Fretboard delaminated at headstock end. What to do, and 'how'?

Tom Dickinson

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While I've seen this in the past, in truth, not in recent years. Honestly, not in the past 2 or 3 decades! I thought it might be a thing of the past, but I guess there's just no accounting for myriad of possibilities when it comes to : Things that can go wrong!!

I recently acquired a 'MIK' Epi SG, in seemingly good condition, playable upon purchase, but with some 'grode' on either side of the neck around the 1st thru 4th frets. I gave the headstock a 'tweak' thinking this might have been a previous repair, and things seemed tight, so I completed my purchase. I was told the guitar had a problem with 'fretting out; up around the 13th to 16th fret, but I've managed to fix these kinds of issues pretty easily. It's amazing what you can do with a fret rocker and a small 'jewelers' hammer....the kind with the nylon striker on one side of the head, and brass on the other. (about $10 at Harbor Freight!)

Anyway, got the guitar home, pulled the strings so as to do a proper set-up, and found a few frets up and down the neck were high, so did some 'tapping', nothing excessive, but enough that what ever minimal amount of adhesive was used to 'fix' the fretboard delam in the past, it gave out and the first few inches are now coming loose. So, I need to fix this thing, and I'm just wondering what kinds of methods others might have used if having encountered this problem in the past. I did a search on this forum, as well as a few others and came up empty. Likewise, even a 'Google' search didn't produce any specific results. Everything kept coming up a 'loose fret' or 'fret buzz', etc. I found only one entry on a Telecaster site, talked about using epoxy and a small trowel made from a beer can to apply the stuff. It also gave some clamping suggestions, but nothing particularly specific or detailed. Honestly, that's my biggest concern. I don't want to disfigure my neck on the backside, nor the frets or fretboard when attempting to clamp the thing back together.

So, any help or suggestions here would be REALLY appreciated. As much as I'd like to fix this myself, I fear I may just lack the proper clamping devices such that it may just be a better thing to do to just take it to a qualified repair place. But, if not terribly difficult, I'll give it a try. I just don't want my attempt to render a 'professional' repair as no longer being possible. In other words, I don't want to butcher the thing!!! Many thanks!! Tom D.
 

Von Trapp

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I think some pics will help here but in the meantime, do I understand it correctly when I say that you want to glue back a part of the fretboard that has come loose? (actually before any useful advice can be given pics are a must because one needs to see all the factors involved)
 

Tom Dickinson

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Von Trapp, Yes, you understand correctly. Attached are 3 pics of the 'problem' area. The first, where the neck is set against the background of a towel, is showing the fretboard delam BEFORE I loosened up the truss rod. The second 2 pics are AFTER I loosened the truss rod.

I've done some more reseach and plan to take the guitar to a tech in about 2 hours to get his opinion. Or, if viable, it may just get left with him. Either way, it's gotta get fixed!!
 

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DrBGood

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OUCH !

Personally I wouldn't hesitate to glue it back. Protect the fretboard and the neck with other pieces of wood and clamp after inserting as much yellow wood glue as you can. Once clamped, clean excess glue with a damp rag. Wait 24 in a dry environment and VOILÀ ... fixed.

For the back of the neck, maybe a piece of rubber between neck and protecting wood piece.
 

donepearce

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Yes, definitely glue as the first choice. If you can get some kind of thin blade in there and remove as much of the old glue as possible it will stick better. PVA is not really intended for sticking to hardened PVA. But the strong curve of that fretboard bothers me some. If in the future it delaminates again because it is under so much stress you may have to get a new board fitted. But that is not for worrying about right now.
 

Go Nigel Go

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I agree with the above, definitely fix it, and you can try and do it yourself if you are careful. I would be sure and avoid things that are touted as "super strong" and "permanent". They often are what they claim to be, but for musical instruments you may need to be able to disassemble again at some point.

In this case for example, most luthiers would finish steaming this fret board off so they could look for any underlying conditions that may need to be corrected, then clean up the glue surfaces and reglue the entire fret board. It may seem like more work, but in the long run that is actually the easy route to a solid fix and has the highest probability of being successful ifor the long haul. If you use "gorilla glue" on the part of the board that is coming up, and the rest of the board continues to separate it may be impossible to remove the board easily at a future date for a more in depth repair. Just some food for thought.

Glue joints are 90% surface prep, and as noted above gluing back to "old glue" will most likely be weaker than the original joint that has failed.
 

Von Trapp

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Looks like a simple gluing matter, Titebond or some hide glue. As mentioned above, ideally one would like to see if it's possible to scrape some of the old glue away. One can bend it upwards pretty much if the rest of the glue still holds and use a knife and an emry board for instance. Then its just a matter of getting the glue in there and clamping. Doesn't look like a big deal to me.
 

Bad Penguin

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Clean what you can from between the bottom of the fretboard and the neck, use a thin brush with a bit of water on it, then use the same brush with Tite Bond, slavering it all over the place. Clamp as has been suggested with wood between the guitar and clamp and wipe away the excess. Leave it alone for 24 hours and you will have your guitar back to normal.
 

dkal24

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Good advice so far but that glued joint is failing which means the rest is not far behind. Pull the fretboard, clean the old glue off and reglue and clamp. It's a little more work but you will be better off better off.
 

ajory72

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Good advice so far but that glued joint is failing which means the rest is not far behind. Pull the fretboard, clean the old glue off and reglue and clamp. It's a little more work but you will be better off better off.
This is good advice if you are confident enough to perform it without making things worse, there are plenty of you tube vids around pulling fretboards… not sure how ‘into’ this guitar you are but perhaps a different fretboard might go on afterwards?

