Three questions for the Luthiers corner on my RIC

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by hopwheels, Oct 4, 2021.

  1. hopwheels

    hopwheels Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2015
    Atlanta, GA
    Hello, Luthiers' Corner!

    A fellow TB'r got me thinking about this modification to my RIC 4003s and now I can't stop thinking about it! Came up in this thread: Not totally murdered, more like manslaughter, Ric mods

    So, if I wanted to have a new fretboard made for this bass in ebony or another "none more black" material, with shark fin inlays...

    1) Is it possible? Based on years of lurking on this sub-forum and being awestruck by the talent, creativity, and ingenuity of the group, I'm assuming yes, and that the answer is a matter of how much am I willing to spend.

    2) At the same time, I'd like to neck re-profiled a little to knock down the harder U/D shape into a more C...would this create stability issues? Would sending a neck along to the luthier to match the contours I like be helpful? How does one communicate neck shape preferences to a luthier?

    3) Rough idea on cost. I love this bass now from an aesthetics perspective and sound, but want to push it over the top and make it truly my own. I'd be willing to pay to get it there, but as in all depends.

    I appreciate any insight. Thanks!
  2. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    If you just want an ebony board for the aesthetics, it may be possible to strip the laquer off the fingerboard and simply dye it jet black, that's actually how a lot of jet black ebony you see is achieved, in it's natural state most of it is more grey or streaked looking these days, as the African ebony disappears. It might not work if the laquer has effectively sealed the fingerboard (bubinga? Chechen?), in which case any dye would be blotchy.

    Replacing the entire fingerboard on a fully laquered Ric is a decent size job. It has to be removed with heat or literally mechanically shaved off with a router or plane, in either case the original board and inlays are likely to be destroyed. Is it painted? Ric sprays (until very recently) the entire body and neck with clearcoat, right over the frets, and then scrapes back to flat fret tops. If the board is removed, you are likely to have some touchup work on the clear and color coat at the fingerboard/neck joint. You don't necessarily have to go with genuine ebony, here's a project I'm building now using Rocklite Ebano, an ebony substitute available through LMI. It feels and looks like jet black ebony, but less crumbly and likely to chip out. So far I love this stuff, and it's the most "none more black" alternative to very scarce genuine ebony I've seen.

    Ric uses pearloid plastic for the inlays, the older ones with rounded corners were a bit harder to reproduce, but the newer full-width inlays are pretty easy to make. Here's a set I made (as an amateur) for a Ric clone build a few years ago. Any Pro Luthier should be able to reproduce these pretty easily.

    If you want to go really "Old School" on the inlays, you could do crushed mother of pearl like the deluxe 60's models. I tried my hand at it with mixed results, but again, a Pro could do a better job of it.

    As far as shaving the neck, without knowing the exact depth of the (2) trussrods, it's slightly risky. The spacing either side of neck centerline can be derived by taking off the TRC and measuring between the two trussrod nut centers, and then establishing a "no-go" zone under and slightly to either side of the rods that can't be touched. Most people consider 1/8" of wood under the rods a bare minimum, if you cut through to the rods, the neck (which is most of the bass on a Ric) is toast. Outside of that centerline, however, you can safely shave some material, turning a "C" profile into a "D", or even a "soft Vee" for instance. A little wood removal goes a long way for the feel. That puts you back into neck refin at least, of course, unless it's a Walnut "W" model. Ric has been using two-piece laminated hard rock maple necks for a while now, but it's hard to predict how shaving some wood will affect stability. I'll guess not much if you are only shaving a little.

    As to cost, I'll defer to a Pro, but be prepared for some sticker shock. The work you describe involves a lot of different operations, and the finish work alone is likely to be the most time consuming. Good luck!
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2021
  3. hopwheels

    hopwheels Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2015
    Atlanta, GA
    Thanks for the detailed reply @Gilmourisgod !

