Published On: Mon, Jun 1st, 2009

Setting Up A Bass Guitar | Fretboards

See how to set up your Bass Guitar. Use our in-depth guide and little care to setting it correctly without resorting to expert attention

It’s important that before we stone the frets we adjust the truss rod to straighten the neck, so we’ll use a straight-edge to get it as perfect as possible first (if you don’t do this you’ll end up flattening the frets at the top and bottom of the fingerboard and taking nothing off the ones in the middle). That done, we’ll use a fine-grade eight-inch oil stone to flatten the frets, using small back-and-forth movements, working our way up and down the fingerboard while rocking across the radius at the same time.
When you’ve removed all the wear marks with the stone, the frets can be re-profiled. A hollow fret file is best, but the surface of my file is very coarse so I start by wrapping 320 glass paper around it and then working my way up to 1200 grit wet and dry. Remember the fretboard protector, which will stop you from marking the fretboard. When you’ve finished the profiling, go over the whole thing with wire wool and lemon oil to polish the frets and clean and protect the fretboard.
Before fitting the new nut it’s important that we clean out the slot in which the old one sat. I’ve used a fine file; if the nut is recessed into the neck then you’ll need smaller needle files. Cut the nut blank to length first and then use sanding blocks to shape it, starting with coarse grades and working up to 600 grit. Don’t cut the top of the nut until you’ve got it to fit properly; it can then be placed in its slot and marked to the radius of the fretboard (at this stage we’ll leave it about 3mm high all the way across). Put all the strings on, and then mark out the position of the string slots. Tighten the truss rod up a little at this stage; final adjustment can take place when we have all the strings tuned to pitch.
Because of the gauges on the strings you’ll need some pretty heavy nut files plus some Swiss needle files. Work your way down a little at a time, and check the action at the 12th fret and the nut simultaneously. At the first fret on the bass side you should be working towards a height of just less than 1mm, and at the 12th fret about 3mm. On the treble side it’s about .5mm at the first fret and 2mm at the 12th fret. Once finished, the nut should look like it does in the picture, with the strings sitting in correctly-size slots that are just over half the depth of the actual strings.
We can now check the truss rod adjustment. Put a capo on the first fret and hold the string down at the last fret. The gap between the string and the 9th fret should be about 0.5mm, so tighten the truss rod to decrease the gap or slacken off to increase it. A quarter of a turn at a time is enough until you get it right.

Truss rod adjustment, truss rod positoning,fingerboard,servicing your bass, fretwork, fingerboard.

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