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Thread: Replacing Fret Dots

  1. #1
    Moderator Brendan's Avatar
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    Third or fourth attempt at replacing fret dots and thought I'd put up a little how to for anyone who's interested. While the technique may not be totally correct - it fits the tools, skill level and time I have and achieves the outcome I'm looking for.

    Estimated time ~ 3 - 4 hours depending on how accurate / lucky you are in getting the fret dots in.

    Level of difficulty: Beginner (ish). i.e., not too hard, but it is possible to stuff things up and you have to drill the dot out again. I am only on my 3rd, 4th and 5th build and have no woodworking experience to draw on, so if I can do it, it must be at the hardest beginner. NOTE - it is also possible to damage the fretboard with some dings, etc, so you do need to be careful.

    Overall cost: Dots ~$.15 add $7 for delivery to Aus. Tools wear and tear, bit of sandpaper and some superglue. So for one guitar call it ~$8, cheaper if you order enough dots for a couple of guitars.

    Ingredients:
    Drill with sharp 2.5 - 3mm bit
    Fret dots - PBG fret dots are apparently 6mm, so go for those - mine were sourced from: http://orders.mopsupplies.com/. Australian company and quick to turn around. Only ordered from them once so currently have 100% success rate for me! Other than that eBay???
    Needle nose pliers.
    Stanley knife.
    Safety glasses.
    Small file.
    Couple of grits of sandpaper and some steel wool (180, 240, 400, 800, 1200 and 0000).
    Superglue - StewMac #10 or #20 is spot on for the job.
    Dremel (handy if you order dots that are too big - but shouldn't be required if you don't). Could also be substituted with a drill press and 1/4" brad point drill bit.

    Tip: Throughout the steps below, the word Gently will make a regular appearance. If you are not gentle, you can chip the fretboard, drill a whole lot deeper than you want, etc. So, don't rush and be gentle .

    (being a beginner I've put in everything so sorry if it's a touch simple / dry):

    Also forgot to take a photo of the tools, though did take photos of most of the key steps... May do a vid at some point - need some more dots and another neck first though.

  2. #2
    Moderator Brendan's Avatar
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    Step 1. Removing the dots...
    Note - as stated above, this could also be done with a drill press, the right size brad pointed bit and some time of which I don't have #1 or #2, hence the process below.
    • Put the safety glasses on.
    • Gently drill a hole in the middle (ish) of the dots - I've not been too accurate or exacting. Make sure though that you don't go hard - as soon as you break through plastic, stop (see photo below).
    • Grab your trusty needle nosed pliers and insert one of the sides gently into the newly drilled hole.
    • Gently (that word again) pry the dot out. It may split and crack and shatter - hence the glasses. It may also start to chip out the fretboard. If you notice this, back off and try making a small cut between the dot and the fretboard to reduce impact. If something chips out, keep the chip - you'll be glueing in later and can glue the chip in as well.
    • Repeat as necessary to remove as much of the dot and dots as you can with this method.
    • If you still have some dot detritus polluting a hole you can try to pop it out with your stanley knife or maybe a dremel or similar tool. I found a lot of something that looks like PVA style glue at the bottom of the hole - almost like they were using it to fill the holes they had over drilled - came out easily with the dremel.
    • [OPTIONAL STEP IF, LIKE ME YOU ORDER DOTS THAT ARE TOO BIG] Using an engraving bit in your dremel, gently run around the outside of the hole to increase the size. Take it slow and easy. You want to keep those holes about the size of the dot (so it needs to be pushed in) and most of all, round. Be careful doing this - check regularly. You can make the hole too big, which will be a bit of a challenge filling.


    Couple of the tools and the process is underway.

    De dotted neck - note slightly jagged edges of some of the holes - man they use a lot of glue in them suckers.

