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Epoxy on a fretless Warmoth neck by Lewis Bass and Guitar

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Engine207, Nov 7, 2010.

  1. Engine207

    Engine207 Losing faith in humanity...one call at a time.

    Jul 10, 2008
    Higley, AZ
    The bass started life as a regular old '03 Standard Precision. I picked it up off Craigslist for $100 a couple of years ago. It sat unused in the dudes closet (and was thus flawless) for about 5 years, until he had to move and was selling everything. I felt like I stole it, so I called it Grand Theft Precision.


    I've wanted a fretless Precision since I got my first Squier VM fretless a few years ago, but I wanted an unlined. After I recently picked up a new Lakland Duck Dunn, my MiM Precision bacame expendable, so my wife suggested that I get a new neck for it.

    This thread documents the process that Brian Lewis, of Lewis Bass and Guitar in Chandler AZ, used to finish the neck and fingerboard of my new maple Warmoth P-Bass neck. It took all of 10 weeks to complete, but it was worth it! The bass plays great and looks incredible.

    At first, I tried to find a vintage maple neck, but I really like R.Cocco rounds and it'd only be a matter of time before they chewed up the soft maple. After consulting with some super-knowledgeable TBers, it was pretty obvious to me that getting a replacement neck was the better choice. I chose Brian to do the work because he was local, graduated from Roberto-Venn, and he seemed like a good dude. He communicated well, let me come by his shop to watch him work, and provided all of these photographs, so others could learn. The neck cost me $210, and Brian's bid for finishing was $170. When I picked it up, I balanced it out to an even $200 after seeing all the care he put into the job. I highly recommended him.

    The neck was ordered while I was at RedRocks for the Rush show on 8/18 and shipped directly to his shop. It arrived almost 8 weeks later, while I was in Chicago on 10/11. His first order of business was to examine the raw neck for any blemishes or problems, which there were none. Warmoth makes some great Fender necks. Then, he measured and recorded the nut grooves and height of the Black TUSQ nut, so he could shim it to the same height to compensate for the epoxy height. Next, he took the nut out and meticulously taped the fingerboard in preparation for finishing the balance of the wood with lacquer.


    More to follow after we get back from this car fire on the southbound 101...
  2. nice, anticipating the rest!
  3. Darkstrike

    Darkstrike Return Of The King!

    Sep 14, 2007
    I like it already!
  4. Engine207

    Engine207 Losing faith in humanity...one call at a time.

    Jul 10, 2008
    Higley, AZ
    OK...I'm back. Class A foam works great on burning Oldsmobiles!

    Brian hung the neck is his spray booth and shot the lacquer over the back of the neck and headstock. Then he did it again, and again, and again. I dunno how many separate coats he hit it with, but it was a process that took several days. When he was finished with about half of them, he applied the headstock decal, which I had done by one of the many eBay purveyors of fine waterslides. He was fast, and provided me with drafts until he had it just right. His listing explicitly stated it was for one decal, but when Brian received the envelope, there were four. I guess he figured I might mess it up a time or two!

    I really wanted the look of a Fender headstock, but I wasn't thrilled about faking a Warmoth neck as a Fender. For those of you who know your Fender history, Leo named his new instrument the Precision Bass because with the fretted the neck, a player could hit the precise note he wanted. Thus, a fretted electric bass was a Precision Bass. My bass is fretless...so it's an ImPrecision Bass! It gives me Fender looks, without any confusion about Fender authenticity. After it was applied and dried, it went back to the booth for a few hundred more coats of lacquer! Before moving on to the fingerboard, Brian knocked down the slight ridge created by the decal's edge. You can see that the ridge from the decal has been sanded almost completely smooth. He will finish completely during the final sanding stage. Brian warned that the ridge may start to reappear someday, as lacquer tends to shrink over time.


    Good grief! Just when I get on a roll...a seizure at the old folks home. Be back in a bit...
    bluesdogblues likes this.
  5. Engine207

    Engine207 Losing faith in humanity...one call at a time.

