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making a fretless bass fretted

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by smperry, Nov 17, 2004.


  1. smperry

    smperry Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Martin Keith Guitars
    This probably has been discussed before, but I don't see it...feel free to point me in the right direction.

    I have a bass that I love (fretless FBB 5er) but I'd really like to have a fretted five string. Would having frets added be a bad/expensive idea? It's a neckthrough and the board is pau ferro I think. I always hear about conversions the other way (fretted->fretless) but not this way, and thought there might be a reason.

    I've thought about trading both this bass and my F, but I really like the sound of this bass and I'd prefer to keep it! :meh: Any thoughts?

    Thanks!
    Marshall
     
  2. Bad idea? No. Expensive? Depends on your definition.

    Close to a couple hundred bucks....give or take a few sawbucks. :smug:

    The tech determines your scale length, uses a tool /scale to space out the slots properly, cuts the slots perperdicular to center of the neck, installs frets (your choice of size...he'll ask) in whatever manner suits him, sets neck flat, levels and recrowns frets, installs a new nut, cuts slots to appropriate depth, restring, set neck relief, intonate, tune...done.

    You get your money's worth.
     
  3. smperry

    smperry Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Martin Keith Guitars
    Thanks. That doesn't sound too bad.

    Marshall
     
  4. jammadave

    jammadave Rudderless ship Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2003
    Wash DC metro area
    I've thought of having this done in the past to a fretless I had, but didn't bother because there was one niggling problem to me - and it's purely the fact that I dont know the answer here, really:

    If the fret slot cutting template has its nodes at distances A,B,C and so forth, wouldn't the fretwire size make a difference in actual intonation? Does that difference make nut placement different?

    i.e. the "F" at 1st fret 4th string would be a little flatter, when sounded, with say a small banjo fret in place (A minus 1mm or whatever as the witness point) than with none at all, and again flatter with Vintage fretwire (A minus 2mm), flatter still with a Jumbo wire (A minus 3mm), et cetera, since the witness point is creeping toward the nut with each size up.

    Follow-on Questions to this would be:
    - does that mean one couldn't fret a lined-fretless instrument using the same slots currently taken up by line fill?
    - or is the witness point difference so small that it can be made up for by the saddle intonation?

    Man, I feel ign'ant here.
     
  5. Hey Dave,

    The center of the fret is the witness point. It doesn't matter that the fret is narrow or wide - if it's crowned properly, it will be intoned with the other fret positions. The fret height has next to no effect once the strings are intonated.

    You could refret a lined fretless. However, it would be my guess that you could run into the problem of the slots being too wide after removing the old filler. It would depend on just how the defret was done. Slots that are too wide aren't a deal breaker as there are tools that can help with the problem but it's something to keep in mind.

    BTW, your old Cort Curbow was eventually painted for your buyer and had a graphic embedded in it. He went with a light yellow - sort of the old Gibson shade but we called it "lemon souffle'". He was very pleased.
     
  6. jammadave

    jammadave Rudderless ship Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2003
    Wash DC metro area
    Heya Ham -

    Thanks for the clarification - if the center of the fret is the witness point, then isn't fretting (stopping the string ostensibly on the headstock-facing edge) always just a hair flat? (not a fret *height* issue but a fret *width* issue, because the edge is closer to the nut than the center/tang)

    And I'm glad to hear about the ol' Curbow - what was the graphic? I knew you'd do a good job on it and am glad he was happy with the result. Lemon souffle, there's a color for ya. =0)
     
  7. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    This assumes that as the string approaches the fret from the fretting finger it rises, which is true; but it also assumes that the string is too inflexible to curve over the fret and leave to the fret in a direction directly towards the bridge, which is largely not true. If it were so, then it would be leaving the fret in a direction outwards, away from the fretboard, which I don't think happens to any significant extent.
     
  8. I think you should talk to Matt, since he built the bass. Matt is a great guy and very easy to work with.
     
  9. smperry

    smperry Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Martin Keith Guitars
    I should've mentioned that I already wrote Matt...he is a great guy and did write me back. I guess now I'm leaning against getting it fretted, but I'm not sure. I'm so indecisive... :meh: I'll talk to some luthiers, show them the bass and try to figure out the dollars and sense of it...

    Thanks everyone.

    Marshall