Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

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Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

Postby Steve Sawyer » Mon May 21, 2018 5:33 pm

On my last build, I used liquid hide glue to attach the fretboard. I've since learned that the urea added to HHG to make it liquid at room temperature kinda defeats some of the purpose of using hide glue in the first place. I'm wondering if fish glue is suitable for affixing fretboards and setting necks? I have used HHG on other projects, but to be honest, I find it very difficult to work with as you have to work fast - REALLY fast - to keep it from setting up before you get everything fully assembled and clamped. I'd really rather use fish glue, epoxy or anything else that can be used in a liquid form than HHG.

The other question I have is the fret-binding "interface". Making the frets flush with the edge of the board and carving "humps" into the binding to cover the fret-ends, OR cutting the fret tangs and having the fret ends overlap the binding. Beyond the ease of accomplishing each method, are there other practical reasons why one technique is better than the other, or is it simply a matter of aesthetics and the preference of the builder?

Thanks!
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Re: Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

Postby Christ Kacoyannakis » Mon May 21, 2018 7:20 pm

I think using fish glue would be similar to using HHG. Some builders prefer to use epoxy to glue on the fretboard, to avoid introducing water (which is in both fish glue and HHG) onto the fretboard and neck.

Now, as far as the fret ends, my feeling (and this is only my opinion) is that Gibson's method of installing the frets flush to the board and then cutting the binding into "nibs" to extend the fretting surface to the edge of the binding was purely to save time and money. The way they do it allows you to use machines to flush the fret ends and then cut the nibs into the binding with a flush cutting router bit. I also don't think it looks very good.

If you cut the fret tangs and allow the fret bead to extend over the binding, it will involve more hand work to snip and file the fret tangs and then make sure you fit the other end so the tang fits between the bindings. I think this is more professional and probably plays better. The binding is soft compared to the fret bead and if the binding or frets shrink at all, a small gap could appear between the fret and nib.

It is more accurate if you are refretting a guitar that was originally made this way, but I don't think that any professional guitar builder would do it this way, unless they were doing a Gibson replica. Just my opinion, and I am sure other will weigh in.
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Re: Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

Postby Bob Gramann » Mon May 21, 2018 9:07 pm

I use hot hide glue for about any joint that I can. I particularly like it for attaching the freboard. It allows the fretboard to be removed if necessary and it doesn’t creep (allowing a perceptible edge when the weather changes) like a PVA glue. I solve the working speed problem by heating both the fingerboard and the neck before the gluing operation. The moisture in the hide glue can cause a neck back bow problem. Sometimes I don’t worry about it and just correct with the double acting truss rod. Sometimes, I try to clamp a bit of relief into it while I’m gluing.

The really fast part for the hot hide glue can be easily fixed with preheating of the parts. Beyond that hassle, I find it the most friendly glue of all and use it almost everywhere. I use the LMI yellow glue for the joints on the rim (it is somewhat flexible—the linings won’t pop loose if I bump the rim before the top and back are on), for the scarf joint in the neck, and for the tail inlay. For other inlays, I usually use CA. Other than that, it’s HHG.

I have tried epoxy for the neck to fingerboard joint. It works. It will release with sufficient heat, but cleanup is a hassle. I don’t like the fumes. And, some epoxies will creep exposing an edge with weather changes. I never got smart on which ones didn’t creep, but every one I tried, did creep. It has no place in my shop.
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Re: Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

Postby Barry Daniels » Mon May 21, 2018 9:26 pm

I use a lot of epoxy and my fretboards always get glued with it along with a lot of other parts. Some hints are having an electronic scale that reads down to one hundredth of a gram. I can make very small batches and the mix is always right. Cleanup is not to bad if you wear nitrile gloves and have paper towels and mineral spirits handy. I also often use masking tape to control squeeze out on necks. I make gutters with folded tape that surrounds the fretboard. Give the joint a few minutes to produce most of the squeeze out and then carefully pull the tape off with the epoxy and throw it away.

