Hairline Cracks Under Fret Slot

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Gfkfloyd, Nov 9, 2021.


  1. Gfkfloyd

    Gfkfloyd

    Sep 30, 2017
    Hi, I recently purchased a bass at a local guitar show from a local builder and after taking it home to give it a set up, I discovered some hairline cracks in between the bottom of the fret slot and where the fretboard meets the neck on the first fret. I don’t have much experience with ebony fretboards and was hoping someone here could let me know if this is something to be concerned about; especially since the bass was straight from the builder himself.

    Thanks for the help!
     

    Attached Files:

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  2. Lo-E

    Lo-E

    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    It’s hard for me to tell from the photo but it looks like those could be scribe lines that weren’t completely sanded out rather than cracks.

    When ebony (or any wood, really) cracks it’s much more likely to crack along the grain, not across it.

    What you have there looks cosmetic to me so I would only worry about it if you feel the imperfection makes the price you paid unfavorable.
     
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  3. Gfkfloyd

    Gfkfloyd

    Sep 30, 2017
    Thanks for the quick reply! The price was fair all things considered; I was concerned about expensive issues cropping up down the road if it was indeed a crack.
     
  4. Gilmourisgod

    Gilmourisgod

    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Yep. Tool marks. You could probably sand them out yourself, but the finish would come off with it. Oil finish? That would be easy to spot repair, but if its not oil, leave it alone. Makers Marks. :D
     
  5. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Those look like marks made by a scraper, used to clean the finish overlap off of the edge of the fingerboard. When you drag the scraper down the edge, it snags on the end of the fret and leaves a tiny mark like that. Been there, done that. It's evidence that this bass was made with a lot of hand tool work. Nothing to be ashamed of.
     
  6. Slidlow

    Slidlow The Human CNC Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Unless the builder didn't have a long enough ebony board and butt joined at the first fret and you are seeing witness lines at the join? Suspicious if the same on both ends of the fret.
     
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  7. Gfkfloyd

    Gfkfloyd

    Sep 30, 2017
    If that is the case, could that cause an issue if the bass needs a refret at some point?
     
  8. Lo-E

    Lo-E

    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    I did consider that, and the light grain on the bass side stops at the fret, which could support that theory. If that’s the case, the joint is very neatly done and shouldn’t pose any problems.
     
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  9. rudy4444

    rudy4444

    Mar 13, 2012
    Central Illinois
    It looks like the glue line of a butt joint to me. If that's the case it wouldn't be considered as a good practice, but in reality most likely would never be a problem. If the board ever needed removal it would complicate the process, but that scenario is unlikely. I'd be more concerned about the metal burr left at the side of the fret tang and what looks like a chip out of the board edge at the other side of the slot. Again, really cosmetic.

    Probably best to play it and forget about it.
     
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  10. Gfkfloyd

    Gfkfloyd

    Sep 30, 2017
    Thanks for the knowledge and advice; you folks are great!
     
  11. MotorCityMinion

    MotorCityMinion

    Jun 15, 2017
    That's a pretty thick finger board there. How about some pics of the whole bass?
     
  12. dwizum

    dwizum

    Dec 21, 2018
    Under high magnification there appears to be grain lines going across the mark, so it doesn't strike me as a butt joint.

    Screenshot 2021-11-09 8.56.06 AM.png

    Also the fact that the mark is directly under one side of the tang supports Bruce's theory that it's a scar from a scraper being pushed up the side of the fretboard and catching on the edge of the tang. I've done that too, the scraper tends to dig in when it catches and leave a mark directly under one side of the tang like this. Or worse, it bounces off the tang and chatters, leaving several marks after the fret as well. Scrapers are awesome for cleaning up the glue line between ebony and lighter woods since they cut very cleanly and don't push dark ebony dust into the pores of the lighter wood, but when they catch on a fret and leave a mark like this it can be annoying.
     
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  13. primusfan1989

    primusfan1989

    Jan 17, 2005
    new jersey
    Its also likely that its more than one piece of ebony that comprises the fretboard (one piece ebony boards are very expensive) and you might be seeing where two pieces meet, doesn't look like a crack to me
     
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  14. Doesn’t look like anything to be concerned about. Put down the magnifying glass and enjoy it.
     
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  15. dwizum

    dwizum

    Dec 21, 2018
    I've never seen a two piece ebony fretboard, have you?
     
  16. dwizum

    dwizum

    Dec 21, 2018
    I don't think I said that no one has ever done it - just that I've never seen it.

    I was asking because the individual I quoted said that "one piece" ebony boards were expensive. The phrasing seems to imply that "two piece" (or multi piece?) boards are available and are cheaper or that using them would be a routine thing as a cost savings measure. I've never seen that. Hence my question.
     
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  17. RichterScale

    RichterScale

    Feb 21, 2021
    WNY
    Well, it definitely looks like the grain matches on the one side and the line doesn't seem to go across the entire section. So, I'd say it's just a surface mark.
    What gives me pause is that it's on the same fret, on the other side. And I'm assuming the only fret with these lines/marks?
     
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  18. Gfkfloyd

    Gfkfloyd

    Sep 30, 2017
    Yes, the mark is only on the first fret and is present in the exact same place on both sides of the neck.
     
  19. RichterScale

    RichterScale

    Feb 21, 2021
    WNY
    I suppose it's possible that there was a mishap and the board was broke or cracked at the first fret slot. And instead of making a whole new board, the builder was able to glue it to the neck and save it.
    If that's what happened, it was a fortunate very clean break/crack and they actually did a great job saving it.
    But I'm leaning toward a scar from a scraper, like mentioned. Just because I feel like a glue joint from a break or even 2 pieces wouldn't be that tight or clean.
    I guess you could take some fine grit sand paper to it and see if it starts to fade with a few passes. Is there finish on the side of the fingerboard?
     
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  20. rudy4444

    rudy4444

    Mar 13, 2012
    Central Illinois
    1. I can't think of too many folks who know the proper way to sharpen and use a scraper that would drag one across a fret tang.

    2. In the magnified image I see many more examples of things on both sides of the possible joint that don't have a corresponding mate on the other side. I also don't see anything that remotely resembles any grain line in ebony that I know of. The "grain line" looks more like a sanding scratch to me.

    Much as I'd love to make a definitive statement here there just isn't enough high quality close up imaging to prove anything.

    Draw your own conclusions.
     
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