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Thread: Arch fingerboard for F4

  1. #1
    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Arch fingerboard for F4

    Hi all. I have a 1924 F4 with a flat fingerboard, low action and tiny frets. Mandolins with this type of setup really bother my left arm tendinitis issues.

    My question is have any of you radiused an F4 fingerboard from this era and replaced the frets with bigger frets?

    Thanks for the answers in advance!

    Pete
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  2. #2
    Kelley Mandolins Skip Kelley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Arch fingerboard for F4

    Pete, I have radiused many flat boards and replaced many. I have not done an old F4. However I have put bigger frets on one.
    Any competent luthier can do that for you.

  3. #3
    Teacher, luthier
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    Default Re: Arch fingerboard for F4

    I've replaced the frets on quite a few oval hole Gibsons with larger wire. I generally use wire with a crown width of .080" and height of .040". The owners were all satisfied with the results. I also have installed it on my own F-4.

    I've radiused a couple of mandolin fingerboards over the years. While I don't necessarily remember the models I've done it on, an F-4 fingerboard is thick enough to radius with no problems. I've also radiused a few guitar fingerboards that were originally flat.

    In most cases, it is necessary to shim or replace the nut when refretting with larger wire.
    You are welcome to pm me for further information.

  4. #4
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Arch fingerboard for F4

    I've done quite a few of them that way- four in the last year.

    There are a couple of lurkers around here who own them; 'pretty sure they are ok if I mention it. Adam Tanner has one that had the classic frets in the wrong place, so I made a complete new fingerboard in the same style as the original. A couple of months ago I did another utilizing the original fingerboard in place.

    Keep in mind that the original frets have an approx. .012" tang compared to a modern .023" so they require a lot of meticulous work. Having done this with both wider and taller medium guage frets and also the narrow tall EVO, my personal preference is much more for the narrow tall. It gives you all of the modern height but also retains a bit of the classic feel while installing larger medium like banjo wire to me changes the entire feel of the mandolin.

    Any work on a hundred year old mandolin is delicate surgery- tiny slots, crumbly old plastic binding, fragile old finishes. Your end goal is excellent quality and zero damage to the cosmetic and structure of the mandolin.

    Keep in mind that the last three I did averaged 23 hours of meticulous bench time. This is not something to prioritize cheap prices as your budget $200 fret job done improperly can drop the street value ten times that if done poorly or damaging!
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  6. #5
    Teacher, luthier
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    Default Re: Arch fingerboard for F4

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post

    Any work on a hundred year old mandolin is delicate surgery- tiny slots, crumbly old plastic binding, fragile old finishes. Your end goal is excellent quality and zero damage to the cosmetic and structure of the mandolin.

    Keep in mind that the last three I did averaged 23 hours of meticulous bench time. This is not something to prioritize cheap prices as your budget $200 fret job done improperly can drop the street value ten times that if done poorly or damaging!
    Yes, there are two ways to do this, and you can't have them both-- either you can have it done right, or have it done cheap. You have to choose.

    Although prices will vary somewhat depending on who does the work, expect a minimum cost of $500+, using the existing fret board. In addition to have the board radiused and re-fretted, the bridge saddle will have to be radiused, and the nut will have to be replaced or shimmed and re-cut.

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  8. #6
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Arch fingerboard for F4

    I tend to get tendonitis in my left hand from the flat fingerboards, not the fret size.

    It would be easy to interpret these replies as discouraging; not at all my intention. Actually- updating a 100 year old mandolin like this, done well, turns it into a ton of fun!

  9. #7

    Default Re: Arch fingerboard for F4

    Its best to replace the fingerboard with a new one as Condino does, as the early Gibson frets are placed to no known formula! Typically all the frets are out of tune but the 11th...

    I've done several makeovers of early F2s and F4s, installing CF bars to stiffen the necks before adding new boards radiused to suit and Jescar .037 x .080 fret wire in NS and EVO. A couple of times the backs have come off and the plates were re-graduated, too.

    The mandolins have all turned out very, very well: the 100 year old plus woods just need a helping hand to allow them to sound their best.

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