Trueing a Fretless Fingerboard

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by ii7-V7, Nov 29, 2005.

  1. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    How do you go about making a fretless fingerboard truly flat? What are the procedures, and what tools do you need?

  2. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    I would VERY strrongly suggest that you leave it up to a pro.

    Almost every time I've seen a novice at setup and repair attempt a DIY board planing the job came out badly.

    Fingerboard planing/leveling is far beyond the scope of this forum. Keep in mind that if a minute amount is removed from one part of the board, the same amount needs to be removed from the entire board in order to make it level. Not to mention some specialty tools (radiused sanding blocks, super sharp planes, precise straight edges etc.) that are needed to do the job.
  3. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Lineā„¢ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    Truly flat???? or do you instead mean properly radiused without peaks/valleys?

    If you want to dress an existing fretless board, learn what your fingerboard radius is and order one of these with some super fine sandpaper:


    (or if you're cheap)


    and one of these:


    ... or save yourself some cash and take your neck to a well experienced professional who has performed this task many, many times before specifically on a fretless bass.

    All the best,

  4. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    I think that taking it to a pro would be good advice...and I would give it to someone else. But, I'm not going to do that....I'm stubborn, and I want to learn how to do it myself. Which is why I'm using a old beater guitar. That board is not very flat, and I'd like to use it as my piece to learn on. If I screw it up...oh, well!

    And I mean as flat and properly radiused as one can get a board without a computerized system.
  5. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Stew Mac sells a tool called a radiused sanding beam. It is basically a sanding block 18" long with a radius that fits your board. Get one or improvise if you can.

    If it's a bolt on, I would remove the neck and straighten the board with the truss rod until it's straight when checked with a straight edge. If you cannot get the neck very nearly perfectly straight, a neck fixture should be used to hold the neck straight while you progressively use finer and finer sandpaper on the sanding beam untill all the wear divots are gone, all the while maintaining the radius. It's very easy to actually introduce warp into the boards surface if you don't maintain full contact with the sandpaper and constantly check your progress.

    I believe, if I remember right that Hambone once described a sanding beam that he had fabricated/invented.

    Maybe he would share the idea with you. The sanding beam from Stew mac is over a hundred bucks.

    It probably wouldn't cost that much to have it done.

    Shorter radiused sanding blocks can be used but I sure don't advise it on the first board that you tackle.

    Believe me when I say that it requires a good deal of skill to do properly.
  6. Hookus


    Oct 2, 2005
    Austin, TX
    It would seem to me that you are getting started in the guitar making/repair business at the wrong level. Start small. Fingerboard work is time consuming, and can be tedious, even with the right tools, which will result in a significant investment, when you may be served with some other guitar tools you may use more often. But, in the interem, rodent hit it on the head. Those are the tools you need, in addition what pk said is right on. You cannot level the fingerboard unless the neck is set a flat to begin with.
  7. there's nothing wrong with learning this skill as there are few that posess it...lots of practice is required and so are the tools, and this requires a decent initial investment...

    I would not start on an actual guitar, but rather would practice on inexpensive blocks of wood that would approximate fingerboards...start on softwoods like pine and then do a few pieces of hardwood, like maple, before you ever attempt your guitar...

    if you're inspired...GO FOR IT!
  8. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard Commercial User

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Black Dog Bass Works
    I just defretted my SX Jazz and thought I could dress the board. Other than a buzz at the 13th fret on the D and A strings, it plays very well. Another attempt to reduce the buzz failed, so it will go to a pro.
    Take it to someone who knows what they are doing.
  9. i never had a problem when i was doing my fretless board. tho i do have quite a bit of experance with woodworking before i did did my defret