Slotting a finished unlined neck through???

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by BobXboB, Dec 8, 2007.

  1. BobXboB

    BobXboB Inactive

    Sep 25, 2007
    So I have a fretless 5 string neck through bass that I'm particularly attached to. But I never play fretless anymore and this bass is perfect for me other than it's lack of frets. Sometimes I wish it were fretted but I know that would be a huge pain at this point.

    Has anyone here slotted an unlined fretless bass at this stage in it's life? Did it work well? How did you go about it?

    The bass in question is built similar to an old Tobias and has a poly finish and I was hoping not to ruin the finish or change the fingerboard.

    I could envision this working on a CNC machine if a jig were made to hold the bass just right but I don't have a CNC machine.

    What do you guys think? Easy? Crazy? Expensive?
  2. bwahaw

    bwahaw Guest

    Dec 7, 2007
  3. BobXboB

    BobXboB Inactive

    Sep 25, 2007
    That was pretty clever. I'm not thrilled with the idea of hand cut frets, I'm sure it can be done right, I just don't like the idea. Thanks for the link.
  4. Jim Breece

    Jim Breece Guest

    May 20, 2007
    Ashley Ohio USA
    It's not as bad as you think. I fretted a fretless by hand as pretty much a rookie and it came out fine (well, except one fret high up). If I were doing it today I'd clamp a sanding block with the correct radius on the fingerboard as a guide.
  5. scottyd

    scottyd Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2006
    Waco Tx
    Builder/owner Redeemer Basses
    I've done it, its not fun but its not that difficult either. You've just got to cut the slots slow and easy, because on a already radiused board the saw will tend to wander a bit until you have a slot started, not to mention its mostly free hand no jigs ect. Slow and easys the only way to do it!
  6. Linas


    Jan 6, 2005
    I am in the process of taking an SX fretless, and i slotted the white plastic fretlines out by hand without a guide and it came out close to perfect. Its not a hard job. What im going to do is fill in the fretlines with either a black or rosewood purfling strip, so the fretlines are less noticeable.
  7. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    It can be done, it's just a matter of careful measurement and slow starting of each slot.

    As for "hand cut", well, many small builders do it that way. Power slotting is nice, but I have never used it. I cut all of my fret slots by hand with a variety of saws... I got one from LMI, I got a "gent's saw" that I ground the set off the teeth to get the right kerf, and I have even used a japanese pull saw, as it's kerf was .022" and it was wicked-sharp.
  8. BobXboB

    BobXboB Inactive

    Sep 25, 2007
    I think I just have more faith in the machine ;)

    I've cut fingerboards with a miter box with an indexed template so that's kind of hand cut. It's not so much the hand cutting but aligning a fence for each cut and laying out the fret positions by eye. Hand cut wasn't the best choice of words.

    My other thought was to take a board, say 1/2" thick and wider than my fingerboard. make a channel on the bottom 1/4" deep so it fits over the fingerboard and then slot the top just over 1/4" deep. This could then be a one off miter box for this bass or a template for a Dremel router.

    One other small issue would be the side dot placement which is currently on the fretline and not between fretlines. I was thinking I could move the frets about 1/4" towards the bridge and switch to a zero fret. This would correctly center the 24th fret dot markers and all the others would be 1/4" behind the fret.

    I keep wavering between do it and don't ruin a good bass, it sits in a rack as a fretless but fretted it would get played a lot.

  9. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Inactive

    Oct 20, 2004
    By the time you jigged up and programmed the CNC, you'd be done doing it by hand.

    I made a bunch of basses that way. You should be able to make a jig to hold a template and to square up your saw to the fingerboard. It will probably take longer to make the jig than to saw the slots!

    Dremels aren't good for accurate work. What you could do is to plane down the current fingerboard flat, and glue a new one on top of it. Then use the old one as a guide to shape the edges of the new one using a router with a pattern bit. To keep the new board from sliding when you glue it, drill some holes through the fret slots with wire sized drill bits, and still some brads in. You can pull them out after the glue is set. I'd use epoxy. I use G-2 epoxy to glue all my fingerboards on.

    Just drill the old markers out and fill the holes with wood dust and glue. Installing new markers is simple. You can use the plastic rods from Stew-Mac, or get fancy and use some pearl dots. :) This would also assure that your bridge is in the right location.

    If the work is done carefully it should turn out fine. The bass isn't doing you any good as it is.

    I've slotted fretless boards. I did it the way Dan Erlewine did.
  10. there was an article on BP mag where Dan was doing just this. You should try to check that out, it may even be on their website.