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Fretboard Binding and Inlays


With the fretboard cut, radiused and slotted, we moved on to the more detailed work, starting with binding.

We went with a traditional ivory ABS binding (traditional for a Les Paul at least) that will match the pick-guard and pickup surrounds. Since the binding is made of ABS plastic, it melts in acetone, which means you can simply brush some acetone on the back of the binding, and on the wood, and then press the binding up against the wood. The melted plastic will re-cure in contact with the wood, and act as its own glue. We also melted some pieces of binding in a bowl with acetone to make a paste that we could use to fill in any gaps, though we ended up not needing it. At first, we had some melty-droopyness on the binding, immediately after installation. This was no problem, as we sanded and scraped the binding down flush with the fretboard, and all of the wrinkly parts were removed.

At first, we intended to the traditional Les Paul markers in the fret board. We even got as far as cutting out the shapes and laying them out. The thing is, these are pretty complex shapes – the sides are curved, so it was difficult to get the shapes themselves exactly right. I think we could have lived with the slight imperfection, but I did a dry-run where I cut the opening and installed one of the shapes on a piece of scrap, and cutting the inlay opening in the board for those shapes is not an amateur task. Maybe with some more practice, that’s something I’ll do in the future, but for now, we decided to go with a more conservative marker-dots approach.

So Josh laid out the dot positions and I cut (traditional Gibson clay) dots out of some clay poker chips we had on hand. The combination of the sot clay dots and the porous wenge board conspired to leave us with not-quite-perfectly round dots, but, again, we’re ok with a little imperfection in the dots. Then, to give it a little personality, we decided that a simple (i.e. all straight lines) inlay at the 12th fret was worth taking a chance on. It turned out great, and we were very happy.

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