    Jul 10, 2008
    Higley, AZ
    How someone can mistake hiccups for a seizure, I'll never understand. Anyway, where were we? Oh yeagh, the fingerboard...

    There are, apparently, many different methods of applying epoxy. Some like to apply it in layers, like the lacquer, and build it up over a period of days, letting each layer cure a bit, before applying the next. Brian chose to build a "dam" around the fingerboard and pour all of the epoxy at once. After pulling the tape off the fingerboard, he first set a precision ground straight-edge and the truss rod to make certain the neck was dead flat, so there were no deep or shallow spots of epoxy in the middle of the neck, then ran tape around it several times to contain the stuff. Then he set a level to be sure it wasn't thicker on one side or one end, and mixed the MirrorCoat resin and hardener. He noted that at first, the mixture was quite cloudy, but became clear when fully mixed. Then he poured it on the naked maple board.

    Before taking to my pristine neck, he experimented on some scrap from another project, to perfect his beaver skills and to determine if the recommended 24 hour cure time was enough. He also wanted to see how it responded to sanding and buffing.

    At this point, he'd determined that the epoxy finishing would take about the same amount of time to complete as the total cure time of the lacquer on the rest of the neck, so as to minimize my wait time. I forgot to mention that before the epoxy, I'd stopped by the shop to dry-fit some nice Fender American closed-gear keywinds. Brian pre-drilled for the little prongs on the tuners and the screw hole for the StewMac roller string tree. I'd picked them up from TBer (and Hardware Forum mod) HeavyDuty during my Chicago trip. Hell of a nice guy, he is. Met for lunch at Lou Malnati's Pizzeria in the west 'burbs, made the deal and feasted on some deep dish. Significantly above-average.


    Well, it's gettin' late. How about leaving the engine company to sleep tonight?
  6. Engine207

    Engine207 Losing faith in humanity...one call at a time.

    Jul 10, 2008
    Higley, AZ
    OK, back again...

    After letting the epoxy set up for a few minutes, Brian ran a torch over it to bring out all the bubbles. Once it cured, it looked like a piece of glass melted over the fingerboard! The finished radius of the Warmoth fingerboard is 10”, but I really like the 9.5” radius of my other Fender Basses. I probably couldn't tell the difference, but the thickness of the epoxy gave him way more than enough room to modify the radius, rather than the fingerboard. He started with 80-grit sandpaper on a 9.5” radius block to rough out the main shape of the radius. The result was an epoxy layer about 1/32” thick.

    Brian then used the precision ground straight-edge and progressively finer-grit sandpaper to ensure the neck's flatness. He refined the shape with the same 9.5” radius block, first with 150-grit, then 220-grit sandpaper. Next, he moved to a small, cushioned sanding block with 340-, then 400-grit waterproof sandpaper to wet-sand the epoxy (using naphtha instead of water).

    The whole neck, epoxy and lacquer together, was then progressively wet-sanded with 600-, 800- and 1200-grit waterproof sandpaper. After the 1200-grit, the shine was more satin than gloss, so a buffing wheel was used - first, with a medium grit, then a fine grit polish. Notice the sunglasses to protect his eyes from the shine... :)

  7. Engine207

    Engine207 Losing faith in humanity...one call at a time.

    Jul 10, 2008
    Higley, AZ
    Looking up the fingerboard after being polished on the buffer. Totally sweet! I hope it proves to be as hard, but only time will tell. The finished neck, with only the string tree missing (see the tiny dot under the A-string keywind?). Brian waited to put the string tree on until after it was strung. Even though he measured carefully, he felt safer waiting. His measurements turned out surgically accurate.

    Close-up views of the headstock show that the lacquer ridge at the decal was sanded completely flat, and HeavyDuty's Fender keywinds were installed perfectly. Finally, all strung up with R.Cocco rounds and ready to groove! As you can see, I'm thrilled with the results, and I haven't touched my other basses since. I'll surely move back to the regular rotation, but for now...it's nothing but gorgeous, unlined fretless immersion. If anyone knows of a good fretless teacher/player in the East Valley with whom I could study, please PM me.

