New Side Dots

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by BigRedX, Jul 3, 2008.

  1. BigRedX


    May 1, 2006
    I recently bought a Lace Helix 5-string fretless which is a fine bass except that the side dots are where they would be on a fretted bass rather than on the 'fretlines'. If this was my only fretless it wouldn't bother me too much, but all my others have the dots in the 'correct' place so I want to move them to match.

    My plan is to drill out the existing dots (1mm or so) and drill new holes for the dots in the correct place and hopefully use the sawdust generated by this, mixed with glue, to fill where the old dots were. Then using either this or this for my new side dots. Is this a workable plan? What glue should I use to mix with the sawdust to fill over the old dots? And how do I blend this in with the glossy finish on the side of the fingerboard?

    Also if I'm feeling brave I might add some front dots between the top two strings from the '12 fret' upwards to help overcome parallax. Would either of the two dot materials be suitable? Which would be best?

    I'm in the UK so please can you bear that in mind when recommending products. If would be best if they were all available from somewhere like StewMac and able to be exported so I can order everything in one go.

    Many thanks in advance.
  2. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    I have been using 1/8" brass rod for my fretless dot markers, lately. It installs easily (just use a 1/8" drillbit and a razor saw), polishes to a high luster (looks great in normal light, and is easy to see in low lighting due to reflectivity), is inxpensive (enough for 10 basses or so can be had for $5 USD or so), can be sourced locally (most hardware supply stores), and can also be used for dots on the fingerboard face (once again, small but highly visible).

    You might just get something like that, and place it where you want to mark your fingerboard positions. Drilling the old ones out and filling them may not look very good. What is your fretboard material? Rosewood? Ebony? Maple? Something else?

    Ebony can be easily filled to make the old markers practically invisible. Rosewood might work, but would be more visible than on ebony. Maple will be nearly impossible to do cleanly.
  3. BigRedX


    May 1, 2006
    Thanks for the reply.

    The existing board looks like rosewood, and according to the Lace site it is.

    how do you suggest I cover up the old markers?
  4. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    I wasn't goign to suggest covering up the old markers, in this case... I'd probably just add the brass ones, which would delineate the fingering locations.

    You can fill holes in rosewood (like, say, what you'd get drilling out the old markers) with a mizture of rosewood dust (from sanding a scrap piece of rosewood) mixed with thin superglue (CA glue). You make a paste/slurry of it, and fill the holes with that until they are sligntly over-full, then you sand them smooth.
  5. BigRedX


    May 1, 2006
    No the old ones have got to go. They're just too confusing!

    Many thanks for the tips. That sounds like the ideal way to go...

    ...unless anyone has some better ideas?
  6. An alternative to moving the dots might be to add fret markers to the top edge of the board; so that they're still invisible from the front. That way the dots could stay where they were - unless you are allergic to fret markers that is

    Martin Petersen did this to a bass of mine that he defretted for me, since you are a member of the Sei club you'll know that it came out pretty good
  7. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
    I have 2 very similar problems. I had a fretless made for me. My luthier put a side marker on every single fret position. I look down at the neck and I am so confused I cannot play the bass. I have to get rid of all that are not supposed to be there.
    Also, I have a 1998 Modulus G5 and I can never see the side dots. They are Abalone and they suck. I like the brass idea..
  8. BigRedX


    May 1, 2006
    When I was first starting out playing fretless and trying out every fretless bass I could find, I picked up one like this in a music shop to try...

    It was back on the wall within seconds!

    The brass idea sounds good, but I'd like something more silver/aluminium in colour to go with the rest of the bass. Any recommendations?
  9. yup......aluminium rod : )
  10. BigRedX


    May 1, 2006
    Is aluminium rod as easy to work as brass?
  11. Should be easier!
  12. Nelson Guitars

    Nelson Guitars

    Aug 14, 2006
    Novato California
    Custom builder
    You could always bind the FB in a contrasting wood. A well tuned rabbiting plane and a deft hand would remove the edge of the FB and you could install some curly maple or other beautiful wood. Then install markers as you please. I can imagine ways of doing this with a router, but the set up and jig building time would be extreme for a one shot project.

    Greg N
  13. Skelf


    Apr 15, 2005
    Moffat D&G Scotland
    Builder AC Guitars.
    Drop me a line and I can sort you out with aluminium welding rod I have a mountain of the stuff. It is 2.6 mm and shows up pretty well on darker boards. If you need a scrap of rosewood to make some dust I have that as well.
  14. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
    Darker wood, cool, but mine is Maple... Most of my basses have maple fretboards. I only have 1 Chechen board with problems and it is my most expensive bass!!
  15. Fasoldt Basses

    Fasoldt Basses

    Mar 22, 2005
    Stevens Point, WI
    Karl Thompson, Builder (Formerly Fat Karl)
    You could also use short lines of veneer to mark the fret positions. They could extend just a little way onto the face of the fingerboard so that it wasn't like having a lined board. Then your existing dots could remain, but be plainly different from the fret position markers.