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De-Fret time

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by crazyphil, Nov 24, 2002.


  1. Tomorrow I'm going to buy a low-end bass and attempt to de-fret it. Here is the information I've gathered so far:

    Remove Strings, Separate neck from body, Heat frets with soldering iron to loosen glue, pull out frets with pliers, sand down the fretboard, fill fret holes in with wood filler, sand, mark where frets used to be with a marker of some sort, apply polyurethane, sand, apply polyurethane, sand, etc etc about 5-6 times.


    Did I miss anything? I long for the fretless sound.
     
  2. Jason Carota

    Jason Carota Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2002
    Lowell, MA
    Try using wood filler that is lighter in color than the fret board. I used this technique on my old MIM Jazz. Otherwise, it sounds like you are ready to go.

    Good luck!
     
  3. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Am I missing something here? If you're gonna buy a new bass and de-fret it, why not just buy a fretless?
     
  4. Phil, if you go over on ebay, the Rondo people are blowing out the Essex fretless basses as low as $89 for a "Buy It Now" price. I'm sorry guy but that is way below what you'll get from some other source and it's one hell of an instrument. You'd wind up putting $89 into just worrying about a defret and these are ready to go.
     
  5. Oh? I will definitely check it out. Thanks.
     
  6. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Hey CrazyPhil,

    I've done this job a few times. It's easy but there are some things to watch for:

    * heated or not, ease those frets out real gentle. Take your time wiggling a real thin knife of some sort under there to ease 'em out. The problem is the little tangs holding the frets into the slot. If you just grab onto the fret and pull, you'll cause a lot of splintering of the fret slot as those tangs come out. Check out any photos of Jaco's first Jazz bass; the filled fret lines look like zippers, not lines. Jaco was a ripper, methinks.

    * be easy and purposeful with the sanding. Pay attention to the radius of the fingerboard -- either maintain it or sand it to another radius. Random radius is yucky.

    * I've used wood filler, wood strips, and epoxy. I'll never in a million years use epoxy again, too much sanding; the only reason I used it at all is I remember that's what Jaco did. The wood strips were the best solution. Use a wood veneer of contrasting colour. Cut 'em with a knife to fit into the slots, over-sized and glue them in there. Trim 'em down. I like the strips better 'cause it's wood, not some filler guck that can fall out of there if applied inexpertly. And the strips won't have to be sanded as much as the filler gunk, especially if you know how to set up and use a plane or cabinet scraper. If you're not close to expert with those hand tools, don't use them. You'll do more damage than good.

    * a fretless bass neck can be set up with almost no relief to it -- i.e., dead flat can be good. No frets to buzz against. If the fingerboard isn't straight lengthwise, however, you'll get buzzing against any high spots. Another reason to always remember that any sanding at all is a process of shaping that fingerboard. Use a really good straight-edge lengthwise along the neck to spot any hills and craters. Take your time. Think surgery, not lumberjacking.

    Don't be intimidated by hunks of wire in a slab of wood. Rip 'em out of there and join the real bass world!!
     
  7. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    Chicago
    I just defretted my Squier Precision 5 Special... I used a pair of toenail cutters (straight blade) to pull out the frets. I didn't use a soldering iron to heat them first and had very, very little shipping.

    I loosened the truss rod after I initially removed the strings. Next, I pulled the frets and then cleaned out the slots with an Xacto knife so that they're free of wood chips etc. I measured the width of the slots and found them to be about 0.021 inches.

    I went to a hobby shop and bought a sheet of white polystyrene, 0.020 inches thick. I learned that the slots follow the curve of the fingerboard so I made a jig with a 12 in. radius to match and cut 1/4 in. wide curved strips of polystyrene.

    Using cyanoacrylate (superglue) to glue them in, snugging them into the slots with gentle taps from a rubber mallet. Once the glue was dry, I trimmed as much excess as I could with an Xacto knife then using a long piece of wood as a sanding block, used 150 grit paper to get sand the strips flush with the fingerboard. Next I used 220 grit to get further then finished with 440 grit. It looks awesome!!!

    I haven't recut the nut yet and I think that I'll need to shim the neck a bit but it. I have tested the bas out and it sounds great and I'm expecting an improvement once it is properly set up.

    There were a lot of little steps involved and I was quite surprised at how fast it went...probably 4 to 5 hours of actual work...which is far less than what I expected.

    Have fun!!!