FRETS.COM Thumbnail Article
Please click on the small images to see the large views.

A classic repair
Fingerboard Wedge
© Frank Ford 2003; Photos by FF

The saddle on this vintage classical guitar had been cut down as low as it could go, and yet the string action was still sky high. No question of decent playability without changing the effective neck angle on this baby! Because the guitar was made with the traditional Spanish heel, I didn't have the option of removing the neck without sawing it off, so I decided to use a traditional technique to raise the fingerboard to meet the strings.
To soften the fingerboard glue joint, I used my L.M.I. electric heat blanket and a contact thermometer I got from Stewart MacDonald.
Once the glue was weakened sufficiently, I started over the body and slipped my broadest rounded putty knife between the top and the fingerboard, gently (but firmly) prying the joint apart.
Outboard, I switched to a narrow knife that spanned the width of the fingerboard
Here's the result. The fingerboard came off nicely and left a clean surface behind. I spend a bit of time scraping the old glue off both surfaces to prepare them for regluing.
I chose mahogany for the wedge, figuring to match the neck as closely as possible. I cut out a fingerboard shaped piece about 1/4" thick. I didn't even attempt to make it wedge shaped at this point, but instead simple left it 1/4" thick for its length.
Clamped up with some good hot hide glue, and a heavy caul on top, this wedge served to help straighten the neck a bit, too.
Once the glue was dry, I got out my Stanley #5 jack plane and proceeded to level the new wood, and began to taper it downward toward the peghead.
From time to time, I'd switch to my little Stanley #60-1/2 low angle block plane for a bit of truing up.
At the end, I "shot" the entire surface flat and true with another Stanley jack plane body, using it as a sanding block. I eventually reduced the end of the fingerboard wedge to zero thickness at the nut, and about 3/16" at the body. I wasn't concerned about the exact measurements, because as I went I'd hold the fingerboard in place, and use a long straightedge to check the neck angle in relation to the bridge height.
More hide glue, more clamps. There's nothing like a good hide glue joint for rigidity!
After a bit of cleanup, the wedge looked like this.
And, after refretting and installing a new higher saddle, I had the guitar playing like new, too. It isn't always necessary to replace frets after this operation, but most of the time frets are loosened by the heat of removing the fingerboard. Often enough when the instrument is old enough to need this work, the frets are worn or uneven enough to consider refretting. I've omitted (or lost) the final photo, but this one is a bit more illustrative because I hadn't done the finish touchup yet, so you can still see the wedge easily.

Back to Index Page