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Changing a Fretboard

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Changing a Fretboard

Postby caveman82 » Thu Apr 05, 2012 10:32 am

If Zenguitar gets a chance to read this or anyone else in the know I'd be delighted to have a response...

I've been thinking of buying a cheap(ish) guitar with the inclinations of having it's fretboard changed, not refretted but having the entire fretboard changed with one of these

http://www.swordguitars.com/custom.html

In particular a 17 tone board (which is 17 tones instead of 12 in a octave) which is mainly inspired by one of my heroes Rod Poole...

In what kind of price range do I expect to pay a luthier to replace the luthier? Also are there any types of guitars which are more suited to having the fretboard removed? Ie a unbound fretboard better than a bound fretboard?

Thanks...
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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby zenguitar » Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:16 pm

Hi caveman..

Divisions of the octave other than 12 can be fun and interesting, so I'd certainly recommend giving it a try.

Those pre-slotted fretboards look good, but are actually quite expensive. A normal pau ferro slotted fretboard from LMI would be about $20. So you pay a big premium for the non-standard slots and to be honest it is trivially simple to do. But more of that in a moment.

There are two ways to remove a fretboard. You remove the frets, and then either break the glue join between the fretboard and neck or plane off the old fretboard. There are pro's and con's to both methods, but essentially the decision is usually based on which is going to do least possible damage to the finish on the neck. Because the quality of the job will largely depend on how well finished it is, and touching up the finish is the most time consuming part of the job.

A bound fretboard shouldn't make any difference, but with one caveat. You need to be certain that the binding channel hasn't been cut deeper than the fretboard thickness and into the wood of the neck. If it has, you will need to have the replacement fretboard bound as well, and that could add to the cost.

So to get to the point where you have the new fretboard fitted and ready to fret you would expect to pay £200 minimum. Then you have to have it fretted, and with 17 frets per octave you are looking at 40% extra frets above a normal refret, or in other words... about one and a half refrets. Workshops vary, but for a unbound fretboard prices range from £100 to £200 if a quick search is anything to go by.

To get an idea of cost so far; the fretboard from the US will need shipping, duty and VAT added to the price and would be about £35; so you are looking at a minimum of £350 to do the job. Possibly more.

There is an alternative that might be a lot cheaper and just as good quality. And that is to buy a replacement neck with an unslotted fretboard. Most companies that actually make their replacement necks themselves will be able to offer it as an option, and they might even be able to custom fret it for you too. Certainly worth an email to Warmoth, or any of their UK competitors.

17 fret per octave equal temperament is easy enough to calculate, I've written a spreadsheet to calculate any number of fret divisions for any scale length. So if it would help I can always give you accurate measurements to pass on to your luthier of choice.

Anyway, quite a lot to think about there for you caveman. If you have any more thoughts or questions just let me know.

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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby caveman82 » Thu Apr 05, 2012 4:35 pm

Zenguitar,

Truly your source of wisdom never fails! It's cleared a lot of information I was looking for. Thank you.

I had a look around and came across this which was allegedly modelled on Rod Poole's 17 tone Persian temperament guitar, where the frets are not alligned in equal temperament. I had a quick google and it said Persian music is based in 24 tone scales!
Image

Microtonal music is something I am kind of fascinated by, I've been listening to a lot of Persian but mainly Middle Eastern (Lebanese, Egyptian etc) oud music which uses a 24 tone scale.

The Warmoth replacement neck idea is a very good one, but I forgot to mention that it'd be for acoustic guitar where the prospect of a replacement neck isn't really viable...

Thanks for the info on the possible costs. Right now £300 is money not in my pocket but if I do at sometime I may enquire again for your info regarding fret divisions?

Have you ever built or played a microtonal/non 12 EDO guitar ZG?

Thanks again for the reply...
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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby Random Guitarist » Thu Apr 05, 2012 5:26 pm

If you're doing it on the cheap do you need a new fretboard? Couldn't you remove the frets, fill in the gaps and then cut slots for the new fret positions? That would probably be quicker and cheaper.