(This has me hankering to upgrade my Les Paul even further!)
 

Von Trapp

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Sounds like a good recipe for disaster.
It might, but it's not provided you're careful of course. I meant just enough to get an emery board and an exacto knife in there.
Good advice so far but that glued joint is failing which means the rest is not far behind. Pull the fretboard, clean the old glue off and reglue and clamp. It's a little more work but you will be better off better off.
If the fretboard is so badly glued all the way that it comes off when you lift it then yes but if you need to heat it to get it off the wood will warp into a slight U-shape which will make it harder to reattach. Also you may ruin the inlays and have to do those all over. Personally I would only remove it with heat if I was putting a new one on.
 

Go Nigel Go

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A lot of luthiers use a steam generator with a hose and a very thin wand to inject the steam under the fret board and directly on the glue joint without causing heat damage to the parts themselves... Of course most of us don't have such a nifty gadget at our disposal, so inserting something to spread the joint is about the only option. The home repairman has to use what is available. I would use a scraper or maybe a butter knife to put some gentle pressure on the joint to see if it wants to come apart any further. If not, clean it up the best you can and try to glue it and clamp it as discussed above for the kitchen table repairman.
 

Von Trapp

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A lot of luthiers use a steam generator with a hose and a very thin wand to inject the steam under the fret board and directly on the glue joint without causing heat damage to the parts themselves... Of course most of us don't have such a nifty gadget at our disposal, so inserting something to spread the joint is about the only option. The home repairman has to use what is available. I would use a scraper or maybe a butter knife to put some gentle pressure on the joint to see if it wants to come apart any further. If not, clean it up the best you can and try to glue it and clamp it as discussed above for the kitchen table repairman.
For this you also need an iron and towel unless, as I mentioned, the fretboard is just sh!t glued to begin with. That's the procedure I was referring to above in regards to the fretboard curving and the inlays evaporating.
 

gip111

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I had something similar happened to a bass guitar a few years back, some glue (I forgot which kind) a clamp and you would never know. I would do a dry run with just a clamp to see how it looks without gluing it.
 

Tom Dickinson

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Just a quick update, and maybe bring the story to an end: After reading all the above and attempting to formulate a plan that (more or less) incorporated all the practical suggestions I could actually do here at home, I ended up making a set of clamp-support jigs to address the back of the neck as well as the fretboard curves. These jigs basically allowed me to use only two clamps, but to put even pressure across the back of the neck along about a 6" line from nut to about midway down the neck, and likewise the fret board. One thing not mentioned above but something to consider per an 'expert' luthier I know is: One must watch when clamping that you don't crimp the frets in any significant way so as to alter their position and thus necessitate further work after the fretboard is reaffixed. In other words, don't clamp directly on the frets if possible. In necessary, try to use something like a radius block that covers a number of frets completely as well as retains the proper radius on the fretboard and fret job! Anyway, after making these jigs I simply used a thin filet knife to clean as much of the old glue as I could from both top of neck and bottom of fret board. Then I simply drirzzled in some wood glue (again, per suggestion of luthier friend), clamped it up, and let it cure for about 3 days. With only some very minor 'clean-up' needed, I was able to string it up and having it looking like new in a matter of just a few more minutes. It's now been nearly 2 months and the repair is 100% effective! I didn't need any other adjustments, and just a small amount of polishing and it's impossible to tell it ever happened! Simply put, I'm delighted with it! Not overly difficult, certainly a LOT less as a DIY project than having taken it to a shop......and the results may actually exceed that of having it done 'professionally' based on the extra care I took on MY guitar!! Don't know that a shop would have done that for me, but let's hope so! Anyway, thanks to all above for the ideas, suggestions, and helping me get up the nerve to give it a go! I honestly think that was the most difficult part of it...... just getting over the apprehension of thinking I might irreparably screw-up my guitar!! Tom D.
 

Go Nigel Go

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Congratulations on a successful DIY! Hopefully a professional luthier would have taken the same care, but doing it yourself is an even bigger win for you. You got a solid repair along with the knowledge of how to do it yourself, and the satisfaction that entails. :h5:
 

Tom Dickinson

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Here's the irony of the situation: I have another guitar here that has just developed a truss-rod noise. Very annoying considering I spend a lot of time in the wee hours playing the guitar 'unplugged'. I'm thinking now how 'convenient' it would be if the fret board were to come loose on this guitar so I could just drizzle some kind of 'sealer' down into the truss rod channel to fix the noise. I guess now I'm going to get a lesson in removing inlays to drill under them an float in something to quiet the thing down. More fun!
 

Decadent Dan

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Here's the irony of the situation: I have another guitar here that has just developed a truss-rod noise. Very annoying considering I spend a lot of time in the wee hours playing the guitar 'unplugged'. I'm thinking now how 'convenient' it would be if the fret board were to come loose on this guitar so I could just drizzle some kind of 'sealer' down into the truss rod channel to fix the noise. I guess now I'm going to get a lesson in removing inlays to drill under them an float in something to quiet the thing down. More fun!
It might just need to be tightened.
A loose cover will vibrate too.
 

Bad Penguin

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Here's the irony of the situation: I have another guitar here that has just developed a truss-rod noise. Very annoying considering I spend a lot of time in the wee hours playing the guitar 'unplugged'. I'm thinking now how 'convenient' it would be if the fret board were to come loose on this guitar so I could just drizzle some kind of 'sealer' down into the truss rod channel to fix the noise. I guess now I'm going to get a lesson in removing inlays to drill under them an float in something to quiet the thing down. More fun!
Might not be the truss rod. You would be surprised how loud a loose tuner can be.
 


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