Fretless conversion recovery/first body build

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Tom0Blam0, May 7, 2018.


  1. Tom0Blam0

    Tom0Blam0 Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2014
    A few months ago I was informed I would be getting a divorce, which was a huge bummer. After some time to process I have decided to throw myself into really getting in to building guitars as a hobby. As luck would have it, the craigslist gods saw it fit for me to get a pretty good deal on some gear. Specifically, some fella was moving and decided to get rid of some gear (fo free!) including an MIM jazz neck and a 15" Carvin amp (see https://www.talkbass.com/forums/luthiers-corner.57/create-thread for some pictures). The rub was both of these items did not work. I won't discuss the amp here (since I haven't fixed it yet) but the neck was given the ol' Jaco special and had the frets removed. These frets were likely removed with a pickax (not sure if you can see from the picture, but there were chips out of the rosewood along almost every fret slot).

    My plan is to make a riff on a fretless jazz bass. I think I'll do a body inspired by a Jazz bass, but I don't want to just make a carbon copy, so I'll be designing over the next couple of days to figure out a good design that won't be overly complicated to make a template for.

    I have stuff laying around that I plan on using for parts, such as 2 EMG 35hz pickups, either a stock fender bridge or a Hipshot kickass bridge, etc.

    What I have done so far:
    I bough some maple veneers and rosewood dust. After cleaning out the fret slots and putting a radius on an edge I inserted them to help with using the rosewood to fill the numerous chunks missing and then applied super glue. In the last picture you can see that I used very thin super glue that flowed easily into the slots. What I didn't realize is that is also flowed easily off the side of the neck and into the little neck holder I just bought, joining the neck to the holder. I pried it off delicately (pulled as hard as I could) and separated them, but some of the cork stuck around. I had planned on taking the finish off the back of the neck anyway, but come on! I just bought this thing. Oh well...All part of the learning experience.

    After taking the last picture I shaved the veneers down considerably with a chisel and left the glue to dry overnight. Tonight I'll continue working on getting the fretboard sanded down and continue going from there.
     

    Attached Files:

    BritFunk and Jisch like this.
  2. Tom0Blam0

    Tom0Blam0 Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2014
    Another quick follow up: I had at on point planned on staining the fretboard black to try to cover up the rosewood dust (which looks like will cure pretty dark on it's own). Problem is, in order to avoid getting dust in the slots I put the veneers in already and was hoping to have a lined fretless. Here are my questions/requests for your thoughts:
    1) Should I remove the inlays on the fretboard, fill them, and stain the neck black? I am no fretless master, so doing so flying blind would be tough to start with, but might be a good challenge. I also think the neck might look better all black relative to lined with a bunch of black spots in the wood.
    2) Is there any way I can avoid staining the maple? I assumed no, and if there is I assume it will be a difficult process, but I figured I'd check (I suppose I could also buy a fret slot saw, cut the lines and fill them again, but...).
    3) is filling the holes from the inlays with rosewood an effective way to do so? I assume using actual rosewood circles would be better, but I don't really have the tools or the skills to cut a bunch of little rosewood circles.
     
  3. Take this as a guess, but:
    1) doubt the inlays would take stain very well, they might get darker, but probably not since they are likely plastic.
    2) The maple will take dye differently than the rosewood, so it's likely that you'd still be able to see them, though not very well. You could cut them out, but it will be very hard to make the neck not appear to have lines of some sort - even if you used the same rosewood, the grain orientation of the fret slots is different than the rest of the fret board
    3) matching grain like that would be tough.

    Another option that I've seen, but never done, is to mix dye in with epoxy and just epoxy the fingerboard. If you dye it dark enough everything should disappear, including the inlays, which you may not want.
     
