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New bass: How long to "age wood" before fretwork?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by perucci, Jan 16, 2008.

  1. perucci


    Dec 25, 2007
    For the typical low/mid-range bass being produced these days (for example a Fender MIM Jazz), how long, if any, should the bass "age" before a good fret-job is done on it?

    I'm assuming (perhaps incorrectly) that the wood used on low/mid instruments is not aged very well, and tends to shrink a bit over time. I realize that some change due to humidity is normal, and finishes have a big impact, but most necks seem to have a pretty modest/open finish which presumably allow drying-out of the wood.

    I'm just a bass "hobbiest", so if my reasoning is wrong please let me know. It is just that I'm contemplating a "fret job" at some point, so I was wondering...
  2. A "hobbiest" already considering fretwork :smug:

    *points to "I'm a bassaholic thread"
  3. Flintc


    Aug 15, 2006
    My experience with custom basses (or very low-volume operations) is that the neck continues to change shape for some reason(s), and frets tend to extend too far, creating sharp edges. Brian Barrett has told me that seasonally, he finds it necessary to have fret ends dressed on quite a few of his custom basses.

    My speculation (I have NO knowledge) is that mass-produced high-volume basses have necks cut from aged wood, some time before having (pre-cut) frets installed, so by the time this is done the wood is as stable as it's going to get. One thing I do have some knowledge of from an experienced cabinetry professional, is that even well-aged wood changes shape when it's cut, because wood is a jumble of various tensions, and cutting it changes those tensions. After which, it must find a new equilibrium. So a "shrinking" neck might not have been made from green wood at all, it might just be settling from being cut to the shape of the neck.

    Perhaps this production process (age wood, cut neck, wait a while, apply frets) explains why mass-produced basses rarely need fret jobs, while made-to-order custom necks need one or more. Another contributing factor, I would surmise, is that custom necks tend to have higher numbers of strings on average, which means a wider neck, which means more wood, which means more scope to change shape.

    My experience suggests you wait *at least* three months from the time you cut the neck, until the time you insert the frets.
  4. perucci


    Dec 25, 2007
    Personally, my question then, is in the context of mass-produced basses. Specifically Fender MIM...
    ...it never occurred to me they'd use carefully aged wood, cut it, then let it sit a while before fretting, but I'd love to know that was the case!
  5. perucci


    Dec 25, 2007
    Also points to "champagne taste on beer budget"... :meh:
  6. :(
  7. savit260


    Mar 6, 2006
    First, I wouldn't go messing around with the frets unless there is some reason to "fix" them. If they are level, and aren't sticking out the end of the fingerboard, there's really no need to mess with them.

    Second, I've seen some fairly high end stuff with terrible amounts of Fret Sprout. This isn't limited to low/mid level stuff. One of the worst examples I've ever seen was on a Lakland U.S.A. model.

    Personaly, I'd wait a good solid year , maybe two before you went and did anything unless something was wrong out of the box. By then the wood should have settled in pretty well I would think.

    When buying used, I tend to go with stuff that's at least 5 years old exactly for that reason. If it's made it 5 years without the frets sprouting out or the neck twisting, it's probalby going to be o.k. for the long haul IMO.
  8. perucci


    Dec 25, 2007
    FYI, I'm not so concerned about the frets sticking-out of the side (which they do a little), but the impact on the ability to have "low action". I'm struggling to get below the range of 6-7/64" (spec is a wee bit lower).

    The bass is OK now, but I'm assuming that Fender MIM fretwork is generally questionable, and to get much lower (or in general reduce fret-buzz) I'd need some quality fretwork. I wanted a new Fender J, but knowingly accepted "MIM quality" to do so.
  9. ahh, a bass player with "exacting specifications" in mind, you have great taste :cool::bassist:
  10. savit260


    Mar 6, 2006
    If you can't get the action under 7/64" I'd suggest getting it to a luthier right away. That's unacceptably high even for an MIM Fender. You might have a loose or popped fret or something.
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