Shrinking wood?

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Shrinking wood?

Post by Guest on Thu Feb 03, 2011 7:00 pm

I took my 350MA to have the frets looked at and replaced and found it needed more work as a result of the fretboard "shrinking" than because the frets were actually worn.

I had never heard of this before but it makes a lot of sense. You could take a piece of paper and it would slide under about half of the frets as the wood shrank, giving the appearance that the frets are "lifting" out of their slots.

I think it was Racing who did a great post on refretting so maybe he has something to add.

The other symptom as a result of this is that the inlays also begin to lift out of the fretboard so when you bend a string, it actually gets caught up on the inlay.

Now I have a few guitars that are in the 25yr old range but have never come across this before. I think this 350MA sat in a closet for a long time and maybe the heat accelerated the shrinking process.

In the end there are no worries as I am having the frets redone and new inlays put in (The one lucky thing is the "PANTERA" inlay at the 24th fret is the only inlay not affected).


I'm curious if anyone else has ever run into this?

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Re: Shrinking wood?

Post by Barry on Thu Feb 03, 2011 7:48 pm

I usually experience wood shrinkage after a dip in cold lake water. clown
Otherwise, yes fretboard shrinkage is an unfortunate reality, particularly with instruments made in humid countries with no environmentally controlled factories. I had to have the fret ends filed down on my Vintage Tele which was made in Vietnam, likely in monsoon season! Here, a Canadian winter can see the indoor humidity be as low as 15%! So it's no wonder that the wood "shrinks". Beware that the opposite can also happen during a humid summer too.

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Re: Shrinking wood?

Post by Racing on Fri Feb 04, 2011 4:05 am

I´d go as far as saying it´s not so much shrinkage as it is movement. Various woods work differently and as Barry points out humidity as well as temps asf sure affects how the various woods react. Wood indeed is a living material.

If you like me n Barry live in countries that have very pronounced seasons it just becomes more evident and even more so the younger the instrument is.
Acoustics are more prone to this than solids in turn and especialy winter time can take it´s toll on our guitars.

In short,as guitars are made from living materials we owe it to them to take this into account before doing ANYTHING to correct the issue-s. Fretmovement i´d say is more the rule than anything really..likewise with the need for trussrod adjustment to compensate for relief/backbow as the various seasons affect it.

Couple of words of advice for those living in places where harsh winters are coupled with relatively warm summer are;

Many keep/store their guitars in the hardcase with half a potato or similar stuffed in the compartment for telewires,extra strings asf. Point of the potato being to keep the humidity up as well as constant within the case.
If you opt to store your guitar in a hanger on a wall make sure it isn´t on an outside facing wall as that wall will let more of any fast temp swings reach the guitar.
If you hang your guitar from a hanger preferably use a hanger where the guitar doesn´t come in direct contact with the wall. The air between the wall and the guitar will become an insulator.

I for one mainly use the latter and this winter over here has been especialy harsh on our instruments. It´s been colder than it´s been for a hundred yrs(to the letter) and more dry due result.
My Martin acoustic being the guitar where this has been the most evident. Now...true...i´ve modified it to sport a VERY low stringpack height being a dreadnought,but end result was that about a month ago i had to replace the bridge with one being 0.6mm higher just to play it. Of course i saved the stock one to slide in there again as temps go the "right" way in a couple of months again...
Truth of the matter is that i KNOW that as spring comes i´ll have to pull a fretjob(level) on that particular guitar...

Your 350 then.
In many ways i appreciate what you´re saying. It is a rather unique instrument and as such you of course want to look after it. All good.
Most likely though nothing has been done to correct this over the yrs,it seldom has,and therefore any and all corrections to it....might be overdue-if you catch my drift.
However.......

If you like me,Barry et all live where you experience rather stiff differences in climate it might be a VERY good idea to put that off for another month or month and a half and TBH...if you´re gonna do it....do it right...(In short,let spring arrive)

From what you´re telling that brings a rather massive input in my book cause what REALLY needs to be done is the same as for a refret and the reason for that is the inlays coupled with the guitars age. If the issue is as pronounced as you describe it the frets need to come out to have the board leveled again with the correct radii block and if you do that you might as well refret the guitar anyways as installing the old frets all over and leveling asf most likely will cut so much material from them that they will become useless as they will be to low.
Sorry...but that is the CORRECT way of combating this as we´re not merely talking of protruding fretends here.

Is there another way?

Yes. There is,but it isn´t WAY as exact and what´s more it takes a great portion of "feel" as well as patience.

What you do in that case is get a VERY soft drift of some sorts and a jewelers hammer(Ie;a very small hammer).Then you need a guitar workbench to support the neck and you need something to support the neck vs the workbench in turn-i use a cork sanding block FWIW.

Basicaly you use the drift and the hammer to reseat the frets all over and be VERY anal about each and every fret. This is NOT a job done like you´re putting out a fire. Some frets might even need an extremely small amount of superglue to stick.In such scenarios i for one use a specialy cut jewelers screwdriver to apply the glue between the fretboard and the fret,and no matter the entire job is STILL a fix really.

