de-fretting a bass

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by patrickj, Nov 18, 2001.

  1. I'm interested in defretting one of my two six strings - Ibanez BTB 406. I took it into the shop a few weeks ago expecting to get it done professionally, but the estimate ended up being more than 1/2 what I originally paid.

    Anyone ever done this themselves? I'm assuming it's a bit more than just yanking the frets off (carefully of course). Suggestions?
  2. nm

    used the "search" tool

  3. XavierG

    XavierG In Memoriam much did you originally pay?
  4. around $680

    the guy who was going to do it estimated approx $350 - defretting, filling in slots, removing inlay dots, filling those in.

    I got the impression that he was trying to swindle me (like talking to a noo-b car buyer).. 4 strings were ~ $125-150, but this was a 6 string making the job "much more difficult".
  5. Patrick,

    I was going to try this procedure my self but chickened out. What I found was that there are different types of fret material out the making the job easier or harder. Easier would be if looking at you B-string from the top down your frets appear to be T shaped in stead of I shaped. Also easier from what I have heard is anything but a maple fret board. The amount of glue that they are held in with comes into play. I have talked to some people and they say the correct way to do it is heat up the frets before knocking them out. Like I said I chickened out but if you do decide this is the way for you to go. Good Luck :rolleyes:
  6. Luis Fabara

    Luis Fabara

    Aug 13, 2000
    Ecuador (South America)
    Audio Pro - Ecuador
    I have done it myself.
    The fret removal is easy, no problem there.
    I didnt remove the dots.
    The hard part is filling the fret slots and level the fretboard. You need a good radius gauge, radiused sanding blocks, thickness gauges, etc etc.
    I didnt have those tools when I did it.
    The problem is , that if the fretboard isnt perfectly straight you will have some problems with the slides and action. You also need to add a finish to soft woods on the fretboard, specially if it is rosewood.
    Then you have to level that finish, etc etc.

    I wouldnt recommend to do it yourself on a $680 Bass, if you screw it, it is done, Wood is very unforgiving.

    Would be a lot better to you to sell that one, and to get a new one in fretless.
  7. I went ahead with the de-fretting (I'm fairly handy/crafty) after checking out a few articles online. Getting the frets off was pretty easy - I read about using a soldering iron to heat the glue to make the removal easier (less likely to chip as well).

    I decided to use clear dry epoxy rather than wood filler or actual wood fillets because I don't want to see fret lines (a la a real fretless). I started bass on an upright string bass, so I'm not that worried about fingering.

    I left the pearl inlay dots for the time being. I will probably order a dowel rod made of the same wood as the fretboard at some point and remove them properly, but that's a future project.

    It's braced and drying right now (probably 12-16 hours). I'll take some pictures tomorrow!

    thanks again for the advice!
  8. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    I defretted a bass a year or so ago. I have a decent digital camera, so I documented what became a tutorial for some interested folks. I put it together. I think it may have even ended up here at TB at one point or another, but here's the last surviving link to it that I am aware of.

  9. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    I thought it had been here before. Turns out the old orginal site is still surviving. Also try


    BTW, this string has traditionally been in setup, mod is likely to move it.

  10. First, welcome to the fretless world. Defretting a bass can breathe new life into a tired instrument.

    Second....what real have to do with seeing lines on the fingerboard?

    Oh no :eek: I might have started the evil debate all over!

  11. fretless = born w/o frets
    de-fretted = born w/ frets, but grew out of them


    you say tomato, i say potato ;)
  12. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA

    I guess I would debate you over what a real fretless is.

    Ever take a look at MIM Jazz fretless or Yamaha or really any lined fretless that came from the factory or was "born w/o frets?" If so, you'll see that most are produced in EXACTLY the same method as de-fretting. They are taking the same board with the fret slots cut into it and instead of installing frets, they are filling the slots with hardwood. My Yamaha fretless is made like this as are MIM jazz basses.

    So are you saying that the only real fretless is an unlined fretless?

  13. Ens


    Feb 11, 2001
    I defretted a bass that had a rosewood fingerboard. I coated it myself with a gel-like cyanoacrylate glue. What I did was that after filling the fretslots I applied a drop of that glue straight onto the fingerboard. Then, using a piece of thick carboard I spread the glue lenghtwise.

    The glue hardens as you spread it, thus creating a thin layer. I continued until the whole board was coated. Then I sanded it down, applied a second coat, then third and so on. I polished the final coat, so it shines like glass.

    I think it was very cheap, easy way to create a bright sounding, hard-as-hell coating. At least I have been very satisfied with it. And if the board begins to show wear, I just apply a new layer.
  14. Nope!

    I'm saying the only real fretless is one that never had frets (the wire) to start with - fret lines don't affect playability or sound.

    Unlined fretless just look cooler than lined fretless (imo). You're fingering a slap of wood.