View Full Version : My other crazy idea.. Lighted inlays

11-29-2003, 02:25 AM
So I'm thinking.. I'd really like to have LEDs as inlays and fretboard markers.

I got this idea looking at LED lighting kits for my motorcycle.

My plan.

Stage 1 remove finger board from old neck (Kramer)
- completed, fingerboard is completely intact. There's an article on www.projectguitar.com (http://www.projectguitar.com) explaing, it works but be very, very carefull.

Stage 2, cut inlays out of clear plexiglass. Matching coloured film as well. (blue in this case)

Stage 3, route inlay channel in fretboard.

Stage 4 drill hole for LED in bottom of inlay channel, route shallow trough for wires into bottom of fretboard (Not as hard as it seems, wiring for LED is super thin, thinner than pickups wiring.) about an 1/32 deep channel will do

Stage 5 installation of LEDs and wiring, wiring exits neck heel and through hole in neck pocket to cavity, use long enough wiring with quick disconects. More thought on this area needed.

Stage 6, re-glue fretboard instructions on www.projectguitar.com (http://www.projectguitar.com)

Stage 7 Place coloured film and clear plexiglass
I'm thinking, coloured(Yes, thats how we spell it up here) - film, behind plexiglass inlays inserted, the usual fretwork performed.

Stage 8 plug in and play (hopefully)

The way I see it, this should be possible. A lot of work, and I'm sure I will make many mistakes.

I'll be practicing on some fretboard blanks first, to get my technique down.

If I could get a source for coloured plexiglass, it would be better than using the film. Although both the film and the plexi should be "frosted", not reallt completely clear, as that will diffuse the light from the LED, filling the inlay, otherwise you would get a bright spot and he rest wouldn't light up. (I think)

Also, you can buy tiny circut board kits that could alternate the LEDs.

Most electronic supply stores have all the electronics needed.

Any thoughts/Advice?

11-29-2003, 02:45 AM
Very interesting, but you won't be the first...I saw an axe with green LED inlays at NAMM last January.

But definitely do it, man! graemlins/toast.gif

11-29-2003, 02:49 PM
I didn't think about the noise issue. Thanks for pointing that out.

I looked at this system (and a couple of others).. I don't like them because they are directly inserted.. What I want to do is have the whole inlay, say the sharktooth.. glow, not just a round dot.

They have similar LED strips for motorcycles that cast a glow, rather than just bright dots. I still need to work that out in practice.

Jim Shine
11-29-2003, 03:00 PM
They have been done for a long time. I have a Stew Mac video somewhere where they show how to do it with LEDs (ofcourse you have to remove the fingerboard).

If you want plain dot LEDs, you don't need plexiglass. 75% of the LED is just plastic. You just epoxy that into the rear of the dot hole then file and sand the top of the LED flush to the fretboard. You could use plexiglass if you wanted to illuminate a whole shaped inlay, but the easiest method here would be to create the shape in the fretboard with your lisghts in place then use a clear plastic casting resin to pour in the void and sand flush. This way there are no gaps and the inlay and LEDs become one.

11-29-2003, 03:02 PM
Originally posted by 2Loud2Old:
What I want to do is have the whole inlay, say the sharktooth.. glow, not just a round dot.

<font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">OHHHHHH! OK, you didn't make that clear in your 1st post! images/icons/tongue.gif

Go for it; keep us posted!

11-29-2003, 03:03 PM
I wish something along these lines could be done without removing the fingerboard.
I have a bone stock 1984 Performance strat with a rosewood neck that I am having a hard time using live cause I can't see the damn markers! I'm not looking for the face dots, but rather the side dots. I'm used to maple necks and boards and never get lost on those.
Before you tell me its a technique thing (though you'd probably be right!), YOU try playing slide in the dark when you can't see the guitar! It's not pretty, I assure you!!

Jim Shine
11-29-2003, 03:44 PM
I have thought about using fiber optics to do it. That stuff is thin enough to apply a finish over, but sometimes a finished neck is not preferred.

Number Of The Priest
11-29-2003, 05:58 PM
Didn't Sam Rivers, the bassist from Limp Bizkit, have glowing/LED inlays on his Warwick bass? Back when I was a dumber kid than I am now, I caught a few Limp Bizkit videos on popular music stations, and noticed the cool glowing inlays on his bass.

11-29-2003, 06:43 PM
Originally posted by Chuckracer:
having a hard time using live cause I can't see the damn markers! I'm not looking for the face dots, but rather the side dots. I'm used to maple necks and boards and never get lost on those.
YOU try playing slide in the dark when you can't see the guitar! It's not pretty, I assure you!! <font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Chuck, my bud Marty from Hangar 18 cut out those green glow-in-the-dark stickers and placed them over the side dots on his KE2. Works like a charm!


11-29-2003, 07:18 PM
Hmm, thats a good idea right there.
Thanks Ron! graemlins/headbang.gif

11-29-2003, 09:13 PM
Back in the day, Jeff Watson from Night Ranger had a guitar with LEDs for inlays. I think he brought it out for the encore, IIRC.

- E.

11-29-2003, 10:54 PM
For the side markers. You could do something like a LED or a fiber optic kind of thing and put
a binding on the finger board. What would be cool is differant colored ( thats how we spell it down here images/icons/tongue.gif ) Inlays. whether they be a Sha4rkfin or whatever. Do the wireing as planned but instead of colored film over the plexiglass just use LEDs of different colors under the clear plexiglass. Or use fiber optics as those don't burn out like a bulb or a LEd can. Or use white lights with colored ( we still spell it that way down here) images/icons/smile.gif
plexiglass. That way when people see it it would look cool with out being on but when you turn on the lights blamo the inlays glow. WOooohooo. Very impressive and unexpected.

11-30-2003, 01:46 AM
Optek did that with their Frelight system quite awhile ago. I think mainly beginner players use it to help them with chords and scales. http://www.optekmusic.com/ They promoted a lot of noise through amps, so a good noise gate is in order. Not sure how good they would be just as regular fret markers, though.

11-30-2003, 09:19 AM
Go one step ahead of what already is out there. Use super bright LED's. Also, use 2 color LEDs. When you reverse the polarity of the LED it changes color. The electronics to reverse the voltage are simple. How about Fiber Optic side markers. Fiber is the perfect size for the side markers.

11-30-2003, 04:52 PM
Saw these guys at NAMM a couple years ago...very cool stuff.


I think that company had LED'd skulls on some of their boards at the time, too. It's been done for quite some time, I believe. If I remember right, I think I'd heard that ZZ Top had LED'd boards on their guitars during one of their tours in the 80s. No idea how much earlier any of it started. At the same NAMM, I was really diggin' an awesome Warrior guitar that had their "shield & sword" logo as inlays on the board, and they LED lit up purple via pulling up on one of the knobs. Man, wish I could have got that guitar hehehe.


11-30-2003, 11:53 PM
Thanks guys, some pretty interesting ideas there.