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Simple way to put "lines" on an unlined fretless fretboard?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by NoisemakerD-Lux, Oct 12, 2004.

  1. NoisemakerD-Lux


    Oct 12, 2004
    Hi people,

    I have a little dilemma here.

    I've played bass for about 20 years - always fretted - but I've been messing around with my friend's fretless and I'm getting hooked on the singing quality of the fretless sound.

    I am seriously considering switching to a fretless bass, full-time. I also come from the school of thought that says: get one main bass and stick with it... grow with it, let it teach you, and love it like your girlfriend.

    Of course, I have several nice basses, but there is always that one which I play 99% of the time.

    Here's the thing. I am shopping around for a new, expensive, custom 7-string bass and I don't know whether I want it fretted or fretless.

    I've decided to buy an inexpensive fretless and kick it around for a couple of months, just to see if I do want to switch.

    The bass that caught my eye is the Brice Douglas J 5-String Fretless over at Rondo Music. The problem is that I want a "lined" fretless. Maybe in a few years, I'll switch to an unlined bass, but even that is unlikely considering my speed-oriented style.

    Here's the million-dollar question:

    Is there a simple way to put "lines" on the fretboard? I am not looking for anything resembling a professional job - I am looking more in terms of a permanent marker that writes on wood and doesn't smudge. And doesn't look too horrible. ;)

    Any help will be appreciated.

  2. PasdaBeer


    Nov 2, 2002
    Santa Rosa California
    SandStorm Designs
    could do what the violin players do......put masking tape were the frets should be.......get you to learn the notes real fast.
  3. NoisemakerD-Lux


    Oct 12, 2004
    Well, wouldn't the tape get shredded in the matter of minutes? I'm a very technical player - lots of bends and vibratos (both blues and classical) all over the place. If the tape would last a while then maybe it woudn't be a bad idea, but I somehow doubt that it will. If I'm wrong here, please correct me and I will give the tape a shot.

    And my goal here is not to learn to play an unlined fretless. I simply want to get some cheap - but lasting - markers on the fretboard.

  4. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Cheap, fast and lasting? Good luck!!
    Perhaps a good marker pen would cover two of tha bases....
  5. If all you want is fretlines then I'd suggest just using a saw blade. Mark out the fretlines and then run the saw blade, by hand, over the fretlines. Then mark the grooves. They don't have to be deep to hold the ink.

    FYI this is all just guessing on my part. I've never done this to a bass of mine so YMMV. But the advantage of a groove is that it would also be easy to feel with your fingers. The disadvantage is that you'd have to make sure you played either before or after the fretline as the groove might alter the tone.

    Hope it all works out for you.
  6. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    i would mark the neck where the dots would be. any marker would be fine, the more permanent the more it will last. if you do it with a regualr pen it will eventually fade away and perhaps you won't need or want it anymore.
  7. Justyn


    Jun 24, 2002
    Richmond, VA
    An idea that I've been playing around with for one of my unlined fretless necks is to mark out the lines with a white paint pen and then put a coat of wipe-on poly over it. I've no idea how well this would work, but I may yet try .

  8. Go to the auto-parts store, and get yourself a roll of pinstriping. It's vinyl, has some good give, and resiliency...and if you're using flats, should hold up decent enough. And it comes in a myriad of colors.
  9. Umm, pinstriping tape can be fairly thick - 2 mils and up and is relatively soft so when he (frets) the note, it might dampen it noticeably. A harder film would be the heat adhesive films used in the RC aircraft hobby. Very thin - less than 1.5 mils and stays adhered by heat and pressure (240º). It should stay put for quite awhile.
  10. 2 mils? I wouldn't think so...after you peel the backing off, that stuff is re-dic-u-lously thin, and beyond pliable... Not for nothin, If you have action THAT low as to be dampenned by this material, I'd worry more about "fretting out"...

    Ok, here's another idea: china pencil and a straight edge.
  11. well...as far as I know (having the fretted douglas) its already a coated fretboard, so i don tknow if thats plausible.