Our friend Scott brought us his Conklin Bill Dickens signature 7-string bass with the request to ramp it up to 11. With Scott’s permission, we took his already super cool bass and turned it into a weapon of mass destruction. Here’s how we did it:
We began by removing the existing frets. This was done by heating the fret with a soldering gun (with a modified tip to prevent slippage), and gently pulling the fret out with modified end nippers. The heat melts any glue that may have been used to seat the fret, and also releases natural oils in the wood to help the fret slip out of the board without chipping.
After pulling the frets and cleaning the slots, we installed wood veneer strips into the board for fret lines. We carefully cut the strips to the proper length, seated them into the slots, and then wicked in thin super glue to hold them down.
We then cut the veneer level with the fretboard with our super sharp chisels. We buy only the best Japanese chisels, and sharpen our tools on an almost weekly basis. When chisels are this sharp, the wood just cuts like butter.
We then leveled the fretlines down to the board with a one way file, and moved on to the neck jig.
Just like a fretted instrument, a fretless bass should have it’s playing surface dead flat. Why? Because a fretless bass should buzz evenly all the way up and down the neck. If there is any deviation, no matter how slight, certain notes will buzz in an unpleasing way, or won’t sustain properly. Typically an unfinished fretboard should be leveled regularly, as the strings dig into the board and create divots under the string. But we’ve come up with a simple solution that will dramatically extend the life of the board and make it really sing…
We’ve developed a technique that makes the fretboard look like glass, and really makes a fretless instrument come alive. We should probably should keep this secret – but we’re going to tell you anyway: it’s Cyanocrylate, a.k.a. Super Glue. Super Glue is harder than epoxy (which is typically used for a job like this), dries clear, and doesn’t require all that fussy mixing and nasty fumes. We put 50 coats on the board, sand it, and polish it to a mirror shine. The pictures really don’t do it justice. Beautiful!
As if that wasn’t enough, we made some ramps to sit on the body between the pickups. A ramp’s main purpose is to facilitate a lighter attack by limiting the amount your plucking fingers can dig in. We raided our wood stash to find the nicest piece of cocobolo we could find, and made a bookmatched set of ramps, radiused to match the fretboard. We even carved the neck ramp to mirror the carve of the fretboard, just to make it blend in with the existing design of the bass.
Normally, we like to put a quote from the instrument’s owner in our Case Studies, but when Scott came and picked up his bass, he was absolutely and totally speechless. We’ll take this as a good sign. Thanks Scott!