Walnut Bass - Fingerboard & Inlays

Since the last update, the neck has been tapered on the pin router, the tuner holes drilled and the headstock has been cut and sanded to shape. Before the fingerboard can be attached, the slots are cut using my modified Stew Mac fret slotting jig. This bass will have a 34'' scale length, with 24 fret positions.


Once all the slots have been cut, I use a chisel to create the channel for the nut. Even with a sharp chisel, blow-out is always a risk when cutting across the grain, especially with brittle woods like Ebony, so I use some binding tape to support the wood fibres and help prevent any splintering.

Before applying any glue, I drill some holes and gently tap in a couple of small 1.5mm diameter nails into the neck. The nails are then cut off, with about 2mm left above the surface. After checking the alignment, I press the fingerboard down firmly on to the neck, which causes the nails/pins to leave small indentions on the underside of the fingerboard. After the indentations have been drilled, the fingerboard is ready be fitted to the neck, with the pins locating into the holes and therefore keeping everything aligned under clamping pressure.

The truss rod access hole is covered with some masking tape to shield it from glue, this is also comes in handy for marking the centre line of the neck over the hole. I apply some tape to the ends of the fingerboard as well, to make it easier to see the pencil lines when lining everything up.

Once the glue has dried, I make the edges of the fingerboard flush with the neck, using a block plane, followed by a scraper.

Before doing any radiusing or neck shaping, I like to drill and fit the side dot inlays, as it's an easier job to do when the neck is still flat and square. After measuring and marking each side dot position, I use my mini-mill/drill press to drill the holes. I clamp a straight piece of wood on to the table of the mill to use as a fence, which makes sure all the holes are drilled in a straight line.

I use a couple of small f-clamps to clamp the neck to the fence, roughly lining it up with the drill bit, and then fine tuning the alignment by adjusting the x-axis handwheel on the mill.

The inlay material I'm using for this bass is Luminlay, which for those of you who aren't familiar with it, is a type of luminous plastic which glows brightly when charged under UV light (other types of light will work too, but UV is the most effective). The version I'm using has a black plastic outer, which gives a nice contrast against the Walnut and makes them stand out a bit more in daylight conditions.