Then for the inlays... use the blunt end of the drift(large end-IOW turn it around and use it the "wrong" way) and with MINUTE amount of force try to reseat the inlays as best as you can. While doing so use your ears to really LISTEN IN on when the inlays are seated. There WILL be a difference in "thump". This whole deal with bringing force to the inlays should be done with EXTREME caution ...cause the plastic sure as hell ain´t forgiving if you happen to impliment to much force... Be VERY aware of that!!!! ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS use less force than you think,and have the words of panelbeaters ringing in your head. It is not the individual blow that makes for the difference but the AMOUNT of blows-which btw goes for seating frets too.

Anyways. With that done i level the board between the frets by the use of a number of FRESH old style razorblades. Use the razor as a planing tool. Ie,you put the razor to the board at a 90deg angle and scrape back and forth in a fluid motion. The razor being sharp and fresh enough will cut the board AS WELL as any inlays rather smoothly and the end result will be a smooth fretboard again.
Be warned tho...
This is a job that will try your patience and take a fair bit of time seing that the inlays has moved out of the fretboard. It WILL however work...just trust me on that.

If i were to choose between the two jobs?
Now,as you know i´m no stranger to pulling a refret....and that IMO in this case is the CORRECT way of doing this(as well as being the fastest-depending on how much the inlays protrude)...and as such i guess my reply is rather evident. I for one would just pull the refret and be done with it already. Then again...that´s just me. New is new if you know what i mean...

That trick there with the razorblade works for wonders for other circumstances too tho. These days i do it routinely when i get a fresh axe in my hands. If nothing else to let a fresh surface come forward on an otherwise used guitar. Hell...i even pull that stunt on NEW guitars...as they often are poorly finished in that dept-just less of it.
Razorblades by the bundle(they are VERY useful for various small jobs btw) you pick up at your local hardware store. They normaly sell by 100 packs and are cheap enough.

A soft drift of some sort might be trickier as most drift are out of steel-which is a no no. In that case seek your local machine shop out and ask ém to turn one for you in their lathe out of the softest scrap aluminium rod they got laying around. Hand ém like a pound of coffee to say thanks and it´ll be all good. It is to the letter a 3 minute job...

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Re: Shrinking wood?

Post by Westbone on Fri Feb 04, 2011 6:26 am

Ebony(fingerboard) is like teak, It needs oil.
That's pretty drastic whats happened to yours, must have been kept in a very dry atmosphere.
Whats the fingerboard to neck joint like, any shrinkage were it meets?

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Re: Shrinking wood?

Post by Guest on Fri Feb 04, 2011 8:35 am

Thanks for the details Racing - good stuff.

Racing wrote:If the issue is as pronounced as you describe it the frets need to come out to have the board leveled again with the correct radii block and if you do that you might as well refret the guitar anyways as installing the old frets all over and leveling asf most likely will cut so much material from them that they will become useless as they will be to low.
Sorry...but that is the CORRECT way of combating this as we´re not merely talking of protruding fretends here.

This is exactly what is being done. I took it to the local luthier and he recommended the same. So the frets will be removed, the board leveled and new frets will be put in. When we looked at the inlays which appeared to have glue coming up around the edges, We scraped the glue on one inlay away and the inlay looked terrible (almost looked to have melted). So the inlays will also be removed and replaced. The good news is the only inlay that is not mucked up is the PANTERA inlay so we won't remove that one.

I'm looking forward to getting in back, and might have to buy a couple of potatos Smile

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Re: Shrinking wood?

Post by Guest on Fri Feb 04, 2011 8:39 am

Westbone wrote:
Whats the fingerboard to neck joint like, any shrinkage were it meets?

The neck/body joint looks great thankfully - I would hate to have to go down the road of those types of repairs.

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Re: Shrinking wood?

Post by Guest on Sat Feb 26, 2011 6:07 pm

The neckwork is complete on this one. leveled the fretboard, replaced frets and inlays and it is sweet. The guy that did it, did a great job as always and this fretboard looks like new. I'm a bit suprised how well the inlays look - they look original and no evidence of being replaced - awesome!
I took it to a luthier shortly after buying it so today is the first time I really have cranked this 350MA up and really played - I like it a lot. The MMK 75's are really great sounding PUPS. I have to say - this is one good guitar.





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Re: Shrinking wood?

Post by colt933 on Mon Feb 28, 2011 12:07 pm

I clean the fretboard with Lem-Oil a couple of times a year and I let it soak in.

I had a machinist buddy make me a dowel or drift/punch from Delrin (plastic/nylon) - to tap at things where I need to assure that I don't leave a mark.

Also, I have a little 'tappy' hammer - a tiny thing for gunsmithing with one brass end and one Delrin end on the hammer head.

Delrin is non-marring.

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Re: Shrinking wood?

Post by Guest on Mon Feb 28, 2011 12:51 pm

I got some fretboard oil from stewmac for the 390 I refinished, and will treat all my boards from now on. I'm not sure how bad an environment the 350 was in for the last 15 years but I wish I took some 'before' pictures to show ya how bad it was. But after the work done on it - it really is like brand new!

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Re: Shrinking wood?

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