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Fret lines on fretless fingerboard tips

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Yellow, Aug 13, 2007.

  1. Yellow


    Apr 20, 2006
    Sooke, BC, Canada
    It seems kind of simple but I dont want to underestimate it.
    How do you guys do it?

    I was thinking of cutting slots then gluing thin veneer strips into the slots and sanding flat. Anything else I should know?
  2. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    you got it

    I'd recommend using an epoxy to set the veneer strips, and not something like titebond (or some other water based glue) ... you don't want shrinkage in the slots to bow your neck

    depending on the wood species you're using for a veneer, it might also be good to give it a soaking with some thin CA glue to aid in filling any open pores

    re-level the fingerboard once everything has had time to properly cure, then apply several coats of system3 epoxy and roughly level between each application. after the system3 has had a week for the final application to fully cure, level the fingerboard and sand/buff to a wonderful shine

    all the best,

  3. JSPguitars


    Jan 12, 2004
    Grass Valley
    What material other than veneer would be suitable for this?? I ask becuase under stage lighting, a prior customer stated that the maple veneer I used was hard to see.
    I love the way veneer looks, but as a player on stage, this obviously isn't the best material if it's anywhere remotely dark......and you need to know where the fretlines are.

    What about a white purfling substitute?? ANy other materials that would show up better on stage?
  4. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Inactive

    Oct 20, 2004
    It's simple if it was a fretted bass and you are making it fretless. But it's not easy cutting fret slots in an unslotted fretboard. You need a jig and some templates to do it well. You can measure and cut by hand, but if your slots are off, an someone is using that to find the note (instead of their ears) than the note will be off also.

    You can use white plastic, such as for binding, or just thin styrene.

    One thing about wood veneer. Make sure you glue them in with the grain running side-to-side. If the grain is running up and down, they might swell when the weather gets humid. Then you would feel them sticking up.

    If you use epoxy, stay away from the 5 minute kind. It tends to swell. Then you feel glue lines. You can sand it back, and it swells again. Real annoying!

    CA would be a better choice to use.

    Bull crap! Tell your customer to stop looking at his neck! It's a crutch. You can't lean to play fretless that way. You shouldn't look at your fingers on a fretted bass either. I never look at the neck. I started doing that because I also sing, and nothing looks worse than someone singing and looking at the neck. Practice with your eyes closed. Just learn where the notes are. :D

    This is my fretless. My fretted basses also don't have position markers. ;)

  5. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Since some people actually use the lines for guidance, they must be very accurately positioned.

    Hm, I don't really follow what directions you mean...
    I say: see to that the veneer grain is perpendicular to the surface of the fingerboard. That has not yet swelled on me, and the risk of splintering the veneer out of the board is minimal. YMVV.
    Extremist..... :D :bassist:
  6. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses
    If your customer can't see a high contrast veneer like maple on a dark fb then you can tell him he's surely not going to see any other colour. :)

    I use titebond to glue in my fret marker veneer and never had a problem with backbow of the fb. I know a few builders who also glue in frets with titebond with no problems.
  7. DEbassist


    Jul 7, 2006
    St. Louis
    Hey, those of us who don't play fretless need all the help we can get. Nothing worse than playing playing fretless with bad intonation. :) :bag:
  8. Yellow


    Apr 20, 2006
    Sooke, BC, Canada
    Yep, I am with you there, but if I mark it accurately it should be there shouldn't it? I will be using FRETFIND to mark my lines or should I do something else.

    I thought being fretless, compensating factor should be even less of an issue since there are no frets and with good low action fretlines should be very close to true and a little bridge adjustment should take care of intonation am I right?
  9. DEbassist


    Jul 7, 2006
    St. Louis
    You are correct. As long as the intonation is set correctly and you play on top of the fretline, you should be just fine.

    Also, try and develop position playing instead of relying on markers as this will also help. (I haven't learned this just yet, thats why I need those big white lines for help)
  10. I have also used titebond for fretlines without problems on mac ebony and rosewood. Next time, though, I'll do something similar to what Rodent described. I'll insert the veneer into the dry slot and squirt thin CA on each side.
  11. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Inactive

    Oct 20, 2004
    Well my first fretless had lines, because it was converted. But I tried hard to not look as much as possible!

    But the thing that did it for me was playing that bass and singing lead. Never an easy thing on bass anyway.

    Lined fretless basses do look nice.
  12. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Inactive

    Oct 20, 2004
    I do the grain parallel to the fingerboard, so it's running from edge to edge. This way if it swells, it will swell sideways, the same as the fingerboard does.

    You don't want it to swell and stick up out of the fret slot. That would also be end grain.

    Yeah, that's me! :eyebrow:
  13. dblbass

    dblbass Commercial User

    Mar 24, 2007
    Beacon, NY
    Owner of MBJ guitars, Maker of fine sawdust for Carl Thompson Guitars
    you should tell that guy to sit down and practise a little.
  14. DEbassist


    Jul 7, 2006
    St. Louis
    I'll make a point to do that. :)
  15. JSPguitars


    Jan 12, 2004
    Grass Valley
    Hehehehehe..........yeah Dustin, take a seat, right now, and keep practicing! :p
    Sorry man, didn't mean to get you into this. I shoulda just asked about the materials and left you out of this. :scowl:
  16. DEbassist


    Jul 7, 2006
    St. Louis
    lol No worries Jeff. Everyone needs to practice, no matter how good they are.
  17. Yellow


    Apr 20, 2006
    Sooke, BC, Canada
    I didnt want to start a new thread since this one would still cover it.

    Using Fret Find it gives me measurments for each string, which one should I take as a standard ( It is 5 string) Should I take measurements for D?
  18. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Inactive

    Oct 20, 2004
  19. i don't know if it's possible, but abalone inlays would look killer.
  20. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Inactive

    Oct 20, 2004
    That would look cool.

    Sure, it's possible.

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