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need advice on building a fretless parts bass

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by masterfader87, Apr 22, 2010.

  1. masterfader87


    Jan 18, 2010
    I'm putting together a fretless precision parts bass and I need some help deciding which fingerboard wood to use.
    I'm currently in a biding war on the bay for a p bass body and i've got the pickups, bridge, tuning machines, pots, wiring kit, knobs, and all that good stuff on order, but I've reached a dilemma on the neck.

    I love the look of the early 70's p-basses with unlined maple boards. Something about it just catches my eye. I'm pretty sure I'm going to order a neck from Warmoth, so I called them and the sales rep pretty much talked me out of doing the maple board because I would wear through it quickly. So my question to you guys is...

    Should i go with the maple board and possibly epoxy it? or should i just choose a different wood perhaps ebony, rosewood, pao ferro, or bloodwood?

    Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.
  2. etoncrow

    etoncrow (aka Greg Harman, the curmudgeon with a conundrum)

    I did a P-bass ash body from Warmoth, Fender hardware with Bill Lawrence pups and an Allparts maple/ebony fretless neck. I am very pleased with it.
  3. gruvit


    Jan 14, 2009
    Richland, WA
    I have a Warmoth unlined fretless Jazz that's birdseye maple with a birdseye maple board and I think as long as you put on a good finish (not necessarily something as heavy duty as epoxy) and use flats you'd be just fine to go with maple. It was assembled in 2001 by it's previous owner and you can tell it was WELL played. Not abused, but definitely well played, and the fingerboard has very little wear on it. So I say if you like maple, go maple!
  4. masterfader87


    Jan 18, 2010
    What type of finish would you recommend?
  5. kalle74


    Aug 27, 2004
    I´d recommend going with epoxy anyway... Can it really be too "heavy-duty"? Remember, we are talking steel vs wood...
  6. A two part epoxy would have the best wear resistance. However if not going the epoxy route, shellac would be a nice alternative. It's a natural substance, easy to apply, almost fool proof and easy to strip and/or recoat since it's dissolved by alcohol which is it's suspension medium.
  7. odin70


    Dec 26, 2007
    Epoxy is great for fretless. I would love to have a maple/epoxy fretless neck. Looks cool.
    Hg Thor is the epoxy man.
  8. I used Ebony for the finger board and Wenge for the neck, I like the feel of wood and these need no finish to be stable, The fingerboard gets a little oil once in a while.

  9. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Those maple boards look cool, it's true, but I usually play with rounds on my fretless basses so for me it's rosewood or ebony all the way.

    Ebony will give a slightly more mid-heavy sound and will wear extremely well.

    Rosewood will sound a little warmer and won't wear as well. Still, it would take many years to wear one out.

    Pao Ferro is somewhere between the two, but a little closer to rosewood

    Finished fingerboards - even with flatwounds - wear and need to be refinished. They also have a brighter sound than unfinished boards - to my ear, at least. Unless you really, really love the look of the finished maple boards, I'd go with a harder, unfinished board and avoid the extra work and maintenance.

    But that's me....
  10. Engine207

    Engine207 Losing faith in humanity...one call at a time.

    Jul 10, 2008
    Higley, AZ
    I'd also like a maple unlined fretless. I currently have a black on black MIM Precision that I want to convert. I haven't decided if I just buy a new neck, bolt it on, set it up, and play...or get the neck into my woodshop and remove the rosewood fretboard, installing an unlined maple fingerboard.

    I've never done it before, but I'm pretty good at following instructions and my dad-in-law is a woodworking wizard. What would be involved in removing the existing board? Can I just get a nice piece of maple, glue it, and sand the new board to my radius of choice (7-1/2). After it's done, Id also like to epoxy it as shiny as a mirror (I've searched that and there's plenty of how-to's).
  11. Either way you want to do it. It shouldn't be to much of a problem removing the fingerboard, depending on the type of glue used in its assembly, if you can steam it off or use a hot knife to remove it, if a water proof adhesive was used it may be more trouble than it's worth.
  12. lhoward


    Apr 27, 2003
    Western NY State
    Similar to hushnel's bass, I made this bass as a parttime project in 1983/84. Although basically patterned after a P-bass, it was cut out by hand (no kit parts, which I'm not even sure if they were available back then) and I narrowed the lower bout since I don't really care for very wide lower bouts. The neck and fingerboard are hard maple and premium ebony, which was more readily available in the early '80s. The body is black walnut I got from a woodshop in the Buffalo, NY area after moving back to the WNY area in '84. All hardware is self-made except for the control knobs and pre-CBS nickel tuners. I used Tru-Oil gunstock finish on the body and neck. This bass gets used quite a bit and has never needed refinishing. The ebony fingerboard was never oiled or varnished and is only cleaned, when necessary, with 0000 steel wool. I originally used Dimarzio passive pups, but switched to EMG actives probably 8-10 years ago. The strings when the picture was taken were TI Jazz Flats, but I'm currently using LaBella Deep Talking flats, Jamerson style.

    For Engine207, if you want a maple unlined fretless fingerboard, I'd consider making a new neck rather than possibly ruining a prefectly good neck. That way you'll have options with respect to reusing necks or putting them on another body.

    Lloyd Howard

  13. VinKreepo


    Nov 13, 2009
    Do you at least know what epoxied fretless maple FB's sound like?

    For instance... the acoustic difference between roundwounds and flatwounds is highly increased/changed when the neck is epoxied/coated... so then you have to decided which set of strings you want to use. Thus you need to hear flats and rounds o a finished fretless maple neck to see if you even want that tone.

    I did a purty good job of defretted a rosewood neck and then using poly to coat it. I hated the sound of the poly eve though it looked great, felt great, and everyone liked it. I took it off and left the FB bare with roundwounds. Know what you want before you buy.
  14. Engine207

    Engine207 Losing faith in humanity...one call at a time.

    Jul 10, 2008
    Higley, AZ
    Well, I decided to go Warmoth and took it to Lewis Bass and Guitar for finishing.

    Here's what he uses:

    These are the results:
  15. I have a '71 maple Fender P-neck. I've been playin' round wounds since I got it '76. Minimal wear.
  16. 1. [/QUOTE]


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