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 Post subject: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2022 12:47 pm 
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I am getting ready to do some inlays on a maple neck and need some advice.
My plans are to do "shark fin" inlays out of Abalone sheet and inlay them as fret position markers.

The Abalone I bought is something from Craft Closet and it is in 9"X 5" sheets and it is very thin at 0.18"

I have done inlays before however I have never used anything this thin and was wondering if anyone has worked with this.

I know normally I would cut the recess, glue the inlay in leaving it a bit proud of the surface and then scrape the inlay to level it with the surface. But I know it can't be done with this thin of material so I am guessing I would have to use epoxy over the inlay and level the epoxy?


Any ideas the best way to do this would be appreciated.


Thanks,
Bob


Also,,, I don't have a glowforge lazer (that is what they recommend for cutting) so I will have to cut this by hand.

Any tips on cutting this?


Here is the link to the Abalone I purchased:


https://craftcloset.com/collections/abalone-shell-veneer/products/blue-sapphire-abalone


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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 9:35 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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.2mm is like .007 inch or 1/128th of an inch. That's seriously thin. I think you are just going to have to get really accurate with your rout depth. If you do cover it though I would suggest experimenting with Glu-Boost as it polishes out very clear.


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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 10:37 am 
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I ordered some, thanks for the link! I’ve been looking for a while for something that size that is affordable. The product sheet says it’s .018 so definitely thin but for my purposes that will work to my advantage. I’ll share results once I’m done but may be too late for you.

I would echo John’s comment about gluboost. I’ve used it in a similar way when I had purfling that was inconsistent height. Rather than trying to dig the binding down to match I just filled the small cavity with gluboost finishing CA. It was not noticeable once under a final finish.

Maybe rout your pockets to like .020 and flood it with CA. Should be fine (famous last words).

Slightly off topic question - the sheet comes with an optional 3M double stick backer. Maybe you could use that as well, deepening the pockets to match the thickness of the film. However, and here’s my question, would CA or accelerator do anything weird to the film to cause it to release? My thought is that if these thin pieces aren’t stuck down that when flooding with CA they could float up to the top?


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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 11:29 am 
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Thanks for replying,

Yes this is very thin and that is why I was asking if anyone had tried to use it. It is real abalone and is quite fragile but you would never know by looking at the show side.

I have had it a couple of days now so I have had time to think about how to use it and I am currently thinking of is to pour epoxy on both sides of this. That will give it more thickness so I can route out my channels and install it like you would anything else. The issue may be the edge where you will see the edge of the route.

I have to experiment with it but I think that may be my best option if I want to use this.

My only concern is that I am doing this for fretboard markers on a bass guitar and how the epoxy would wear over time.

I have yet to commit to this idea so I am open to any ideas you may have.

@bcombs510, Be careful wen opening the plastic bag it comes in. I tried to pick at the tape to open it up and broke a piece of it off. The one great thing about this is it can be cut with an Exact-o knife or scissors (they recommend putting painters tape over it when you cut it)

Thanks again
Bob



These users thanked the author RusRob for the post: bcombs510 (Tue Dec 06, 2022 11:56 am)
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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 12:09 pm 
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This shell is no use as inlays on a guitar, it is almost transparent. It is used for a Japanese technique called raden where it is stuck to a background of coloured lacquer then coated in several layers of clear lacquer to bring up the levels. If you use it, even with a backing, you will still have a very thin layer of shell which will be so easy to sand through when trying to level sand. Also if used on a fingerboard it wont be up to the wear and tear. How do I know? Because I did the same as you! Don't use it on the guitar, it is a world of frustration. Here is a link to raden. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=784dTp-6VBQ



These users thanked the author Bob Orr for the post: bcombs510 (Tue Dec 06, 2022 1:22 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 12:18 pm 
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Yeah and anyone who replanes and refrets that bass in the future is going to curse you :)



These users thanked the author jfmckenna for the post: bcombs510 (Tue Dec 06, 2022 1:22 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 12:52 pm 
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Bob Orr wrote:
This shell is no use as inlays on a guitar, it is almost transparent. It is used for a Japanese technique called raden where it is stuck to a background of coloured lacquer then coated in several layers of clear lacquer to bring up the levels. If you use it, even with a backing, you will still have a very thin layer of shell which will be so easy to sand through when trying to level sand. Also if used on a fingerboard it wont be up to the wear and tear. How do I know? Because I did the same as you! Don't use it on the guitar, it is a world of frustration. Here is a link to raden. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=784dTp-6VBQ



jfmckenna wrote:
Yeah and anyone who replanes and refrets that bass in the future is going to curse you :)



That is what I thought when I first opened the package and saw how thin it actually is. Which got me thinking about layering it in epoxy.

