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Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by guinessdrinker, Aug 13, 2002.

  1. Hi,
    I am working on making a bass. I have done some woodworking in the past and I know that based on my skill level and patience level, I am going to have some trouble making a fingerboard. Does anyone have any advise on how to make straight, even cuts for the frets? Also, any tips on inlays would be appreciated. I have Melvyn Hisock's book but I think I need more guidance. Also, does anyone know where I can order a fingerboard with the frets and inlays already installed?

  2. joeviau


    Jul 9, 2002
    Rhode Island
    There are some places where they will pre-cut the fret slots for you. Luthier's Mercantile and Exotic Woods Company comes to mind. I don't know if Stewart-MacDonald does.


    As far as inlays, the above places have them pre-cut and you can order a set. Larry Robinson, who started doing work at Alembic, has a good book out about inlaying, oddly enough called "The Art of Inlay." Pick it up or check your local library.


    The book claims that it's easier to inlay into a darker wood than a lighter one, and I would basically agree with this assessment. If you're using ebony, it will be a little harder to work, but if you leave a little too much of a gap between the inlay and the inlay's hole, some black filler might just hide the gap well enough that no one notices. Except you.

    It's not a bad thing to cut the fret slots. Just be careful when you draw the lines on the fingerboard for the fret slots. Double-check, and if it makes you feel better, triple-check. If you have a fret cutting hand saw, take a practice run on a piece of scrap. When you're happy with the depth of the cut, put the saw into the cut, and use double-sided tape to hold small pieces of wood on either side of the saw. This will act as a depth stop so that you don't go too deep when you cut the slots in the real fingerboard.

    Moral of the story: PRACTICE ON SCRAP, it's time well spent. You won't agonize about hogging out a piece of poplar inlaying a little walnut star as you would hogging out a $50 piece of ebony to inlay a mother-of-pearl octopus (?).
  3. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
  4. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Musikraft and Exotic Woods are the same place.

    I recommend LMI for pre-slotted fingerboards.
  5. Skorzen


    Mar 15, 2002
    Springfield MA
    Add www.Warmoth.com to the list of sources.

    About LMI when I ordered my fingerboard I was origionally going to get it from them, but the could not radious bass finger boards at the time. I do not know if this has changed or not. I will say however that they were very helpful with all the questions I had and had prompt service. The only place I found that I could get a fingerboard from that was a 35" scale was exotic woods.
  6. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    LMI does most popular scale lengths. They also now do radiusing, although investing in some radiused sanding blocks and doing it yourself is not a bad way to go.
  7. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Why put in frets at all? They always end up in the wrong position, anyway.
    And why cover the beautiful wood with some inlays? Unless they are wooden, too, of course...
  8. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Some of us find our own intonation on a fretless uglier than the frets covering the wood.

    Not saying this is the original poster's reason....
  9. Over at the MIMF.com (Musical Instrument Makers Froum) an on-line class is starting up in Sept., I beleve, on inlaying. I've never put frets on a finger board, sorry I can't help you there.