Most of us regard our guitars as a part of the family, holding them in high esteem, and since most of us spent a good sum of money on them it’s with good reason. Because of this most of us tend to avoid doing small “repairs” or “upgrades” to our instruments for fear of irrevocable damage! A small upgrade everyone can do, however, is installing a fret dot. A fret dot allows you to avoid using whiteout or another semi-permanent alternative. I recently put one in both my new Michael Thames guitar as well as Chris’ new Thames. Here is what you will need!
- Scotch Tape
- Permanent Marker
- BRAD point drill bit (incredibly important)
- 2mm fret dots (or whichever size you prefer)
- A drill
You can obtain both a brad point drill bit as well as the 2mm fret dots from Luthiers Mercantile for about ten dollars (with shipping). The importance of the brad point bit is that it has an extremely sharp, needle-like point that prevents the drill bit from “skating” uncontrollably over your expensive guitar.
First lay a piece of scotch tape parallel with the fingerboard over the appropriate fret. Then put to more pieces perpendicular to the first one covering the fret entirely with tape. This does two things: (1) allows you to mark your position for drilling without fear, as well as (2) prevents any finish damage on your guitar due to chipping during the drilling process.
Next mark the spot on the tape where you want to place the dot. Before drilling blindly I suggest finding the rough depth of your dot against the bit and subsequently marking it by wrapping a small piece of tape around the bit. This is a visual cue for you to stop drilling once you have reached the tape on the bit.
And now for the scary part, begin drilling by placing the point of the bit firmly on the tape, wind up the drill bit very slowly so as to further prevent any accidental “skating” of the drill bit. Once you have hit the wood it is good to stop every couple seconds to clear the drill bit of the ebony dust. Ebony is a very dense wood and the shavings slow down the process as well as obscure your depth. Once you have reached the appropriate depth you can then either put a small dab of glue (elmers would be fine) or place the dot in “dry” as I did with both Christopher’s and my guitar. It is very important to NOT remove the tape before putting in the dot! If you place the dot and you did not drill deep enough it is much easier to have tape in place to have something to protect the guitar if you want to either pull the dot back out or sand it flush with the top of the fret board!
I hope this is helpful for those of you looking for an alternative to whiteout or the semi-permanent dots you can get online. This is not as scary as it sounds and can be completed in less than twenty minutes, but don’t rush through this, no sense in risking your baby!