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Installing frets on ebony board: how easy is it?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Ivan R, Jan 4, 2013.

  1. Ivan R

    Ivan R

    Jun 8, 2012

    I have a Fender Tony Franklin fretless precision bass. I love the bass to death, and will never part with it, of modify it (aside from installing straplocks and replacing the D-detuner with an ordinary tuner).

    I would love, though, to have the exact same bass with frets. The problem is: the fretted version of the TF do not have the ebony board I love, and are only offered in colours I dislike.

    So I might consider buying a second fretless TF, to fret it (and have the nut changed, of course), if this is not too hard.

    My question is: how hard is it? Who does it? For (averagely) how much?

  2. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    It can be done, but I imagine its not all that cheap. Seems to me that slotting a board that already has the radius and taper would be more than a little bit tedious.

    It would be more cost effective to make a clone from Warmoth parts.
  3. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Fretting an ebony fingerboard isn't really any more difficult than any other wood. The wood is harder, so it takes a little more horsepower to saw the slots. The rest of the technique is all the same.

    The main issue is that you need to take it to a Luthier who has the special fixture/machine needed to saw the slots in the right locations on a completed neck. Many of us have built our own slotting rigs. You just have to ask, and find someone who has the setup.

    Yes, you can cut the slots with a hand saw and hand layout, but it is tedious. With the right slotting rig, it's not a big deal. Some guys build special miter boxes; some use sliding fixtures on tablesaws. I built mine as an overhead swinging saw with a sliding fixture bed. I built it almost 20 years ago, and I've slotted somewhere close to 1000 necks with it so far.

    I'd charge you about $250 for the job. Most of that is for the labor of installing, leveling and polishing the frets. Cutting the slots on my machine would take about 15 minutes.
  4. Ivan R

    Ivan R

    Jun 8, 2012
    Thank you for the answers.
  5. Splods


    Oct 7, 2012
    Adelaide, SA
    Also the nut might have to be replaced, most fretless basses (in my personal experience) have had a much lower action because there is no frets.

    adding frets might cause a stupid amount of buzz, meaning you would have to raise the action considerably, which is not ideal for fast playing.
  6. Ivan R

    Ivan R

    Jun 8, 2012
    Sure, that is written in my first post.