Fretless conversion help - hard top coat?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Pure.Fusion, Nov 24, 2012.


  1. Pure.Fusion

    Pure.Fusion

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    Hi guys,

    Some direction needed here.

    In short, wanted a fretless bass and picked this SR405 up cheap. It was half converted by having the frets removed. I've finished it off by filling the slots, returning the radius to 12" and adjusting the nut. The rosewood was oiled as a finish.

    Since I've never played a "production" fretless before I don't know if this needs a hard top layer or not. If I bought a Gary Willis model Ibanez (Yes, I'm a fan :) ), would it have an epoxy coating?

    It plays and sounds "ok" now but from hearing samples on youtube, Im wondering if I'll get some more sustain and bloom with a hard coating on the surface.

    I've seen two methods thus far - enclosing the sides of the entire neck (like a swimming pool) and pouring on the epoxy **thick**, then radius sanding the hardened glue as if it was the neck surface ... I think I'll stay away from this.

    The other was Dan Earewine's method here (http://www.stewmac.com/tsarchive/ts0139.html.) which applies thin coats of CA to an already radiused finish. I'm considering doing this one.

    And thoughts or help here on the fretboard finish?

    Cheers,
    FM
     

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  2. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

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    You don't need any hard layer on top. Play it. If you want to minimize fretboard wear, play flats or tapewounds.
     
  3. Pure.Fusion

    Pure.Fusion

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    Thanks for your reply, but do you want to explain why this is your advice? No mention here of (what I currently understand to be) benefits of covering the fretboard. No mention here of how a production fretless bass is finished.

    With respect, your reply doen't really make me any wiser about my situation for me to make a choice.

    I do appreciate your reply Pilgrim.

    Cheers.
    FM
     
  4. JLS

    JLS Supporting Member

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    Good choice; this method/idea borders on insanity.

    You can build a surprisingly fast & hard finish w/CA glue.
     
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  6. rllefebv

    rllefebv Supporting Member

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    If I may, I believe that what Pilgrim is getting at is that a hard coating isn't an absolute requirement for a fretless board, but more of a preference. People can tend to get a bit overwrought on issues such as string wear... Worry first about the sound you are hoping to achieve and then work towards that.

    Some folks like a bright-ish sounding fretless with quick attack and ringing sustain. Those folks tend to prefer round wound strings on hard epoxy coated boards... Others tend towards more of a thuddish, uprighty tone and may prefer flats on an unfinished board... It's all a preference see...

    I like the sound of nickel round-wounds on an unfinished (or lightly oiled) rosewood board. The string-on-wood-wearing-grooves-in-the-fingerboard sound is what I'm after... Believe me, it will take a while (with my moderate touch anyway) to really wear significant grooves into my rosewood board. During string changes I buff out the board with #0000 steel wool moistened with boiled linseed oil and it stays in great shape.

    Plenty of folks like the sound and feel of an epoxied board, with good reason. I've played some great feeling ones, but to my ear, they lack that certain something. That's enough of a reason for me to stay away from epoxy...

    Dan Erlewine's CA finish is altogether different... Earlier this year, I de-fretted a cheapie Bronco and did a CA finish on it. To my hands, this feels very much closer to bare wood and has the advantage of being very easy to apply and touch up... Aids in protecting the wood, and mostly in keeping it clean looking... I will say this: HEED ALL WARNINGS ABOUT APPLYING A CA FINISH IN A WELL VENTILATED AREA!! This stuff fumes like a mofo... The first two coatings were no problem, but then it got cold and I closed the garage door. Bad mistake... It felt like my eyes were turning into raisins! Be careful! FWIW, this Bronco conversion is an excellent feeling, playing and sounding little bass and I am very happy with the results of the CA finish...

    As far as your particular board is concerned, I would lean towards Pilgrim's advice... If you're unsure, play it first and see how you feel. In spite of what some folks may say, oiled rosewood is surprisingly tough (I mean come on... It's dishwasher safe!)... Sure, you'll get grooves, but they have to be awfully deep to affect playability IMO... That takes a long time. Proper care and intelligent string choice will minimize the wear, and hey, worst case scenario - Sand the grooves out :D

    Hope this helps,

    -robert
     
  7. Pure.Fusion

    Pure.Fusion

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    Thanks for your effort to reply rllefebv. Appreciated.

    I use D'addario and Fedora nickle roundwounds on both my bases. Currently use Fedoras on my 6 string. Yes thank you pointing out the different string types - very relevant. My string choice isn't changing.

    No, I'm not worried about wearing grooves in the fretboard (going by the responses it sounds like most people are). If it got that bad, I'd just address it by sanding the fretboard, in the way that I've just finished doing.

    Yes, I too have used CA of many thicknesses and varieties for many years - with kicker too. Thank you for the warning tho.

    "Play it first and see how you feel". Yes, I have played this for a few weeks now and have recorded with it.

    "I would lean towards Pilgrim's advice." May I ask why you choose this advicefor me?

    I guess i want to know what the norm is, espacially for a Ibanez GWB. If I bought a fretless bass from the shop, what is the surface like? Hard covering? Oiled wood? Or does it vary from product to product?

    You said "but to my ear, they lack that certain something" so I assume there's not going to be a huge change in sound. I'd be hoping to get some more sustain by doing the CA and to use a lighter touch on the finger picking.

    If for some reason I don't like the sound, I can just sand the CA off..... I assume.

    Cheers,
    FM
     
  8. Steveaux

    Steveaux

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    [​IMG]

    ;)
     
  9. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

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    That's the point.

    I might repeat my point with emphasis: you don't NEED a coating. That means is is not a requirement for the bass to function proprely, nor to prevent fretboard wear which is a normal result of extended playing. I suggested strings which minimize wear to the point where it will never become an issue...but you like rounds, so that's irrelevant to you.