(I once made a fretless bass for myself by taking an old neck, removing the frets, and filling the slits with Isopon car body filler. Gave me a handy visual reference for fingering as well, 'cos I'm not very good a fretless bass.)
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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby caveman82 » Thu Apr 05, 2012 6:33 pm

Rhinotime, good suggestion. I hadn't thought of that putting different frets in. Would be something a little too difficult to do?

I did briefly think of turning my classical guitar into a fretless one (to the same procedure which you did) and possibly adding light markers or something down the frets (for half tones) but I am a bit of a idiot when it comes to anything which requires tools!
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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby zenguitar » Thu Apr 05, 2012 7:09 pm

Thanks caveman

And I did consider your suggestion rhino man, I've done some fretless guitar conversions in the past using a similar technique. I would remove the frets and fill the slots with matching or contrasting wood strips depending on whether the customer wanted a lined or unlined fretless. But if you intend to refret to non-standard divisions you need to make sure that you sand all the previous wear from the surface. But certainly doable.

I've briefly played a couple of microtonal instruments, but not for long enough to form any worthwhile opinions. So far I've not built any, but I have been making plans for a while. Just waiting until I get back in a decent workshop.

First on the list is a 24 division equal tempered guitar, quarter-tones rather than semi-tones. The plan is to use fat fretwire for the 'normal' frets and skinny fretwire for the quarter-tones in between. Equal tempered scales are incredibly simple to produce, the frets run the full width of the fretboard so you can easily cut the fretslots with a saw.

Non equal tempered scales are a lot harder. And that gives me doubts about the Sid Poole replica in your pic. An octave has 1200 cents. Twelve intervals of 100 cents in a equal tempered 12 note octave, 17 intervals of 70.588 cents for an equal tempered 17 note octave, and so on. Well tempered instruments have unequal intervals, which 'spreads' or 'narrows' the distance between frets compared to equal temperament. So that explains the uneven gaps between frets in the guitar in your pic. HOWEVER, although the pattern within the scale is constant, it starts at a different point in the pattern depending on the starting note, so for each string the frets are located in different positions. It shouldn't have the frets running the full width of the fretboard like that.

As an example, the other guitar I am planning is one using the Werkmeister III tuning which is better known as the tuning used by Bach for The Well Tempered Klavier. In this tuning the octave is still divided into 12 divisions, but it uses a total of 4 different size semitones. The semitones are always in the same sequence, but on each string it starts at a different point so the only time the individual string fret locations fall in line is at the octaves.

I have to go out for the evening and I don't have my notes and research to hand, but I have written a spreadsheet that calculates fret locations for Werkmeister III and it is a LOT more complicates. So perhaps later I can do some research into the tuning Sid Poole used and devise a more accurate fret board for it.

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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby DaveFry » Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:32 am

There is a demo of a microtonal acoustic at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYK_PF9WTRE

Each fret of each string is movable , so you can make your own tunings .
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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby caveman82 » Fri Apr 06, 2012 11:04 am

Thanks Andy/Yoda of all things guitar related.

zenguitar wrote:
I've briefly played a couple of microtonal instruments, but not for long enough to form any worthwhile opinions. So far I've not built any, but I have been making plans for a while. Just waiting until I get back in a decent workshop.
I hope you are able to get back to a decent workshop at sometime and if you ever do get around to making a microtonal acoustic guitar and need a beta tester I'd be more than happy to volunteer my services.

zenguitar wrote:
First on the list is a 24 division equal tempered guitar, quarter-tones rather than semi-tones. The plan is to use fat fretwire for the 'normal' frets and skinny fretwire for the quarter-tones in between. Equal tempered scales are incredibly simple to produce, the frets run the full width of the fretboard so you can easily cut the fretslots with a saw.
I was following it here just about... but get lost further on...

zenguitar wrote:
Non equal tempered scales are a lot harder. And that gives me doubts about the Sid Poole replica in your pic. An octave has 1200 cents. Twelve intervals of 100 cents in a equal tempered 12 note octave, 17 intervals of 70.588 cents for an equal tempered 17 note octave, and so on. Well tempered instruments have unequal intervals, which 'spreads' or 'narrows' the distance between frets compared to equal temperament. So that explains the uneven gaps between frets in the guitar in your pic. HOWEVER, although the pattern within the scale is constant, it starts at a different point in the pattern depending on the starting note, so for each string the frets are located in different positions. It shouldn't have the frets running the full width of the fretboard like that.

