Carve neck before or after fretting?

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Brian Evans
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Location: Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia

Carve neck before or after fretting?

Post by Brian Evans »

Do you carve the neck before or after you install the frets? It's an archtop with a neck extension under the fretboard, so it's fully supported and the fretboard is glued to the neck and fully prepped for fretting. I can't remember how I did it before, and I can't think of why it would matter one way or the other. I am also thinking of installing the frets before I bind the fretboard. I always did the binding first and then the frets, so the bead hung over the binding. My 1946 Epiphone clearly has the frets NOT installed over the binding (single .060" binding, no purfling) and the binding is very neatly tapered and rounded onto the edge of the fretboard. Feels very good in the hand.

Thanks, Brian

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Barry Daniels
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Re: Carve neck before or after fretting?

Post by Barry Daniels »

I have done it both ways, regarding carving. I don't think there is any downside to either approach.

As to the binding I have always done binding first for two reasons. It is easier to level the binding with the fretboard without the frets in the way. And it also maximizes the fret length so you have a bit more space between the strings. I have even changed to a more acute fret bevel angle for the same reason.
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Jared Burrows
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Re: Carve neck before or after fretting?

Post by Jared Burrows »

I agree with Barry.. Carving before or after makes little difference. In my own order of operations, the frets go in before the carving for two reasons: 1. I feel the frets protect the fingerboard from little bumps and bruises that might come along in the carving.
2. It gives me a chance to feel exactly how the "roundover" on the fingerboard edge will feel and to integrate that into the carving process. The feel of the fingerboard edge and a smooth roll into the neck carve is very important to me and players notice it right away as a positive thing in my experience.

I'm having a hard time imagining how one would bind a FB after fretting unless you already had the binding rabbet cut. The fret ends would get in the way of just about everything. Routing close to all those little metal points seems especially risky even if you could figure out how to do. If you mean cutting all the frets .060" short of the edge in order to allow for binding, that seems like quite a lot of fret length to give up. as Barry points out. As a player I would not like that very much. Maybe I'm misunderstanding the question. I bet the binding on your old Epi was installed first and that the frets were just cut unusually short either in the original manufacturing or on a subsequent refret. Some Les Pauls had the binding butt up against the fret ends and the binding cut away between the frets such that there is a little nub of binding on the end of each fret. Some contemporary luthiers have continued this practice for cosmetic reasons, but I really don't like that as in time the binding shrinks and leaves a nasty little gap that catches the string. It seems like a real design flaw to me. Of course lots of Les Paul players might disagree..... In any case, maybe the Epi had that going on at some point and someone removed all the end bits?

Brian Evans
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Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2014 8:26 am
Location: Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia

Re: Carve neck before or after fretting?

Post by Brian Evans »

Thanks for the feedback, I believe I will fret first and carve after. As it happens I decided to bind the fretboard first, but I still think New York Epi's had the binding installed after the frets, I've seen a picture of that from their factory, and other Epi experts agree. It's quite unusual now to have a pre-1954 Epi with original frets, so the evidence is kind of rare... I "think" mine has original frets, but for sure they do not overlap the original binding, which is tapered and rolled into the fretboard, very comfortable to play. It's perhaps a mystery of very little import... :)

Jared Burrows
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Re: Carve neck before or after fretting?

Post by Jared Burrows »

I'm certainly no expert on Epis. That was just speculation on my part. There are lots of ways to do just about everything in this game and we all find ways that suit us best in the end. Good luck with it.

Darrel Friesen
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Re: Carve neck before or after fretting?

Post by Darrel Friesen »

My first guitar was an archtop using Benedettos book. I fret the board before attaching and then carving the neck. It's worked well for me for archtops and flat tops.

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