I don't usually experiment on anything that matters and try to stick to tired and tested methods... However the idea I have for this bass is that the body is going to be custom painted in blues and green and I wanted fret markers to match. If you clicked on the link you would see that they offer this material in a number of different colors so that is what attracted me to this.

I am going to try and encase it in epoxy and see if it can be used as a regular inlay but I don't have a lot of confidence it will look right or the epoxy will be tough enough for a fretboard.

I wish I could get solid abalone in that deep blue because that fits perfectly with the idea I have for this bass.


Thanks for the info guys,

Cheers,
Bob



These users thanked the author RusRob for the post: bcombs510 (Tue Dec 06, 2022 1:22 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 1:14 pm 
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Stated above,, and I 2nd - glue it to a backing piece before you cut. The wood you use as backing will impact the final color if its that thin, which may be a.good thing.



These users thanked the author Aaron O for the post: bcombs510 (Tue Dec 06, 2022 1:22 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 1:26 pm 
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Thanks for sharing the video, Bob. That’s cool to see.

At least for my purposes, I think it will work perfectly. I’m planning to use it as an accent for a larger inlay which will be on the back of the guitar. I will post some pics of a test piece. I bought two sheets just for that purpose. ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 3:06 pm 
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I do a good bit of inlay and was trained by David Nichols
Assuming you meant .018 thickness this is way too thin and I recommend use at least .050 you will sand through that very easily and in the end , the investment of time is worth using the proper material
In the end you want a good inlay and please reconsider. I use .050 and .0625 sheets it is a lot more forgiving and will last and look good.

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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 3:56 pm 
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bluescreek wrote:
I do a good bit of inlay and was trained by David Nichols
Assuming you meant .018 thickness this is way too thin and I recommend use at least .050 you will sand through that very easily and in the end , the investment of time is worth using the proper material
In the end you want a good inlay and please reconsider. I use .050 and .0625 sheets it is a lot more forgiving and will last and look good.


John,
Thanks for the info, I just finished routing out a channel and embedded the shell into a piece of scrap. I will let it cure for a day and see how it looks after I level the epoxy.

But I don't have much hope this will work as I want it to since the epoxy won't be a very hard finish. I will post a picture of how this test looks when I level it.
I may have to change my plans for having blue fret markers.


Where do you order your shell from?


Thanks,
Bob


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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 4:11 pm 
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As Bob mentioned the inlay is meant to be applied to the surface rather than inlayed into a pocket, and that is how I would use it. I would glue the fret markers in position on a sanded and ready for finish fingerboard and then brush or spray polyester top coat to bring the finish up to the same level as the shell. 0.018 is thick for a finish on a guitar body, but on a maple neck should be O.K.
Installing frets in a finished neck might be tricky, so I would build most of the finish, install the frets, then do the last coat or two of finish.
I would also test on scrap first to see if this is a practical way to work. pizza


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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 4:52 pm 
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I thought he meant .018 too till I looked at it and it's in millimeters. .18mm is even THINNER than .018in.

West system does dry pretty hard. I'm not gonna say glass hard but it is pretty hard. Bass strings are tough and abrasive though. It's hard to say how it would hold up. Use jumbo frets ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 6:37 pm 
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Hi JF,
I assumed it was less than a half of a millimeter which would translate to 7 to 14 mils finish which might be a bit thick for a guitar body, but not unreasonable for polyester on a maple fingerboard. If they meant to say 0.018 inches/.4mm it still comes in at less than half a millimeter (0.018"=.45mm) so it would still be possible to surface mount the abalone and bring the surface of the finish flush to it. Most likely you would lose 4 or 5 mils leveling the finish anyway.


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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 7:21 pm 
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Interesting. I took the site to read that the thickness was 0.018” / .4mm (which is technically 0.015”). I was thinking it was just a confusing way to show two measurements.

Well anyway, I think it will work fine for me, but yeah at that thickness making fret markers might be tough sledding.


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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 7:30 pm 
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OK, So I did a very quick test and routed about 1/32" channel in a scrap of Maple.

Put Painters tape on the top of the shell which I had drawn a small triangle on. I used and X-acto blade and scored the shell about 3 times lightly and cut the triangle out.
I then mixed up some epoxy, spread it in the routed out channel and placed the shell in the hole. I filled the rest of the route with epoxy making sure the shell stayed at the bottom.
Let it cure for a couple of hours, scraped the excess off and then sanded it even with the wood.
Sprayed a few coats of lacquer over it sanding between coats. And quickly buffed it out.

I used a heat gun to set the epoxy and to flash off the lacquer.

Here are the results:


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These users thanked the author RusRob for the post: bcombs510 (Tue Dec 06, 2022 7:44 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 7:44 pm 
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Bob can you confirm the thickness of the sheet you already received?


