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Fretboard Shrinkage

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by GrooveMonkey, Feb 1, 2004.

  1. The frets on my Warwick Thumb B/O are begining to protrude from the edges of the fretboard despite my weekly waxing of the bass and neck. I'm guessing this is due to the dry, winter climate here in Northern NY. I set up my non-steam humidifier in the room where I keep my basses with hopes of slowing this down some.

    Has anyone here experienced this before? :meh:
  2. TRU


    Apr 12, 2002
    Northern Europe
    So Warwick also uses too fresh wood in their basses. Good to know. File down the fret ends or have them filed down.
  3. knight


    Nov 3, 2002
    I don't know if it's that, or only the fact that fretboard wood is unfinished, thus more susceptible to shrinking and expanding. I live in Michigan, where it's unhealthily dry, and this has happened to a Ken Smith I own. It's barely perceptible and it doesn't bother me, so no big deal.


  4. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    It's a pretty common problem. I don't remember having it happen with a wenge fretboard, but ebony is especially prone to it, and even rosewood does it to some degree. You can file the fret ends yourself, or take it to any decent repairman to get filed. If you file them once at the driest time of year, you'll never have to do it again.
  5. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Very common with ebony fingerboards. I have seen everything from Alembic to Warwick do this in dry climates. My Cirrus 6 has an ebony board, and does the same thing.

    As mike said, if you have the fret ends filed down, it won't happen again.


    Nov 24, 2001
    New York,NY

    Damn! I thought my house was the only dry place around here(North East USA)!

    I'm running 3 humidifiers in my house just to feel normal! My wood necked basses are getting all sorts of freaky this year & it's driving me nuts!


    PS: I LOVE my Zon
  7. Finger Blister

    Finger Blister

    Jul 8, 2003
    This Thread is making me Paranoid.
  8. mark beem

    mark beem Wait, how does this song start again?? Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    Alabama, USA
    My Conklin 8 string did the same thing... No biggie... Like Mike Z said, if you file them down you probably wont have to do it again.
  9. Schwinn


    Dec 4, 2002
    Sarasota, FL
    I can chime in and say this happened to my Carvin last year. I did file the fret ends down.

    But before you do that, run your humidifier 24/7 and keep it in its case when the humidifer is off. This will solve the problem. I've been using a humidifier lately and it's been great!!
  10. Aram


    Feb 2, 2003
    New York, NY
    This is happening slightly to my Pao Ferro fingerboard, not too badly though. Would stabilized woods be less susceptible to this?
  11. Thanks for all the replies.

    My Thumb Bass is the only one that's doing this and I think I know why. Last summer I attended the National Guitar Workshop in Conneticut during the "monsoon season" and my Thumb was carried around in the rain/humidity. In it's bag of course. It rained EVERY DAMN DAY!

    Mike Dimin can vouch for how damp that week was :D

    Anyhoo, I'm guessing that that extreme humidity made the fretboard go one way and then this winter's extreme dryness took it the extreme opposite way.

    That's my guess.

    I'm running my cool mist humidifier within 5 feet of my wall-O-basses. I hope it helps.
  12. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    According to the USDA, impreg woods exhibit only 1/3 to 1/4 the equilibrium shrinking and swelling of untreated woods.
  13. Aram


    Feb 2, 2003
    New York, NY
    Interesting -- I wonder if they're much heavier as a result. I'll have to look into these for my next bass.
  14. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    The same source quotes an increase of 15-20% in density. Some of the luthiers however have indicated that it may be more than that.
  15. My back and shoulder are kind of glad my Thumb Bass dosen't have this increase of 15-20% in density you speak of. :D
  16. I looked through Erlwine's books and did a quick search, but havent seen good instructions on the type of file to use to file down the fret ends.

    Anyone have any good directions? I realize its fairly simple - just file - but the more details the better.

    Thanks in advance.
  17. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    I have an unfinished or satin-finished maple board bass that does this. The problem goes away once the weather starts getting warmer.
  18. Same here...it's getting awful brutal in MD. :meh:
  19. Schwinn


    Dec 4, 2002
    Sarasota, FL
    I wouldn't resort to filing unless it is really bad. Better to control the lack of humidity. Filing will cause you to nick up the sides of the fretboard, even if you are really careful. On my bass, the neck is oil finish, so I was able to sand the sides a little (using micro grit sheets made for pool cues - wonderful stuff) when I was done filing to get teeny tiny nicks out.

    As far as what file to get, a flat miniature file is what you'd need. Miniature files often come in a set with different shapes, which is cool because a round mini file is good for filing the nut if you ever need to.
  20. Try Saskatchewan for dry, relative humitity of say 10-30% takes up most of the year, parts of Sask. are considered dessert. You guys in N.E. US should quit yer' bellie akin. right now the weather is giving us temps of about -52 degrees celsius, that's -62 fahrenheit, but at least it's a dry cold. :)

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