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How to Remove Tape Without Damaging the Finish

Tips to make removing tape from a masked off fingerboard easier!

Video Transcript

Today’s Tips du Jour Mailbag question comes to us from New Jersey.

“Robert, how do you remove the masking tape from the fretboard without chipping the finish? – Karen in New Jersey”

Well Karen, this is a common problem. It’s been known to happen in the best of families. Let’s go over to the bench, I’ll show you how to avoid it.

So Karen here’s what I do.  I take a file, I place it along the edge of the fretboard. I’m going to put it at about the same angle that I had on the bevel of the frets. Now, down here on the peghead end you want to be careful with your file that you don’t damage your peghead. So just put it at an angle. What you’re doing is you’re filing through the finish and breaking that bond between the tape and the finish.

Up here on the body end, you want to be very careful. What I use is a safe edge on my file and I use my thumb and index finger as a depth gauge so that the thumb is running along the soundboard, not the file. Also, you want to mask it off or put some protection on there. But once you’re filed through it, you can come in here with a knife and help remove that tape.

Another way to do that same thing would be to use a sanding block and some sandpaper and just run it up and down the side of the fretboard. Up here you could use the same thing and around the back edge here to break that bond. Then I come in with an x-acto blade or a razor blade and just work it up under there. Very carefully just slice under the tape and then just work your way down the fretboard like this. And if you’ve ever sprayed any finish, you know there’s always a little residue that gets between the tape and the finish. So you have to come back and clean that off too.

Oh, look at those inlays, I forgot about those. Those are going to look sweet. Just very carefully work your way along the fretboard like this. Basically, what you’re doing is just slicing through the finish and rely on that tape to release. Also, notice I’m pulling it toward the fretboard rather than pulling away from the fretboard. That seems to help a little bit too. And once you get down here to the nut, you want to be very very careful as well, working that knife in there so that you don’t chip around the peghead.

So once I’ve removed all the tape, then I just come in with my razor blade here and just kind of scrape any of the residue off the edge of the fretboard that rolled up under the tape by the fret there. And depending on how well you masked off your fretboard to begin with, will depend on how much work you have to do at this point to clean it up.

So Karen, like many things in guitar building, that’s a simple step. Very easy. However, if you overlook it or forget to do it, it could cause you a lot more work in the long run.