INTRODUCTION » FRETBOARD REMOVAL       « Previous Next » 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
by David P. Wescott

My wife, the Luthier

Creation of the "Model" that should've been....


Ok, well I got this abortion Charvel Model 6 from Keith (axtogrind). Keith did not do this to this guitar, he got it this way and it's going to need a lot of help! I have an idea all picked out for this one and the first step was to remove the frets and the fretboard with a few tools and a household iron with steam. Please don't cringe at the idea of me doing this to a Model 6 as this one was brutally abused.

As most of you know I'm very busy in the shop lately so in order to get any projects of mine done, my wife Lisa, is going to have to pitch in. I was able to snap a few shots as she worked.

A few before shots


Click on image to see back side


The veneer was already on the face of the headstock when I received it, it might be removed but it'll be left alone for now.


Pretty rough here but it will all be hidden.

  • Charvel Model 6


Fret removal

First she had to remove the frets by tapping them out with a small chisel and mallet. This was fairly easy since the binding was already removed.

guitar fret removal refret

Notice how Lisa is choking up on the mallet. It doesn't take much force at all to tap the frets out of their slots.
Lisa: Would you take the damn picture already?!?!"

  • Charvel guitar
  • Charvel guitar

Fretboard removal

After the frets were removed, she started at the body end of the fretboard since it would be easier to hide any initial screw ups there. Lisa rested the iron right on top of the fretboard for a good 5 minutes with the steam setting on high to let the steam from the iron "soak" into the wood. I use the term "soak" very loosely as it's not really wetting the wood to much at all.

fretboard fingerboard removal

After a bit, she pushed in a razor blade right between the fretboard and the neck wood, into the actual glue joint as you can see.

It's amazing how easily the razor just slid right in when the glue is warmed up. After she got the razor buried into the end of the fretboard, she started a more sturdier bladed knife on top of the razor and under the fretboard.

guitar fingerboard

The key thing to remember was that we could care less about the fretboard and we wanted to keep the neck wood a solid as possible.


Splitting wood

The knife in the picture actually didn't work very well because it wasn't "splitting" the woods, it was "spreading" them which would have led to a break on the fretboard which we didn't want because it would have been a pain in the ass to start the procedure again with fragmented wood splinters. It also didn't let the iron sit flat on the fretboard to transfer the heat as well so she switched to a putty knife that I sharpened on one side for her.

steam iron guitar fretboard removal

She slowly worked her way down the fretboard, letting the iron sit and warm up each section of glue and then splitting it a little more on the way.

  • Charvel guitar
  • Charvel guitar
guitar glue neck fingerboard

Just about done!

  • Charvel guitar
  • Charvel guitar
guitar fretboard

All done! Nice and clean and only minimal sanding will be needed. If you notice the stuff hanging off the fretboard in the background, it's the glue from the previous binding, not wood from the neck!

Here's a couple of more detailed shots of the process. Notice the picture with the green arrows pointing to the underside of the fretboard; the darker areas just visible, show the "increments" that she moved with the putty knife.

Hope you enjoyed that, I'm very proud of her!

  • Charvel guitar
  • Charvel guitar
  • Charvel guitar
  • Charvel guitar

Pause for questions...


So what is the plan with the fretboard? It may sound like a dumb question, but can it be straightened and reused? Or are you gonna lay a new one? Maple?

I guess we're going to have to wait and see now won't we? I will say that the old board is history as it was pretty screwed up when I received it. The inlays will be salvaged but not necessarily for this project

It took about 45 minutes from the moment she plugged in the iron till the last of the fretboard popped off. As for training, this is Lisa's first real project like this so she's basically learning as well! I've been a bit of a woodworker (yeah, go ahead and laugh) for awhile now and I know enough to be "dangerous". What better way to learn?


INTRODUCTION » FRETBOARD REMOVAL       « Previous Next » 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
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