I have had no creep with West Systems epoxy. It cures hard like HHG.
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Re: Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

Postby Bob Gramann » Mon May 21, 2018 10:43 pm

My problem with epoxy cleanup is after I disassemble a joint in the course of a repair. The hardened epoxy is very hard to remove without removing wood. The last epoxy I used on guitars was the Smith’s All Wood—it may be good in some applications, but I was very unhappy with it for guitar necks. I did not measure as precisely as you and that may be part of the problem (but I was making a fairly large batch and following the manufacturer instructions). Before that, I used various hardware stoe epoxies. As you might expect, the results were not consistently good. I haven’t had the need to further experiment and develop an epoxy method that works. I may consult you if I ever have to go there.

I have used one of the West System products for whitewater boat repair, but that one was designed to be flexible. It worked well in that application.
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Re: Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Tue May 22, 2018 1:25 am

I have used Titebond on every neck I have ever built, with no problems to date. I clamp it flat, and in every direction while the glue dries.
I have had a bit of backbow on most necks, but I also use double action truss rods, so it adjusts to straight quite easily.

There are a few different manufacturers of truss rods, so be careful and ask a lot of questions before you buy. The truss rod is one place you don't want to go cheap.
I like the rods from LMII. They install in a 1/4 inch wide x 3/8 deep channel, so no special bits are needed.

As to your fretting question. Cutting binding around every fret is a real chore. I have only had to repair 2 guitars that were fretted that way, and I do not want to do another.
In my opinion it is easier to cut the fret tang a bit shorter and go over the binding.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

Postby Steve Sawyer » Tue May 22, 2018 10:18 am

Thanks - but other than Christ, does anyone have an opinion on fish gkue? It would seem to offer many advantages of HHG without need to heat the parts as suggested.
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Re: Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

Postby Bob Gramann » Tue May 22, 2018 10:48 am

I have some fish glue and have played with it a bit. It’s very easy to use. But, because of anecdotal reports of it failing in high humidity environments, I have shied away from using it on anything structural on a instrument that I plan to sell. I have also heard anecdotal reports of fish glue surviving high humidity environments. I haven’t taken the time to make experimental joints and test them in different environments because HHG has served me so well. This came up as the first hit in a search for fish glue and humidity: https://journeymansjournel.wordpress.co ... hide-glue/ Based on that, you may want to go for it.
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Re: Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

Postby Steve Sawyer » Tue May 22, 2018 11:59 am

Thanks for that link, Bob. VERY interesting. If the sole (and by no means certain) concern is humid environments, then I might give it a try. This guitar is for my personal use, and while we get our share of humid days in Michigan, in general, it isn't an issue. I also have good climate control so that exposure to humidity in excess of 55% will be rare and transient.

As to the fretting with binding, I have to admit that doing the nibs is much easier with the right technique, but I find Chist's observation that "I don't think that any professional guitar builder would do it this way" is compelling! :)

One question on that though, how much of the binding should the fret cover? I assume the fret end should extend almost all the way to the edge of the neck. Tried to find some pics on here for guidance, but came up empty...
Last edited by Steve Sawyer on Tue May 22, 2018 12:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

Postby Brian Evans » Tue May 22, 2018 12:15 pm

OP was using room temperature liquid hide glue, which I haven't heard many raves about. Benedetto uses Titebond or equivalent, as do I, for all wood joints. Epoxy is designed to be best with a gap, so very tight clamping can starve the joint. You can kill the bond of epoxy with a very hot knife, almost hot enough to char wood, so that is a way to take it apart. I think offering magical qualities to different glues on joints as mechanical as a fretboard, binding, a dovetail neck joint, is a bit of a stretch. I do think that in certain joints, like bracing on the top plate of a classical guitar, possibly a bridge, those joints directly involved in production of tone on a flat top, would benefit from hot hide glue. I have no personal experience of room temperature liquid fish glue to offer, sadly. As far as neck binding is concerned, I am experimenting with a vintage style of applying a very thin outer binding after the frets have been installed and trimmed, but I think the Gibson nibs technique is about the wrongest one. Les Paul would have brand new factory guitars re-fretted to get rid of the nibs before he would play them. Most hand builders are going to look for trimmed tangs and perfect fret finishing over exquisite binding, all the way to the edge of the binding as being the sign of quality.
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Re: Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

Postby Steve Sawyer » Tue May 22, 2018 12:20 pm

Brian Evans wrote:Most hand builders are going to look for trimmed tangs and perfect fret finishing over exquisite binding, all the way to the edge of the binding as being the sign of quality.


