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Fixing cosmetic blemish on fretless neck

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by OleThumpy, Jul 29, 2013.

  1. OleThumpy


    Jul 14, 2013
    Hello all,
    This will be my first post on the TB forums and after pondering putting it in the 'Luthier's corner' section, I think this is actually the proper place for it. Hopefully I'm correct in that! Anyway, I have a MIM Fender J bass that I finally decided to do a de-fretting project on (as well as replacing the hardware, electronics, and pickups). I've successfully pulled the frets and filled them with flamed sycamore veneer stips. I also decided to drill the white (abalone?) fret markers out and replace them with 1/4" ebony dowels, but that's besides the point. Since the fretboard is rosewood and my bass is black I wanted to stain the board to make it match somewhat more as I'm going for an all-black look for the bass. I stained the fingerboard with Fieblings black leather dye before putting my veneers in and was thrilled with the product. However, upon putting the veneers in and sanding them down I sanded right through my stain, back to the raw rosewood. This is not the look I wanted. So begrudgingly I taped off my veneers and re-applied the stain. As I was pulling the tape yesterday I was pleasantly shocked at how well my masking job had turned out... until I uncovered the final two veneers. The dye pooled in some chipped areas near the veneers and ended up soaking pretty well into the veneers. Here's a photo of the whole neck:

    And a close up of the booboo:

    I spoke with my dad and got his input on the problem and here are a few possible solutions we came up with:
    1) Trying to find a paint to match the color of the fret veneers and painting it in by hand
    2) Trying to have a local artist airbrush a matching paint on
    3)Using a Minwax blend/fill colored pencil on the fret veneer
    4) Using my fretting saw to saw the problem frets down a bit, then attempting to create a small veneer to glue on top of the old one

    I'm not sure how feasible all of these are, especially number 4. If I could find a matching paint and cover it up adequately myself I would be very happy. I like the way the rest of the board looks and it's getting a coat or two of epoxy after this to seal and protect it, but I'd hate to leave a blem on the board that haunts me every time I pick my bass up.

  2. Scottkarch


    Sep 11, 2012
    I know it doesn't help you, but I sure wish the lined inlays on my MIM jazz fretless could be dyed darker.. the plastic won't hold any color I put onto it. Bummer.

    I'd only guess that sawing them out and putting in new strips will give the best look.
  3. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    The winner is: Number Four.

    Sort of.

    Forget trying to do just a little bit. Saw through the existing veneer. Lay in a new piece. Trying to cut and manipulate a small piece is much more time consuming than a larger piece.
  4. OleThumpy


    Jul 14, 2013
    Haha gotta love how I ended up completing my post without ever phrasing it as a question. It may be implied but I'm looking for advice on the methods I mentioned and/or new (and possibly easier) suggestions. 202dy, I'm definitely considering that route too if I start sawing at all. The thing that worries me there is that I see it happening just like last time where I sand down the new veneers and end up removing finish before I get a smooth even feel to the board, which it has now. If that happened I could certainly apply more stain to the two or three fret gaps that need it, but then I have a marginally uneven board. Although I guess I could fix that by sanding the epoxy as appropriate. It would certainly be a bit of work, but I guess there are rarely shortcuts work taking in woodworking. Nevertheless, I'm still open to more advice! In the meantime I'll be mentally gearing up for the possibility of taking the saw to this board once again...
  5. Trus3683


    Feb 14, 2013
    Connecticut, USA
    My 2 cents; My opinion.

    Iwould saw the 'faulted' veneers completely and redo the job for those two frets. I agree with 202dy.

    Additionally, fretless neck conversion usually requires radiusing done to keep the neck like it was before the frets came out, so a marginally uneven err on the neck, as you mentioned, will be no issue if it is to be radiused and especially not if you epoxy over it, as you deinitely need to radius the neck after that. I mention this as I noticed you saying you were goin to epoxy it over.

    I personally wouldn't care about a flaw like that. Although it hurts resale, it makes the bass your own and gives it character. All of this is my opinion, however.
  6. Scottkarch


    Sep 11, 2012
    I agree that leaving it with its own personal character is a good option.

    It's yours.
  7. OleThumpy


    Jul 14, 2013
    Yeah so a few more things to mention. The fingerboard is nicely radiused right now, I've been sanding using a 9.5" sanding block the whole time, it's currently really smooth and sanded down to 600 grit. It's also managed to stay level lengthwise, and the woodworker in me wants to keep it that way even if epoxy would cover up any incorrect radiusing or leveling. Also resale value means nothing to me for this bass. It's my first bass (and only at the moment), and certainly means much more to me than its market value, so there's really no point in ever shopping it around. Haha I don't know how much a home-modded Mexican J bass would fetch on the market anyways... I'm happy to see the "character" argument come up as it means it must not look too terrible to those not quite as attached to the situation as I am. However I'm curious as to what has everyone avoiding the paint / finishing pencil options. Do you all think it would look unnatural? I'm not really shooting for perfection, I think that giving some lighter color to those last two lines for visibility while keeping them "blemished" would be kind of nice, I'd just like them even a little more visible.

    Thanks for all the great input so far everyone!
  8. Scott in Dallas

    Scott in Dallas Commercial User

    Aug 16, 2005
    Dallas, north Texas
    Builder and Owner: DJ Ash Guitars
    You'd need to verify visually, but from the pictures, it doesn't look like it's that deep into the wood. If that's the case, the blemishes are close enough to the end of the neck that you could probably scrape it with a cabinet scraper and re-mask and re-stain it. Just call it "fall away".
  9. Stone Soup

    Stone Soup

    Dec 3, 2012
    Looks to me like there are still some ugly chips in the fretboard that require a proper sanding with a radius block. That's where I would start.
  10. I would just blacken over them to match up to the fretboard. Who`s going to notice. Not even you after awhile. No one really ever plays that high up on the neck anyway. You don`t need markers there. Take care. Bob
  11. OleThumpy


    Jul 14, 2013
    Hey all, thanks for the further input. Haha Scott that's a very interesting idea about the "fall away". Certainly something I hadn't considered. Unfortunately one of the veneers got pretty well soaked due to me getting overzealous when staining a bit of chipped-out section so I think that would only help the less badly blemished of the two veneers. Stone, the board has been radiused twice now and I don't really want to go much lower on it at all. As I said it's getting epoxy-ed so chip out isn't a concern especially given that it's very tough to even notice past 3 feet. Robert, that's another interesting thought, I'll consider that. If it was only the very last fret I would just dye it in a second. I have to give more thought to dying two of them.

    I'm still very curious as to why no one has thrown any measure of support behind touch-up coloring. I picked up a pack of DA{ Blend Sticks at Lowes on my way home today to test out and I'll try those on a stained piece of scrap veneer to see what comes of it. If I get good results I'd love to hear people's reasoning as to why this wouldn't be the way to go, as I haven't come up with much... I would imagine both the Blend Sticks and paint would play nicely with the epoxy, but maybe I'm missing something?