    Yes, my 4003s is JetGlo and fully cleared fretboard. I figured the existing fretboard would possibly be destroyed in the process. Your work is really fantastic! That Rocklite Ebano material seems like it might be ideal.

    As far as reshaping the neck, that makes total sense as far as the "no go" areas. The front-to-back depth of the neck is excellent. The issue I'm having is the radius of the two “shoulder” curves. They feel like they need to be a larger radius.

    Last edited: Oct 4, 2021
  4. Rôckhewer

    Rôckhewer Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 28, 2015
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Owner/Builder- RockHewer Custom Guitars LLC
    As far as I'm concerned.
    Alex @Gilmourisgod is... "The Ric Whisperer" :thumbsup:
    A foremost authority on their construction.

    I needed a basic (but correct) outline of a Ric.
    He sent me his blueprints....:jawdrop:
    The Vulcan Science Academy ... could not have generated a more thorough and technically precise set of plans.
    .. Fascinating.
    ProbablyTooLoud, dwizum, Beej and 2 others like this.
  5. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Nice looking bass, an Ebano neck would get you close to a "Noir" model, minus the slightly uncomfortable binding. I am a sucker for binding bling, but i bet thats a lot easier on the forearm. What year is that, must be pretty new with the V2 bridge.
  6. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    :roflmao: Hard to imagine truer words from what I've glimpsed online :woot:
    Rôckhewer likes this.
  7. hopwheels

    hopwheels Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2015
    Atlanta, GA
    2020. Yeah I already have a Ric I don’t play because of the binding. If I could figure out how to put a forearm contour on this one, I’d add it to the mods list (kinda 4004-ish).
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2021
    Gilmourisgod likes this.
  8. Janforth

    Janforth Supporting Member

    Oct 23, 2009
    I highly recommend Larry Davis, pretty sure he can change the fretboard with the inlays you want, don’t think he would thin the neck though.
    hopwheels, REV and Gilmourisgod like this.
  9. If I wanted a different fingerboard and a different neck profile and a different body contour, I’d be thinking seriously about a new bass instead of modifying the existing one.
    mike-matthews likes this.
  10. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    Folks, you all need to go to to get better information. The best person, who knows more about Rickenbacker basses, their restoration, reconstruction, and modification, than anyone else in the world combined, is Paul A. Wilczynski, Sr. Everyone else is second best. Website:
    hopwheels, REV, MG Wolf and 1 other person like this.
  11. Clemouze


    Sep 1, 2016
    Paris - France
    I let a luthier shaved my neck, which was a U or something I hated.
    It is now closer to my Jazz Basses

    Attached Files:

    hopwheels likes this.
  12. gidbass

    gidbass Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    for #1, maybe try inlay stickers?

    I have no experience with these guys, but it would be much cheaper than a new fretboard.

    Good Luck!
  13. Relsom

    Relsom Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2013
    The Old Dominion
    I liked Gilmourisgod's first post and his thoughts about ebony. My '81 L2K was heavily streaked and I loved it. I hadn't thought about dying the original fb on the RIC that is the subject of this thread. What a great idea. I might think about that for my SW.
  14. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    I would only add that ebony has been used by Rickenbacker: the 4002 (yes, "2," not "1" or "3") basses have an ebony fret board. I enjoy mine; one of the many reasons I have a 4002 and not a 4001/3.
    hopwheels likes this.
  15. hopwheels

    hopwheels Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2015
    Atlanta, GA
    Thanks! I’ll check them out!
    Janforth likes this.
  16. hopwheels

    hopwheels Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2015
    Atlanta, GA
    This is exactly what I’m looking for on this part of the potential modes. Thanks!
  17. hopwheels

    hopwheels Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2015
    Atlanta, GA
    Awesome! I’ll check them out as well. Thanks!
  18. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Paul W. is probably your Guy, but not if you are in a hurry, I think he has a big backlog of work. I go on his website once in a while to drool over his work, some things are worth waiting for, I guess.:D
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2021
    hopwheels and OldShark like this.