Volume 17 - Defretting A bass Guitar

Written by Patrick Podpadec on . Posted in Northcoast Voice



                                           Stay in Tune                                   vol#17
                                                                                       By Luthier Patrick Podpadec

       I always seem to forget that when I write these articles that they won’t be published till the following week which should bring me to the last issue before Christmas, and with only a few days to spare. I was going to write about a few local businesses that offer some interesting choices for last minute holiday gifts. Unfortunately, I was not able to contact the owners of the businesses to ask their permission to speak about there holiday “specials” or services that they can provide for all of you last minute Christmas shoppers. But I can tell you about the things I can take care of, possibly even before Christmas.  There are many small repairs such as changing the strings on a guitar or any instrument. I have guitar strings for as little as $5.00 and will install them for an additional $5.00 .I also will be offering a $35.00 gift certificate ,valued at $70.00 It includes a full setup which entails leveling and crowning the frets , cleaning and polishing the fingerboard, adjusting the truss rod, and also adjusting the string “action” and setting the intonation so that the instrument can play up to it’s best potential. This setup also includes a brand new set of strings along with a thorough cleaning and evaluation. I will be running this fantastic offer through the month of Jan. so I suggest if you have a friend or loved one that you would like to give a special gift to, this instrument repair gift certificate would be the best ever. It is a gift that keeps on giving every time the player touches the instrument. To purchase these all you have to do is contact me at ppodpadec@ roadrunner.com. Or call me at (440) 474-2141.

    I also would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the people at he Voice for taking a chance with me on publishing this article. It has been a great avenue for me to reach the many talented musicians that cover the N. E. Ohio area. I have gotten a lot of favorable feedback about the articles and have answered many questions that have been directed towards instrument repair. I have also noticed that there is a fair amount of people out there that share an interest in the art of luthierie. More than a few guys have called me with questions regarding their “project” guitars. I always love to help in any way that I can so if your one of those wannabe guitar builders please don’t hesitate to call or write to me with your concerns.. There are many books on the subjects of repair and building but I may save you some time because  I think I’ve read most of them, although there are new ones coming out almost every day. My consultation fees are always free.

       I have also been trying to put together a plan to teach a small course of guitar repair. I would start out with many of the basics and add courses as the interest dictated. I think that 3 or 4 Saturdays for a couple hours each would be a good start. I’m mentioning this now so that if any one is interested ,I would be glad to work up a definitive plan(s) on how we can get this party started. .Again, I can be reached at the email above or the phone#.

    There has been quite abit of activity in my shop lately. I have been desperately tying to finish up all of my bigger repairs before the new  year because I would like to start my big “project” guitars. I plan on building 3 different guitars by the beginning of April. I know! Sounds like a pretty lofty goal, but I’m determined as ever to accomplish it. I don’t want any one to think that I won’t have time to take care of your repair needs, because I will always be able to set time aside for that. One of the things that I just finished up  was a “defret” job. Yea, that’s right , a “defret” job. I removed the perfectly good frets from a 5 string Ibanez bass and turned it into a fretless bass. The fingerboard was an Indian Rosewood board and I inlayed thin strips of ebony wood into the existing fret slots. It was a little harder than I anticipated because the indentation that the frets left from being hammered or pressed into the rosewood had to be sanded down to make the ebony stand out.

  At first I didn’t feel there was enough distinction between the ebony and the rosewood. It was very hard to see the inlay. Of course this is one of the requests that the customer had ,but I felt that through all of the work that was done in order for it to look good I needed to put a finish on the fingerboard. This would serve two purposes. One is to beautify the inlay and to enhance the contrast between the woods and the other was to protect the fingerboard from all or at least some of the  wear that the fingerboard would have to endure. After studying up on some different finishes , I came to a decision of a  water borne finish. It has the durability that I was looking for and also dried fast and was easy to work with. ( not to mention it is better for the environment and no toxic fumes to inhale ). Many builders are turning to the new waterborne finishes. I think that within a few years it may become the standard. It worked out great. The fingerboard was beautiful!

  There were a few challenges setting it up for playabilty as a fretless . the action had to be lowered considerably a which threw the intonation all out of wack. You say, what intonation? There is no frets . Well there still is markers where the frets used to be and the player still uses those as points of reference to play the proper notes, so that intonation still has to be set at the 12th fret.  After some major nut and saddle adjusting the bass was playing like a dream…well, I’m gonna have to say goodbye for now but before I go I would like to extend the most heartfelt “Merry Christmas” to each and everyone of you !  So please keep your hands warm and your feet dry and don’t forget to “Stay in Tune”!

  Thanks Again!

  Patrick from Wood-n-Strings/LiamGuitars