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Help fix my fretless; Also some terminology help

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Syxz_ML, Jan 7, 2014.

  1. Syxz_ML


    Apr 10, 2012
    Los Angeles
    I bought this fretless on the cheap from some guy off craigslist. It was a steal even for a beat up bass and I've never owned a fretless so it would be a good trial run to see if I dig the fretless feel. I took the bass apart and have come to the conclusion it is a custom body and neck since neither have any labels/serials/engravings etc etc. I did notice some fret buzz when buying it but also was fine with that since I need a good project bass to maybe fix and build up on my own since I want to become more knowledgeable with the wood working behind a bass.

    From what I've read about fretless necks is that there is usually 2 you'd mostly fine. A straight fretless neck with maybe some lines painted on for guidance, or a de-fretted neck that has been filled in to give the illusion of lines. This particular neck seems to be of the filled in type. The problem is that between the 17th and 18th fret there is a bump coming from the center of whatever it is that fills in the fret line.

    This is where I'd also like some help on terminology. I am big on researching and do it yourself fixes but I've been struggling to research possible ways to fix my problem since I just have no idea what these parts on a fretless are called. So if anyone can atleast help me with that I can maybe do some more research on the problem.

    Now if anyone can actually give some advice or direction on fixing the problem even better. Its a bump that raises in height no more then the size of a sowing needle specifically from the center of the fret line, but being a fretless thats enough to cause dead notes anywhere from the 12th fret and on.

    I tried to take some pictures to show the problem but struggled getting a nice zoomed in clear picture. When I bought the bass it came with clear tape over the fret line. You can tell they added it see if it would push in the bump which was a good attempt since when pressing on the bump it does go down and level out but obviously the tape doesnt work, and it isnt a permanent fix. So I left the tape to better see the separation of the tape to the fretboard on the sections where the bump is at its highest (center).

    So thanks anyone for your help (and for reading this long post haha). I know the obvious response might be take it to a professional Luthier but in all honesty I bought the bass for $25 so no sense in paying a ridiculous amount to fix it and like I mentioned I want to get more into fixing my own problems on my instruments. Thanks again :)



  2. Syxz_ML


    Apr 10, 2012
    Los Angeles
    Also I don't know if this was suppose to go under hardware or under luthiers corner so I apologize if I placed it under the wrong category. And if I did maybe a moderator can help me move it into its appropriate section. Thanks
  3. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    They are simply called lines or fret lines. What you need to do is add a drop of super glue to that and sand it flat with a radius sanding block.

    A quick fix for a Luther, just a bench charge maybe half an hour.
  4. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    Also a GREAT learning project. A custom neck and body may be good rather than bad depending on the wood, construction etc. It is very much like my $10 bass! I bought some Bart pickups off a TBer and he threw in the whole fretless bass with them for $10 more!! I figured parts, but when I got it the bass was so close to cool (missing electronics and neck had problems). So I decided to fix it.

    The "lines" on the neck are usually the grooves where frets go that have been filled with something. The best is strips of wood veneer. Yours does look like that. Worst is wood filler that has no strength. Those lines need to be filled to keep the neck from loosing strength. That high "line" seems to be one that may have come unglued and is raised high. It looks like someone tried to reglue it.

    First order of business is to make sure your fillers are strong (wood etc) and are all glued in properly (not loose in any part) As suggested you can reglue them by flowing superglue onto the loose ones and letting it flow in. If the lines were filled with weak filler I'd just get a fret saw and clean them out an refill with something strong (epoxy, veneer, etc)

    Once you are sure all the fretlines are stable, it's time to attack the neck. Loosen the truss rod and see what the neck curvature is. Look for twists and the like. We will assume there are none. Then tweak the truss rod to get neck as flat as possible. Just lay a ruler on it. (You'll have to take the nut off too! They are usually glued but should pop right off, but it's not unusual to break one either. If you break it, I suggest buying the right size Graphtech black TUSQ lubed nut. They are GREAT.

    Ok. Now you need to determine the curvature of your fingerboard. That takes a special tool. So there is going to be an order to Stewart-macDonald here. I bought the understring type #0353. If you don't want to spend the money you can download printer ones you cut out from pickguardian.com. Personally I URGE you to buy the gauges. They make things so much more accurate and easy. At the same time, even though this is a fretless job, I also URGE you to buy a "fret rocker". It is used to find and test high frets on fretted basses. As for the straight edges and things you can find plenty of metal yardsticks etc around. No need to fork out a bunch of cash for that.