  4. Pretty much whatever you fill the fret slots with, it’s likely to look like it has lines to some degree after you try to dye or stain it. Jisch’s idea of dying epoxy and using that might work. I think there is black superglue available to, that might work but either one will be messy. If possible, I’d say get a small piece of similar colored wood, even if it’s not rosewood, and a razor saw and cut a few slots in the wood, glue in maple veneer and test your finishing idea on that.
     
  5. Tom0Blam0

    Tom0Blam0 Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2014
    I did some sanding and got the veneers and glue down pretty close to the fretboard with some 80 grit sandpaper and a 9.5 radius block. I also got the nut out and used diamond files to reduce the size of the veneer tangs (?). I don't have a bastard file to modify to do the job properly so I'm going to have to think of an alternative.

    I have some questions before I go much further:
    1 - I do not have a neck jig or a lot of super luthier-specific tools to get the neck perfect for sanding the neck perfect. What can I do to make sure the finished radius is a good as possible, without a proper neck jig?
    2 -I am confused on when I should level the fretboard. Do I do it before or after I radius the fretboard? Should the process be to first remove all the glue/rosewood dust from the fretboard completely, then level the fretboard, then use the radius block again before doing the CA fretboard finish?
     

    Attached Files:

  6. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    Not sure what a veneer tang is, or why you'd need a special file to reduce its size.

    That said, I have no "neck jig" either for when I radius the fretboard. I never found a need for one. All I use is a straight edge.

    I level the fret board (using that same straight edge, with some sand paper stuck to it) after I radius the fretboard. Then sand smooth the transitions with a flexible sanding block.

    Since I use epoxy for coating the fingerboard, I radius, coat, radius again, level, and final sanding with increasing grits until shiny. Then polish. If I were to use CA, I'd probably radius, level, sand, CA, then sand smooth again.
     
  7. Tom0Blam0

    Tom0Blam0 Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2014
    thanks, Maple! i wasn't sure what to call the little bit of veneer that hangs off the side of the fretboard. I clipped it as close as i could but there is still some left over. If I can just use sandpaper that's great. I should probably refinish the back of the neck anyway.
     
  8. craigie

    craigie

    Nov 11, 2015
    calgary

    Maybe it’s just me but those wooden frets you’ve installed took a bit high ;)
     
  9. craigie

    craigie

    Nov 11, 2015
    calgary
    I’m no luthier and not even much of a woodworker so take these thoughts with a grain of salt:

    I’d leave the inlays. That will look the best, be the most practical for playing and be the easiest. All IMHO of course.

    You could try staining some spare pieces of the maple veneer on the edge to see how they take it. If you don’t like the lined look if you can get them pretty close it will still be visible and useful to you but not so visible several feet away. Or you could use magic marker. Wait! That’s actually a great idea!! Might rub off though.

    If you have spots of glue on the board these might be harder to sand down than the fretboard wood so you might end up with uneven sanding depending on your method. Maybe use a razor blade on flat edge to scrape them off?

    Have fun and keep posting!!
     
  10. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    Yes, sandpaper will work. I think I'd prefer it more than a file, actually. I'd go with a fine grade, maybe 320 or 400.
     
  11. Tom0Blam0

    Tom0Blam0 Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2014
    Thanks for all the suggestions.

    I think I'm going to keep the inlays. At this point everything looks good, so unless things look terrible once the glue/dust mix is leveled I'm keeping it as is.

    Plus I think I can use the stain/ink on another project. Double win!

    That's great to hear. A related question, since I have the neck without a body at this point, what should I do to the truss rod while sanding? Do i need have it loosened at all? Sorry for all the questions, just want to make sure I don't do anything that ends up impacting the playability. Thanks again for your imput. Your builds are amazing!
     
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  12. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    When I work on the neck, I keep the truss rod (truss rods, in my case), loose. No tension.
     
