Viable wood filler/putty?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by GretschWretch, Jan 12, 2015.

  1. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    This thread isn't about double basses, but bassoguitars; this Forum is the closest i could find in terms of relevance. And I've already girded my loins in anticipation of the drubbing I am likely to receive from the pro luthiers on here. <grin>

    A bassoguitar of mine has the most rutted fingerboard I have ever seen. There are grooves up to 1/16" deep and 1/8" across, and they run the full length and breadth of the fingerboard. The texture suggests a dried lake bed in a drought. The story I got when I purchased the instrument was that it belonged to a brother act that toured the OH, PA, WV carnival/state fair circuit in the 1940s and 50s. The scariest part of all this is that this damage was done with gut strings. Even the position markers have been knocked out.

    This is a lined fretless 'board. I don't need the basso to be a fretless -- I have two others for that -- and I hate to just trash the 'board because it still is 1/4" thick at the nut and 3/8" thick at the end of the overstand.

    What I would like to do is convert this bassoguitar to fretted. It does not look to be too difficult to pick out the material used to fill the fret slots. But I need to be able to fill in those ruts. The damage is too extensive to try a paste of superglue and sanding dust, and that stuff Elmer's is selling, that used to be called plastic wood, is totally unacceptable.

    Can anybody suggest a suitable compound that could be used to fill those ruts? I can dress the fingerboard before installing frets, but I'm stalemated if I cannot fill the ruts.
  2. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Just throwing this out as a non-luthier, but how about an full fingerboard epoxy job as done on fretless bass guitars?
  3. bassfiddlesteve

    bassfiddlesteve Your first second choiceâ„¢ Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Please, no drubbing the bassoguitar owners!

    - Steve
  4. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    It is not uncommon to do some kind of epoxy / CA / other glue and sawdust combination to make up a filler like this with the fretted instrument crowd. My experience is that it will be a lot less work if you just remove the original 'board with a bit of heat and or steam and then install a whole new fretted 'board. You can keep the worn out original for the vintage dorks and have a functional working unit. From my end, making up a new fretted 'board is about 1/3 the time to refret one, but I make up a lot of new 'boards and other folks will have different mileage. Be conscious of in the removal and installation that someone may want it back to original spec at a later point so use hot hide glue and follow the original specs closely.

    Can you post a few photos for us?

    Last edited: Jan 13, 2015
    salcott likes this.
  5. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    My thanks to Mr. Hochberg and Mr. Condino for their replies. I wish I could provide photos, but my digital camera is so non-functioning at present that I may have to replace it. Cell phone is no good either. Mine is just talk and text. It doesn't take pictures or search the Internet or download apps; nor does it tweet, chirp or moo. Right now the best I can do for images is this:"re...DisATgt4HYBw&ved=0CAoQ_AUoAw&biw=1600&bih=765

    which shows both the fretless Bassoguitar (the subject of this thread) and also the fretted version (laying on its side). You can see this is beyond the purview of the fretted instrument crowd, which is why I posted to the DB forum. These instruments are seventy-five years old; there are no extant aftermarket parts for them. I can put on a DB fingerboard, which I am in the process of doing on my Bassoguitar #1. But I am talking about #3 here, and I figure my best chance of making it fretted is to stick with the original worn down, rutted fingerboard. At least it has slots for frets already cut.

    My #2 (having been played the least; #3 had the biggest career but #1 got the most love) still is close enough to original factory spec that I can use it as the model to dress the arching on the filled #3 fingerboard, and once frets are added they will feel the brunt of the string vibration rather than the surface of the fingerboard. All I need is a filler compound that cures HARD but still is
    amenable to being worked with hand tools. If it can match color to the original 'board that is an added plus.

    I know I am taking most of the people on the forum down the road less traveled, but I figure my best chances of getting sound counsel will be here.
  6. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Here are two articles from Jerry Pasewicz's website, one by Jerry himself and one by another repair person in his shop.

    They both talk about using Epoxy Technology 301-2 as their epoxy of choice (in case you are thinking of going that route) and explain in detail the process involved in the repair. In the frog repair, a pigment is added in order to match the tortoise shell as closely as possible, where in the stick repair they keep it clear and allow the colour of the wood below to come through the Epoxy, giving the illusion that it matches the wood perfectly. Standard hand tools are used for the repairs, both of which are pretty common in the bow world, and it is quite durable and can be stronger than the original material. The method they use is for a small localized repair not an entire fingerboard, but it yields really great results.
  7. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    I would have no problem using a thick epoxy like epiglue to fill the ruts. The fingerboard/fretboard is, ultimately, a "consumable" and in bad condition is hardly likely to contribute to the obviously immense value of that instrument, particularly if you're going to add frets anyway and play the thing. If, years down the track, a collector buys the instrument they will have fun working out what is original and what isn't.
    Jeff Bonny likes this.

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