Changing fretboard

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by 83_Silberpfeil, Dec 26, 2014.

  1. 83_Silberpfeil


    Aug 15, 2011
    Hello --- inquiring the expertise of the luthiers here.

    Wondering how feasible it is to replace a 20 fret 34" scale with a 22 fret 34" scale fretboard? Would a luthier be able to do this if there is room on the bass?

    I am seeking a reasonably priced ES335 bod-type 4 string 34" scale w 22 frets. Closest thing I find is Gibson Memphis bass, but only has 20 frets. Looks like there is ample room for replacing w a longer fretboard or extending it.
  2. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Yes, it can be done, given there are no obstructions. The longer fingerboard will extend over the body.

    It will be expensive.

    It is a job for those who are skilled in woodworking and fretwork.
  3. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    It can be done, but it would be a little more complicated than just changing the fingerboard. If there are frets on it, the overhanging end has to have some support underneath. Some kind of an extension of the neck heel has to be added underneath. A set-neck instrument might be simpler, just needing a filler block attached to the top of the body surface. A bolt-on neck would be more complicated. It would need an extension block added onto the back of the neck, and the neck pocket routed deeper into the body.

    It's all reasonable to do, but will require some work. New fingerboard, new fretwork, repairing the finish on the neck, etc. Around $300-$500.
  4. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Considering the long overhanging fretboards on mandolins and fingerboards on violins/cellos/etc, that isn't true. If it's thick enough it wouldn't be a problem.
  5. 83_Silberpfeil


    Aug 15, 2011
    Thanks for all the help guys. Much appreciated. I believe the Gibson Memphis bas is a set netcj. However, the frets approach the body at about the 17th fret. Given I want to take it to 22 fret, the 21st wouls be very hard to reach.

    Perhaps a custom build is the way to go. Looking at Peter Hook's custom Eccleshall bass the frets start going over the body at ~ 19 a 20th fret. I've inquired w a few luthiers for such a custom bass. From $2500 (flat top/bottom) to $4500 (arched top/bottom). One supposedly super luthier estimated $20k for a full scale 335 body bass.
  6. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Well, okay, but if you put a really thick fingerboard on the existing neck, then the whole neck will be unacceptably thick. Most bass fingerboards are in the range of 0.200" to 0.250" thick. Saw a fret slot into that, and you have almost nothing. To be strong and stable enough, you'd have to add at least 1/8". That would put the neck into the baseball bat category.

    Mandolin fingerboards are typically thicker than what we use on guitars and basses, and most of the overhanging ends are at least partially braced underneath.
  7. Thomas Kievit

    Thomas Kievit Guest

    May 19, 2012
    Let's say you want to extend the fretboard, is it possible to add some extra wood (with frets) if their is enough space on the bass body, or do you have to change the entire fretboard? I want to buy a Ibanez BTB in the future, and they only have 24 frets on the 2 highest strings. I want to have 26 frets for all strings, but I would like to know what has to be done to achieve this?
  8. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    There's no law saying the fingerboard has to be all one piece of wood. Functionally, all that really matters is that the frets are all level to each other, and that they are at the correct spacing to intonate the notes correctly. So yes, you can add a block of wood at the end of the neck carrying some extra frets. It has to be structurally stable, so it isn't going to move around in relation to the neck. Usually, that means attaching it solidly to the end of the neck heel, rather than to the body. And the new frets have to be correctly located and leveled. With some care, it can be done fairly discreetly, matching the color and grain of the fingerboard wood.

    This applies to the original poster's question too. You don't have to change the whole fingerboard to add two frets, if a slight mismatch of that extra wood doesn't matter to you. But, the add-on does need to be structurally solid. It needs to be more than fingerboard thickness of wood.
    lz4005 likes this.
  9. Steve Dallman

    Steve Dallman Supporting Member

    I added an extension to a maple, Strat type neck, to add another fret. It was not all that difficult. It would be hard to describe how I did it, but it turned out great. I removed the top fret, and cut the fingerboard down from the fret slot to the end of the fingerboard, about half the thickness of the fingerboard.

    I cut a new fingerboard end from wood very close to the existing fingerboard. I cut the underside to match what I cut from the old fingeboard and then glued it over the old fingerboard. I had already radiused the top of the new fingerboard piece before I glued it on. I used Titebond II glue.

    I recut the slot for the fret I removed, and cut the new slot on the new piece. I installed the new frets, leveled, crowned and polished them.

    I can't see it wouldn't work on your bass.
  10. 83_Silberpfeil


    Aug 15, 2011
    Steve --- very interesting and simple solution. I'll have to inquire with my luthier if he can do similar. I would need the right/ideal starter bass --- with fretboard and extension to reaching so far into the body making the last fret unreachable.

  11. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    You can buy a neck from warmoth w/24 frets cheaper than having your neck modified.