  13. Tom0Blam0

    Tom0Blam0 Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2014
    Thanks for all the advice, everyone. My progress on the neck has stalled. I think the most work I have done to it in the last month is buy a nut for it. But, I think the delay is excusable. I started designing the body in Inkscape and got carried away. Well, actually I first designed a firebird body knock-off for a guitar neck I have laying around and then I designed the body for this fretless neck. It's a total ripoff of a jazz bass. I adjusted the horns and contours a bit and ditched the control plate and modded the pickguard.

    I also used Inkscape to print the design to scale! Sure it looks messy, but I'm sure that if I take it in to a print shop I can get some decent copies. I'll do some further work by hand in regard to layout of the neck pocket, pickup positions, and bridge position. I'll also make an MDF template to help me avoid screwing up the body. The good thing about this build is that, in addition to the free neck, I have a number of other parts for it. I have a set of these EMGs (https://www.musiciansfriend.com/accessories/emg-35hz-passive-4-string-bass-pickup) and a KickAss bridge laying around, so I really just need the controls. Not really sure what to do there just yet, but I have time to decide. I also may replace the tuners eventually...

    Anyway, I also stole Alder's (You Can Build It) idea for a body wood. I bought some 4' 2"x2" pine boards and am in the process of gluing them up with Titebond III. So far, so good. I have to go slower than I thought I would but I learned the hard way that not all clamps are created equal. No need to rush anyway.
     

    Attached Files:

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  14. Tom0Blam0

    Tom0Blam0 Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2014
    Oh! I also decided I'm going to go for a dakota red body with a parchment or mint guard. Something to that effect. I always try to avoid getting red guitars and I'll have 4 of them now...
     
  15. craigie

    craigie

    Nov 11, 2015
    calgary
    Interesting thread!
     
  16. Tom0Blam0

    Tom0Blam0 Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2014
    Glued the final two sections together. Next I'll level the body and then rough cut the outline. Then I'll use a table router to do the outline, which means I need to make a template. I think I'll need to get more tools...

    More to come!
     

    Attached Files:

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  17. Tom0Blam0

    Tom0Blam0 Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2014
    I am hoping to make more headway this weekend. I got some tools this week that I needed to make the template and cut out the body, so I should be able to do that Saturday or Sunday! Woo!

    In the meantime I want to continue working on the neck. I don't have pics, but I did some work on the fretboard and removed the finish off the back of the neck (I will refinish with tru oil). Here's my question (Bolded for attention grabbing purposes): What can I do to clean out the glue dried in the slot for the nut? I have the nut slot mostly cleaned, but there is some glue in the slot that won't let the nut rest firmly in place. Other than dropping more money on a micro chisel, is there anything else I can do to get at this glue? Would I be okay using needle files and going REALLY slowly?
     
  18. Filing is fine, just be careful, especially if you are going reuse the existing nut.
     
  19. Tom0Blam0

    Tom0Blam0 Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2014
    Thanks! I got a pre-slotted TUSK nut so I'm going to go with that. The original had some cracks in it that I was concerned would eventually be an issue, especially when I have to deepen the slots...
     
  20. Tom0Blam0

    Tom0Blam0 Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2014
    I took my dog to doggy daycare today so I could get things done around the house. One of the ways I procrastinated was making a final template of the body with the pickups, neck pocket, bridge and pickguard all laidout. The bridge pickup centerline is at about 14 3/8" from the 12th fret which is where I had read was about where the 60s fender bridge pickups were. I still need to decide how I'm going to do the controls. It'll likely just be a typical jazz layout. Tomorrow I am hoping to grab some time to cut out the template in some MDF and maybe even finish leveling the body blank. If everything keeps moving along nicely I am hoping to get the body routed next weekend! I really hope I don't botch anything because I am getting psyched to play this thing!

    Anyway, I'm going to try to do some additional work on the neck. I think the glue did not properly flow into the chips on my first attempt because many chips had completely dry rosewood dust underneath hardened rosewood + CA glue. I have the fretboard cleaned of glue now so I'm going to wipe it down with naptha and try again.
     

    Attached Files:

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