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Filling Ridges on Rosewood fingerboard

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by firsttimecaller, Mar 9, 2013.


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  1. firsttimecaller

    firsttimecaller Banned

    Dec 16, 2012
    I'd like some advice from anyone who has had experience fixing a fingerboard with string ridges.

    What I have is some slow CA, and I'm tossing up whether or not to add in some wood shavings and possibly pumice to create 'micro-shavings'. I don't really want to sand the fingerboard, but I do have some Blackwood that may work in nicely.

    .......................
    Optional:
    .......................

    Some background: I was the unproud owner of an Ashbory rubber-string bass which had to go back because it was rubbish. I started building my own short-scale, but realised it would be a very long time before I got to actually play it, so long story short, I bought a Cort B4 fretless, a wonderful bass.

    I got it home Thursday. Thursday night I noticed some superficial string ridges, mainly along the E side. I called the shop the next day and again, long story short, one of his contacts said he'd had a Rosewood fingerboard all his life and never had to have it repaired. Not much help there. Seriously considered flats, semi-flats., etc... watched lots of videos, did lots of reading.

    Realised, soon after, the following:

    Round-wounds are more aggressive to fingerboards
    A slap plate/fret thingy would be a good idea
    The action was NOT set up, contrary to what I was told on the phone.

    The combination of working really hard on the Ashbory and the terrible action/set-up had caused me to work the strings into the fingerboard over and over again.

    I figured this out today, most of you probably know it already: you hold a note, it's a bit flat, you roll up, it's a bit sharp, you roll back. All the while your finger is grinding harder and harder into the string to control it (and flattening out) to oppose the bad (lack of) set-up. And on top of that, the pickups are misaligned and giving an out-of phase signal which also varies depending on where you pluck (one's sharp, the other flat).

    I've done most of the set-up, barring the nut, which I'm saving for a calm and collected moment.

    I'm also thinking that putting a little superglue on the Rosewood wouldn't be too bad, tonally. Especially if I could mix in some hardwood.
     
  2. Double E

    Double E I ain't got no time to play... Supporting Member

    Dec 24, 2005
    Northeast OH
    Are these ridges deep enough to affect tone or playability?
     
  3. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    If the ridges are the more or less normal parallel to the frets marks leave it alone.

    If the ridges are actually depressions that run perpendicular to the frets there are a number of ways to fill them. All of them look bad and offer no utility. Leave it alone.

    If you absolutely must do something to remedy this inconsequential, cosmetic problem, use a razor blade scraper to knock down the ridges. Scrape first at an angle to the marks, then from fret to fret. Finish with 0000 steel wool.

    If none of that pleases, you could plane and refret the fingerboard.

    Of course, no matter what you choose to do, as soon as it's played it will get marked again.
     
  4. firsttimecaller

    firsttimecaller Banned

    Dec 16, 2012
    Yes.
     
  5. firsttimecaller

    firsttimecaller Banned

    Dec 16, 2012
    So inconsequential a problem that it has ruined my fingerboard, intonation and tone in just one day of playing.
    So inconsequential is it that I took the time to investigate all the options and post a detailed account on this forum.

    I will ignore your dangerous and dismissive advice and resort to what I have gleaned from professional luthiers and my own process of logic.

    I advise anyone else to do the same. Please don't get uppity and reply, I'll simply count it as trolling and report you to an admin.

    If anyone else is a serious-minded person and has a real answer, I'm still interested, but I'll probably do better on my own. That's my ongoing lesson from the internet.

    I might also contact a repair guy and get his thoughts and if I do fix the problem I'll counter the bad advice above by posting a real solution. I think that's the only way to stop the cycle of ignorance on the web. If people can post long threads about using 15 coats of CA to finish their fingerboards, I think just one small thread on reinforcing a Rosewood one is well overdue.
     
  6. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    You're using rounds on a fretless with a rosewood board?
     
  7. JLS

    JLS

    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    And expecting...?
     
  8. JLS

    JLS

    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    And expecting...?

    What are you attempting to communicate, here?
     
  9. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Sorry. Missed that the bass is fretless. The instructions above were for a fretted instrument. Filling the deep crevices will look terrible whether it is fretted or not.

    However, it is curious that one could do that much damage to a fretboard in only one day.
     
  10. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    If you want the problem fixed properly, this is the only way to do it. Use a leveling beam and sand the entire fingerboard until the ridges are gone. The added benefit is that leveling the fingerboard will make the bass play better than ever.

    Also, if these ridges were created in one day then there are significant playing technique issues that need to be addressed, especially if you continue to play fretless with roundwounds. That said, groundwounds would be a good place to start once you've repaired the fingerboard or even flatwounds to reduce wear & tear on the fingerboard. Changing string types is a lot easier than epoxy coating the fingerboard.
     
  11. Double E

    Double E I ain't got no time to play... Supporting Member

    Dec 24, 2005
    Northeast OH
    I'd like to see pictures of this severe damage.
     
  12. firsttimecaller

    firsttimecaller Banned

    Dec 16, 2012
    That's correct, the strings it came with 4 days ago. I'd like to have a better fingerboard and better strings, perhaps one day I'll be able to afford them.
     
  13. JoeWPgh

    JoeWPgh

    Dec 21, 2012
    By ridges, I assume you mean furrows? Are there grooves running under the strings? If so, there is no way around sanding it. Even if you were to try and fill them, that too would need sanded. StewMac has radius sanding blocks that would be a big help to you. Find out what your radius is and get the appropriate block. You might want to consider an epoxy treatment, as it sounds like your fingerboard is ridiculously soft. Again, use the radius block.
     
