Caviquinho Fretboard, part 1

July 7, 2011

Now that the neck is attached it is time to complete the fretboard. 

I used to make my own fretboards, starting by slicing the wood and scraping it to the right thickness and curvature, then carefully laying out the fret positions and sawing the fret slots with a hand saw.  I would spend the better part of a day making a single fretboard and invariably there would be small errors in the position of at least one or two fret slots.   The location of the fret slots is critical to the intonation of the instrument.  A mislocation of 0.010″ can have a very discernable effect on intonation, particularly at higher frequencies, and I am sure I was frequently off by at least that amount.  Whenever possible I now purchase fretboards already slotted.  The suppliers of these boards use CNC equipment for precise slotting and that gives me the best chance of producing an instrument with accurate intonation at all positions.  The cavaquinho has a 13.875″ scale length–the same as a mandolin.  For this instrument I am using an ebony fretboard.  My first operation is to taper the board to its final width, which will be slightly more than 1 1/8″ at the nut and 1 1/2″ at the 12th fret.  This instrument will not have any inlays on the surface of the fretboard, but there will be dots along the side for position markers.  The dots are installed by drilling 1/16″ diameter holes and gluing in a short piece of white plastic rod.  When the rod is sanded smooth it leaves the appearance of a side dot.

Next, I make sure that the gluing surfaces of the neck and fretboard are perfectly flat, then I glue the fretboard to the neck.  In this photo you can see a small nail in the first fret slot.  There are actually two nails–the other one is at about the 14th fret.  They are used to keep the fretboard aligned until the glue sets up.  

After the glue dries, I trim the end of the fretboard flush with the soundhole and sand out any minor imperfections in the surface of the board.

Fret installation is next.


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