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Half-fretted, half-fretless neck?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by RobinC, Sep 20, 2015.

  1. For a while now I've been thinking it would be interesting to play around with a half-fretted/half-fretless neck on my MIA deluxe P. My vision was to have the neck be fretted up to the 12th or 15th fret or thereabouts, then have it be fretless the rest of the way up. I know I'm not the first to think of this. I don't want to destroy the stock neck, so I was planning on replacing it with a custom franken-fretted neck.

    My question is, where would you recommend going for such a neck? I looked into the Warmoth/Allparts route and that is one option. Looking for a fretted neck here on the TB classifieds and modifying it seems like another possibility. Any other ideas?
  2. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    Thing is, you can't just take the top frets off a fretted neck, otherwise the action of the fretless zone will be way too high. You'd need to laminate a layer of wood up there that was about as thick as the last fret is tall.
  3. I was thinking about that. Do you think that layering epoxy or CA or some other sealant to make up the thickness difference is a viable solution?
  4. I did that a few years ago, with epoxy. I didn't do a great job, however, and had the bass stolen so I don't have it anymore.

    But, your plan is feasible. I would use a pourable epoxy, as it would take a billion coats of CA to make a coating tall enough to reach the fret height.
  5. ABravado


    Jul 7, 2010
    The Ibanez Ashula Limited Edition that came out a couple years ago was just that.
    elgecko likes this.
  6. Dug2

    Dug2 Supporting Member

    Sep 24, 2011
    something like this? pretty cool Rainbowpics.
  7. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Nope. That's all fretless with different color lines inlaid into the wood. No frets at all.
  8. No, the Ashula had four fretted strings, and then two fretless strings, repeating the D and G from the fretted strings.

    lz4005 likes this.
  9. Just to clarify, I'm talking about something like this: Partial-Fret Bass - Rick Toone | Luthier


    This guy actually has a pretty cool idea of gradually grinding down the fret heights to accommodate the action on the fretless portion of the neck. Maybe thats the easiest way to go.
  10. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    Kramer offered half-fretted fingerboards (same concept as that Rick Toone bass) back in the late 1970s, and I'm almost positive they didn't bother doing anything fancy like gradually grinding down fret heights or building up the unfretted fingerboard surface. If your action is low over the frets it'll still be reasonably low over the fretless end...not as low as possible on a completely fretless neck, but certainly not unplayably high.
  11. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    So you understand how it works: the surface of the fretless part of the fingerboard has to be level with the tops of the frets. You need a fingerboard with a step in it, about 0.050" high (depending on what frets you use). The step in height would be done as a smooth blend between the 11th & 12th.

    My buddy Keith Horne builds custom basses and necks. Our shops are in the same building; he's across the hall from me. When he's doing a custom neck, I usually do the radiusing and slotting for him because I have the specialized machines and fixtures for that.

    With the routing fixture rig that I use for the radiusing, I could easily cut a fingerboard like that, with the step-up.

    We could make you this neck. You'd have to work out the details with Keith, but the cost would be in the Warmouth price range or up, depending on how fancy you want to make it.

    Keith can be reached at keithhorne1@gmail.com
  12. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    'nuff said.
  13. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    I think that the coolest way to make one of these combo fretted-fretless basses would be to divide the neck into three zones. Have the low zone, 1-8, fretted. The middle zone 9-14 would be fretless. The top zone 15-24 would be fretted. Make it as a 6-string, and you'd have plenty of range in each zone by going across the neck.

    Like I described above, there's nothing particularly difficult or expensive about building a neck like that.
  14. twinjet

    twinjet What does God need with a starship? Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    Staged robbery? :D

    I tried a similar idea by sanding off the frets on an old guitar. Not the way to go!
  15. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Several people tried this approach.



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