View Full Version : Fretboard Iron....

Mike Langford
01-16-2011, 7:50 PM
This is a work in progress....

Two weeks ago I was at a flea market and came upon this strange looking iron....At first I thought it was a branding iron but picked it up and saw the heating surface was flat.

Well, I automatically thought of making it into a fretboard iron! (from years of receiving StewMac catalogs and thinking of ways to convert everyday items into Luthier's tools)

The guy wanted two bucks for it caused he said he didn't know if it worked....So, Me being the cheap...er, I mean...Frugal person I am, I offered him a buck and he agreed! :) (I figgered for a buck if it didn't heat up I could still use it with a hot plate ala the StewMac version.)http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tools/Special_tools_for_Neck,_fingerboard/Bridge_Heater_and_Fingerboard_Iron.html?tab=Detail s#details

I asked him if he knew what it was originally used for and he said he thought it was used to remove decals from tractors....(I don't think so ;))

Got home and plugged it in first thing and it WORKED!!! So, I got busy taking it apart...

First I removed the aluminum base plate....

Then I placed it against one of my guitars for spacing....(14 frets to the body - 25.4" scale - Martin std. dreadnought)

Put an old full kerf blade in my saw and cut the slots....

Started disassembling and cleaning the rest of the iron....

Going to replace the old chord with a newer, heavier one.
Because of my O.C.D. I couldn't just cut the slots and use it with all the rust and such!:o :D


Does anyone know of an easy and simple way to put a slight (16") radius on the slotted aluminum piece?

Mike Langford
03-17-2011, 10:08 PM
Well, last weekend we had a couple of warm days, and I got a chance to get back out to my shop to try and get a few projects finished....

So, I finished the fretboard iron (if anyone cares....:rolleyes:)

I finished up the disassembly...

Then sanded, scraped, and wire brushed everything...

After a little "tung oil" on the handle, I reassembled and got ready to rewire...
187155 187156

I made myself a quick drawing of the wiring so I wouldn't get confused...

Finished up and gave it a test run (to see if it still worked ;)) and it worked like a champ through all the heat ranges...
187158 187159

Now all I need is to do is find a way to put a slight radius on the slotted base....and it'll be ready if ever I need to remove a neck (it might even work on bridges too!)

Thanks for looking!

Anthony Scira
03-22-2011, 9:32 PM
Nice find ! You can not beat that price.

John Coloccia
03-22-2011, 10:24 PM
re: the radius

If you haven't already done it, I would be very tempted to do this on the curved part of my bench belt sander. If you've already done it, I'm curious how.

Wes Grass
03-22-2011, 11:11 PM
What kind of machines do you have?

If you have a milling machine and a large fly cutter, you can figure out what angle to tip the head to get an approximation of the radius you want. It's actually a section of the flat side of an ellipse, but it can be pretty close to an arc over a reasonable length.

How about a disc sander? You could drag it across the 'corner' of the disc at a shallow angle if you've got a big enough disc.

If you only have a table saw, a 10" blade won't get you there. It'd have to be somewhere around 26 from the table.

Mike Langford
03-26-2011, 7:40 PM
Hey guys, Thanks for the replies!

As far as the radius goes, I got out my trusty (or is that "rusty" ;)) ole contour guage and placed it over the fretboard.

At first glance it didn't appear that there was much of a radius at all....but after placing a steel rule across the corners, it became more noticeable....

Considering John's suggestion of using the end of my belt sander, I removed the end guard....
188415 188416

But, the end of the sander has to tight of a radius. :(

When I place the steel rule on top of the radius (the rule representing the flat bottom of the iron) you can see that without the slight radius, the iron only contacts the very (small) middle part of the fretboard.

The width of the iron itself is not as wide as the fretboard....

What I may try and do is wrap a length of sandpaper over the neck (rough side up of course) and manually sand the base across the frets....That should only take a couple of months....right?

If anyone knows of an easier way, please let me know!


fred marcuson
03-26-2011, 9:13 PM
just get it close ,cause close is good enough :)
all fretboards don't have the same radius , so are you going to make a new base for everyone you need ?
when i worked in the repair shop ours was flat . never worried about the radius ; never had a problem :)

Mike Langford
03-26-2011, 10:12 PM
I LIKE your answer Fred! :D

I'm curious though....Did you use some sort of cloth or paper barrier between the iron and fretboard?

I fear that the iron only touching such a small portion of the fretboard, burning would occur????

fred marcuson
03-27-2011, 8:12 AM
I LIKE your answer Fred! :D

I'm curious though....Did you use some sort of cloth or paper barrier between the iron and fretboard?

I fear that the iron only touching such a small portion of the fretboard, burning would occur????

no cloth , no paper ... and until you get used to the temp of the iron and how long you need to leave it turned on you need to watch it ..
we used to put a timer on ours .

Chris Fournier
03-27-2011, 1:15 PM
Nice job. I'd shoot for a very conservative one size fits some radius, make a template and etch it on the two ends of your iron. Grab a half round file and get at 'er. Of course you could leave it flat and rock it too, then it still works for classics and flamencos.

I have found that careful work with a hot spatula is always best as you are putting heat into the glue line directly and less into the finicky fingerboard. the way the spatula cuts through the glue really gives you great feedback and allows you to use as little heat as possible. What's that oath - do no harm?

I would have bought that iron too by the way. One weekend shot. I'd also be as please as you are!

Mike Langford
03-27-2011, 6:39 PM
I think that I'll put just a very slight radius of maybe a few degrees (?) so that it'll spread out it's footprint a tad, instead of resting on one small point of contact.

Because the base is not that wide, as long as I remove a little material from the center I believe it'll work on a number of different radii....hopefully! :D

Thanks for the replies and suggestions....and I'll post how it worked if I ever get to use it!