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Fret Marker Installation and Filling Fingerboard Chips: 1931 Martin 0-18T Restoration and Repair, Pt. 9

Now that the neck is straight, I'm going to remove the pearl fret markers and also fill the chips that came out when I removed the frets.

While working on pulling the frets and doing the heat straightening, I realized what had happened to this guitar. The fingerboard has a crack or a split seam along the side. This puzzled me because I couldn't understand how it got there. If the fingerboard had been removed, there might be a seam between the neck and the board, but not in the side of the board.

It was also very obvious that there was a non-stock big pearl dot at the 12th fret. After comparing this guitar's board to my other 1931 0-18T, it all became clear.

The markers on a Style 18 tenor of that vintage had markers at the 5th, 7th and 10th frets. This guitar had them at the 3rd, 7th and 12th frets. And there is no indication that there had ever been markers at the 5th or 10th frets. Plus the big dot at the 12th was not just the wrong size, it was installed off-center.

I'd guess that the board was replaced at some point, there were some issues getting the old one off and the new one on, and the new board got new markers.

I decided to restore this fingerboard (which is most likely not the original) so that it is period correct.

To remove the old dots, I covered them with some aluminum foil and heated them with a soldering iron.

You can see how ugly those chips near the fret slots are. The worst ones were the ones higher up which were less played. Interesting.

Then I used a small chisel (I think it's a 2mm) to wedge the dots up.

This is that big one I mentioned.

I tried not to hack the fingerboard too badly, but it will be filled.

Then I levelled the board with 300 grit paper on my trusty Corian fret leveller.

I wanted to see if the dust created would fill the chips in the board.

You can see here that there wasn't enough ebony dust created to fill the chips. But at least there is some, which I can use for part of the fills.

I used a fret slot scraper to get the dust out of the slots.

And I filed some ebony scraps to get more dust. Note the 'whip tip' on the super glue container. I just started using them on this project and they rock!

They make it super easy to control the amount and location of your super glue application.

We put a pile of ebony dust on the holes where the dots used to live, and put a few drops of super glue (CA) on them.

I like to let the fills harden overnight.

I put a teflon strip in each fret slot, filled the chips with the ebony dust, and then put a couple drops of CA glue on these fills.

The strip helps keep the glue and the dust out of the slots.

Which sort of doesn't matter, because I'll have to clean up/resize the slots anyway for the new frets. But keeping the fill out will give me a better guide to saw into.

I partially leveled the hole fills with a chisel.

Note the fill on the left - that's the hole I drilled for the steam hole when I removed the neck. Seems like a long time ago.

This picture is a bit out of order - the chips aren't filled yet. And boy are they ugly.

Here's the whole fingerboard after a first sanding pass after the fills.

Still a little blotchy and there are still some places to touch up.

Here's a closer view.

You can see that hole needs a second pass with the fill.

It took a total of three passes to get everything filled nicely.

Here's the finished board.

Smooth as the bottom of a baby. What happened to all the chips? Ha!

There were a couple of shallow finger-divots on the lower frets that I filled too. If you look from different angles, you can see the fills in just a couple of spots. But overall it's looking good.

I have sometimes used ebony stain on an entire board to make the fills less obvious, but I don't think it's warranted on this guitar.

Now let's put some new pearl markers on.

Mark the spots to be drilled.

I'm using a brad-point drill bit - these are sized exactly for the dots I have. My dots are very close to the original sizes that Martin used.

This hole will be a 5mm.

Hole is drilled. Have to be careful not to drill it too deep.  I drilled a bit, test fit the dot, drilled a bit, until the dot was just a tiny bit 'proud' of the board.

Those bits make a nice 'shelf' for the dot to sit on.

Put a couple drops of CA in the hole, and gently whap the marker.

That excess glue wipes right off with a bit of acetone on a rag.

I always put too much on the first time!

Comparison of the fret markers on two 1931 Martin 0-18Ts. My first one with the original fingerboard is on the left and the one I'm working on now is on the right.

Next: frets!

All posts in the 1931 Martin 0-18T Restoration Project:
  1. 1931 Martin 0-18T Guitar Restoration and Repair, Pt. 1

  2. Neck Removal on 1931 Martin 0-18T Guitar: Restoration and Repair, Pt. 2

  3. Trimming the Neck Heel for Reset: 1931 Martin 0-18T Restoration and Repair, Pt. 3

  4. Shimming Guitar Neck Dovetail and Finish Chip Repair: 1931 Martin 0-18T Restoration and Repair, Pt. 4

  5. Caul for Heat-straightening Guitar Neck: 1931 Martin 0-18T Restoration and Repair, Pt. 5

  6. Reparing Acoustic Body Cracks: 1931 Martin 0-18T Restoration and Repair, Pt. 6

  7. Making a Tortoloid Pickguard: 1931 Martin 0-18T Restoration and Repair, Pt. 7

  8. Heat Straightening Bowed Guitar Neck: 1931 Martin 0-18T Restoration and Repair, Pt. 8

  9. Fret Marker Installation and Filling Fingerboard Chips: 1931 Martin 0-18T Restoration and Repair, Pt. 9 - This page.

  10. Compression Fretting to Correct Upbow: 1931 Martin 0-18T Restoration and Repair, Pt. 10

  11. Completed 1931 Martin 0-18T: Restoration and Repair, Pt. 11


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