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Nickel round-wound strings on rosewood fingerboard

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Oleg BassPlayer, Dec 26, 2016.

  1. Oleg BassPlayer

    Oleg BassPlayer

    Feb 4, 2016
    I am going to convert a bass with a rosewood fingerboard to fretless. Folks say flat-wound strings would suit such a fingerboard better because they won't wear it fast. But flat-wounds are rarer and more expensive at my place.

    Does anybody have experience with playing nickel roundwounds on an unfinished rosewood fingerboard? Do they really damage the wood so fast? Would light sanding, say, once a year be enough or will I end up having my fingerboard completely chewed up soon?

    I've heard a fretless can be finished with epoxy to wear better with roundwounds, is it a viable option? Won't epoxy crumble under dynamic load and how can such a coating affect sound?
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2016
  2. joel406


    Dec 27, 2013
    Where are you that flat wounds are so expensive and rare? Anything but flats will ruin your fretboard.
  3. @joel406 - with respect, that's just not true. All fingerboards encounter wear whether they're fretless or not. A few marks are not the end of the world by a long shot.

    I had a Yamaha TRB bolt-on fretless with an oiled rosewood board. It came with roundwounds on it. I kept rounds on it for a long time. They do mark the board, but sanding it every couple years fixes that. The strings mark the board in the same places anyway, so it's not like they dig great grooves. Later on I had flats on it up after sanding the board. The flats also leave marks, but they're not as obvious. In fact, over a long time flats will wear grooves in the board. I've had this happen on my upright with a very hard ebony board.

    My latest fretless is using old rounds after the briteflats I had sounded rubbish. It's a Cooktown Ironwood fingerboard (super hard Australian native timber) with a wipe on poly finish. The rounds have marked the board a little, but the bass sounds amazing. Much better than with flats.


    I've built 2 more using Jarrah fingerboards (a little harder than rosewood) and treated them with tru-oil and they were fine too.

    The first fretless I did with a westsystems epoxy coated board. It worked really well. The roundwounds still marked the board, but it took a bit longer. With epoxy, you can just polish the marks out mostly. Epoxy is super hard and well up to the task. It is however a VERY bright sound. It really sticks out in a band and has lots of mids. That's ok, because it always sounds like you're playing on new strings and you can dial the mids and highs out if you want. The next step from there is a superglue finished board. It's not as intensive to do as epoxy, but makes the rosewood harder somewhat like epoxy. I've wanted to try this.

    There are a bunch of fretless conversions on luthiers corner. Do a search and you find them. There are also how to pages on the web. Have a go. :)
    Oleg BassPlayer likes this.
  4. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I put rounds on a de-fretted Squier rosewood neck and it was massively chewed up after playing it a dozen times. I am cool with it, because it sounds so awesome, but if I cared about the neck at all, I'd put flats on there.
  5. Oleg BassPlayer

    Oleg BassPlayer

    Feb 4, 2016
    Were those just visible tracks under the strings or did you get really deep grooves?
  6. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Don't play with a gorilla grip and you'll be fine.
    TMARK likes this.
  7. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    They were just the visible evidence of the string windings at this point, but it was aggressive enough to tell me that this neck was going to be ground to pieces before too long.
    Oleg BassPlayer likes this.

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