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fingerboard finish

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by jokey, Sep 11, 2003.

  1. jokey


    Jul 16, 2003
    does the finish on a fingerboard have significant effect on the tone? i want more mmwah from my fretless!
  2. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    On a fretted, it might be a subject for debate. But on a fretless, I don't think anyone would question that the answer is Yes.

    Harder finishes are generally considered to give a brighter tone and more mwah. For example, epoxied fretboards a la Jaco, or the FB of a Pedulla Buzz. Also, the soft/calloused state of your fingertips should change the tone, too. And so does the action of your setup.
  3. jokey


    Jul 16, 2003
    you mentioned action: does a higher action provide a more pronounced mwah?
    also, i assume the existing finish would need to be sanded from the fingerboard before applying a new one????
    thanks again
  4. I've noticed that higher action might mean a smoother tone. It has more room to ring fully. But with lower action, instead of fret buzz, because it's a fretless, you get the mwah. From personal experience, anyways, the mwah is pure low action, and playing hard.

    I'd say sand the original finish. Can somebody more experienced confirm?
  5. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    If you do searches, both here and in Basses, on "defret," you will come up with a lot of info on finishing fretless boards. It would apply both to de-fretted boards, and to originally fretted ones.
  6. jokey


    Jul 16, 2003
    will check that out- thanks!
  7. permagrin


    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    Besides fingerboard finish, try:

    ...setting your relief flat (or very minimal relief), lowering the action at the bridge, filing nut slots down so they're very close to the board.

    ...boosting eq in the 650-800 Hz range.

    ...playing with the "meaty" part of your fretting fingers (as opposed to the fingertips).

    I've also heard that for a lot of mwah you need a bridge pickup (not sure since both my fretless basses have one).
  8. jokey


    Jul 16, 2003
    thanks everyone for all the replies.
    but my situation seems to be somewhat of an anomaly from what i have read here and on other threads. i have a carvin fretless from 1987 (koa with an ebony fingerboard ) that has alot of mwah and an all aound gorgeous and unique tone. i have worn grooves in the fingerboard from years of steel roundwounds, creating nasty buzz. there is not enough fingerboard left to plane it again, and it being a neck-thru, its pretty much toast. wanting to get as close as i could to the same tone, but with insufficient $ to buy a new carvin, i bought a used carvin fretless. this new (to me) bass is a six string and is made from alder wood with an ebony fingerboard. the tone is not at all similar; the worst part of it is its lack of mmwah. here's the anomaly: the action is super low and the strings are light, whereas my old four string has ridiculously high action to avoid buzz as best i could, and i have 50- 105 gauge strings on it. still it moans beatifully (but for the buzz). it is not a matter of pickups or tone settings; the difference is there (big time) when they are not even plugged in. could it all be in the koa? i know jaco had lots of mwah from his fender- aren't they made from alder? thats why i thought maybe the epoxy was the key.

  9. can you replace the fingerboard?...is that even possible?
  10. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    There's absolutely NO reason whatsoever why you couldn't just have the ebony fretboard replaced on that Carvin. Neck thru or bolt-on, it makes no difference.
  11. jokey


    Jul 16, 2003
    i tried to find someone to replace the fingerboard on it, but couldn't find anyone who would. i eventually gave up, thinking that it just wasn't an option. but maybe i'll try some more now....
  12. mslatter


    Apr 8, 2003
    Have you asked Carvin?

    At the least, call 'em and ask them what kind of glue they use on their fingerboards. That'll help your luthier decide how to get it off.
  13. jokey


    Jul 16, 2003
    i did ask carvin a couple years back and they declined to do the work, but asking about the glue is a good suggestion- thanks!