HOW TO: Lined Fretless Fingerboard

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by RAHAZ, Feb 21, 2008.


  1. RAHAZ

    RAHAZ

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    Arizona
    HOW TO: Lined Fretless Fingerboard

    I figured I would post this How to because I was surprised no one had already done so. I hope this helps someone.:bassist:

    Here is my precut Cocobolo fretboard. In my case this is a 34" scale going on a 5 stringer. I've blown out the grooves with compressed air to make sure nothing was lodged in there that would block the wood inlay
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    In my case I am inlaying some birch laminate that I had leftover from the neck blank. The thickness of the laminate was a perfect fit for the precut board that LMI has. I bought it from a local woodworking store and made sure that there was no paper or fabric backing on it. Precut your pieces to the width of your fretboard. For height I just eyeballed it at around 1/4". When I cut them I've oriented the grain horizontally to keep the piece of veneer stable when inserting. If you cut the strip of laminate the wrong way it will weave like those old wooden snake toys.
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    For gluing the strips I took a piece of cauling I had lying around and put a heap of glue on it so I could dip and set as I went up the neck
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    Don't overdo it on the glue, just a thin line on the bottom of both sides will be sufficient.
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    I set them by inserting one side close to the end and then pressed the rest along the line being careful not to crush the laminate.
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    This is what they should look like. Set firmly on the bottom of the fret channel.
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    All of the lines are now set and ready for trimming.
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    I used an exacto knife and cut it like peeling an apple using my thumb for leverage.
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    All laminates are now cut and ready for sanding to flush out with the board.
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    I used 60 grit paper to quickly take the stubs down being careful to not create a groove in the board.
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    [​IMG]

    This fretboard has a date with a few different grits of sandpaper and a radius sanding block.
    [​IMG]

    Images have been fixed.
  2. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Gold Supporting Member

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    That's exactly how I did it, only I used *just* enough glue that it squeezed out, and I wiped it up with a damp paper towel... I too used birch veneer, and an LMII board! It worked out quite wekk, IMO.

    I'd recommend sealing the birch veneer with CA glue, as it will take on dirt with use and start to look grungy, unless you are going to use poly or something to coat your fingerboard. Because I used bloodwood, and it's hard as hell, I decided not to use epoxy or poly on the board.

    [​IMG]
  3. RAHAZ

    RAHAZ

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    I didn't even think about the birch taking on dirt. How would I go about sealing it with the CA since I still have a ton of sanding to do. :scowl:

    The Cocobolo is supposed to be just as hard as bloodwood. In fact, I bought bloodwood for my fretless, baritone (27.5") 7 string g**tar project.:ninja:
  4. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Gold Supporting Member

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    I would just soak the really thin CA into the birch area, then sand it smooth. The Cocobolo should soak up the CA without clogging the grain. So long as you don't "sand until it is polished" you shouldn't notice a significant difference in the cocobolo, but the birch pores should be sealed up tight...

    In the future, you could saturate the birch veneer in CA glue before cutting into strips and gluing them in.
  5. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

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    Thank you for posting this: link's been added to the "How To" sticky :).
  6. RAHAZ

    RAHAZ

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    Sweet. Hope it helps.
  7. RAHAZ

    RAHAZ

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    Cool, Thanks for the tips. Soaking it before hand would help the rigidity as well. Guess I will do that with the other fretboard.
  8. Jonsbasses

    Jonsbasses

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    I believe Shawn means soaking it after the birch veneer is installed and trimmed to size. If you soak the veneer with CA glue beforehand, you're going to have a hard time gluing the veneer in, since glue doesn't bond to glue. Using very thin CA glue will seep into the pores and cause a fine finish, as well as seal off the veneer from seeping oils / grim over time. This is very important to do especially on a Cocobolo fingerboard, it's about the oiliest wood I have ever worked with.
  9. SLivinghouse

    SLivinghouse

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    Meadow Vista, CA
    Hey thanks for the great post.
    I defretted my 6 string about three weeks ago using the same method and it turned out very well. I finished the rosewood fingerboard with Tru-Oil but am starting to get marks on the fretboard from the roundwounds. I suspected that I may have this issue so I've been keeping a close eye on it. I want to use roundwounds but also have as little as finish as possible (don't like the thick expoxy style you often see.) I was wondering what your thoughts are of using CA versus alternatives for getting sufficint protection from roundwounds, but keeping it as natural as possible.

    Also, for DIYers,
    I suggest keeping masking tape on the fingerboard while trimming the birch to protect the fingerboard. I also found that a cheap thumb plane worked very well for triming since it is easier to control if you are not a pro than an exacto knife.
    On my bass I had to trim the bottom of the birch strips before putting them in. I did this by sticking each piece of birch in the fret slot, tracing the curvature with a pencil, pulling it out and trimming the bottom with an exacto.

    Please let me know your thoughts on the CA.
    Thanks
    Steve
  10. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Gold Supporting Member

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    My initial statement was that after installed, soak water-thin CA into the markers and sand smooth to keep them looking nice.

    If you soak the strips in CA before installing and let them dry, you can still glue them in with CA (and probably even Titebond-style glues), as many of the "lined fretless" basses use plastic markers, and what you have left after you soak the veneer in CA is basically a wood grained plastic marker. :)
  11. RAHAZ

    RAHAZ

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    Thanks for the clarification. I've soaked the birch with thin CA and will be sanding at a later date.
  12. dblbass

    dblbass

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    Worker Gnome @ Sadowsky Guitars and Carl Thompson Guitars
    thats not really gunna do any damage to the fingerboard. it marks it up but its not chewing it up. everycouple of years take a radius block with 220 paper on it and clean the thing up.
  13. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Gold Supporting Member

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    Jaco applied a poly finish to his fingerboard, IIRC... and he still said that he had to refinish it periodically.

    I use bloodwood for all my fretless basses, and it's so durable, I haven't had to refinish a fingerboard yet, even after 5+ years of fairly regular playing on one (with round-wound strings).
  14. jazzhole251

    jazzhole251 Guest

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    Jan 1, 2008
    Is it possible to fill the fret slots with wood putty instead of wood strips?

    I think Jaco did it that way when he defretted his J-Bass.
  15. Yvarg

    Yvarg

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    Rancho Cucamonga, CA
    It is possible, but it might come out over time unless you apply some kind of finish to the fingerboard like epoxy or polyurethane. I once used spackle on a guitar fingerboard I had lying around.
  16. blopazone

    blopazone

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    Sep 9, 2009
    Something happened with the pictures :/? Is it possible to fix them? I was looking for a tutorial on these.
  17. stevetx19

    stevetx19 Supporting Member

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    welcome to the luthier's corner: where the answer to every question you ask is a stern :mad:READ:mad: the (out-dated) tutorials. enjoy
  18. blopazone

    blopazone

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    Sep 9, 2009
    English is not my first language so pictures help me alot to understand procedures and materials, that's all.
  19. stevetx19

    stevetx19 Supporting Member

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    i fully understand and agree :)
  20. warwick89

    warwick89

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    Oct 6, 2009
    i cant see the pic....
    i really want to....
    HELP! :(

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