1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Fretless fingerboard

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by saunabad, Mar 29, 2001.

  1. saunabad


    Mar 29, 2001
    I removed the frets from my bass some time ago and found out that roundwounds seem to eat the fingerboard quite fast.

    I'm looking for a cheap way to cover the fingerboard with something. Any good ideas? Epoxy? I'd like to do this by myself. What kind of process would that be?

    And no, I'm not going to take the bass to some expert. This bass isn't worth it. I just want to learn from this experience :)
  2. Well, the first thing to learn is that after putting the ruts in the fingerboard, you can't just cover them up or you'll have a real mess. You MUST have the fingerboard resurfaced to eliminate the grooves before doing any surface additions. You can do this yourself but I would recommend to take it to a pro to do the fingerboard and keep the radius consistent. Then you can apply a polyester, epoxy, or polyurethane coating to keep it decent longer. Be warned though, no coating will completely stop fretboard wear especially with roundwounds.

    I haven't done an epoxy fingerboard coat so I'll leave that to someone who has.
  3. dytakeda


    Jul 18, 2000
    You might try gun stock oil finish. The one that is highly recommended by Rick Turner is Tru-Oil. I picked it up at a gun shop for about $7.00. (I wish I could remember the manufacturer's name).

    Rub on a coat, let it harden, buff it out with some 0000 steel wool and repeat a bunch of times.

    It's a linseed oil mixed with some kind of poly-whatever finish. So it penetrates the wood, brings out the grain beautifully if that's important, and dries with a hard finish.

    It'll protect the board from the roundwounds more than having an unfinished board. The other benefit is an increased note definition. When you're finger isn't stopping the string at exactly the right place, you hear it quite clearly.
  4. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
  5. Would you guys say that any bass neck made fretless should be finished with some sort of finish before being used? Cause i got a price from a shop and he told me that he doesn't put a finish on it after he fills in the spaces. Is that bad, should i not go to him, or go to him but put a finish on it myself when i get it back from him? That is of course if i go to him to do it.
  6. Polymerized Tung Oil - rub on with a cloth - let dry 5 hrs. - repeat about 10 x - nice glossy finish and good protection - rub on more as desired.
  7. Yes. I think so. Extent of fretboard wear will depend on a number of factors - type of wood - type of strings - how hard you play. Some sort of protection is desirable. You know how it goes - better safe than sorry!
  8. Thanks Xavier, that's what i was thinking, so i thought the guy was crazy to tell me that none would be necessary, and he said that about using any type of wood, not like just about ebony or something real dense. Polymerized Tung oil...where would i pick some of that up Xavier? Thanks.
  9. dytakeda


    Jul 18, 2000
    Disagreement from this corner....

    The prevailing wisdom is to put a finish on the fingerboard because of the sound it will provide, not to protect it. An unfinished fingerboard is quite common on fretless basses. That's standard for Fender and Musicman (I believe). Old Ampeg basses were also unfinished (I believe).

    Finished fingerboards are a relatively recent development (say within the last 10 years or so, Jaco not withstanding.) Contemporary bass manufacturers have gone to a finished board, and of course, the Jaco biography explaining about the boat epoxy finish on his.

    Point being: The sound is your primary concern. The finish will alter the sound. If the strings chew up the board, you'll have to get it serviced every few years, BUT you'll have your sound.

    Suggestion: Try some fretless basses at some megastore with both finished and unfinished boards. Decide which one gives you the sound you're after.
  10. dytakeda


    Jul 18, 2000
    One more thing...
    If you try the Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil Gunstock Finish to finish your board, you won't be sorry. Like I said earlier, Rick Turner recommends this product for this use.

    Think about where hunters take their guns. It's a tough, tough finish.
  11. Steve Cat

    Steve Cat

    Mar 19, 2001
    OK, you talked me into it. How about sanding the fretboard of my MIM fretless first. You know with a palm type electric vibrating (HGH< HGH!) sander with 220 then 600, just to take out any uneveness first?
  12. notduane


    Nov 24, 2000
    mmmm...Polymerized Tung Oil.

    I think that's what Mr A uses (Rob Allen).
    Makes that cocobolo board feel like coco-buddah :p
  13. dytakeda


    Jul 18, 2000
    Steve Cat -
    the sanding of a fretless board is a precision job. If you try to use an electic sander on it, you're going to wind up with flat spots. I'm sure repair guys have sanding blocks with the proper curvature for different areas of the board.
  14. I realize that there are different schools of thoughts here. I maintain that a protected fretboard is beneficial, but that is my opinion. I do not see it as a sound enhancer. Nor do I think that a thick epoxy coating is necessary (but that would depend on the factors I already touched on). But, some type of protective oil (preferably with a polymer resin) is not a bad idea.

    Here's a quote direct from "Bass Player Online" regarding the subject.

    (Might be a good idea to read over the entire article at: http://www.bassplayer.com/z2000/0004/frettech.shtml - scroll down to "Fingerboard Finishes".

    BTW, I get my Polymerized Tung Oil at Lee Valley Tools. I'm guesssing that any good woodworking supply store will carry it. I don't know anything about Tru-Oil. It might be similar - but I would strongly recomend something with the polymer resin.

  15. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    How "sticky" is the Tru-Oil finish? I seem to recall a gun stock I did that had that rubber bowling-ball feel. Or does the steel wooling take care of that?

    I'm about 95% ready to defret my spare Steinberger Spirit, which has a rosewood board. I, too, have been afflicted by the dreaded Nofretum bug.
  16. The polymerized finishes seem to respond well to application with the 0000 steel wool. I think it is because the wool somehow pushes more into the top fibers of the wood while, at the same time, smooths the top surface to a glassy sheen. My father was a gunsmith and his method was to liberally soak the wool pad in TruOil and rub it into the stock until the oil got sticky and showed some resistance to rubbing. Then he would wipe the excess off and let it dry for several hours before repeating the process. After about 6-8 rounds of this, his stocks were the most incredible looking. I've seen this stuff used on, what we called "orange crate stocks" (cheap wood) and it makes even them look fabulous!
  17. Ankles


    Jan 6, 2001
    With the True Oil, do you need to apply the sealer in addition? On Rick Turners article, he suggest using Tru Oil and t True Oil Sealer.

Share This Page