the top and bottom, and clamp the hell out of them as well. Honestly, at the top and bottom you don't even really need the two blocks if the caul covers enough of the area. Just clamp really hard at the edges/corners and you'll be good.
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