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Epoxy Coating on fretless neck

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by REV, Dec 13, 2015.

  1. REV

    REV Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I have a chance to buy an American Fender fretless neck with fret lines. Before I install it on my bass I want to coat the fingerboard with epoxy. Does anyone have any experience with coating Fender fretless necks with epoxy? Does anyone know what Fender uses for the lines in the fingerboard or how it will be affected by the epoxy?
  2. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Fender uses some type of plastic inserts for those lines. Epoxy won't affect them. I've watched people epoxy a Fender neck properly, and it's a lengthy and labor intensive thing to do. You really have to know what you're doing in order to pour the epoxy correctly, and then slowly bring it back down to the correct radius. When done right, it's hard as a rock, and you can see your face in it due to the shine.
    seang15 likes this.
  3. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    Contact Bruce Johnson he may be able the give you some info; I know he has done this at least once.
    DLemos and SirMjac28 like this.
  4. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    No, please don't! That job turned into a serious headache. It came out okay, but it took about five times the budgeted labor hours. I've come to the opinion that a poured epoxy coating on a fretless fingerboard isn't worth the effort. I don't think the epoxy even offers very much protection. It would be less work just to put on an ebony fingerboard, really. You are welcome to do your own experiments and have a different opinion, but I'm out of the epoxy coating business.
    seang15, DLemos, Scottkarch and 4 others like this.
  5. 1958Bassman


    Oct 20, 2007
    IF someone wanted to do this, it would be best to mask the edges of the neck where and brush the epoxy on, let it fill all of the pores and impregnate the wood as much as possible before it's set, then use a Bondo card to scrape off the excess. Let it cure and sand it smooth. If it needs another coat, make sure the surface is rough, so the next coat has something to 'grab' onto.

    I would assume people want to epoxy their fretless boards because they want to use round wound strings, but it really doesn't need to be glossy- the strings will wear it, eventually. If it's applied in thin coats, shaping it will be unnecessary. For that matter, epoxy can be thinned, which means it can be wiped on, like shellac, poly, lacquer or tung oil.
  6. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Other than the nasty fumes, CA glue seems like a better option. I've seen some mirror polished CA fretless jobs on TB, can't remember the thread. Anybody remember that link?
  7. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Yes, my opinion is that CA glue or even some clear polyurethane paints are a better choice than epoxy, in ease of application and for wear resistance. I don't know how this legend has built up that epoxy is some kind of super-hard wear-resistant surface. It's not. Even the hardest available marine and "bar top" epoxies are soft enough that they are easy to cut and shape with files, scrapers and sandpaper. Rub epoxy with a bass string and you'll cut a groove in it. I use West Systems epoxy here in my shop for structural joints, repairs, fills, castings, etc., and I can tell you that its hardness and wear resistance (against steel) is about equal to some of the medium-weight woods that we use. Its hardness is roughly equal to alder or maybe Indian rosewood. It's definitely softer than maple and much softer than ebony.

    I think that the best way to get a hard, glassy fingerboard surface is to, first, sand and smooth the fingerboard surface to get it perfectly true. Then give it a thin coat of CA glue and polish it up. Or, spray it with maybe 5 coats of clear polyurethane floor varnish, then wet-sand and buff it to a gloss.

    Personally, I still prefer a good piece of ebony, properly trued and polished.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2015
    seang15 and DLemos like this.
  8. odin70


    Dec 26, 2007
    It does protect your fingerboard. It sounds great. And HG Thor is the master.
  9. REV

    REV Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    So... Does anyone have any experience using CA glue on the plastic fretlines? Will the CA glue attack the plastic?
  10. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    It may, depending on the type of plastic.
  11. CA glue is used by plastic modellers. It will not harm the plastic. I've CA glued my SUB bass and the results are fantastic as it polishes to a mirror finish and sands easily. Use a dust mask.