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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 7:45 pm 
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My first thought on this as I was doing it was if I ever had to repair the fretboard the only way to repair this would be to route them out and start over. I don't think you would ever get this out of the fretboard in one piece.

I have repaired a few fret markers in the past and it has been pretty straight forward because you can carefully pull the markers out, or break them out and replace them. But they are serviceable to a degree.


After playing around with this I don't think I will use it for this neck but I will find other uses for it.


For anyone that wants to save a fair bit of money may want to give this a try for something other than a fretboard. The test I did was done very quickly and not as accurate as I would normally do and you can see it at the edges so I am sure you can get this to look as good as thicker shell.

The one great thing about this is they say it is "sustainable" so you can use it without the guilt of destroying the ecology...


Hope this helps someone,

Cheers,
Bob



These users thanked the author RusRob for the post: bcombs510 (Tue Dec 06, 2022 7:55 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 7:50 pm 
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bcombs510 wrote:
Bob can you confirm the thickness of the sheet you already received?


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The piece I have varies from 0.014" to 0.009"

Cheers,
Bob



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 Post subject: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2022 11:37 am 
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The material you have is not intended for inlay, but rather lamination directly on an object. You really need full-thickness shell, at least 0.030”, better still 0.050 to 0.060” thick. You’ll need to cut it with a 0000 jeweller’s saw.

By “blue abalone” I presume you want Paua. This is readily available in the US as solid slabs from Andy Depaule: https://luthiersupply.com/paua-abalone-blanks.html

You can also source Paua a bit cheaper as a laminated sheet product known as “Abalam Paua”. Many suppliers, so Google is your friend.

If you’re outside the US, there are many other options, as shell generally crosses borders elsewhere without restrictions.

Good luck.


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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2022 12:13 pm 
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This still looks like an interesting material.
For those who have used Abalam I have a couple of questions - how thick is the "show" veneer? Has anyone used Abalam for fretboard inlay? I know this product is not Abalam, but is in some ways similar.
The product information linked to said the shell material was glued up from "feathers" - thin strips glued up to create the sheet of inlay material. I would be curious to know if gently heating the material would make the glue thermoplastic and allow it to be laminated to a curved substrate. One problem within inlaying large pieces of shell into a curved fingerboard is the possibility of sanding through the nacre. If it could be curved to conform to the fingerboard surface minimal sanding would be needed.


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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2022 2:53 pm 
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Clay S. wrote:
This still looks like an interesting material.
For those who have used Abalam I have a couple of questions - how thick is the "show" veneer? Has anyone used Abalam for fretboard inlay? I know this product is not Abalam, but is in some ways similar.
The product information linked to said the shell material was glued up from "feathers" - thin strips glued up to create the sheet of inlay material. I would be curious to know if gently heating the material would make the glue thermoplastic and allow it to be laminated to a curved substrate. One problem within inlaying large pieces of shell into a curved fingerboard is the possibility of sanding through the nacre. If it could be curved to conform to the fingerboard surface minimal sanding would be needed.


Clay, Yes, Heating it will allow you to bend it. I watched a video where they used the included 3M adhesive and a heat gun to bend it around a grip of bow (bow and arrow). I assumed he was breaking the shell as he burnished it down but he painted it over with epoxy. I tried to re-find that video but couldn't.

The material as is will easily bend enough to fit even a small radius fingerboard.


I think the results I got from my quick test proved to me that it can be used for fretboard inlays as long as you get enough epoxy over the shell to scrape and sand level with the fretboard surface. It does leave the very edges of the route visible but you have to look very close to pick it up.

My biggest issue about using this is the repair-ability but if that isn't an issue then it would work fine. The best thing about this stuff is you can cleanly cut it with a razor blade as long as you put painters tape on the show surface beforhand. (Painters tape will allow you to peel it off when you are ready to inlay.)

Cheers,
Bob


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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2022 3:33 pm 
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This might be a dumb idea so feel free to pile on, but could you laminate several peices to get a reasonable thickness then just level it as normal? You would sand through the layers unevenly and have “witness lines” but isn’t that kind of what abalone looks like anyway?

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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2022 4:41 pm 
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@Bryan Bear

The piece I have is has the back of it painted black but if I have seen similar material that does not have the black on it and it is somewhat transparent.

I would guess that your idea would work but not sure how it would look. It may not even show that you sand through layers since that is what this shell looks like to begin with. Who know it may be a new look altogether!

Cheers,
Bob


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 Post subject: Re: Fretboard Inlay Help
PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2022 7:22 pm 
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Just found a reference to knife scales,

This may be of interest to someone here.

https://beyondwoodproducts.bigcartel.com/product/glacier-shokres-turning-block

They have a huge selection but there are many others, just search "knife scale blanks"


Cheers,
Bob


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