Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Do I need to go back to the hardware store?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by fookgub, Jul 20, 2005.


  1. fookgub

    fookgub

    Jun 5, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Yesterday I pulled all the frets out of my Epiphone P-Bass copy. It has a maple neck with what I assume is a lacquer (nitro?) finish. I used a razor to get under the frets and a flush cutter to get them out. The job came out remarkably clean, so I would like to do the best job I can finishing the fretboard.

    Today I went down to home depot and bought some 220 and 400 grit sandpaper, some 00 steel wool, and a can of Rustoleum "crystal clear enamel." I was originally planning to buy some polyurethane or epoxy, but apparently they don't come in spray cans. Am I right in assuming that spraying will yield a better finish than brushing (obviously, I don't own a real paint gun)? I read on the internet that enamel can be applied over lacquer, but not vice-versa. Is this true?

    So my basic question is, have I bought the right stuff? If not, what should I get? If so, is there anything important I should know about using it?

    Apologies if this has been covered before, but I couldn't find it with the search function. I've found some good information on the web, but much of it is too vague to answer my question.
     
  2. Bassic83

    Bassic83

    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    If I were you, I'd invest in some maple veneer to fill in the gaps. Get a radius block that matches, probably a 10-12", and level the fretboard. Side benefit to this- it should get rid of the finish on the fretboard. Then shoot it with clear poly. Put the can, well-shaken, in 105-dgree water for a few minutes. Sand with 220, reshoot. Sand with 400, reshoot. You should then have a really nice, tough coating you can finish with steel wool- 0000, if you want a really nice finish.

    I applaud your efforts with using the razor to make it clean- many people doing maple defrets leave this detail out of their plan, and end up with really chipped up fingerboards. Good luck, and keep us posted!
     
  3. fookgub

    fookgub

    Jun 5, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Yeah, I neglected to mention that the gaps will definitely be filled. I'm not so sure about maple, though. I'd like to try a contrasting wood for a lined fretless look. I'm still checking around for suppliers, but I'm thinking rosewood or pau ferro would be nice. Maybe ebony? I understand these woods don't absorb finish as well as maple, but I'm hoping it won't be too much of a problem.

    The fingerboard has a pretty flat radius right now, but I'm thinking about sanding it down to 7 1/4" for a more "vintage" feel. If I do this, I'll definitely use a radius sanding block. For now, I've been sanding by hand at 400 grit, and just being really careful to try to keep it even. The marks from defretting were really light (what few there were to begin with), so I've managed to get them out with just a few light passes.

    As far as I can tell, home depot doesn't sell poly in a can. I'll look around at a few other places when I get a chance. I assume enamel is out? What about epoxy - is there any chance of finding it in a spray can? Is epoxy for finishing the same thing as epoxy adhesive, just diluted?

    Thanks for the help so far. I'll keep you updated for sure. The bass may only be a $50 p.o.s., but the hardware is decent, the neck is stable, and I don't see any reason why I shouldn't be able to make it into a real player.
     
  4. I use epoxy with very cheap brushes and get a nice finish. It all depends on how well you apply and work on it. A spray can also stuff up a finish if not applied with care. I'm guessing though, that spraying may be less work. However, I don't know of an epoxy thin enough for spraying (don't know if thinners can be used with it).
     
  5. Home Depot sells poly in cans for brushing and spraying - at least here in the south. Minwax is one brand that they have in both spray and cans. Varathane is another but that only comes in cans from what I've seen. A foam brush can get an incredibly smooth finish on a well prepared surface but keep in mind that one coat isn't the end of the job. After it cures, you should wetsand it with 400 grit till smooth and recoat. The liquid poly's have the incredible ability to self level and they will settle out to smooth as glass. Because of this, it's important to let the neck dry in a very, VERY clean place. If you don't, you'll have a bunch of goobers sticking in it when you come back. Some can be polished out but divots can't.

    An alternative to a radius block for simple finish removal or leveling out a clear coat is to use some 1" thick black neoprene foam rubber. This is the same type of foam used under Fender pups. Sort of hard to find but it works well to conform to the arch of the fretboard without pushing too hard and recontouring the radius. In fact, just about any flexible but fairly stiff foam rubber will act as a conforming sanding block to smooth things out. It's not perfect but it's better than using something hard and flat while trying to make sure you don't "flat spot" the radius.
     