    Attached Files:

  12. REV

    REV Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    How many coats of CA glue for a Fender fretless neck? Do you have to sand between each coat?
  13. Radius block sand very lightly between coats just to scuff up the surface. The radius block will keep things uniform. Try for at least 10 coats. Start with water thin CA for the first couple of coats so it seeps into the grain. Then move to thick CA. I final sanded/levelled with a flat beam sanding from bass side to treble side constantly checking for level. Sand until there are no low spots! When the low spots start to reduce, change grade of paper to a finer grit right up to 2000 wet/dry. Then use a car cutting compound. I bought a Mothers brand headlight restoration kit that I did use on my car. Comes with electric drill attachments. This made the final polishing process a breeze and is what gave it the shine. Wet sand is a must though. My MM SUB fingerboard is rosewood BTW.
  14. stuntbass77


    Nov 6, 2007
    I agree with Bruce! I did this with system3 epoxy (about 6 coat). As you can see its due for a polish. I sanded after each coat and it took over a week. I did have good result BUT I am very handy and I worked REALLY hard (and got lucky). I would get a ebony fingerboard neck and call it a day. I won't do this again. You can get that Jaco type tone with ebony and round wound strings and ebony is very very hard and resists wear very well (I've had one but not a fretless guy, so I know). Here are pick of my neck as no pick no real neck, right. As you can see with the pic by the nut its shinny on the fretboard but dull were no epoxy was applied just north of the nut.

    Attached Files:

  15. Epoxy shouldn't be a hard material. It's soft enough to dig your fingernail into, if you push hard enough.
  16. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    Every epoxy that I've used (except laminating resin) is harder than finger nails, and harder than some nails. West. Sustem 3, and strictly Commercial mixes, after they fully cure. It would be better for fingerboard use if it was a little more compliant.
  17. I don't recall which epoxy was used on my Warmoth neck when I had it professionally done, but it is indeed a somewhat soft material. Epoxy coatings are analogous to rubber tires; they are not very hard, but they are very durable. You can dig into an epoxy coating with your strings, and it will go back to its original state, without damage. Harder materials tend to chip out when worn.
  18. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    Likely just the epoxy chosen for your neck, and I noted that epoxy used for fingerboards should be a little more compliant than most epoxy mixes. Sounds like the person that did your neck knows what they are doing.
    Wear being the consideration on a fingerboard, a more compliant grade compared to a typical hard grade is in a way like sanding rubber compared a fairly hard wood-
    the amount of mat'l/dust you get for the same effort with the same sandpaper is the difference.
    Epoxy floor coatings (commercial grade) are very hard and durable because the compliant item in the equasion is tires and shoes. But the epoxy can chip, crack, and scratch.
    Polyurethane (plural component, high temp, high press) are designed to be more compliant, so grit (sand) scuffed on the floor doesn't wear the finish as fast. The finish 'gives' a little.
    Another analogy is Teflon- when in a wear application with water and sand in the mix, it abrades quickly. Live rubber in the same application wears a long time, because it is compliant and gives.
    It would be good to know the type of epoxy system used on your board, and how it holds up for you over time.
    I know System 3 Mirror Coat is used by some, but I'm not familiar with its properties.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2015
  19. stuntbass77


    Nov 6, 2007
    I used System 3 mirror coat and it's hard as rock (anything will show wear over time). It can be polished back to a mirror shine (as my neck needs it) but I still say go with a very hard wood like ebony. I put system 3 over bloodwood which was not necessary as it's as hard or harder compared to ebony. I wanted that Jaco tone and now I would rather have it back to its original state it came from Warmoth. If one wants that Jaco tone it's very hard to control the amount of mawah that he achieved and still stay in tune. With an epoxied neck it's very difficult. The reason he was so great was he could achieve it when he wanted but make his bass sound almost fretted when he wanted. I am no slouch as a bass play (20 years) and I can say unless one started out on fretless or is a virtuoso heed my advice. FYI, I know the OP isn't necessarily trying to sound like jaco but anyone with a fretboard epoxied is going to be compared. I hope this isn't taking the wrong way, I'm only hoping to help he or she save a lot of money and time. My intonation was much much easier to control when the fretboard wasn't epoxied and still had a get fretless tone, my loss! Only reason I don't sell it was the amount of time getting it right, was a real job!

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