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Fretless Jazz – fretboard repair advice please!

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Keef, Mar 24, 2006.


  1. Keef

    Keef

    Jul 3, 2003
    Hollywood, CA
    My fretless Jazz Bass's fretboard has got a little wear on it. It's worn down to the point where it's uneven, and buzzes on a variety of places – like second "fret" on the D string, third fret on the G string. It also buzzes a bit on the uppermost (highest-pitched) "frets". It's not worn down enough to be visible. I don't think this is a truss rod adjustment, the neck appears straight as an arrow. In these spots, my beloved Jazz is beginning to sound like a sitar! Maybe you can help me with a few questions?

    1. Can I repair this myself with a radiused sanding block from StewMac? Bad idea?
    2. If not, how much should it cost to get it resurfaced*?
    3. By the way, this bass used to be fretted. The fret slots were filled with epoxy, by a professional (this was years ago).
    4. Can anyone recommend a good repair person in the Hollywood/North Hollywood area? I really don't want some six-string g**tar repairing doofus messing up my Jazz, and would feel much more comfortable going to someone who knows what to do with a bass. I don't need (and can't afford) any "Repair Master to the Stars", I just want to be confident in going to someone who knows their stuff – I don't want my vintage '68 Jazz to be someone's guinea pig – I don't want my radius getting changed or screwed up.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Please help rescue me from Ravi Shankar-dom.

    * please forgive my lack of terminology, I'm unsure what the proper term is (re-radiused? resurfaced? replaned?)
     
  2. nateo

    nateo Schubie Fan #1

    Mar 2, 2003
    Ottawa, Ontario
    It's generally referred to as "levelling" the fretboard (or fingerboard in this case).

    Levelling a fretless board is actually a fairly simple process. Either buy or make a radius block with the right geometry, mask off anything you don't want to get scratches (pay attention to the upper horn, they tend to catch stray edges of sandpaper), and sand the length of the fingerboard with some reasonably fine sandpaper. I suggest fine because it's much less aggressive and you're a whole lot less likely to get yourself into trouble (though you'd have to either sit in one spot for a while or take off a significant amount of wood to really cause problems).

    Once you've got it level, move up through the sandpaper grades to whatever finish and/or feel you're looking for.

    -Nate

    Edit: You'll want your radius block to be longer rather than shorter. That way it'll be a lot harder to accidentally sand out hollows in the board.
     
  3. Keef

    Keef

    Jul 3, 2003
    Hollywood, CA
    Thank you, nateo – that was a big help!

    :)
     
  4. jeffhigh

    jeffhigh

    May 16, 2005
    If you look on the stewmac site they have a "radius sanding beam" which would be ideal as it is 18" long but it is nearly $120 which is rather a lot unless you are doing a lot of repairs.
    I would rather use a straight edge than the shorter radius blocks because I consider it more important to maintain the straightness along the neck than wory too much about the radius.
    Just use a 18" long straight dressed piece of timber 2" wide with a 3/4" edge glue sandpaper to the edge and run it up and down the neck gradually moving from side to side. You will not remove the existing radius and the fingerboard will be straight. (adjust truss rod after removing strings to get it as straight as possible before sanding)
     
  5. Keef

    Keef

    Jul 3, 2003
    Hollywood, CA
    Thank you, Jeff.

    After Nateo informed me of the proper term ("leveling") I was able to perform a forum search for more info. What you suggest seems to be in line with the conventional wisdom, I think I'll give it a shot!

    Thanks!

    ~ k

    •
     
  6. Keef

    Keef

    Jul 3, 2003
    Hollywood, CA
    UPDATE: I leveled the fingerboard, using the methods suggested above by Nate and Jeff. I decided to give using a non-radiused sanding block a shot so I borrowed a sanding block from my furniture-building neighbor. He uses a block of teak, about 12" long.

    I went to the local hardware store and bought several grades of sandpaper. I started with 320, but had to replace it two times because the sandpaper became clogged almost instantly. I went very slowly, and was mindful of the radius of the board. After the surface of the board looked uniform (it all looked lighter in color, like the natural oils had been sloughed off), I strung up the bass. The buzzes in the upper register were completely gone! But the ones near the nut, while lessened, were still present.

    I attached a new piece of 320 sandpaper to the block and gave the whole board a slightly more aggressive treatment. I restrung, and VOILA! ALL THE BUZZES ARE GONE!

    I literally did this ----> :hyper:

    I briefly considered taking the strings off and working up to 400 grade sandpaper, but to be quite frank, the slightly clogged sandpaper made the board as smooth as a baby's butt. The total cost to return my Jazz to perfect playing condition: about five bucks in sandpaper.

    I want to give a huge thanks to Nate and Jeff!

    Thanks guys, from both me and my Jazz – I'm no longer a sitar player!!!

    :hyper: :hyper: :hyper:

    ~ k

    •
     
  7. nateo

    nateo Schubie Fan #1

    Mar 2, 2003
    Ottawa, Ontario
    I'm glad it worked out for you. Any chance of a few pictures of the bass?

    -Nate
     
  8. Keef

    Keef

    Jul 3, 2003
    Hollywood, CA
    It's the least I can do, Nate! ;)

    "She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid."
    • Han Solo, Star Wars

    My 'beloved Jazz, my personal favorite of all the basses I've ever owned:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I still have the tortoiseshell guard, but somehow :mad: I lost the ashtrays long ago. I'm sure they're in a box somewhere...

    ~
     
  9. jeffhigh

    jeffhigh

    May 16, 2005
    glad it worked out well for you.
    Now while you have the sandpaper handy, get all the finish off the body and refin it with some nice durable poly LOL.
    nah, love the junkyard dog look so mean
     
  10. dude i love you...

    I want to build a jass bass and make it look like that..

    that would be hard... at least to make it look like it just happened that way... and you didnt do it intentionaly...

    I once (when I was like 13) had an old "shelly" guitar... it was some MIJ brand that was made back in the 60's... well anyways... it had an awesome sunburst finish with scratches and scrapes like your bass... me, being the idiot i was... and not realizing the true beauty of it, stripped it all off... stained it, and put a gloss coat on it.. then sold it to a firend...

    man.. if i still ahd that thing...
     
  11. Keef

    Keef

    Jul 3, 2003
    Hollywood, CA
    Thanks, BassMan – I'm glad you like her!

    Of course, I bought her used; she's about the same age as me, and had @20 hard years of use before getting to me.

    I briefly considered doing a refin as well. Then I started thinking about the great Fender axes of folks like this:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    ... and quickly abandoned the refinishing idea.

    BTW, here's a pic of the back:

    [​IMG]

    By the time I got her, the finish was so unprotected that even looking at her was enough to cause a new scratch – so I've put on quite a few of them myself.

    BTW, she sounds incredible. I wouldn't be playing any lousy-sounding old axe. She's definitely got her mojo workin'!

    ~
     
  12. britrit

    britrit

    Jan 22, 2006
    London
    i love that bass, fenders look amazing with some wear and tear.
     
  13. Rogier

    Rogier

    Feb 2, 2004
    My God! My jaw just dropped straight to the floor.. Gorgeous bass. And for some reason i really like the look of the black-ish inlay. One question though; just for durability reasons- you're not gonna finish the neck (with epoxy or something) ?
     
  14. Good! Don't ever be convinced about doing that to this instrument because you'll regret it the morning after. It'll screw the value and character of it.
     

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