I got totally lost here when it came to the technical aspects.

I found a picture of Rod Poole's (not Sid Poole) guitar and it is definitely have frets in non equal intervals, ie the frets are to a particular scale which makes me think it's along the lines of having the frets alined like a saz (Turkish instrument)
Image

And I got this picture from wikipedia
Image

Have you ever heard any music by Rod Poole? I am of the belief he is one of the most fantastic minds to approach the acoustic guitar. English chap from Oxford who lived in America for a few years before he was murdered. Unfortunately, there's almost none of his music in print anymore or online

I found this which has a clip of a unreleased album of his which is pretty the only music of his online. I'd be fascinated to find out your thoughts regarding it if you have the opportunity to listen to it...

http://waxidermy.com/rod-poole-for-bag-for-derek/

****

Also one more thing Andy, seeing that you're in Devon have you ever played a Brook (who are Devon based) guitar/been to their workshops? I've been playing a few of their guitars now and again (Ivor Mairants in London) and they make some truly outstanding guitars. I played a Maple Baritone which almost had in tears to leave behind. I was wondering your thoughts on them if you had played one by chance....
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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby caveman82 » Fri Apr 06, 2012 11:06 am

DaveFry wrote:There is a demo of a microtonal acoustic at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYK_PF9WTRE

Each fret of each string is movable , so you can make your own tunings .

I have seen that before. A crazy/insane/amazing solution. The bits when he gets out a hammer to chisel the frets along are quite something...

His playing though is out of the world though...
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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby Guest » Fri Apr 06, 2012 11:41 am

Very interesting thread. Oddly, i managed to lift the fretboard off a PBass copy a couple of weeks ago when the rod nut slipped. Managed to get the old board off in one piece and have been getting tools together etc to re-fit the board which is rosewood onto a maple neck.

I've never done this before and wondered what is the best bet for glue? I've read Elmer's capenters glue (but never seen that here in the UK) and i've seen suggestions for other glues, but all US trade names.

Anything easily available from Homebase or Dyas do the trick?

Good luck with the project, btw. Sorry if i hijacked the thread but thought it was a good place to ask.
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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby zenguitar » Fri Apr 06, 2012 1:13 pm

Isn't that typical ow, fretboards people want to remove need lots of work and ones that you don't want to remove pop off easily!!

Anyway, to reglue your fretboard you don't need anything exotic. A good quality white wood glue will be just fine. I regularly use Hunbrol Wood glue if you would like the reassurance of a named recommendation.

Just remove all the old glue carefully, it's worth using a Stanley Knife blade as a scraper for that (just hold it at 90 degrees to the wood you are scraping and take care with your fingers), and don't use too much glue. Just spread a thin layer of glue over one surface and use lots of clamps. Just take care to make sure it doesn't slip when you clamp it, so take take your time lining it all up and keep checking as you tighten the clamps.

Good Luck

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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby zenguitar » Fri Apr 06, 2012 2:11 pm

Oops!! I was thinking Poole and must have been reminded of Sid Poole who was a fine UK luthier who died a few years ago.

Anyway, Rod Poole's guitar does appear to have a lot in common with the saz. A lot of traditional/folk instruments have similar style fretting, you can see much the same on the Appalachian Dulcimer. There is a relationship between the tuning and the location of the frets, tunings tend to be chordal or modal and some possible frets are omitted. So the non-proportional gaps between frets is partly due to that and partly due to a sweetened intonation.

Basically, the missing frets allow the player to avoid notes that would be very out of tune on some strings.

But I have been doing some research, and have come across a very technical pdf (here if you want to read something scary!!) and I am beginning to get my head around how the scale is constructed. But really only just beginning, this stuff can get very complicated.

