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Fiberoptic Sidemarkers Tutorial

1546 Views 3 Replies 1 Participant Last post by  Monty-Jay
Installing fiber optic sidemarkers isn't too hard once you have a grasp on what needs to be done and how to (try) and do it best. In no way am I a pro at this, I learn something new everytime and that makes each project better than the last.

If you are wanting to do this, I STRONGLY urge you to try it out on a cheapo neck and not your #1 baby. In all honesty, you most likely will mess up and that's ok. Just learn from that and you will know what not to do next time.

-Inlays and sidemarkers can start to ooze out if they are "cheapo" inlay material. If you have one of those model nameplates at the 12th fret where it looks clear with text written on paper, you can pretty much kiss that goodbye and better plan to fill it. This is something that is caused by the heat from the iron, it's a delicate balance that you need to feel out. You need enough heat to warm up the glue so you can separate the join, but not too much heat otherwise the inlays will start to come out.


Tools needed:
-Ironing Board (or similar flat surface)
-An old thin shirt
-Thin/flat metal spatula
-Possibly a thin knife/blade

This is probably the trickiest part of the entire process (as well as gluing the board back on), so a lot of care is needed when starting. Bottom line is, you need to be very cautious of what you are doing and what is happening.

I can't tell you how long this step will take, it really is different everytime. I've done a few where it's taken well over an hour, others come off around 30 minutes. Usually, about 45 minutes is the average.

This depends on a few things:

-Neck end: Some necks are easier to do than others and the easiest ones are those that have the fingerboard OVERHANG with no neck wood underneath this overhang. Meaning it's ONLY the fretboard wood. This lets you easily use your spatula and get into the neck/fretboard join once the glue starts to heat up and melt. Other guitars are harder. These are the kind where the neck wood is attached/underneath the fretboard wood, overhang or not. This requires more care and you probably will need a knife/blade to start digging into it and try to separate the join a little bit. This will be hard to do and it takes time, just be CAREFUL, you don't want to mess up and split any wood.

-Glue: Some necks have a ton of glue and some necks have stronger glue too. This makes the entire process take longer to complete. On the other hand, not as much glue or glue that isn't quite as strong will come off fairly easily. The good thing about this is it is quick and also usually leaves you with very clean surfaces.


Ok, so at this point, you should have your neck taken off your guitar and lying on your ironing board or other flat surface. Fill up your iron with water and set it to the 5th steam setting. Place your old shirt on top of the fretboard (only one layer) and make sure it's nice and level with no wrinkles. The shirt is used to protect the fretboard wood in case any water were to come in contact with it. This way, it just hits the shirt and keeps the board nice. You might want to adjust your truss rod so that it pushes up against the fretboard just a bit. IF yours is already doing this and it's doing it alot, you might want to back it off and make it more level. Ideally, you want your truss rod to be flat with no pressure on the fretboard. If there is pressure, it could bend the board too much and damage it.

Place your iron directly on top of the shirt/fretboard (start at the end of the fretboard, not the nut side) and let it slightly overlap the end of the board.

**NOTE** Once you get started, try and work constantly and always pay attention to what is happening. You want the steam to work for you and do most of the job, but leaving the iron in one spot for too long will cause that area to heat up too much and the inlays/sidemarkes could start to ooze up/out. Do NOT apply upwards or downwards pressure with your spatula, keep it level with the fretboard as much as you can. IF you pull up or push down, you can damage the fretboard.

Ok, again I can't say for sure how long this should take. Sometimes it takes a long time and sometimes it's really quick. These days, I have kinda developed a feel for how it goes and so I steam for a good 8 minutes or so, then check it with my spatula. Again, keep an eye on those inlays and sidemarkers, they could start to loosen up. Insert your spatula in between the fretboard/neck join and simply go back and forth, left to right while GENTLY and carefully moving towards the nut. It should move really smoothly and with little resistance. The moment you start to feel the resistance increase and it's harder to move, STOP. You do not want to increase the pressure on this area. If you do, you WILL end up splitting either the fretboard or neck wood. This will probably happen anyway though, so don't worry too much if it does. Just make sure you move slowly but surely. Keep moving down the board as much as you can in between steamings, but stop when you need to.

Ok, so after you are able to move your spatula down and come to a point where you are unable to go further, refill your iron and steam it again.

It's really that simple, just steam for awhile (at least 8 minutes or so before you seriously check it with your spatula), then move the spatula down the board and keep repeating.

When you get to the last few frets, you will probably notice things taking a bit longer than normal. That's fine...Just turn your iron backwards or to the side so you have a good amount of the iron making contact with the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd frets.

Once the board is off, let everything dry and cool down. You don't want to start working on warm sidemarkers.
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I forgot to mention another slight warning about too much heat. In addition to the inlays/sidemarkers heating up, the frets could potentially heat up and not remain properly seated. Be careful, it probably won't happen, but it could...



Iron Setting:

Fretboard end: This kind is the easiest to work on...

Shirt on the fretboard, ready to steam:


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Spatula goes in:

Last section to be removed, area near the nut. Back that thang up:

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Oozing inlays/sidemarkers...Here's what I was talking about. It's pretty much always gonna

happen. I didn't worry about the inlays too much with this one because they are going to be

removed and filled then the entire board will be stained ebony. To clean up this oozing, you

need a dremel tool with a small sanding disc. Simply go straight down on the portion of the

sidemarkers that stick out until it's flush again.

That's it for the fretboard removal. Next up is prepping the board for the fiber optic strand

installation. This will cover routing of the fretboard's underside and drilling into the stock


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