    But wait. Your Stew-Mac order isn't done yet. Once you carefully measure the radius of your fretless neck, you'll need to order a wood radius sanding block in that curvature. I use the 8" length and numbers run from #0403 to #0415 depending on curvature. Yeah fifteen bucks is kinda high for an old block of wood, but hey that proper curvature in it is ESSENTIAL to the job.

    And if you need to clean out fretlines and refill them a cheap fretsaw may be needed too. I doubt this will be the case, though.

    Then the "fix" is merely sanding your neck smooth and completely flat. Start with coarser grades and work to a nice fine grade finish. Then treat the neck with a commercial fingerboard oil like Dumlop or Fret Doctor. Lemon oil will work but I think the pro treatments work better just after a sanding.

    Put the bass back together and string it up. I would not glue the nut in place until you have tested the bass and found it to your liking. Then use a couple of TINY drops of super glue to hold it in place. Check the relief under the strings when pressed against both ends of the fingerboard at the same time. It can be set from exactly flat to a slight normal curvature relief. The flatter you set it the more mwah the bass will have. But also the more likely the neck will develop a buzz somehere along it. Watch out for S curves in the neck showing that it's lost strength due to defretting.

    You'll love it. I know I love my $10 fretless that was turned from junk parts into a killer bass with just the above operations I described. Yes the proper tools cost some coin but then you'll have them for ALL your basses including the next ones! :)

    Good luck!
  5. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    1) Get sanding block and about 200 grit sandpaper

    2) Remove strings

    3) Sand GENTLY to remove hump. Just follow the contour of the neck. Remove as LITTLE material as possible.

    4) You might as well just drift the sanding block up and down the neck to see if you discover other high spots. Again, be GENTLE.

    You don't need a radiused sanding block for this as long as you do it with a light hand.

    If you feel highly motivated, you can add one light coat of tung oil or something similar after you finish. Be very sparing with it.
  6. Syxz_ML


    Apr 10, 2012
    Los Angeles
    Wow thanks alot guys for all the input. And although it might be a quick fix for a luthier, part of the adventure was to make it a do it yourself project. So I think I'll start first with the sanding block and I'll give the 200 grit sanding paper a try.

    The neck actually seems to be pretty straight and the action is around the height I want it at. The only fret buzz or dead notes I get come from the A and D strings as that is where the fret line is at its highest, and that comes only from the higher frets on the neck. So I think maybe just sanding it down a bit might be what I'm looking for. Now that I know exactly what to search for I can actually shop with more specifics and also look up tutorials or videos on how to do it. So all that new terminology is greatly appreciated.

    Secondly I actually did want to look into oils for the fretboard as well. Another reason why I think its a custom made neck was that the whole neck just feels like it was finely sanded and thrown on with out any oil. You can literally still feel the wood. That and the hole leading to the truss rod shows unevenness and not a complete sanding job although the hole is just fine, just more cosmetic then anything. So that was going to be a question for another time but for now I have a few oils to look into (Dumlop, Fret Doctor I'm assuming are brands and Tung oil a specific type). So again thanks for all the input. New projects are always exciting, although sometimes they turn out to not be as much fun, but still rewarding haha :D
  7. Syxz_ML


    Apr 10, 2012
    Los Angeles
    Just to update, and also just to show my appreciation for the help again, I was able to resolve my problem. I decided since the fret line did partially sink in when you put pressure on it that I would go with the super glue route first. Super glued it and was held down over night. Yeah it's fast drying super glue but you know just wanted to have piece of mind that it was settled in. That practically fixed the problem but still had a bit of a bump so from there I used 200 grit sanding paper to even it out. And using the advice to pass the sanding paper through out the whole fretboard to find other bumps I found that the fret line between the 3rd and 4rd also had a slight tiny bump. Well that is now gone as well :D So again thanks for all the help, much appreciated and much self satisfaction that I was able to fix the problem myself. Now time to look into applying oil on the fret board :D
  8. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    For small humps like yours, you can also scrape them off with a single edge razor blade.