Pearl Inlay Problems and S-Shaped Necks

This is almost another before and after post like the last one. Although, probably, the photo below is more of a 'during' and after. 

This pearl inlay dot needs to be replaced (obviously)

The photo shows what's left of a pearl inlay position marker in a fingerboard. I was pretty sure I'd encounter this as I performed this particular job (although, I'd been hoping it wouldn't).

A little background is called for. 

You'll probably know that, ideally, you'll want your guitar's neck to be straight, or with just a smidge of relief (the slight bow that string tension pulls into the neck). That's all good. Sometimes, however, necks (and I'm really talking about the fingerboard/frets here) can take on funny—more annoying, really—shapes. 

A rise or hump at the end of the fingerboard, around the last few frets, isn't unusual and it's a relatively common fix. Slightly more rare is the S-shaped neck. This ailment leaves us with an extra hump/dip along the length of the fingerboard. 

On an S-shaped board, we'll often have a hump at the end and a hump around the third or forth fret. The first couple of frets dip back. This scribbly sketch from my crumpled, pocket notebook gives you a pretty exaggerated idea of what I mean.

S-Shaped neck

S-Shaped neck

Depending on a few things, it's sometimes possible to improve matters by removing the frets and levelling the fingerboard so that it's back to a proper straight plane. When one of your humps or dips is large, however, this can cause the problem you see in the first photo above.

In this case, the first couple of frets dipped so much that I had to take off quite a bit of fingerboard wood to try get things straight again. Along with the wood I was removing from the high bits, I was also removing inlay. I hoped I'd get away with it while knowing, deep down, I wouldn't.

I didn't.

Oh, well. Add inlay replacement to the job list.

Nice new pearl dots. 

In the most ideal of ideal worlds, I'd remove the whole fingerboard from an instrument with as much S-ing as this one, and replace it with a new, good one. That tends to be a pretty involved and expensive job, though and it can be difficult to justify in this, less ideal, real world.

It's worth my mentioning that—I think—there was at least some of this S-shape thing going on from the factory. It's not a particularly old guitar and the frets themselves have a level that's different to the fingerboard. This leads me to think that there was some S-ing happening already when these frets were levelled. If that's the case (and this fact, and others, leads me to think it is), that's pretty poor form.