    NigelD and bluesdogblues like this.
  8. BigOldHarry


    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    Very nice... That guy does good work.

    Now, as far as "Fretless teacher" - there really is no "teach" in fretless - you just have to play, play, PLAY - I found the best way to get comfortable playing fretless was to do gigs with one when you KNOW you suck. I know, that sounds zany, but you just need time for your left hand to get used to where the notes REALLY are (as opposed to "sorta are" on a fretted bass).

    good luck!
  9. Darkstrike

    Darkstrike Return Of The King!

    Sep 14, 2007
    That is one wild, killer looking bass.... I may have to steal your idea sometime, :D
  10. Engine207

    Engine207 Losing faith in humanity...one call at a time.

    Jul 10, 2008
    Higley, AZ
    I agree with you, to a point. But there are certainly techniques that the great fretless players employ, that are different from fretted technique. For example, my favorite fretless guy, Tony Franklin likes popping harmonics and then sliding them around the neck.

    I have had a (different) fretless for over a year, and have already begun to feel better about playing without frets, but I just sound like a fretted player on a fretless.
  11. nothing wrong with that if you can play in tune. I feel that many fretless players get too much into the fretless part of the playing, and start slip and sliding all over the board to make those mwah sound, which IMO is overused on fretless :smug:
  12. BigOldHarry


    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    What Mr. Franklin is doing is what we'd call an "Advanced Technique"... Until you feel really comfortable just playing music on a fretless, I wouldn't worry about cool tricks like sliding harmonics...

    If you think you're ready to dig into harder stuff like that, then by all means - I figure that I'm lucky to not make dogs howl when I play fretless!

    good luck
  13. Engine207

    Engine207 Losing faith in humanity...one call at a time.

    Jul 10, 2008
    Higley, AZ
    Great point, Joey. I think that's the case with anything overused, be it mwah, slapping or whatever...it just gets boring and the fun is gone.

    For me, if I want to sound fretted, I have a nice rack of basses from which to choose, but when I want to sound fretless, I'd like to learn techniques to bring out the capabilities of the instrument. Over the past week or two since I've had my ImPrecision, I've developed some cools sounds and tricks just from playing and noodling around on it. The best part is that my intonation is better than I thought. Fretless immersion is improving me to the point where I play along with my songlist, and it actually sounds pretty good!

    Thanks, Harry! I don't even dream about playing like Tony...yet. I'm definitely just working on the basics for now, but the only way to get advanced is to learn that stuff and practice it tons! My plan exactly for 2011.

    Funny thing is...my dog comes right into my studio the minute she hears me plug in my bass and tune up. Parks right there next to my pedalboard!
  14. I bookmarked this thread. It's old, but wow that's cool. Can you tint the epoxy?
  15. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Well done I have done this several times I am glad he didn't have dam breakage as I have had. Quite time consuming you got a hell of a deal looks good too.
  16. zzzfarcry


    Jun 15, 2011
    How has the neck stood up over time? Do u have to take care of it in any way? Do you use round wounds? Thank you I'm debating about making my bass this way myself, it looks fantastic!
  17. Engine207

    Engine207 Losing faith in humanity...one call at a time.

    Jul 10, 2008
    Higley, AZ
    Thanks!! I'm very happy with it. It's stood up pretty well over time. The only thing I've done since getting it from Brian is an occasional buff of the fingerboard (when I change my R. Cocco Nickel Rounds). After a quick touch up on the wheel...it looks like glass again.
  18. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    THIS might be the coolest thing I have ever seen. I really just can't believe it!
  19. Engine207

    Engine207 Losing faith in humanity...one call at a time.

    Jul 10, 2008
    Higley, AZ
    Various incarnations...

  20. xander8280


    Dec 29, 2011
    Very nice neck job