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Fingerboard - How thin is too thin?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Da Funk Docta, Apr 26, 2010.


  1. Hi!
    I've been recently hearing people talk about replacing fingerboards on double basses. I was wondering if this is actually as common as people say it is.
    I have a 5-str bass that is about 85 years old, and I have no idea if the fingerboard is too thin. How thin is too thin?
    Also, if the case is that I do need a new board, how much would I be looking at spending in the Los Angeles area?
    It plays great, and I love the sound of the bass, I don't want to make any decisions that could potentially ruin this bass that I love.
    Thanks!
     
  2. JtheJazzMan

    JtheJazzMan

    Apr 10, 2006
    Australia
    If you go to get the FB dressed then the luthier would tell you if its too thin. Otherwise if youre having no trouble with warping or cracking, and the bass sounds good, then theres nothing to fix.

    Now that we have the helpful pleasantries out of the way - pics or no bass :D
     
  3. The fingerboard is only too thin if it can't be dressed... so if it's playing fine and doesn't need adjusting, no need to worry. Too much extra mass anywhere on a bass is a bad thing, so you don't want a really thick board.
     
  4. ctregan

    ctregan

    Jun 25, 2007
    Syracuse N.Y.
    Measure the fingerboard on the side edge. I do not have the "exact specifications" but, I believe anything below a 1/4" could be suspect.

    The neck gets all its strength from the FB; thick fingerboards are good.
     
  5. robobass

    robobass

    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    Disagree. Changing out a too thin board - even if it still plays well - for a good new one of proper thickness pretty much always improves sound. Also, a too thin board can lead to problems like neck warpage and unwanted resonances. How to know? How about playing the highest note on the G-string, pressing hard enough to get solid tone. If the FB sinks more than about 1/16" then it's probably too thin.
     
  6. Oh, for sure... but then, would an inch of ebony be a good thing? I don't think so. There's a tradeoff.
     
  7. robobass

    robobass

    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    No argument. I've seen boards that had no scoop-out at the bridge end. They seemed to deaden the bass. But good quality blanks tend to fall within the preferred thickness and mass range.
     
  8. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    I was advised to have less scoop to make my bass play easier, but the board was too thin to accomplish this. A new one was put on and the instrument plays so much better now. Besides the much easier feel up and down the board, I like the increased thickness of the neck, and the pizz response seems less tight, too. I noticed the bass was a bit brighter after the change but the basic character of the sound hasn't changed at all. For me this was a huge improvement. I'd like to do this to my other bass now as the board is probably 50 years old and it seems thin in comparison.
     
  9. bigolbassguy

    bigolbassguy

    Feb 13, 2010
    Billings, MT
    Especially on a 5 string. The neck is thicker to begin with.
     
  10. robobass

    robobass

    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I was only referring to the "scallop" or "cutout" on the underside of the board at the bridge end, not the "scoop, relief, camber," etc. of the playing surface (why can't we agree upon a single term for this?). But yes, a flatter board (lengthwise) is desirable, and the modern trend. Too bad that so many second rate or simply luddite repairers resist this idea and dress boards with too much relief, which is mostly irreversible.
     
  11. vejesse

    vejesse

    Apr 8, 2006
    Madison, Wi
    Double Bass Workshop
    Why do you say that a fingerboard with too much relief is irreversible?
     
  12. robobass

    robobass

    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    Once you've planed material away, you can't put it back.

    I think everyone has seen boards which have decent thickness all around, but have too much relief. To make them right would require thinning the bridge end (and the nut end) to a point where they don't have necessary stiffness. It's sad to see precious rainforest woods (not to mention precious rent money from players) being wasted by hacks who call themselves luthiers:spit:.
     
  13. vejesse

    vejesse

    Apr 8, 2006
    Madison, Wi
    Double Bass Workshop
    It's certainly common to see fingerboards with too much relief, either from the neck warping or planing too much scoop into the board. And it's common to dress the board to try and get rid of some relief, or to add some relief. I guess I don't know why you would make a blanket statement like this. If a board is too thin it's too thin. If the board seems like it's not too thin to re work then maybe you can re work it. And if the neck is warped, the board is thin and there's no money for a new fingerboard it sounds like you play a Kay bass. In that case maybe you can at least get the board to the point where it 'plays', then lower the strings.
     
  14. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    However, if there is too much camber due to the neck bending, and you remove fingerboard wood to reduce the camber, then the neck assembly is weaker, and will bend even more, creating excessive camber. So you reduce the camber by removing fingerboard wood, and now the neck is weaker, and bends even more, creating excessive camber. So you redu...
     
  15. vejesse

    vejesse

    Apr 8, 2006
    Madison, Wi
    Double Bass Workshop
    Sure, we all know the deal. Like I said: if the board is too thin, it's too thin. How many times has some poor guy brought their bass to you with the complaint that it's hard to play. Warped neck, huge fingerboard relief. You caution them that the fingerboard on their bass is too thin to do anything with, then they ask you how much a new fingerboard is. Cools the deal real quick. Too bad more bass players don't work for Goldman Sachs.
     
  16. robobass

    robobass

    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    [​IMG]
    I like blankets. Warrrmmm!!!
     
  17. vejesse

    vejesse

    Apr 8, 2006
    Madison, Wi
    Double Bass Workshop
    ok. The last time I participated in a thread that went into a similar direction I put my foot in my mouth and felt the hate, so please allow me to go in a different direction.

    If you have a bass with a fingerboard that's too thin and its allowing the neck to warp please, please please have it replaced with a new board. Luthiers are standing by.
     
  18. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    Well said. No foot. Only common sense.
     

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