  3. #3
    Moderator Brendan's Avatar
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    Step 2. Re dotting the fretboard...
    • Crack out the trusty StewMac superglue and the dots. Pick out the winners and get ready to dot!
    • Make sure your dots are the right size - the superglue goes off relatively quickly so you don't have time to realise the holes / dots are too small. DON'T put the dot in yet - they are hard to get out...
    • Place a tiny amount of superglue (dab if that) in the first hole.
    • Quickly and carefully place the dot in the hole.
    • Gently force the dot in as close as you can to level with your fingers - being careful of the superglue - it can be sanded off the fretboard if needed, but let's not make any more mess than necessary. Ideally it will be level / a tiny bit proud at this stage.
    • Try not to push the dot in too far - dots from mopsupplies are ~1.3mm thick and the holes I've seen are deeper.
    • If the dot is still very proud, you can use a clamp such as a quick grip and some scrap to force it in as well.
    • Bear in mind - the superglue does dry relatively quickly, so you don't have ages to work on the dots. That said, you don't have to wait too long for the dots to be ready for the next step.
    • Continue above process to get all the dots in.


    First dot is in. Note superglue and supply of dots. For this build I've used Black MOP (Mother of Pearl).

    Dots are in. Forgot the bit about not making too much mess. Oh well, more to clean up next step.

  4. #4
    Moderator Brendan's Avatar
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    Step 3 - Levelling the Dots.
    Purists may suggest using 320 grit and going up from there. I've found you can get away with the following:
    • If you have a very small (mini) file such as these (http://www.bunnings.com.au/trojan-10...e-set_p5760077) you can knock the tops of any very proud dots. Given the depth of the holes and my use of a dremel, I erred on the side of pretty proud. When knocking the tops off any dots, be gentle and try to work the top of the dot so it's parallel to the fretboard. Don't go too low as you don't want any scratches running perpendicular to the fretboard.
    • Crack out the trusty sandpaper. I've taken a photo with a couple of my grits using Gav1393's eraser idea and my own twist - adding the grit # to the end of the eraser. Gently sand the dot down. I have used 2 techniques - first - get a corner of the eraser and have the paper showing slightly over the edge. Using the corner only, use gentle swirls on the dot ONLY. Second technique, using an edge of the eraser, work with the grain of the fretboard and work that way. I favour the first as I don't want to take anything off the fretboard if I can. That said, the second does knock the edges off the dots more quickly.
    • Take your time and work through the grits, finishing with the steel wool at the end. This should leave you with some nicely polished dots, ready for the fretboard to be oiled!


    Sanding started - sandpapers out.

    Couple of dots done. Small chux is used to clear some of the dust - even with Black MOP, white dust is in abundance.
    Post of the final outcome tomorrow hopefully! Will include some of Black MOP and Paua to show difference in dots.

  5. #5
    Moderator Gavin1393's Avatar
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    Nice doco!
    http://www.buildyourownguitar.com.au/forum/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=1258&dateline=1443806  448Gavmeister

  6. #6
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    Nicely written procedure, Brendan. You've made it sound easy enough for me to have a go, and that's scary!
    Thanks, man.

  7. #7
    Moderator dingobass's Avatar
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    Nice one Brendan. As a side note, if you find some chipping occouring you can back fill around the dots with sanding dust from the fingerboard and place a drop of super glue on it. The super goo will wick and after a few applications of dust and glue you will have a nice clean dot inlay at the end of the process...

    There is always a workaround for glitches, mistakes and other Guitar building gremlins.....

  8. #8
    Moderator Brendan's Avatar
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    Thanks for that guys. Forgot to add - kudos to Gav1393 who showed me how to do it in the first place and DB for mentioning this technique.

    @Lawry - going on your work to date, you can so do this...
    @DB - thanks for that - forgot that bit...

  9. #9
    Excellent tutorial Brendan, prepare to be Sticky'd.
    Cheers,

    Adam



    adamboyle(at)pitbullguitars.com

  10. #10
    Thanks Brendan, I will be referring to your fine tutorial when the time comes.
    I have a re-dotting job to do on a coming project and this will be immensely helpful.

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