Fingerboard Edge: Crispy or Rolled?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Wade Jackson, Jul 13, 2020.

  1. Wade Jackson

    Wade Jackson

    Apr 27, 2019
    Question for you double bass luthiers... do most prefer a crisp or a rolled fingerboard edge?

    I come from a long history of electric guitar and bass repair, and something folks often ask for in an instrument setup is a "Rolled Fingerboard" wherein you round the edges over slightly with a bastard file. It makes for a little more comfortable grip.

    Being about a year into Double Bass, I've thought a couple of times I'd like to roll the edges of my 2018 minted Thompson RM-200 Hybrid double bass. Just round 'em off a little with some sand paper, take the edge off and then go on to a 600 grit.

    Technique wise, I arch my fingers quite naturally. I have NEVER felt the edge, and don't expect I will ever touch it.

    So it's not an issue of comfort, just something I'm used to seeing in an electric player's instrument. It's the mark of a cared for instrument.

    So I did a google search of double bassists and double bass necks and EVERYBODY'S got a CRISP edge. Even on an old, old well loved and played bass.

    Is this just one of the many deeply held traditions different between electric and double bass? My board shown for reference. Pay no attention to the strange background in my studio...

    Attached Files:

    nbsipics likes this.
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I've honestly never thought about it. I did have my luthier round off the underside of the FB where my thumb rolls around during the pizzicato motion, but that's about it.
    oldNewbie, RBrownBass, HG1180 and 2 others like this.
  3. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    Of my six bass and three cello fingerboards (not all on instruments, at present), only one is what I would consider sharp-edged (because I planed it that way) and one I'd say is "rolled" (on the jazz cello, where the board is wider than its neck). The others are not sharp, but not particularly soft, either.

    I think that bass and cello technique is so much different from guitar that this probably doesn't often come up. Interesting thought, though.
    210superair, Wade Jackson and RSBBass like this.
  4. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Personally I prefer it rolled. Ask 10 other folks and you'll get 14 answers....
  5. Wade Jackson

    Wade Jackson

    Apr 27, 2019
    Well, after thinking about it, I'm going to apply my standard "M+T=R2" formula.

    That, translated is... "Modifications + Time = Regret Squared"

    It doesn't interfere with my playing in the least, like it would on an electric instrument.
    TroyK likes this.
  6. moles


    Jan 24, 2007
    Winnipeg, MB
    I'm with Chris Fitzgerald on this one ... the bass side underside, where your thumb tends to hook on to on your plucking hand, is the important spot for rounded/comfortable edging details. You won't realize how much so until you play a bass with a completely squared off fingerboard. Heck no :rollno:
    robobass and RBrownBass like this.
  7. jsf729


    Dec 12, 2014
    Central Maryland
    I like my fried chicken crispy and my fingerboard roiled
  8. The few times that Ive delved into DB I immediately noticed the crisp edge on the neck, probably due to the way my hands work (or not work, arthritis is wonderful!). So personally I would like a rolled edge.
  9. Heifetzbass

    Heifetzbass Commercial User

    Feb 6, 2004
    Upstate, SC
    Owner, Gencarelli Bass Works and Fine String Instruments, LLC.
    As a luthier, I break the edge slightly. It doesn't take much, just some 120 grit followed by 220 grit folded three times. I have left a sharp edge that looks good, but doesn't feel all that great if you touch it just right. It's a small thing, but I believe it is the right thing to do. I always break the edge on the underside of the FB where you would pluck. Anybody that plays for hours without a bow deserves that!
    DoubleMIDI and Fretless55 like this.
  10. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I've never understood luthiers who do sharp edges on the top. Its really uncomfortable. You don't touch them when actually playing, but you have to hold the bass by the neck quite often. Just a bit of round-over is all that's needed. Like the radius of a steel G string.
    james condino likes this.
  11. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    unbrokenchain likes this.
  12. Does your body have any sharp edges? Lesson over.
    Greg Clinkingbeard and robobass like this.
  13. Wade Jackson

    Wade Jackson

    Apr 27, 2019
    Well, I thought I had asked a dumb question, but the answers have been very enlightening. Never thought about the right hand thumb edge under the fingerboard, but now that you mention it... that is a wear spot. Nice idea.
  14. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard Commercial User

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Black Dog Bass Works
    I was taught, ‘not too little, not too much’.

    Finally, an objective standard.
    Heifetzbass and equill like this.
  15. Wade Jackson

    Wade Jackson

    Apr 27, 2019
    Advice taken, and very much appreciated friend. My grits were slightly different, and I just took off a little touch, but the result is a much nicer feel under the right hand thumb. I would NOT have thought of that on my own.
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  16. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    I like to tinker w/my bass. I made a thumb rest out of 1/4 poplar, put a groove in it where my thumbs sits, it serves to anchor my thumb. It opens the thumb/index finger space for pizz, creating a strong pull. Not sure I do it on every bass

    Attached Files:

    Wade Jackson likes this.
  17. Silevesq


    Oct 2, 2010
    I never realized that this was a thing, until I had Mario Lamarre do a set up on my bass. I felt it right away, even if I didn't understand or knew what had happen, something was different and "softer" I guess.

    Would I ask for it, would I think about it probably not, but I did feel it! Did you do it on all the finger board in the end?
    Wade Jackson likes this.
  18. Wade Jackson

    Wade Jackson

    Apr 27, 2019

    I examined my playing, and I really don't touch the edge with my left hand. So I didn't roll anything above the standoff. But I did just take the edge off where my right thumb goes. It was just the thing.
    Silevesq likes this.
  19. Papageno


    Nov 16, 2015
    Same for me. The sharp edge where I rest my right thumb made it painful. I sanded it a bit to make it more round. It took me less than a minute to do so at zero cost and the issue was solved. Total no-brainer!
    nbsipics and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  20. Wade Jackson

    Wade Jackson

    Apr 27, 2019
    UPDATE: well, I examined my left hand a little more. Yes, I arch my fingers. I don't touch that edge a LOT, but I do touch it. I do grab and hold in between. Sometimes I will rest a pinky on that edge if I'm playing something with index and middle. Why be sharp?

    So I rounded it. Just subtle - "the radius of a G string" as someone aptly said above. Why make a hand held thing sharp when you can easily make it nice to hold?

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