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Improving visibility of bird inlays


New Member
Sep 29, 2013
Hampshire, UK
I gig my Custom 24 most weekends and, with varying stage lighting, have always found it difficult seeing the 12th fret bird inlay. The abalone has a mostly darker colouring, whereas the rest of the inlays along the board are of a lighter colour. I have used luminous fret markers but these generally slip out of place once they get warm.

My question is, can the abalone be polished to better reflect surrounding lighting? I wouldn’t want to use any substances if they are known to react adversely with the shell.
I don’t know of anything, save replacing it. Practice not relying on it, which is easier than you think. Otherwise, just keep in mind that it’s the only one with two blank frets on either side!
Use the side dots. That is what they are there for. I can't tell you if a guitar I am playing has birds or dots on it when I am playing. I am not sure how people look at the fret markers on the fretboard when playing. That seems like it would kill your neck and shoulders.
Wait until you grow a gut.
I had one and lost it. I still couldn't really see the face of the fretboard.

One of my friends said his guitar body gets more vertical every year. I told him he is either going to have to go on a diet, or get a shallow bowl Ovation! He replied “or learn how to play belly steel guitar.”:p:p
When I had my gut, I discovered that the bowl of an ovation didn't go well with the roundness of the gut. It was like trying to balance two balls on each other. :D

I had an interesting discovery one day with something kid of related to this. I was in a country band and I played two different Telecasters in it. One was an American Deluxe and the other was an American Standard. I seemed to always be able to play more complicated, faster, stuff on the Standard. I discovered that with the tummy cut on the Deluxe it tilted in toward my body more than the Standard did. That extra little bit that the Standard leaned away from me allowed my wrist to be in a little bit more of an open position, which allowed me to play a little better. I would never have been able to see the face of the fretboard in that position and it made me play better.
No luck. Those darker bits just eat up the light. I have a dot on a guitar of a different make that completely disappears at some angles. Like others said, just gotta go by side dots and feel unless you want to have a luthier install some Luminlay...
I have seen stick on florescent and glow in the dark side dots before. Can't remember who made them, but I'm sure they're still available and it's not a real "mod" that would negatively affect the guitar resale, etc.
I have seen stick on florescent and glow in the dark side dots before. Can't remember who made them, but I'm sure they're still available and it's not a real "mod" that would negatively affect the guitar resale, etc.
Howard Leese mentioned years ago on a forum that his tech uses a glow in the dark paint pen to put dots on top of the side dots so he can see it in the dark. He said it wears off and has to be reapplied so it shouldn't harm the guitar. I have not had to play in any situations so dark that I couldn't see the side dots but if I did, I would try this method.
You can choose one of the glow in the dark colors here and either put a dot on your side markers or use a toothpick full of the paint and trace the bird that you want to show up.

I was intrigued by this topic a few months back and have been reading/thinking a bit about it. I know some of these are mentioned above, but here are the things I have been thinking of on this illumination situation:

1. Luminlay side markers as mentioned above. Downside for me is too paranoid to drill in the the Luminlay recommended levels and too cheap/insecure about hiring anyone around here to do it for me. Aside from that, has anyone tried these and if so, has anyone used a depth level shorter than they recommend from Luminlay?
2. Luminlay also makes glow in the dark fret lines. They say they are for fretless bass guitars, but I would imagine they are for any fretboard. Point is, if these shallow strips were laid on the body side of each fret you want marked, they will not be interferring with any of the strings. Downside here is, YIKES, $92 for "0.5 or 0.6mm fret slots, 83mm*5mm*12pcs and 95mm*5mm*12pcs/set ( Liminlay fret lines ). Would not even need to use them all the way across the board, so one set could go a long way, but still, with an entry point like that, I think there are better options.
3. Luminlay also makes Top inlay material as well as Top dots. Those top dots could be cut in half or strips and put on the body side of frets x, y and z to mark them but it seem a bit too intrusive to me. Inlay material could be used I guess inside current inlays, in new inlays or as replacement material for current inlays. Too complicated for me to want to take on, but for others well within their commitment and skillset!
3. Glow-On, as mentioned above. Here I can think of a few ways to use this.
A. Put it on top of each sidemarker dot you want marked. Of course, this is not going to last long but is the least invasive procedure.
B. Drill out just a very shallow bit of the side dots you want to have glow. Put a bit of the glow-on in there and wait for it to dry. Then put a layer of clear coat on top of it to protect it, and sand down to level of the boards edge or binding. Could put the glow to the top, buy I figure having a clear poly layer of protectant over the top can't be a bad thing when it comes to longevity, which is why we are drilling into the board rather than just putting it on the surface.
C. Like the Luminlay fret lines above, you could just use a bit of glow on to paint the body side of each fret you wanted to mark. I think with the right brush, like a fingernail polish brush, you could paint just a 1/4" spot of the fret on the body side and it would glow, would not interfere with the strings in any way. Vibration would probably be the culprit in the glow paint falling off over time as the strings and your fingers would be having very little if any contact with it. One downside that comes to mind is, if that glow paint gets down in fret channel, would it affect the wood in there and/or the glues holding the frets in some cases? If carefully applied and with no excesses left to seep in there, should not be a problem, just sayin'!
4. Have led fret markers installed!
5. Attach a battery operated light to the headstock pointing down the fret board so that when the lights are out, it lights up your neck!
6. Make friends with the lightman and let him know that you need the neck of your guitar to have lighting at all times!
7. Get some glow in the dark fingers so that they illuminate the fretboard wherever they go! Perfect for the Halloween season!

Gonna go play in the light now!
Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I should have said that I already use luminous side fret dots as well as the luminous strips on the fingerboard; both of which eventually slip away under the heat of battle. Oh and yes, I developed a gut years ago, though my guitar doesn’t quite sit horizontally yet. I’m going to investigate the luminlay side dots route as these are partially succussful on my Charvel.
There is also a company named FretFX that makes strips of led you can put on your side markers.

I have a little dealie that clips on the strings behind the nut that shines down the main fretboard and illuminates the whole thing until you put your hand on the fretboard. It does make a cool effect and I'll try to find it for the manufacturer.

Glow in the dark paint applied with a toothpick to the side markers are a great solution that doesn't change anything on the guitar! I have done that.
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