The radius of a fretboard adjusts the playability of a guitar. A small radius -- a larger curve -- allows easier chord playing on lower frets, but a flatter curve is desired on higher frets for soloing. A compound radius guitar fretboard gradually changes radius. An effective compound radius fretboard starts at a 10-inch radius at the nut and runs to 16-inches at the bridge. With sandpaper and four radius blocks, you can make a compound radius guitar neck.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Guitar neck
- Self-adhesive 80-,120- and 220-grit sandpapers
- 4-inch long radius blocks: 10-, 12-, 14- and 16-inch radii
- Rope or string
Stick the self-adhesive sandpaper onto the 10-inch radius block so it moulds to the radius. Overlap the edges of the radius block with the sandpaper. Start with a lower grit sandpaper, such as 80 to 120.
Secure the fretboard by tying the guitar neck head and heel to the work bench.
Sand the fretboard with the 10-inch radius block and attached sandpaper. Start at the nut and move toward the bridge, using even pressure on lengthwise strokes on the neck until the fretboard has moulded to the 10-inch radius up to the 9th fret.
Stick the self-adhesive 80- to 120-grit sandpaper onto the 12-inch radius block.
Blend the 10- and 12-inch radii at the 8th and 9th frets. To make a smooth transition between the 10- and 12-inch radii, gently roll the 12-inch radius block with attached sandpaper side to side.
Sand the fretboard with the 12-inch radius block. Start sanding at the 9th fret and stop at the 12th fret.
Stick self-adhesive 80- to 120-grit sandpaper to the 14-inch radius block.
Roll the 14-inch radius block with attached sandpaper side to side at the junction -- the 11th and 12th frets -- of the 12- and 14-inch radius blocks to ensure a smooth transition.
Sand from the 12th fret to the 15th fret with the 14-inch radius block until that section of the fretboard has moulded to a 14-inch radius.
Attach the self-adhesive sandpaper to the 16-inch radius block.
Blend the 14- and 16-inch radii at the place of convergence: the 15th fret. Roll the 16-inch radius block with attached sandpaper side to side at the 15th fret.
Sand the fretboard with the 16-inch radius block and attached sandpaper from the 15th fret down the remainder of the neck until that section of the fretboard has moulded to a 16-inch radius.
Look down the fretboard to ensure a smooth radius transition across the neck. Adjust any area of the fretboard you want smoother by gently rolling that section's corresponding radius block with attached sandpaper side to side over the specific area.
Tips and warnings
- Always brush away excess wood shavings from fretboard and use fresh sandpaper for a smoother finish.
- Once finished, use a finer grit sandpaper -- such as 220 -- to smooth rough areas along the fretboard. You do not need a radius block to do this.
- Radius blocks are typically not found in musical instrument stores, but they can be purchased on the Internet.
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