  6. fookgub

    fookgub

    Jun 5, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Thanks for the advice. I ordered some ebony veneer today, and got a can of poly, some foam brushes, sandpaper, and CA glue from the hardware store. Once the veneer comes in, I'll be ready to start. I'm still looking around for some suitable foam, but I'm sure I'll have it soon. That's a great tip, by the way. One question: should I use a straight edge and set the neck flat before I do any sanding on it?

    Thanks again for all the advice. I'll keep y'all updated on how it turns out.
     
  7. Bassic83

    Bassic83

    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    Absolutely. If you start flat, you won't be as likely to induce bow.
     
  8. fookgub

    fookgub

    Jun 5, 2005
    Houston, TX
    I'm finally done, so I thought I'd share the finished product with you guys. Mistakes were made and lessons were learned, but overall I think it turned out extremely well.

    So here is what I did:

    1. Pulled all the frets, sanded the fingerboard, and filled the slots with ebony veneer. Then I trimmed the veneer flush, and sanded the finish from the back of the neck.

    2. Re-radiused the fingerboard (which was very flat) to 9.5 inches using a Stew-Mac radius sanding block. This turned out to be a lot more sanding that I was expecting, and it's the reason that the side markers are showing through the front of the fingerboard (doh!). I was worried that I wouldn't be able to sand it evenly, but I took my time, and the neck has no dead spots and sounds uniform through the entire range. The new radius is way more comfortable for me, so it was worth the effort (besides, I think the side markers are kind of cool looking :cool: ).

    3. Put five coats of poly on the fingerboard and three on the back. I lightly sanded at 600 grit between coats, then finished the last coat on the fingerboard with 0000 steel wool. I left the last coat on the back untouched. It's actually very slick feeling, and looks good, too.

    4. Shimmed the neck, strung up some EB roundwounds (not my favorite, but I counldn't find anything better at GC), did a rough setup, then took it to my favorite local tech for fine tuning.

    So how does it sound? Great! It plays a million times better than when it was fretted. The action is nice and low, and it has tons and tons of that fretless growl. It's really responsive to playing style, too. Slapping produces an amazingly fat, gritty, fuzzy tone, kind of like Les Claypool's, but nastier. With the tone all the way up, harmonics ring out really well (better than many more expensive bassed I've tried). Light fingerstyle will give a pretty good Jaco, or dig in for more bite. Rolling off the tone knob gives a perfect P-Bass rock tone, and rolling it all the way down is Dub City!

    Anyway, I just wanted to thank everyone who chimed in with advice, and the authors of the various defretting tutorials on TB. All of that info helped a ton. You guys rock! :bassist:


    So here are the pics:


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Bassic83

    Bassic83

    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    Very nice! Good job! Now, in a few months or years, whatever, you'll end up making one totally from scratch...I love it when someone gets "hooked" on luthierie.

    That's basically the path I took- got brave one day and asked a luthier how to set up a bass, he ran me through some basics, then I went home and practiced...

    Many years later, I decided to do one from parts, then found some friends who were into woodworking. That's when I got the idea to do one from scratch.

    Very rewarding, and it gives you a sense of real satisfaction, being able to "do it yourself". Congrats! :D :D :D
     
  10. fookgub

    fookgub

    Jun 5, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Thanks for the kind words. This was my biggest venture in luthierie so far, but definitely not the first. I had a tech show me the basics of setup a while ago, and have been doing all my own setups since then (I only took the fretless to him because I don't have any nut files for bass yet). I've also extensively modified my main 4-string (here: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?p=2294049&highlight=cort#post2294049), rewired just about every guitar and bass I've ever owned, and built or modified most of my effects and cabs. I also scalloped one of my guitars a while ago -- that was a hack job for sure (it looks like total crap), but plays pretty well. Turns out fretboard scalloping isn't for me, so now I'm trying to get rid of it :rolleyes:

    Anyway, I guess you could say I've been hooked on luthierie for a while now. I've kicked around the idea of a parts bass many a time (I was infatuated with Warmoth Geckos a couple months ago), but the deciding factor has always been lack of time and money. I have no doubt that I'll build my own bass someday, but until I get some time, money, and a decent shop together, I'll have to be content with modding cheaper instruments.
     
  11. narcopolo

    narcopolo

    Sep 12, 2005
    richmond, va
    this thread is pretty awesome.