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Where did you find your fretlines?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Kael, Aug 11, 2007.

  1. Kael


    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    I picked up a used P bass neck that someone did a very sloppy defret job on (you can see where the pried the frets out by the damage on the fingerboard). I don't want to use putty as that will result in some extremely uneven gunky looking lines. I'd strongly prefer some sort of shims. Problem is, I am having difficulty locating material thin enough to fit into the slots. For those of you who've defretted a neck before, where did you find material to fill the slots left over? Suggestions on material other than wood also appreciated.
  2. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    Most woodworking supply stores will have veneer strips, usually about 1/32" thickness... This will require widening the fret slots... I use a coping saw for that, (or did in my previous life where I actually worked on basses!)

    You can also use plastic 'badge' card stock... Our badges at work run about .020", perfect for fret slots, easy to sand down...

  3. saxofunk


    Jul 25, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    I widened slots with a dovetail saw and cut a piece of maple into strips that were sized to match it. Due to my mad dovetail sawing skillz, each slot was a custom width (give or take a gnat's hair). From that experience, I recommend following Mike Lull's example; use small diameter router bit on a rotary tool (Dremel) and cut wood strips to match. (mikelull . com -> Repairs -> See how a fretted bass is converted...)

    Along those lines, visit a local hobby shop (airplanes and R/C cars - not Hobby Lobby) to see if they can set you up with a router bit and matched thickness of wood or plastic. Model shops generally have a decent selection of plastic strips in various thicknesses. You can choose any color you want as long as it's white or black. They'll also have wood, though it's more likely to be balsa than rosewood.

    For wood, check out Woodcraft's clearance. I happened upon a gently warped piece of maple at Woodcraft here in Tulsa for about $2.50, 6" x 24" x 1/4". It was too warped for use in furniture, but perfect for cutting into 1/16" strips and losing 1/8" to the kerf without any guilt.
  4. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I defretted a neck and although I didn't have messy and gouged fretboard to deal with, here's what I did:

    I couldn't find a convenient source of material that would be dense enough to prevent neck compression and still fit the very narrow slots left by removing the frets. But I visited a local hobby shop and found that they carried styrene plastic in strips .020 wide. They also carried a craft saw with a blade .022 wide! That seemed like a great fit....and it was. They were just about perfect.

    I note here that I didn't want the fret lines to disappear, just the frets. I was OK with retaining the lines to help with intonation.

    I bought the saw and the styrene, then used the saw (gently) in the fret slots to clean them out. I then rough-cut the styrene into pieces large enough to overlap the ends of the slots and stand out at least 1/4" above the fretboard, and glued them in place with super glue.

    Following that, I CAREFULLY trimmed the styrene with a razor blade, then sanded the fretboard very lightly with 200 grit sandpaper. I followed that with a single coat of tung oil.

    The result is a dark rosewood fretboard with nice, visible lines and a good finish. If I had wanted to make the styrene less visible, I could have masked the wood on both sides of the slots and used a fine-point marks-a-lot to darken the styrene. If the ink wore off, it would be easy to renew.

    That's my war story. The result looks great.

    Incidentally, with the fret board damage you describe, I'd probably use water to try and raise the wood where it was compressed by the incredibly stupid mouth-breather who pried out the frets. You need to get that fretboard as level as possible. If you have some real dents, you might even get a piece of rosewood, sand off a fair amount of material with rough sandpaper, lay that rosewood sanding dust in the dents and add super glue. That might give you a color matching filler for the dents, and it can be sanded down.
  5. Kael


    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    Thanks for the replies. I've got a few ideas to try out now.

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