  14. Double E

    Double E I ain't got no time to play... Supporting Member

    Dec 24, 2005
    Northeast OH
    I find this bizarre...many players have played rounds on fretless rosewood boards without destroying them. I played rounds exclusively on mine for years and I am a pretty aggressive player. That bass was still quite playable when I sold it.
     
  15. firsttimecaller

    firsttimecaller Banned

    Dec 16, 2012
    If that's directed at me, I'd have to say: I'm wondering the same thing. But I'll have a stab at it anyway.

    Alignment: The spatial property possessed by an arrangement or position of things in a straight line or in parallel lines.

    In this case, adjusting the screws either side of the soapbars to flatten the pickups and put their top surfaces in alignment. Or 'make flat', that is: parallel to the top surface of the body.

    Otherwise one side is higher than the other, and from the viewpoint of the string one pickup will likely be higher than the other too Which I'm guessing means each will be susceptible to different harmonics or overtones. But that's just a deduction based on year 11 physics, it's bound to be more complicated.

    Since I figured this out on my own while I was teaching myself to set the bass up yesterday, I thought it must be implicitly obvious to anyone with experience.

    I haven't double-blind tested with a second tuner, but assuming mine isn't faulty, and isn't making the same mistake over and over again, my explanation probably holds and my technique certainly works. Pickups are part of intonation. I proved it to myself by getting consistent intonation no matter where I pluck, on every string, every time. Which was impossible beforehand.

    Now I've successfully filed the nut, added graphite and restrung from the bases of the tuning posts. The improvement is immense. Set-up complete. Until I work on the fingerboard, that is.
     
  16. firsttimecaller

    firsttimecaller Banned

    Dec 16, 2012
    Horizontal ridges, perpendicular to the string. I do have a radius sander which I made myself, and I was preparing myself for this sort of thing, but I'm still thinking of fine, detailed repair before I go down that road (I like the pumice idea). By that I mean, sanding is inevitable, I know that of course, but I don't plan on sanding the ridges down, but rather building them up, that's the whole thing I want advice for. And at this stage, I'm still going to approach it like crack-repair. I haven't seen anything to change my view that the repair approach is the most sensible. If I do minute amounts each time, just fill a small area, I can easily hear the difference in tonality and it's a small deal to sand it back, or just avoid that one note for a while.

    I also don't want to interfere with the action if I can help it, now it's just nice.

    I'm not a 15 coats make-it-shine-like-the-sun sort of guy, but I think the fingerboard is ridiculously soft. It's perhaps because this is not the old Rosewood supply, but cheaper third-world stuff.

    That's not a blanket statement, just a possible explanation based on what I've read and my own research into building a short-scale. I don't know if the newer, cheaper supply-lines of tonewoods are inferior or not. I don't know where Cort source theirs from either.

    Then there's this article on using CA, which adds some sobering reality to the 'miracle-cure' slant that it seems to get on this forum:

    http://www.woodcentral.com/russ/russ6.shtml
     
  17. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    It's been a lot of years since I've taken physics, and I'm not a professional luthier, but I've never heard anyone claim that pickups played any role in intonation.
     
  18. firsttimecaller

    firsttimecaller Banned

    Dec 16, 2012
    It's my best guess. I'd like to see the results of your own testing. If you can't reproduce my results, I'll have to think about another explanation. Or you can offer a better one if you like.

    But I really don't plan on rewriting Atlas Shrugged one comment at a time. At least, I didn't in the beginning.
     
  19. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    You can't change the harmonic nodes and bodies with a passive device such as a pickup magnet. You can't alter the pitch either, hence can't change intonation.
    All you can doo is alter the intensity of the vibration, hence the sustain.

    It is ok to have grooves in a fingerboard. It is a part of playing it and it will take you several decades to get through it. It can't alter action either. If it really disturbs you, it can be removed through planning, a 10 minute procedure if done properly. You will have to do it again though.
     
  20. firsttimecaller

    firsttimecaller Banned

    Dec 16, 2012
    What you're saying about the pickups, taken isolation, makes perfect sense, but that's not the issue I was driving at in my posts earlier. What I have observed is that each pickup needs to be on the same plane, or it will see a slightly different pitch from the string - different harmonic content. Closer is sharp, further away is flat. That's been my experience over the past 2 days of testing and re-testing.

    It could be confirmation bias on my part, but no-one has proffered their own tests to confirm or deny my observations.

    It could also be totally random fluctuations in pitch from the cheapish nut (though it's got a bit of graphite in it now) and/or the bolt-on neck. And, additionally if I'm correct, the pickups themselves might rattle up and down on their spring-loading, adding fluctuations.

    It's just a theory, but I've managed to almost certainly confirm it by isolating the pickups and readjusting them after filing the nut, and getting much the same results before and after graphite.

    Additionally, they just happen to be dead-level against the body. And since I've never owned a proper bass before (I had an almost-working Ashbory for almost a week), or set one up in my life, the chances of this being my own bias are pretty slight. Since there's a radius, this should affect the middle strings more, but I can't confirm or deny that myself. I urge you to try it and see for yourself. I'm using a Vox 2B Stomplab.

    Or maybe the strings haven't settled properly. Or it's the tuners. But I doubt it, I think those random things are working against it, rather than causing it, it's too repeatable to be just a fluke.

    As far as planing the neck, do you mean a spokeshave?
     

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