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Fretless: Epoxied or Nude?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Jon Chewning, Jan 5, 2001.

  1. I'm looking at getting a 6-string lined fretless from a right-coast luthier. Right now the board is au-natural and he's wanting to know if I'd like the board epoxied. The problem is that I've never played a coated board so I have nothing to compare. Firstly, is there a noticeable difference in feel and what are they? Secondly, how about the differences in sound? I know there are a lot of other factors; strings, fingers, etc. but does anyone who has played both types have any knowlegeable positions on the matter?

    I will hopefully get a chance in two weeks to audition quite a few fretless' before I make a nod in either direction, but I'd like some other opinions..
  2. Rockinjc


    Dec 17, 1999
    Coated = brighter, more durable
    Bare = Mellow, less durable
    Ebony = best of both worlds

    If you love round wounds, you need a harder fingerboard.

    How about one of each!

    nuff said,
  3. Ok here's a kicker, it's an ebony board. So I guess you're saying I should leave it be? And I'd be hesitant to use rounds on a bare board anyway...
  4. ONYX


    Apr 14, 2000
    My fretless has an ebony board and I also use rounds on it.
    It has not shown that much wear over the years. Ebony is a very durable wood.

    However, there are many factors that affect this. Nickle strings are not as abrasive as stainless. Also, I play with a very light touch. If you are the type of player who "frets" very hard, this will cause the fingerboard to wear out much faster.

  5. Rockinjc


    Dec 17, 1999
    Yes leave it nude dude. Ever since I wore tiny grooves in my 4001 (sold it) back in the day, its been ground or pressure wound for me. My P-Bass has rose wood, and is holding up nicely. I also have a J-bass that is epoxied but almost never use it. I can get the brighter tones out of my fretted bass. Life is good.


    BTW I have power amp envy!
  6. Yeah I was kinda leaning in that direction, but I just wanted hear some informed opinions. I guess the main thing I was worried about was gouging ruts in the board.

    BTW I have power amp envy!

    Heh, yeah but you know I'll bet we do a side-by-side and nobody'd be the wiser, volume wise! Actually I got to figgering it might see some PA duty, and at the time it was only $100 more than the 1602's old price, so I made the jump into the 'ton' o'wattage.
  7. I have always tried to use ebony 'boards over the years. The only fretless I ever had any wear problems with was a 4001, and it had a rosewood. Ebony has not failed me yet. And I would recommend nickel over stainless strings.
  8. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Just chiming is as another satisfied nude ebony fretless owner (mine's a '95 Carvin). I've always used nickel roundwounds. Yes, there are string marks on the board but they do not seem to be affecting the playing or tone. Got Elixirs on it now, and I think that's the way to go.

    Search the "strings" forum for "elixir" for more on this topic.

  9. Monkey

    Monkey Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Ohio, USA
    Perhaps another reason to leave it nude; I tried to epoxy an ebony board once, and it didn't work well at all. I had used the same stuff on two rosewood boards with good results, but I tried twice with the ebony and it didn't adhere well and drastically effected the tone. I have played nude ebony fretless only for many years, and they are fine. They sound great, too.

    [Edited by Monkey on 01-07-2001 at 09:53 PM]
  10. Gard


    Mar 31, 2000
    WInter Garden, FL
    Ebony is a fairly oily wood, and doesn't take up epoxy or other types of finishes well, tends to "shed" them.

    I've been playing an unfinished fretless pau ferro board for 4 years, with stainless steel roundwounds and a heavy left hand. Other than two fingerboard levelings in that time, I haven't had the first bit of worry with it, and you'll need a leveling no matter what you use in the way of woods, strings, or finishes/unfinished. Any use will wear out the fingerboard, the only differences are the times involved.

    Personally, I prefer the "naked" board, all the epoxied ones I've played were too bright for my tastes. I'd rather worry about the tone I'm getting and deal with the occassional repair/maintainence issue than sacrifice my preferred tone because I'm worried about how long something will last.
  11. That's the bottom line.

    Personally, my board is coated (pau ferro) and I use stainless steel rounds, but my fretless is only for occasional use in recording so gets plenty of case time....and I play with a light touch on the fretless.

    That board will last me a LONG time ;)
  12. Gard


    Mar 31, 2000
    WInter Garden, FL
    I should add, that in addition to everything else in my post, my fretted bass is a mighty lonely bass onstage. It only gets used if I'm playing a lot of chords, slapping, or I break a string on the fretless (which never happens). So I'm almost entirely a fretless player...and my uncoated board is lasting just fine. Find the tone you want, get it, and don't worry about anything else.
  13. Ok I know this may be subjective, but having not played an epoxied board, what are the differences in tonal qualities? Can the brightness of an epoxied board be EQ'd to bring out warmer qualities or is that not possible?
  14. Rockinjc


    Dec 17, 1999
    Yes, but you can't make an apple taste like and orange. On my basses, no matter the board surface I go from brighter to darker with a twist of my tone nob.

  15. It also has a LOT to do with the bass to begin with. My MM Sterling sounded outstanding nude, very warm and resonant. Now, after the coating (expertly done by my tech, Mike Lull), it sounds even better to my ears. Still very warm, but now with just a HINT of more cut, maybe even 'glassy?' Not sure it that word will register correctly....but if I need to expand on it, let me know ;) All I can tell you is that it has lost nothing, and in fact gained a nice edge in the sound.

    You can hear it very well in my song "Walking With the Angels" at my MP3 site....have a listen :)


    It's all me...a one-man band kind of thing.

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