How to Make a Fretless Guitar With a Glass Fretboard!




About: Well, I'm a musician, and left handed. That, and the fact that I like to make stuff. That's pretty much it. Oh, and I think that there are WAY too many children on this site that serve no purpose whatsoever...
Well, I had an old archtop lying around, and being an advocate for the whole 'no guitar should ever die' bit, I decided to test an idea I had. Fretless guitars are interesting, but they lack sustain and bite. Sure, there are a few guitars with glass fretboards, but they're all electric! I wanted to hear what an unamplified acoustic guitar with a glass fretboard would sound like.

I've added a short video to give you an idea of what it sounds like. Cheers guys!

Please excuse my poor playing in the video above...there are no markers, and it's not like a fiddle where one can simply stay in one position and get perfect intonation...I just gambled with what my ear and experience dictated.

The name of the song is 'Vette', and the style is jazz manouche, or "gypsy jazz", as it's called here in the states. Look up Django Reinhardt if you'd like to hear it played the way it's supposed to be.

Thanks to everyone who took part in the Art of Sound voting!


Step 1: Get a Gee-tar and Remove the Frets!

Unfortunately, I didn't really plan on documenting the steps to this...mostly because I wasn't sure it would even work in the first place! Sorry for no action shots of removing them.
Much information is available online for removing frets, but it's really quite simple. Take some end nippers, and grab and pull out slowly from the edges. On older guitars (like this one, it was sitting in a Northern Ontario basement for 20 years...) they *may* be glued in, in which case, you'll have to steam the frets to loosen the glue. Of course, if you're putting a sheet of glass over it, it really doesn't matter how well you do it anyways.

Step 2: Sand of Gypsies

This step is IMPERATIVE to this project. Almost all guitars will have a fretboard radius, be it nearly flat (12", like in classical guitars) to 7.25" on a strat. You don't want this. Pull out the electric sander, put on some 60 grit coarse, and have at it. I thought about using a plane, but the blade would get caught on every slot. You could try it sideways too, but that would take AGES. You need to devote at least an hour to this for a good job...I only put in about 15 minutes of effort, and it shows in the final product.

Step 3: Glue 'er On.

I debated with myself over how to go about doing this, and in the end, I settled on getting the poor shmuck at the glass shop to do it. It cost me $18 to get this mirrored piece cut, and I imagine I would have spent easily 3 times that amount buying the glass, film, and cutting utensils to do it myself. Some things are best left for a "professional", as much as I despise that phrase.
I masked off the sides, and used a wonderful 3M adhesive for this, worked damn well in the past. Kind of makes you feel like spiderman when you use it as well :D Unfortunately, I also forgot to take photos, but it's pretty straightforward.

Step 4: Fill the Crevices

Now, if you had your glass cut to the perfect size, and you sanded out the radius COMPLETELY, you can just skip this step and go have a beer. For the rest of us, take any generic wood filler and get it into the spots where the glue didn't reach. Let dry, sand, and then my secret technique!
Minwax's products have screwed me over many a time before, but they also came out with a wood filler pen, which is essentially just coloured wax, but it works GREAT for this, especially when you're just experimenting and you don't give a damn what it looks like! If I'd tried harder, it might have looked better, it might not have, who knows.

Step 5: Bust a Nut!

Er...make, a nut. I used some buffalo bone blanks I had laying around, cut the excess off with an angle grinder, and brought out my nut files. These are a GREAT investment, and the money you save doing it yourself once makes it pay for itself. I bought mine from a guy on fleaBay, StewMac's are WAY overpriced. I had to shim the undersides of the nut and bridge because of the added 1/8" from the glass, and I just used some folded up sandpaper.

After this, you're done.

Step 6: Afterthoughts.

There are a few things I would have done differently. The first would be to either remove the fretboard entirely and sub in a similar-in-thickness piece of glass, or ensure that I COMPLETELY SANDED OUT THE RADIUS! This gave me a severe loss in sustain and tone, and I'd hate to have some kid do this to his only guitar and ruin it. The other would be to make the contact points all of glass, as in the bridge and nut. I think this would change the tonal color in an interesting way, or maybe it would just deaden it? Who knows. You should get all your measurements perfect, as you can see in the pictures, I never allotted for the extra height of the fretboard, and I had to shim my bridge and nut.

Hope you guys liked it!

Second Prize in the
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    73 Discussions

    -Syrus-edwin white

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I think that you mean, he is missing fingertips by means of accident with heavy machinery. Thats why he only plays simple powerchords. All by accident.

    He plays guitar left-handed. In an industrial accident at the age of 17 on his last day of work in a sheet metal factory, he lost the tips of the middle and ring finger of his right hand. After attempting to learn to play right-handed,[6] Iommi strung his guitars with lighter strings and made thimbles to extend his fingers.

    Wiki power, though easy changeable. This fact I can confirm.


    Reply 3 years ago

    If were talking about guitarist without fingers, Jerry Garcia was missing his middle finger.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    If i made a glass fingerboard, i would add some aircraft aluminum under it for support.


    7 years ago on Step 6

    Would you ever be willing to make that guitar again and sell it? I am extremely interested in this guitar. The almost cello look is beautiful. Glass fretboards are amazing. My only issue is that it doesn't have a classical neck. I'm currently doing an undergraduate degree in Classical Guitar, and I would love to show off this instrument.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    An iron can easily loosen glue from the fretboard to the neck. Luthiers use this trick all the time, when replacing fretboards.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Just finished this project myself and gotta say it was well worth the time. I used an electric guitar instead and it sounds great.

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Damn !

    That turned out great, I own the same guitar as you!
    Pacifica's are great starter guitars :)


    9 years ago on Step 6

    This is severely cool... video would make it cooler... Left-handed? Noticed your strings are on backwards...

    10 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    It happened while on active duty in the Army....thats all I am going to All part of being a soldier.

    Artillery crew? Many guys that lose their digits still try to play, with several coming to mind. In fact, in the style that the video is in-gypsy jazz-, the founder, Django Reinhardt, lost the ability to move his pinky and ring fingers, and became one of the greatest guitarists, if not the best, to ever live. I myself am joining the military once I get out of school...


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    one of the guise from black sabeth was missing fingertips on his left hand and i once played with a bassest who was missing down to the second knuckle on most of the fingers on his right

    Jonny Katanaabadfart

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Tony Iommi is the Sabbath member you're referring to, and he was actually the guitarist, not the bassist. He had prosthetic fingertips custom-made for his two damaged fingertips and strung his guitar with light-gauge strings. And he's still shredding :P

    TsukasaJonny Katana

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 6

    Funny side note, it was a record of Django Reinhardt that inspired Tony to continue playing guitar after he lost his fingers.