Thanks, Brian - that answers my addendum question. I'll hold your coat while I wait for others to respond to your glue observations! :)
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Re: Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

Postby Freeman Keller » Tue May 22, 2018 12:28 pm

I have only used Titebond for my f/b to neck joints and it has worked fine. I don't have the skills to do a big glueup like that with HHG, have heard that the liquid hide is not a good glue for lutherie and have no experience with fish or epoxy.

I do have a fair amount of experience with binding fretboards and fretting/refretting them. The idea of fretting a board, then binding it with plastic and cutting the plastic back to leave the little nibs was popular on some Gibsons and clones but it would be an absolute PITA to refret - that subject has been discussed at some length on other lutherie forums. I suppose if you are trying to make a vintage correct '59 burst you would do that but I can see no other reason.

Bind a f/b with wood or plastic isn't all that difficult - I slot and radius the board first, then glue the binding on being very careful not to get glue into the slots (I do carefully clean them and use a little piece of fret wire with the barbs filed off to make sure they are clean and deep enough). I cut the frets a bit long, clamp them to my workbench with a little holder and file the tang back

Image

Image

Since I press my frets in I have found it much easier to do it before gluing the board to the neck - others do it in different order. The board will take a slight back bow, that seems to clamp out when I glue it on. I do put a tiny drop of CA under the fret ends and I'm careful when dressing them not to pull them up.

I also know that refretting will be easy when it needs to be done.
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Re: Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

Postby Barry Daniels » Tue May 22, 2018 1:21 pm

The Stew-Mac fret nipper makes quick work of cutting the tang back.
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Re: Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

Postby Brian Evans » Tue May 22, 2018 3:35 pm

Barry, you can confirm that the fret nipper is a genuine tool and not a neat idea that falls short in execution? If so, I am placing an order in a few days and I will get one. I have decided to stall finishing an archtop I have in progress and go back a few steps. It's obvious to everyone that building a guitar is about 20% of the effort, the other 80 % starts when you are 90% done and is called "decorating and finishing". I am going to re-bind, re-purfle this guitar, and later I will make it a new neck with actual good binding, fret work, inlay work. I expect it will take me around 6 months to make that neck, but I have to gain the skills or quit the hobby in failure. I'm good enough to know my work isn't good enough... :)

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Re: Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

Postby Freeman Keller » Tue May 22, 2018 4:28 pm

(tried to delete my comment, forum software won't let me do it. please disregard)
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Re: Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

Postby Barry Daniels » Wed May 23, 2018 10:53 am

The nipper works great. Very clean and quick. Some folks report having to do a little bit of filing after nipping but my nipper cuts flush and no filing is necessary. Practice on some scrap fretwire until you are comfortable with it.

Brian, I applaud your efforts to reverse direction and improve some aspects of your guitar that is not up to standard. Keep at it. I feel that the neck of an archtop is more work than the body. I built about 36 archtop necks with full binding and bling for a builder that was handling the bodies. I took lots of time and refined my methods and jigs in an effort to make a near perfect neck. Just be patient and be willing to repeat work and you will get there.
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Re: Neck build Q's - frets and binding, and fish glue

Postby Steve Sawyer » Wed May 23, 2018 5:00 pm

I emailed StewMac asking about fish glue for fretboards and set necks, and got this reply from Aaron Smiley of their technical dept:

Thank you for contacting us. I would say that fish glue would work great for both of those applications! There are already plenty of guitars out in the world with fish glue used for those glue joints. (Taylor actually has guitars built entirely with fish glue) The main advantage being not only that the glue has a long working time, but also that it has a "tackiness" when it is still wet, which will help hold your parts together while clamping up. It is also re-activated with moisture, so the joint is removable if you had to do repair work later. I hope that helps!


So...based on the article that Bob Gramman pointed me to, and this, I think I'll probably give it a try.
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