    I think that's pretty clear, and explanatory.

    You may want a coating, but you don't need one for any of the following reasons:

    - functionality
    - "tone" (a vague and semi-imaginary term I dislike)
    - wear prevention (you can refinish the fretboard every few years or use strings that don't wear on it)

    Why would you want a coating?

    - Because your idol (Jaco or some other guy) used it
    - You think it would be fun
    - You are intrigued by the idea
    - For some reason you think you need it
    - You believe it contributes to a specific sound you're looking for
    - You simply want to do it

    In any of those cases, have fun and try to do a nice clean job.

    The "norm" is simple: no coating. Manufacturers make thousands of fretless electric basses, as well as upright basses, cellos, violas and violins every year without coatings. It simply is not required.

    I have a defretted bass which has tapewound strings and all I did to the board after a light sanding to level the filler material in the frets was to wipe one application of tung oil on it. That was more than 10 years ago, and the fretboard is fine although it's not a bass I play a lot.

    I have lots of fedoras, and they all look something like the ones in Steveaux's post. :D
     
  10. Steveaux

    Steveaux

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    I knew you'd have excellent taste.
     
  11. Pure.Fusion

    Pure.Fusion

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    - you want to "do it right" because perhaps that's how all fretless basses are made and only back-yarders would leave the fretboard uncovered.

    - or you suspect that from various snippets of internet information that it may contribute to something you're looking for (like sustain, less pressure needed to fret) but knowing that the internet has as much bull$h1t as it does fact and not having any idea at all, need to double check this unvetted info with someone, perhaps at a forum...

    If this is the case, it's good enough for me. I'll save the mess and time.

    Ok. Thanks for your info and your time everyone.

    Cheers,
    FM
     
  12. Pure.Fusion

    Pure.Fusion

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    Oh I get it :) So that's what you call those hats.......
     
  13. rllefebv

    rllefebv Supporting Member

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    Dunno if you're intending to be snarky (or if that's just how this reads to me), but not all fretless basses are coated... Simply not true...

    I leaned towards Pilgrim's advice, because my interpretation of your original post was that it appeared that you were unsure whether a coating was necessary or not... Pilgrim's advice was more or less "Doesn't need a coating... Just play it", which is my experience as well. If you're set on coating, then by all means, coat... There are numerous, successful models out there with coated fingerboards, just as there are numerous models without...

    The Gary Willis bass has an ebonol fingerboard which is a synthetic material resembling an epoxied ebony fingerboard... If you're trying to emulate Gary's sound, then an epoxy coating isn't a bad route, (along with years of practice :D )... IMO, the CA finish is quite different in both sound and feel...

    Hope this helps,

    -robert
     
  14. Pure.Fusion

    Pure.Fusion

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    No no, not at all (must have came out the wrong way).

    This is my exact position. *I* am the "back-yarder" and I honestly don't know if all fretless basses come with a hard coating of whatever or are just oiled wood.

    Wow, dunno where you dug this up (I did go looking). This changes things; yes I'm a fan of Willis and definitely the genre he plays. Purely by chance ended up with a similar bass albiet an old crap version.

    ... yes, it certainly does. The CA is back on.....

    Much thanks.

    FM
     
  15. daveman50

    daveman50 Supporting Member

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    If you aren't that happy with the tone, remember that a fretless needs to be set up differently. Specifically, the nut usually will need to be cut very low (barely above the fingerboard). If you can lower the nut slots yourself, try that, or have someone else do it. It could make a huge difference in the tone. It will also expose whether the fb is really level and you may need that taken care of as well.

    PS: I am agnostic with respect to whether the fb needs to be coated. My experience is that it doesn't matter - a proper setup and finding strings you like are the keys.
     
  16. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

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    Really, it's simple - most fretless basses I have ever seen have uncoated fingerboards. I have also been very happy with an uncoated one.

    Ergo, my statement that it's not necessary was in response to the original question: "I don't know if this needs a hard top layer or not."

    The operative word being "necessary".
     
  17. AnchorHoy

    AnchorHoy

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    There is also the Middle Way, which is half-rounds - D'Addario makes 'em for sure and I think there's one or two other string makers who offer something similar

    [​IMG]

    FWIW I use Half-Rounds on my fretless (bare rosewood fingerboard) and prefer them to either rounds or flats. Noticeably brighter than flats, plus harmonics sustain much longer. OTOH the wear on the fingerboard is minimal and they're not too bright for my taste like rounds are
     
  18. SurferJoe46

    SurferJoe46

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    Just to kick another dog and through it into the fire - I use (very successfully too!) surfboard resin and it works just fine.

    Easy to apply - not too fume-y and it's very forgiving to minor mistakes in application. Actually I think the smell is rather sexy and it always brings me back to the years I spent in Huntington Beach.

    I digress though.

    The coating is purely optional with the caveat of quicker wear - but not by much for an uncoated and round wound strings and an aggressive or not playing style.

    I like the GHS Boomers a lot on my conversion:::

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Either way - you'll enjoy the experience.
     
  19. JLS

    JLS Supporting Member

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    That nut looks way too high, for a fretless.

    [​IMG]
     
  20. daveman50

    daveman50 Supporting Member

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    +1. There should be just about *no* daylight under the strings.
     
  21. Pure.Fusion

    Pure.Fusion

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    +1 on the +1. That's very high dude. It must make the first fret marker feel like hard work.

    For mine, if you didn't take the time to measure the gap, you'd swear the strings are sitting on the fretboard at the nut.

    Thanks for your surfboard resin info!

    Cheers,
    FM
     

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