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It was only off by one fret
Moving a Fingerboard Inlay
© Frank Ford, 11/10/02; Photos by FF

This is a fine 1920 "Stahl" guitar made by the Larson Brothers of Chicago. Among its original features is a position marker inlay at the tenth fret instead of the conventional ninth. It was quite a little stumbling block for its owner, who approached me with a request to "move the inlay down where it ought to be." I've seen Larson-made instruments with the inlay at either position, as you will, too, if you visit the Larson instruments in the FRETS.COM Museum.
I pulled the ninth and tenth frets to get good access to the area where I'd be working. After I got them good and hot with my soldering iron, they slipped out easily without damaging the ebony fingerboard.
I used a wet piece of shop toweling soaked in water and heated with my big soldering iron to heat and steam the old inlay.
It had originally been set in with hide glue which softened nicely, so I was able to lift out the inlay.
I laid the inlay in position between the eighth and ninth frets, and marked around it with a sharp scriber. Then I whacked my scribe lines with a chisel, drilled the center, and chiseled out the excess ebony between the lines an my hole.
The old inlay dropped in place easily, along with some cyanoacrylate mixed up with a bit of lampblack. I set it aside to harden overnight.
To level the inlay without scarring the fingerboard, I covered a regular ten inch mill bastard file with thin plastic tape, allowing only about 3/6" of teeth showing at the edge.
Then I could start at the edge of the inlay, and file it level with the tape riding on the fingerboard.
Back at the old position, I chopped out a clean rectangular area spanning the distance between the two empty fret slots.
Then I made a matching ebony plug, fitted very tightly at the edges, and as close as I could in length to produce good clean slots for reinstalling the frets. Another night for glue to dry.
Then, repeating the filing operation on my new plug, and leveling the entire area with some fine sandpaper on a cork block, I was ready to reinstall the frets.
Done. Because there are no joints cutting across the lines of grain, my new ebony plug is likely to remain nearly invisible. Fortunately for me, this instrument had no edge dot inlay, so I didn't have to confront moving a second piece in a different area.

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