Scallop Your Guitar (Standard Scallop, Frets 14-21)

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Pat yourself on the back if you managed to get this far.
After this mod I scalloped all the way down to my 12th fret.
Have fun playing your scalloped guitar!

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sbandyk2 years ago
I write this as an amateur luthier.
I've constructed 5 guitars from from lumber in addition to the maintenance I've performed, including several re-frets and one scallop job on several others.

This can be very dangerous to the integrity of your guitar neck. Aside from the potential damage to your frets, you're taking away the stability of the neck.

- frets:
I'm surprised you didn't damage your frets.  The author did a very nice job here but remember, even if you don't gouge up your frets,  you're pulling wood away from the sides of the fret slots. I've seen lower-quality fret boards where the wood was over dried [probably low in natural oils] and it became quite brittle during a re-fret.  One import Charvel in particular [beautiful neck geometry] flaked off quite a bit of rosewood when I was pulling frets.
If you're going to do this, at the very least mask off your frets.
Be very careful and deliberate when filing or grinding down fretboard and keep an eye on the taped frets for any signs you're tearing up the tape.

- Neck stability:
There are two main reason why your neck stays straight. You probably have a truss rod down the middle which can be adjusted to create tension to counteract the force caused by the strings. A typical set of guitar strings will pull about 65lbs, more in some tunings and more with heavier strings.
The other thing keeping a neck like this straight is the lamination of the rosewood and the maple. Like plywood, it's stronger than a simple board. It's also no coincidence that luthers typically pick different woods for the neck and fretboard. Fretboards are usually constructed of harder woods than necks.. the neck is less likely to bow forward because of this [a forward bow requires compression of the harder wood].  
So, what happens when you start removing mass from the fretboard? You're decreasing the effectiveness of laminating the fretboard to the neck by removing fretboard mass. This isn't such a big deal over the neck heal [fret 16+ in this instructable example] but it'll be more pronounced in the more distal range of the neck.

My recommendations:

-  Be VERY careful unless you're also comfortable replacing damaged frets.

- Be VERY careful because you're more likely to damage the fretboard if you have to refret a scalloped neck.

- Don't over-do the scallop. The reason to scallop is to pull the fretboard away from the strings so your fingers don't drag on the board. You don't need to dig out more than necessary for this. - scalloping, especially on wider spaces [lower frets] will cause you to deflect the string more when you push too hard and it'll affect your pitch. It'll do it for the same reason that a high nut will mess up the intonation [more on the lower frets than upper].

- A partial scallop will leave more neck mass, which is good. But, it also creates an uneven amount of mass [rigidity] down the neck. This isn't so bad if you keep the scallop to the higher frets since necks tend to bow around the middle [bend a long stick an see where it arcs the most]. The truss rod will also, for the same reason, provide the most effect in the middle [9th-ish]. What you don't want to do is make the neck more rigid at one end than the other because the truss rod force will have a uniform grade from the middle to the ends and you want your neck to have the same. If you want to scallop farther down than 15.. you might want to make the scallop less shallow as you get to each larger fret span.

- You can't predict how deep the fret markers will be. If they're phenolic plastic, they'll probably be thicker than a mother of pearl marker will be. If you want to scallop deep.. be increasingly mindful of this as you go down. Right before you sand through them, they should start to get translucent. If you've MoP markers, you probably won't be able to go as deep as the neck shown here.

- A tip on doing it.. Get a set of dowel rods of increasing diameter and wrap them in sand paper. Not only can you dial in the arc for the scallop better, you get to change your grit and even turn the rods to sand with the grain when you're doing the finishing sandings.
ntagn336 years ago
Looks good. I did this once on a friends Jackson DInky. Except I just used a Dremel tool with those little drum sander bits for the whole job. That way you don't go across the grain. That got the job done in no time, and it came out clean enough that my friend was able to sell the guitar. I wonder how it's done at the factory.
they use what is basically a drum sander controlled by a computer, but very few factories make these features, as they are expensive and difficult on Mass Production....
Is the dremel necessary? I don't have a lot of power tools (read as: I have a power drill and that;s it) and I don't really want to have to go buy one. Is it desperately important to dremel polish (or polish at all) the scalloped frets?
I did mine without polishing and it was fine. Afterwards I just oiled the neck and the color came back to normal.
the color changes cause the wood shavings get into the smallest indents in the fret board, the oil cleans the powder off :P
BFMV934 years ago
how far should u file down to the fret?
itsachen (author)  BFMV934 years ago
I'd say 1/16" to 1/8" is fine. Closer to the 1/16" though
BFMV93 itsachen4 years ago
Alright thanks man i appreciate it
dermord4 years ago
ehhh do a video playing the we can hear how its sounds!

(sorry for my bad english)

i like how it looks....bad whats with the sound?
victoraez5 years ago
Hi , i can Scallop my bass?
itsachen (author)  victoraez5 years ago
I'm sure you can, but I don't know what tonal differences would result in a bass. I'm guessing nothing major should change.
jdogsbart6 years ago
what does scalloping actually do for the guitar? or for you?
itsachen (author)  jdogsbart6 years ago
Makes bending and vibrato a breeze, much easier than jumbo frets.
Cj slier6 years ago
That is brill, but your might cach fingerz in frets wen sliding!
rockin out.bmp
itsachen (author)  Cj slier6 years ago
Tends to look like that might happen through the pictures, but its unlikely, unless your finger has a very small angle to the fretboard when playing.
beaverpuss6 years ago
thanks so much for the very cool instructable. A couple of things I would like to add...i)teak oil, tung oil, danish oil, lemon oil, etc. (in very minute quantities) will bring your grain out quite nicely (and unfortunately show your errors)on a rosewood neck but TREAD with caution when applying, because too much will contribute to your neck warping. ii)is it possible to attach a sound byte to instructables? 'cause it would be way cool to hear a little shred on your newly scalloped neck. Thanks again... ;)~
Why don't you scallop the entire fretboard, or is that bad for it? or is it just a personal thing, like it feels wierd on 1-13 but cool on 12-21
How did you not completely destroy your fret wire?