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What should I fill the slots with on my defret project?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by SteveMcB, Feb 27, 2006.

  1. Hi all,
    I am a player rather than a luthier, although I have built an ash bodied tele (for my alter ego which plays g****r). My primary bass is an Ibanez ATK 305 5 string in transparent amber with maple board, which I love, and I also have a fretted 4-string (washburn status). I really, really want a fretless after playing my brother's ATK fretless 4, but they're rare as hens teeth. However, I've got an opportunity to buy a fretted ATK 4 which is the same woods and colour etc as my 5-string, so I feel a defretting coming on. I've defretted a guitar before and read all the threads I can find here and elsewhere on this. I want fretlines which contrast with the board. My question is, what would you use to fill the fret slots and why?

    Something else?
    I'm leaning towards wood of some kind, but what's gonna look good and be relatively easy to work with? (And sound good too)?

  2. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
  3. Cool.
    Died maple... Another option is always good. Transport to New Zealand might be an issue though - I forsee a large number of fine dyed maple toothpicks turning up on my doorstep...
    Thanks though - maybe I can track some down from local sources.
    Out of interest, why the maple rather than the other woods I listed? Just the convenience of the long thin strip format for filling a bunch of long thin holes?

  4. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
  5. Sweet. Will try to source similar locally. Thanks!

    P.S. That is a fantastic lookin' bass! Great work!
  6. Any thin wood veneer works great, your choice is how much contrast you're looking for. I had a place that did a fret pull job and fill for me years ago and they used ultra thin maple and ebony for each fret, nice crisp line. That was on a rosewood fretboard, it stood out great. Personally I would think wood would be better than plastic,but that works as well.
    Good luck,
  7. Tdog


    May 18, 2004
    SteveMcB.....It should be easy enough to find a small sheet of the wood veneer of your choice in Auckland. There are plenty of woodworkers there and you may be able to score a piece of scrap from one of them. I like to use Birds Eye Maple veneer for my lined fretless boards. You may have to give it a little scrape with a razorblade to thin down some of the thicker veneers.....But it is surely easier and less expensive that having Stew-Mac send an order that far!!!!
  8. Thanks guys.
    My brother has done a lot more building than me, and he's given suggestions of a couple of places that have loads of veneers. I'm thinking that deep black might stand out a bit too much (so the ebony/plastic are probably out). I'll have to see what I can find. I can't wait to do this project. But I have to win the auction, and I'm not doing that at the moment...
  9. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Wood veneer is the best way, IMHO.
    It may also be the hardest, because you should have the correct thickness to fit your fret slots - which is a real pain to find, IME ¤sigh¤

    What wood? That depends on the contrast yuou want. I have used beech on avenbok, which effectively is very pale tan on white.
    It is enough contrast to see, even in rather low light, but doesn't interfere too much with the impression of the fingerboard. To me, it looks the best. Possibly black walnut on rosewood would be a darkwood comparison.
  10. once you fill the fret lines, then what do you use to seal the fretboard again, im thinking about de-fretting an old acoustic my friend gave me
  11. I used cyanoacrylate (crazyglue), straight up, on a rosewood board. No veneer or anything. The lines are a shade darker than the wood itself and only visible to the player.

    Cheers ROdy

    ps mask off the sides if you do this!
  12. I use wood veneer. Normally for Fender type necks, 6mm thick veneer fits nicely but you should always measure the slots to make sure. If the veneer is slightly thicker that the slot, it can be sanded down. I have rosewood and maple lying around. The rosewood was scrap from a warehouse that used it for various things and was out the back to be thrown out, so don't discount the scrap if you don't have the dollars (not that it's expensive). You don't need much at all for one neck.

    Use the search facility, there's a lot of info here detailing different methods on how to do this.
  13. are you all just putting the veneer/wood in and not sealing over it?
  14. rbrown13

    rbrown13 supporting member

    Sep 9, 2005
    bakersfield ca,
    hi, I have several times used styrene sheet that is avaiable at most hobby shops, cut the styrene into strips, then use thin set cyano into the slots, tap the strips into the slots, I then use an excellerator for the cyano to speed up cure time, then I use end cutters to trim the extra material off, then sand the strips down smooth, I then do a cyano finish on the fretboard and sand and polish that out to a high gloss, It's a very satisfying procsess, I use 0.20"-0.25" sheets of styrene, I have found it white and black. I hope this helps, you can pm me if anyone has any questions.
  15. mahrous


    Aug 13, 2005
    dark burl veneers, ebony strips, colored maple, plastic or whatever that is with contrast to your fretboard will do the job.

    there is no real difference between using an ebony 0.05mm strip or a black plastic strip. i doubt anyone would notice the difference once laid in.

    i dont believe that you HAVE to glue them in. probably when u finish it with a sealer, polyurethane/epoxy - it will stick to its slot firmly and wont slip out.

    by the way, how are u gonna finish that maple fretboard and protect it from the strings?
  16. Thanks for all the advise guys. I am not sure yet about what I'll be finishing the fingerboard with. I'll be using flats, so wear will be less of an issue than rounds, and this is strictly a one-time project. Was thinking about just using polyurethane (obviously a pretty durable one), because the really good epoxy is pretty heavy on the pocket. And you can always get more and redo it! Once again, all advise is welcomed! :)

  17. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    I tape up the sides of the fingerboard, and around the lines, and coat it with just plain ol' wood filler. Then I Sand it down very lightly, and then coat with as many layers of Varnish as I see appropiate.

  18. Just to update, I've now started to fill in the slots with some walnut veneer, bought at a local art supply store - all the timber places nearby are closed whenever I get out of work (which is not surprising given the hours I work). I had to sand down the veneer, and widen the slots slightly, but the first 5 slots got filled last night.

    I'm gonna have me a fretless, I'm gonna have me a fretless:hyper: