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Chienmortbb

Best Way to “line” a fretless.

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I have a kit bass and have decided it should be fretless. What is the best way to fill the fret slots.  I was going to use some maple veneer but would  appreciate advice on what thickness and whether to have the grain end on or sideways. I hope this makes sense.  

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Some thoughts about the color first.

Plain white is very visible, but do you really need the fretlines on top? Would a black or white plastic sheet look good? How about some glow-in-the-dark for stage use?

You will get some colour difference, no matter how close the material will be.

I have no idea, how to fill the fretboard, if there are chipped places, so someone may have practical ideas of performing the modification.

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I would go for dark veneers, with a small insert of a lighter colour to show on the top of the neck; as the dots on a fretted neck aren't in the right place for a fretless neck.

As for the grain; you won't get veneer from anywhere with the grain going from front to back of the veneer, it would crumble us as soon as you look at it.

Before you de-fret the neck, make sure you're able to drop the saddles on the bridge about 2mm. If you can't, then you'll need to rout the bridge lower, or raise the neck higher in the pocket.

Also, you need to file the nut slots lower - so the strings are almost touching the fingerboard. You also need to make sure the fingerboard is really flat. With a fretted neck you can have variations in the wood level as it's the tops of the frets that matter. In a fretless neck the whole of the fingerboard is the top of the frets.

If it was me, I'd replace the fingerboard with ebony and get it seriously flat, but maybe I'm OCD. Good luck.

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White plastic makes a better fret line than wood veneer, the plastic is much more stable (so won’t shrink/alter) and is easier to work with. The stuff you need is called styrene sheet. Fret slots are typically 0.6 mm, so the 0.5 sheet usually works well once glue has been applied.

If you haven’t pulled the frets yet, make sure you heat each one with a soldering iron first to melt any glue holding them down. And never pull up while grasping a fret with the puller! Just lever the blades of the puller under the fret one section at a time.

The real skill comes in levelling the fingerboard afterwards...:)

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Posted (edited)

This filling rosewood chips from fretboard or this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMXkq44BIWY are also very instructive.  When I put frets back into a fretless bass  (dine badly) I had acquired, I used the PTFE sheet pushed into the fret slots and superglue / rosewood dust mix filler method.  The glue does not stick to PTFE.  The method works really well, and will give your fret line markers a really 'sharp' defined edge. 

 

Edited by 3below
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1 hour ago, Manton Customs said:

White plastic makes a better fret line than wood veneer, the plastic is much more stable (so won’t shrink/alter) and is easier to work with. The stuff you need is called styrene sheet. Fret slots are typically 0.6 mm, so the 0.5 sheet usually works well once glue has been applied.

If you haven’t pulled the frets yet, make sure you heat each one with a soldering iron first to melt any glue holding them down. And never pull up while grasping a fret with the puller! Just lever the blades of the puller under the fret one section at a time.

The real skill comes in levelling the fingerboard afterwards...:)

I decided to go fretless as so many of the frets were lose. Most are already out. Thanks for the info on the white plastic.

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Posted (edited)

If you want to see the lines clearly, then it probably does want to be either white plastic as @Manton Customs suggests or a very light veneer such as maple.

Standard veneer is generally 0.6mm and should either slot in straight away or after a very light sanding. 

How I personally do it is:

- Cut the pieces oversize, with the grain parallel to the slot

- When the glue is fully set, trim down,  still leaving a little oversize, with a single edge razor or very sharp scalpel / modelling knife, starting at the middle and cutting towards each edge so that any grain splits lead the blade away from the fretboard.

- Sand flush along the direction of the slot with fine paper c 240 grit using a sanding block

- Once the inserts are flush, then sand along the length of the fretboard with the same grade to remove any crossgrain sanding marks before progressing down the grades of paper fineness, again using a sanding block and always along the length of the fretboard

Edited by Andyjr1515
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