anybody actually KNOW how to defret?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Soma Imp, Mar 25, 2002.

  1. Soma Imp

    Soma Imp Guest

    Mar 25, 2002
    im going to buy a cheap fretless acoustic bass guitar for 500-600 australian dollars, and attempt to take the frets out of the board. that isnt a great deal of money, so im not concerned if it doesn't work out... so don't try and talk me out of it or give me links to fretless acoustic basses because in australia they are too expensive.

    all i need to know, without being told "DONT DO IT MAN" or anything like that is how to do it. could somebody please direct me to some instructions? I know it involves epoxy resin, sandpaper and lacquer but I wouldn't know the first thing about woodwork.

    i would really appreciate some help on this. ive been to other forums about it but all im told is either 'dont do it its a stupid idea, you are stupid' or 'sounds like a great idea, go for it'

    i dont really care to be told whether its a good idea or not, im just asking for some help in HOW to do it.
  2. Here's a good place to start. Usually try to do a search on common topics.

    Da Goods

  3. Soma Imp

    Soma Imp Guest

    Mar 25, 2002
    Really I'd like to know if anybody thinks that doing the operation on an acoustic bass would be any different... but what the hell im going to do it anyway

    i might document it as well
  4. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    "Sounds good man!" ;)

    Seriously, An acoustic bass guitar neck and an electric bass guitar neck are built with the same technics.

    What I do (keep in mind I'm and idiot):

    1. take pen knife, small puddy knife and needlenose pliers to the frets
    2. clean fret grooves
    3. clean neck with nafta (zippo lighter fluid)
    4. sand neck
    5. fill grooves and coat neck with 2 part epoxy
    6. sand
    7. sand
    8. sand
    9. sand
    10. assemble & test
    11. repeat from 6 till done


      and here is my latest

      and a single shot

    1. First, do a search for this subject - It has been discussed ad nauseum.

      Now, from someone that actually KNOWS how to do it:

      1. Do NOT take a pen knife, putty knife, and needlenose pliers to your frets. Use ONLY a modified pair of straight nippers, or a special set of fret pliers desiged for the job. If the fretboard in question is rosewood, you will likely have to use some heat to soften the adhesive in the fret slots to avoid splintering and tear out. If done carefully, little or no splintering will occur.

      2. The proper name for the cleaning solvent is "Naptha" or VM&P Naptha from the hardware store. By the way VM&P stands for "Varnish Makers & Painters"

      3. Fill your fretslots with either sanding dust mixed with epoxy to simulate the old fretboard color or use a contrasting strip of wood or .020 styrene plastic (Fender method) to fill your fret slots. If you fill with only epoxy, you'll have to dam up the ends of the fretslots to keep the liquid from leaking out.

      4. If your fretboard is Rosewood, you don't need to further coat it unless you are going for the Jaco thing. Uncoated rosewood boards are the most common type of fretless. Maple needs top coating to avoid staining. You can use polyester, epoxy, tru-oil, or lacquer to name a few materials.

      5. Any sanding (other than spot touchups) should be done with a radiused sanding block that matches the fingerboard radius. If you don't, you'll "flat spot" the neck making setup a true nightmare.

      Speddling, with all due respect to your results, your list is incomplete and has some terrible recommendations. For a beginner, it is important that a complete set of instructions and recommendations are available for deciding the course of action. I can see that you take pride in your work but IMO you probably have to do more than you have to to get your results.
  5. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    Thanks for the clarifications. I did put the disclaimer of me being an idiot in my post :rolleyes:
    I recommended nothing... I ,in a nutshell (maybe too simply), stated what I do.

    and this is REALLY what I was answering:

    Yes I left some stuff out... as did you. I've yet to defret a bolt on necked bass that didn't need a shim... and we can't forget recutting the nut to compansate for the missing fret height.

    This is not rocket science... take it slow & use your head. and yes... search out the subject, I remember a link to a very detailed explination in my travels

    Anyway... good luck Soma Imp. Keep us posted.
  6. Pulling the frets is one method, but there is another. I have done this twice, with great results. First, it is nearly impossible for a novice to pull frets without tearing the wood. This way leaves you with perfect fret lines, and no missing chunks of rosewood. Purchase a large flat bastard file, and an oilstone used for sharpening chisels etc. File the frets down until they are nearly to the wood, then run the oilstone (without oil, obviously) lengthwise along the neck until nearly done. Flip the oilstone to its finer side to finish off, then do final finish with a sanding block and sandpaper. Takes me about 2 1/2 hours, leaves the fret tangs in place as marker lines. Perfect. A rub with lemon oil, and you're done.
    Caution: on a solid body bass, it is usually necessary to reintonate the bridge so that the notes play in tune on the lines, this may not be possible on an acoustic bass guitar, as the bridge is usually of the fixed variety.