Essentially, the 17 tone scale is a Pythagorean scale, which is a posh way of saying it is constructed from ratios. Safi al-din Abd al-mu’min Urmavi constructed the scale from a sequence of perfect 5ths. This scale turns out to be a subset of a Pythagorean 24 tone scale. And in turn, that is a very close approximation to a subset of a 53 division equal temperament scale.

OK, I know that is all complicated, and it would take me a lot of study to really get my head around it. And even then I doubt I could explain it really clearly. But there is a practical benefit, honestly !!!

My spreadsheet can already calculate a 53 division equal temperament scale. So from that it would be possible to work out which 17 of the 53 are required to make a very accurate fretboard for that scale.

Once you move away from 12 division equal temperament western scales things start to get very interesting, and complicated. If it's any consolation, I found a table of different known notes in an octave once. It was described as incomplete and already contained over 800 different notes existing in known current and historical scales.

I've got some work to do, so I hope your brain isn't as fried as mine now. And yes, I did visit the Brook factory some time ago, when it was still A B Manson. And visited Andy's workshops in the past too. Excellent instruments in my view

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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby Guest » Fri Apr 06, 2012 4:15 pm

Many thanks Zen Andy.
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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby caveman82 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 9:43 am

Thanks for the reply ZenG

zenguitar wrote:
Essentially, the 17 tone scale is a Pythagorean scale, which is a posh way of saying it is constructed from ratios. Safi al-din Abd al-mu’min Urmavi constructed the scale from a sequence of perfect 5ths. This scale turns out to be a subset of a Pythagorean 24 tone scale. And in turn, that is a very close approximation to a subset of a 53 division equal temperament scale.

That part makes sense, I came across this and I think I read the word 'Pythagoras' at some other time. The sentence above is fascinating though, made me appreciate the context of mathematics in a lot of 'Eastern' (ranging from Persia to the Maqams and India; the impact of Persian empire) music anyway.

http://wilsonarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/scale-for-rod-poole.html

*****

*Pew*

Which is the sound of my head exploding when I read the rest of your reply.

Also 800 notes in a scale! Crikey, that is amazing.

Thanks for your great replies though Andy. I've learnt a huge amount from them...

***
I've heard Manson's guitars are superb, never had a chance to try one though. I love Brook's guitars though, played quite a few. They use some English tonewoods now and again which is quite a nice change.
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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby zenguitar » Sat Apr 07, 2012 12:11 pm

It's a real pleasure caveman, I've also learned a lot in the process of researching the details. That link was very interesting too, looks like I'll need to make time to explore the blog in more detail It's been a while since I've looked at non-standard tunings in such depth.

And don't worry, it wasn't over 800 notes in a single scale. It was the number of distinct pitches across a broad range of current and historical scales and temperaments.

You might be interested in this resource. It's a link to a very good book on The Mathematics of Music. And the author makes it available free to download as a pdf.

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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby Music Wolf » Sat Apr 07, 2012 12:52 pm

Another good read for those who like to combine music with mathematics Measured Tones. I enjoyed it.
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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby zenguitar » Sat Apr 07, 2012 2:54 pm

Thanks Music Wolf, looks like I need to start saving

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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby Guest » Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:44 pm

Just popped in to mention that my PBass repair was a success. Had to do some prett radical surgery on the neck which included making a stop out of an old jack plug casing, a plate out of an old hinge (to hold down and give the top of the rod somethng to bite on) and some stanley knife and chisel action on the neck and back of the fingerboard (to facilitate this new retaining plate) But the fingerboard went on a treat and the patient is now up and walking.

btw, I made a sandwich of polystyrene stuck to timber for the clamping and discovered how to shape and sand polystyrene after it's been rough cut - with another piece of polystyrene!

Hah!

Thanks again Zen.
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Re: Changing a Fretboard

Postby zenguitar » Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:10 pm

WOW, sounds like a real challenge ow...

But as it all worked out, all I can say is a big WELL DONE 10/10 for effort and application

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