Originally Posted by peakdesign
A wipe-on Tung Oil finish. Better yet: Tru-Oil, as used on rifle stocks. It's not for build-up as much as protecting an already leveled fingerboard.
Neither Tung Oil or Tru-Oil are very hard finishes. I'm not going to say they're bad or anything, but for a really hard finish that's going to stand up to round-wounds on a fretless I think Epoxy is probably the best, and CA seems to work reasonably well too.
I'm just speaking from an engineering standpoint though. I don't play enough fretless to have really done any significant damage to a fretboard, hardened or otherwise. I suspect that in many cases even an unprotected board would stand up alright depending on the wood, and the bassist.
Originally Posted by Rodent
I use System3 on my epoxied fingerboards
85% of the work is properly preparing your fingerboard for the epoxy coating - and this includes NOT using bondo, wood filler, etc to fill the fret slots.
10% is properly masking to keep epoxy from where it shouldn't go.
4% is measuring, mixing, and applying properly IAW the mfr directions.
all that remains is the easy part of leveling the epoxy after it's [if]fully[/i] cured using proper wet sanding techniques and with high quality papers of the appropriate grits. if you do everything right, the final buffing for a mirror shine is child's play
epoxy finishing a fingerboard is a lot of work. don't be fooled into thinking otherwise
all the best,
I would agree with this. If you don't want the fret lines, filling the fret slots seems pretty pointless.
OTOH, If you wanted the lines, bondo or wood putty can do a half decent job of it. Not something I would do on a really high end bass, but if you're just trying to put some new life into a cheap old bass you never play, careful work is probably more important than the specific materials you use.
I've read all sorts of horror stories about people wrecking their stuff trying to to a Jaco with a butter knife, but I have a feeling most of them are sloppy work. I did my fretless in an evening with very basic tools and cheap materials, and I think the result is pretty decent. Yeah, you can see some zig-zag from the fret tangs, but it's pretty minimal, and it doesn't change the way it plays. (I suck at fretless, so I wanted the lines anyways)
Even with CA, which is definitely easier, I spent far more time on the fretboard than on applying the glue.
To be 100% clear though, Those percentages are the amount of work, and not the importance of that work.
In my experience, most of my major screwups are on minor simple tasks. A perfectly prepared and masked off board is still going to be junk if you improperly measure your epoxy and end up with a tacky mess that never cures correctly.
(I'm pretty sure that's what Rodent is getting at, but didn't want anyone to underestimate the importance of that 4%)